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.

Worcester


I took two of my boys and 4 of 6 other young people from the church through the fog to a (CCIW) camp reunion in Worcester today. We left around 8.15 this morning and I dropped them off at the Wood Green FIEC church where they were until 6 pm. About 50 young people came there to use their excellent facilities.
As for me I spent the time in Worcester itself exploring a town I don't think I've visited before. I had a coffee first in the Caffe Nero and then did the Cathedral (described on its website as possibly the most interesting of all England’s cathedral’s although I'm not sure why) and a walk along the Severn. King John is buried in the cathedral, which stirred my interest. There was also a plaque to Elgar. One recent former bishop was descended from Thomas Charles I noted. Oswald adn Wulfstan were their big stars. Cathedral life is whole world quite outside my ken. One hopes someone is bringing the gospel to such people, surrounded as they are with so many prompts. An odd thing with me is that such a setting doesn't stir me to pray much. I think it is the lack of association in my mind - or proof of indwelling sin.
It was cold, of course, but didn't rain. Worcester is a moderate sized town with a bit of history. Some buildings go back to Tudor times and there are plenty of Georgian ones. It was important in the Civil Wars. I didn't cross the Severn and most of the town seems to be on the north side. Quite monocultural the local accent seemed to be a cross between west country and brummie. There were plenty of Welsh accents too (even one pair speaking Welsh). They come up on coach trips for the Christmas shopping. Quite an effort had been made with lots of stalls and a fair (ferris wheel, carousel, etc). I saw men on stilts and a man juggling fire, etc. There was also a sally army brass band that stopped each time I came near for some reason. Some sort of celtic combo was performing in the street too. Along with the bells of the cathedral and the music from the fair there was quite a lot of pleasant noise.
I also did a little reading and and praying and some preparation for tomorrow on the laptop and the time soon passed. We got home about 9.30 pm. What a pleasant day. God is good.

Rhodri in Vietnam



Rhodri my son has been in Vietnam visiting his fiancee Sibyl. He's home next week and blogs are starting to appear. Watcha Rhods!

Wales wizard against Oz


I was out all day so I didn't see the game but I hear that Wales beat the Aussies 21-18. That's the first time a home nation has beaten a SANZAR team this time round. Well done Wales!

Do badly Orwell?


How about these five beginnings from novels by George Orwell? Do you recognise them? The first two are easy.

1. Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the yard, kicked off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs. Jones was already snoring.

2. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

3. The first sound in the mornings was the clumping of the mill-girls’ clogs down the cobbled street. Earlier than that, I suppose, there were factory whistles which I was never awake to hear.

4. The clock struck half past two. In the little office at the back of Mr McKechnie’s bookshop, Gordon—Gordon Comstock, last member of the Comstock family, aged twenty-nine and rather moth-eaten already—lounged across the table, pushing a four-penny packet of Player’s Weights open and shut with his thumb.

5. The rue du Coq d’Or, Paris, seven in the morning. A succession of furious, choking yells from the street. Madame Monce, who kept the little hotel opposite mine, had come out on to the pavement to address a lodger on the third floor. Her bare feet were stuck into sabots and her grey hair was streaming down.

[Answers: animalfarm1984theroadtowiganpierkeeptheaspidistraflying
downandoutinparisandlondon]

Bloggy Special 33


Cwmbran Trip

With dad


On Tuesday I took a National Express bus from Victoria to Newport to see my dad. I chose this particular journey a few weeks ago as it was a funfare at only £3 (also £3 to get back plus 90p to Victoria and 90p back again). I took two books with me - one on Christ's session, which I am studying at present. A J Tait's 19th Century work is a full and scholarly opus but I made a dent in it. I also had with me a popular work on Copernicus by William T Vollman. I've read three other books in the series (on Darwin, Curie and Rutherford - this didn't read so easily).
Of course, having reached Newport, I still needed to get to Croesyceiliog. It cost me the same amount to get as far as Cwmbran Town Centre (I enquired about a black cab and that would have cost £12!). My dad then picked me up from there and took me to the little flat he now lives in. We had thought of going out for a bit but my nephew William was home ill and staying with his granfer so we just sat and catting and watching TV.
I never see day time TV and if I do it's the kids watching their programmes. So I had a brief introduction to a whole fairly new world. Our schedule took in five programmes.

Dickinson's Real Deal (ITV1 14.30ff)
Spin Star (ITV1 15.15ff)
Countdown (C4 15.25ff)
Flog it! (BBC2 15.45ff)
Deal or no deal (C4 16.15ff)
The Paul O'Grady show (C4 17.00ff)

So that's an antiques show, two gameshows, another antiques show and another games show then an interview show. I'd seen the upmarket gameshow Countdown many times and was aware of most of the other programmes. Spin Star was new to me (Only for unmarried ladies - my dad liked my pun!). The sponsors are William Hill (who on my mental map are only a few doors down from the Antichrist) but it was a well devised gambling and quiz show and somehow watching other people gambling like that doesn't feel wrong. I was particularly impressed with the way the questions were easy yet worth asking. I'd heard of Noel Edmonds' Deal or no deal and was glad to get to the bottom of how it works. It's another well devised gambling game that creates some tension. Paul O'Grady had Julie Walters and Maureen Lipman on selling their books. Both are brilliant raconteurs (or national treasures as he called them) but it didn't quite work with two of them.
Anyway it was good to chat with my dad who keeps quite well though he has trigeminal neuralgia in his face, which cuts in now and again and is a little unsteady on his feet. I'd hoped to see my sister too but that didn't work out and so my dad took me back to Newport for the 6.30 bus home. I did some more reading and then got chatting to a Hindu doctor heading to London for a conference. I thought it was interesting that rather than defending Hindu doctrine she just felt life works better if you believe in God and listen to your conscience.

In the bleak midwinter


I heard somewhere that In the bleak midwinter was voted best Christmas hymn again - for the tune I think. The words are good too. Previously blogged here and here.

Focus University

Others have noticed this but the Irish fellow O'Leary from Cambridge on University Challenge does bear a passing resemblance to the young Dutchman Thijs Van Leer of Focus, as the above suggests. Are they related? Should we be told?

What the Dickens?

For no particualr reason I thought some of you might like to guess which Dickens' novels these 10 selections begin. The first is one of the hardest so I'll give you a clue - A BBC production is currently showing on TV. Number 3 is the most famous. Numbers 4, 7 and 9 should be easy.
1. Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day. A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France then, than at any other time, before or since. Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there.
2. Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

3. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
4. Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.

5. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

6. There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr Godfrey N______: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason. Thus two people who cannot afford to play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game for love.
7. Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.

8. The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a dazzling brilliancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the public career of the immortal P______ would appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of the P______ C___, which the editor of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been conducted.

9. My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.

10. London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes--gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

(Answers: 1dorritlittle2twistoliver3cities2oftale4timeshard5copperfielddavid
6nicklebynicholas7carolchristmas8paperspickwick9expectationsgreat10housebleak)

New Photo Series 14

Scooters, Soho
(Link)

10 Irish acts

All these have given and do give pleasure to a greater or lesser extent. Sláinte!

1. Horslips
2. Enya
3. The Chieftains
4. U2
5. Clannad
6. Thin Lizzy
7. Snow Patrol
8. The Corrs
9. Planxty
10. Van Morrison

New Testament idols

1. Artemis (Diana) Acts 19:23-37 the Greek name of the Great Goddess of the Ephesians, the great Mother goddess, she was associated with orgiastic cults and mystery religion and was known also as Cybele, Sulla, Ma, Bellona, and Isis
2. Castor and Pollux Acts 28:11 sons of Zeus by Leda, guardians of sailors
3. Zeus and Hermes (Jupiter and Mercury) Acts 14:11-13 the high god and his messenger

Old Testament idols


The following "gods" are specifically named in the Old Testament


1. Dagon 1 Samuel 05:02 etc Philistine/Ekronian/Babylonian god of agriculture
2. Milcom 1 Kings 11:05 Ammonite god
3. Ashtoreth 1 Kings 11:05 etc Canaanite goddess
4. Chemosh 1 Kings 11:07 etc Moabite war god
5. Molech 1 Kings 11:07 Ammonite God, also called Moloch, most probably Baal-Hammon of Carthage
6. Rimmon 2 Kings 05:18 Babylonian/Syrian storm god involved (as Ramman) with the Deluge; also known as Ramman/Rammon
7. Ashima 2 Kings 17:30 Samaritan Moon goddess
8. Nergal 2 Kings 17:30 Cuth/Assyrian/Babylonian war and underworld god, also called Meshlamthea
9. Succoth-Benoth 2 Kings 17:30 Babylonian fertility goddess ("She Who Produces Seed"), also known as Zarpanitu/Zerpanitum
10. Adrammelech & Anammelech 2 Kings 17:31 Sepharvite gods
11. Nibhaz & Tartak 2 Kings 17:31 Avite gods
12. Nisroch 2 Kings 19:37 Assyrian god
13. Baal/Baalim 1 Kings 18:18, 19 etc Canaanite god[s] ("lord[s]") of fertility, vegetation and storms, pl. a collective of the different aspects of Baal. (Baal-berith, Judges 8:33 A regional variation/aspect of Baal)
14. Bel & Nebo Isaiah 46:01 Assyrian/Babylonian/Sumerian/Syrian gods. Bel = “lord”. Nebo was a god of wisdom and writing, also called Nabu
15. Tammuz Ezekial 8:14 Assyrian/Babylonian God

Coconut Jam

A Filipino couple in the church recently went home to marry and returned bearing a gift. I'd mentioned in passing a penchant for coconut jam which they were happy to help me with. It's a bit like toffee. Very sweet. Apparently Filipino coconut jam is made from coconut cream (the first and second press of grated coconut flesh) and sugar or treacle. More here.

Zephaniah

It was a great joy today to be with 8 other preachers at the John Owen Centre in Finchley under the guidance of LTS vice-principal David Green looking at the Book of Zephaniah in Hebrew.
David is a great enthusiast for the Hebrew language and an excellent teacher. He not only teaches Hebrew at the LTS but kindly provides Hebrew lessons for those able and willing to attend. I haven't been able to attend the regular classes for a while but he is currently offering (at a tiny cost, including lunch) some classes of a less demanding nature (though one has to have some idea to benefit I would guess). The hope is to do one a term and this was the first.
David's approach was to set out the Hebrew text on paper with thorough notes on the Hebrew. After a short introduction he proceeded to translate and make observations on the book verse by verse with some opportunity for comment. After each of the two sessions we had half an hour to discuss how to opreach the book. It was very stimulating time indeed and a great way to preapre for preaching through Zephaniah. Of course, it works best with small units and ould be difficult to replicate with larger book but may be there is a way. Anyway we need to walk before we can run. This was a very good start.

D is for dangerous

You know. You get an idea. You film it. Thanks Dylan.

Michael McIntyre


I happened to see this the other night. John Cleese introducing an evening of comedy for Prince Charles is only mildly funny I'm afraid but about 2' 20" Michael McIntyre comes on and after a bit he is hilarious (and totally clean).

A scientist and God


As far as I am aware the great scientist Ernest Rutherford (he split the atom) made no profession of faith but I was fascinated to read that when things got exciting in the laboratory (as they often did with him) he would burst into a raucous Onward Christian Soldiers for some reason.

I also came across this interesting quotation "Of all created comforts, God is the lender; you are the borrower, not the owner." Of course, Einstein would speak of God too but not meaning what we Christians mean. I'm not sure of the context for this statement.

Evangelistic preaching 02

In the course of his message Stuart gave us three nice example quotes which I have tried to trace.


George Whitefield


Blame me not for addressing myself to you; indeed, it is out of love to your souls. I see you are lingering in your Sodom, and wanting to stay there; but I come to you as the angel did to Lot, to take you by the hand. Come away, my dear brethren, fly, fly, fly for your lives to Jesus Christ, fly to a bleeding God, fly to a throne of grace; and beg of God to break your hearts, beg of God to convince you of your actual sins, beg of God to convince you of your original sin, beg of God to convince you of your self-righteousness, beg of God to give you faith, and to enable you to close with Jesus Christ. O you that are secure, I must be a son of thunder to you, and O that God may awaken you, though it be with thunder; it is out of love, indeed, that I speak to you. More here


Daniel Rowland


There is not one grace needful for us, but that is in him ready to be given to the most needy. He is the general treasure house of the church: Canticles 6:1. as soon as the church praised her bridegroom, and set out his excellence; than, the daughters of Jerusalem asked, saying, 'Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside that we may seek him with thee?' In like manner when we are told of the glory of Christ, and the excellency of his grace, we ought to seek for him, and stretch for him.
The third encouragement. He gives Salvation to us. What man, hearing that a kingdom has been left to him, will not quickly ask, where is it? and as soon as he hears, he travels there as soon as he knows. We have heard that in the Lord Jesus there is Salvation to men: run, if we cannot do this, walk; if we cannot do this, roll towards him while it is day, before the night cometh, in which no man can work; therefore, hurry. More here

C H Spurgeon


An old eastern conqueror when he came to a city used to light a brazier of coals, and, setting it high upon a pole he would, with sound of trumpet proclaim, that if they surrendered while the lamp held out and burned he would have mercy upon them, but that when the coals were out he would storm the city, pull it stone from stone, sow it with salt, and put men, women, and children, to a bloody death. To-day the thunders of God bid you to take the like warning. There is your light, the lamp, the brazier of hot coals. Year after year the fire is dying out, nevertheless there is coal left. Even now the wind of death is trying to blow out the last live coal. Oh! sinner, turn while the lamp continues to blaze. Turn now, for when the last coal is dead thy repentance cannot avail thee. Thy everlasting yelling in torment cannot move the heart of God; thy groans and briny tears cannot move him to pity thee. To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation. Oh, to-day lay hold on Christ, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." More here

Evangelistic preaching 01


We were all at Gerard Hemmings' again for a Monday morning fraternal today in Amyand Park (about 12 or so were there). This time he'd arranged for Suart Olyott to address us. Stuart took opportunity to speak to us on evangelistic preaching as he fears there is not enough of it about. He warned us against Lutheran Amyraldianism then made six good points from Acts 2. This was followed by a nice time of discussion followed by lunch for those who could stay.

1. EP is not a different species of preaching
2. EP aims at seeing every person converted now
3. EP sets about accomplishing its aim by establishing guilt. It does this in a variety of ways but is always 'collision evangelism' (not "crematorium evangelism or pipette evangelism")
4. EP answers the question that a guilty heart will ask
5. EP seeks to accomplish its ends by means of persuasion
6. EP concludes with the preacher having personal dealings with those who are concerned

Stuart Olyott is always stimulating and we all found this helpful. I wanted some clarification on "collision evangelism" and was assured that it is not the same as being nasty. He does have his own take on Acts 17 as a hard sell rather than a soft sell, which was interesting.

Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace

I must confess that when this book appeared part of me felt there could be little more to say on Lloyd-Jones. That was a mistake. This book, which is full of wisdom, sustained my interest from beginning to end. I particularly appreciated the essay on the controversial book Joy Unspeakable. I wish it had been available to read years ago. Iain Murray has such respect for the Doctor that where he sees weakness (such as the Doctor on the baptism of the Spirit) he is able to point these out without rubbishing the whole package (why others can't do that I don't know). I also enjoyed the chapters on preaching in the Spirit and the one comparing the Doctor with Spurgeon, which was very helpful for preachers and a great idea for exploring. Another chapter deals with 1966 and the fall out falling the split with Anglicanism. This is a very difficult area but Murray sets it all out very clearly. Something similar can be said about the way he deals thoroughly and fairly with Packer. Murray makes lots of other wise comments generally and with regard to the Doctor and there are lots of other good things stowed away in this wonderful book and one would be gratified to think that young people, especially ministers, were getting hold of this and making use of it.

New Photo Series 12

Barnet paperboy

Being better parents 3


5. Consider some complicating factors
Five come to mind.
1. Husband and wife disagree on something. We mentioned this earlier. Inevitably you and your spouse are going to disagree on some aspect of your child’s upbringing. It may be something big – He wants him to go to boarding school!?? She let’s them eat in bed! What time they can come in at night. Can they watch The Simpsons? How you resolve such issues belongs to the area of marriage guidance not parenting but do be aware of the problem.
2. Children playing off mum against dad. This follows on. Your children will certainly spot differences if they are there – and exploit them if they can. They will even try ‘Dad/mam said I could’ when actually mam/dad simply said ‘ask mam/dad’ which is quite different.
3. More than one child. I remember as a young man being in people’s houses and sometimes seeing crayon marks on one of the nice books or somewhere. And I would think to myself, when I have kids that won’t happen in my house. And I still thought that when I had my first son. But then after the second or third I began to see how this sort of thing happens. While you’re busy with one child the other one is getting up to mischief. Often while you’re busy telling one off another will need attention and so things get left. I have a vivid memory too of coming home from church once when we had three little boys –they must have been 7, 4 and 3 – and there was a new hole in the ground. First, the eldest jumped in, then the second, then the third. Children copy each other – it was alright that time but sometimes it can be a problem.
4. Fast changing scene. Children especially are constantly changing. There is a big difference between a 2 year old toddler and a 10 year old boy and a 16 year old teenager. It would be madness to try treating them in the same way. At the same time technology is changing and the possibilities too. With our oldest we simply wouldn’t let him have his own hand held computer game but then at some point we were given some consoles and, for good or ill, all the boys sometimes play on the Nintendo or the Wii. Have we grown soft? Or are we just adapting to changing times? It can be a fine line but certainly we need to adapt.
5. In public and private. One other thing worth mentioning is that it is one thing to discipline children in the privacy of your home but when you are out or if you have visitors present, it is a different thing. Children often latch on to that and will take advantage sometimes, regardless of the consequences later. Again I am pointing out something to think about rather than giving answers though it should be obvious that we should aim to keep discipline as private as possible and certainly do all we can not to publicly humiliate our children. It is probably the public humiliation that drives the opposition to smacking children in the supermarket rather than a fundamental opposition to physical punishment.
6. Some closing remarks
Just four of these.
1. See the importance of not being too idealistic or complicated. Some Christian books on bringing up children though very good can tend this way. Some books, for example, will say that when you punish a child you should always take them to the Bible and show them the command they have broken first. Now that’s is fine as an ideal but the reality is that when you are all sat down for a meal and junior makes an inappropriate wisecrack or thumps his brother you need to deal with it promptly and opening the Bible to Exodus 20 is simply not on! You do not want anything too complicated either. Some good parents run reward schemes which is fine but not if they are too complicated. My inclination would be to make all sorts of rules about what children can and can’t do on the Lord’s Day but it is probably best to have broad rules and wait until things come up.
2. Expect to make mistakes and admit them. I think that has been clear from what I have said. We are sinners and so we are bound to fail at certain points. Bad behaviour will go unpunished. Good behaviour will go unrewarded. Worse, we will praise where no praise was due and worse again punish unjustly – for which we’ll have to apologise. We will have to change our ways and ideas at times. We are not to exasperate our children but sometimes we will and for that we must seek God’s forgiveness and theirs too.
3. Be thankful for the privilege. It is a wonderful thing to be parent for all the anxiety and trouble it may be. You are shaping a human being. You are having an influence that will last all his life. We should give thanks in all things but especially be thankful to God if he has chosen you for this task.
4. Look to God for grace. We must think seriously about this matter and do what we can to get it right but in the end we are in God’s hands and rely on his grace. If anything good comes out of your family or mine it is at least as much despite us as because of us. How we need God’s grace. Remember Jesus’s words Without me you can do nothing.

Being better parents 2


3. Realise that of themselves your parenting skills guarantee nothing
So your child or children are given to you by God. The most important thing is that they should be saved in order to serve God in their own generation. It’s an awesome task then to bring them up, as Paul says, in the training and instruction of the Lord. This leads to a word of encouragement and of warning. The warning is chiefly for younger parents and the warning chiefly for older ones.
Let’s begin with the warning. It is very easy to listen to a talk like this, especially if your children are still very young or not even born yet to think ‘Right. These are God’s children and the most important thing is that they should be saved and so I’m going to make sure that I so arrange things that they are bound to become Christians. We will read the Bible every day and we will keep the Lord’s Day special and not a day will go by without me praying for them.’ Now it is good to be keen to do such things, of course. I’m not saying anything against them. However, at the same time, we must continually remind ourselves that salvation is entirely from the Lord. It is a sobering thought to think that even those with the most godly parents you can imagine have nevertheless sometimes rejected the truth. We must do all we can then - but we must not think we can convert our children or make them Christians. Only God can do that. He uses means, of course, but he is sovereign in his use of those means and is not bound by them.
No doubt you can see the comfort in this. After you have been a parent for a while you are conscious of many, many mistakes and errors – some you can out right, some it is too late. Your children see you eventually at your worst. They know you like no-one else. They see your inconsistency, your hypocrisy, your poor leadership skills, your incompetence and lack of self-control. It is enough to make you want to give up some days. Now the comfort here is that children are not saved on the basis of how good we are at being parents. There is no slot machine here. This is not to make an excuse for bad parenting. It is simply reminder of the grace of God. That is our hope. If any child comes to know the Lord or turns out even halfway decent it is the grace of God. Good parenting is often a means to this but children are sinners too and sometimes even the best parenting produces nothing while even where there is quite poor parenting nevertheless the child grows up to be a good citizen and in some cases a citizen of heaven too.
4. Be prepared to discipline your child
You would expect me to say something about discipline so let’s look at that next. Eight brief things.
1. Understand the biblical authority structure in the family. It is not the father at the top then the mother, then older kids with the younger ones at the bottom. Rather, both parents have equal authority over all the children and unless it is specifically given to them for a certain occasion the children have no authority over each other. Obviously in the marriage bond the wife must submit to the husband and so when big decisions about parenting are being made that may come into play but as far as the children are concerned what dad says goes and what mam says goes. We will say something about when those two disagree later.
2. Recognise the legitimacy of physical punishment. There is quite a strong movement against physical punishment at present. Where physical punishment is allowed it can be too harsh. Generally speaking, society can never get a balance so having corrected one danger it now wants to go to the other extreme and ban all physical punishment. It is quite clear from the Bible, however, that physical punishment is permissible, indeed in many cases necessary.
No detail is given – What age?, Girls and boys? With the hand or an implement? Etc. Common sense will guide us in most of these matters. Let me just say that smacking is an important tool in a parent’s toolbox. Clearly we must never smack in temper. It should be done in a judicial way.
3. Every child is an individual and it is important to remember that. In the area of discipline this is clearly so. I have one son who is not particularly bothered by a smack if he deserves it and another who will often cry if you speak sternly to him. Obviously I deal with them differently. I have no girls but I would guess that they are quite different again and need to be handled so.
4. Physical punishment is not a panacea and really only works up until the age of about 8 or 9 with most children. This leaves another 10 years or so when smacking will not be an option. Even then, however, we must work on being fair and effective and try to come up with punishments that don’t drag on indefinitely.
5. Aim to break the will not the spirit of the child. They must learn who is in charge and respect our authority but we are seeking to control them or to press them into some mould of our own making. There is a difference (hard to spot sometimes) between rebellion and high spirits.
6. Be positive and encouraging. It is so easy to forget to do this. We are so busy with correcting them that we forget to give praise when praise is due. I’m sure my children would tell me I’m very bad at this. My own mother believed that too much praise wasn’t a good thing and might make a child too cocky. I think that is wrong. I suppose constant and unwarranted praise can puff someone up but God has his ways of bringing down the proud and it is not our job to burst people’s bubbles. God does that. Encourage them all you can. Like you and me, they need it.
7. Try to pre-empt trouble. Obviously thinking ahead helps. Best to avoid trouble than to get into a confrontation. One of our members, who is a single mother, was telling me how she read in a book about the danger of giving children too many choices. She suddenly realised what she was doing wasn’t helping her son. He’d come down in the morning and she’d say what cereal do you want for breakfast? And there would be a good choice. Then Which colour cup do you want? Then what did he want in his sandwiches as she made them? Then she’d let him have a choice over which clothes he would wear and what he might do before school and so on. Then at some point he would choose to do something that she didn’t want him to do and he’d be in trouble. Yet all he was doing was making another choice. We need to think things through then.
8. Try never to shout. Some of us rarely shout and it’s not too much of temptation. Some of us often shout. With children it is almost never a good idea. It’s easy to fall into though. Try not to do it.

Being better parents 1


An article appeared in The Times last Friday headlined “Nursery schools struggle with troubled and violent children”. Apparently, there were more than 45,000 suspensions of children aged 2-11 in England last year (up from 40,000 the year before). There were 4,000 suspensions of children aged 5 and under. Most cases involved violence or the threat of it.
This has prompted calls for teachers to be given greater powers of restraint over violent and disruptive pupils. What struck me was how at the end of the article it said that schools are seeing an increasing number of parents who have simply lost control of their children. Mick Brookes of the National Association of Headteachers is quoted as saying: “Some of these children seem never to have heard the word no. It’s down to poor parenting.”
I think that increasingly people are seeing that among the many other problems we have in this country (and making its own significant contribution to others) is poor parenting. Many responsible parents would agree. However, once you say such a thing, if you are a parent, you may feel a little but nervous. Those of us who have been parents for any length of time are conscious of many failures and inadequacies and are looking for help to improve.
I myself have been a parent for over 18 years and am the father of 5 boys. I guess that may be why I've been asked to come and speak to you tonight on being a good parent. I’m also a pastor down in London so I want us to look at this subject chiefly in terms of what the Bible says – I think that in the end that is where we are going to get the best help. So I want to say a number of things tonight and then we’ll open it up for questions and I’ll do my best to answer.
1. Remember whose child it is
We need to start with this fundamental matter. Whose child it is anyway? It may seem a straightforward question but you’d be surprised. It’s one of those questions that usually nobody gives much thought to until something goes wrong. You see, you may instinctively say the child belongs to the parents. But what happens if there is a divorce? Does the child belong to the mother or the father? Or what if the parents begin to abuse a child? Does the state have the right and duty to intervene at some point? And what about the church, does it have any responsibility or right as far as a child is concerned?
So whose child is it? The Bible is very clear about that. Psalm 127:3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. All children are God's children – they belong to him. If we are parents, we are parents because God has made us parents – either in the normal way or by means of some other providence. You can’t simply decide to be a parent. It’s in God's hands. When we think of being parents then we need to remind ourselves of what we are. We don’t own our children, they aren’t projections of our own egos, they are not ours to do with as we wish. No, they belong to God and he has appointed us, for how ever long it may be, to take care of this child or may be more than one, before him.
Being a parent then is a tremendous privilege. I often think of what a privilege it is to be involved in the lives of my boys and to be bringing them up. It is fascinating to see. At the same time it is a tremendous responsibility. I’m their father. The influence I can and do have on them, good or bad, is possibly greater than that of any other person. What potential for good or for harm there is here. What a task – to be a parent! That’s the way to think about being a parent then. It’s the privilege and responsibility of bringing up someone who, like me, will one day stand before God to be judged.
2. Be clear about what your chief aim should be
This leads us to our second point. If you are going to be a successful parent then you will need to be clear what you are aiming at. Now different parents have different aims. You sometimes hear the phrase “I want them to have what I never had” and that can be okay as long as it isn’t code for wanting them to fulfil your failed ambitions. Obviously we want our children to achieve their full potential and we are going to need to push them to some extent if they are to achieve anything. However, it is important from the beginning to think through what exactly you want for your child (for the child God has given you).
Oh yes, it would be wonderful to watch your son play soccer for Arsenal or Chelsea or rugby for England or whoever or who is a successful doctor, lawyer, architect or whatever. It would be great to have a daughter who plays the piano or violin like the best of them or who wins Wimbledon. Mind you, it would be enough for some just to have their kids alive and healthy and happily married and some lovely grandchildren to enjoy.
But in the end think about this, what really matters? This life will soon be over for you and for your children. What really matters is that they should know and serve the Lord. What good is it for anyone to gain the whole world yet lose his soul? Once we see this clearly it is bound to affect how we bring up our children. It will affect our attitude to what they do with their Sundays – to how they are educated. It will affect the whole atmosphere at home. What is my greatest ambition for my child? What an important question. Take care how you answer. It should surely be that they bring glory to God.

Bloggage



My, it's been busy this week. I haven't even had chance to write it up yet. Monday night we had a meeting at Cranford Baptist Church, West London, a support group for Robin and Muno Asgher, church planting there among Asians.
Then Tuesday night I was in the Evangelical Free Church in Stony Stratford Milton Keynes where I had agreed (in a moment of madness) to speak on Being a better parent. I'll let you know what I said in some subsequent posts. Some four churches were represented I think with over 30 people present. We had a nice question time at the end. I knew some of the folk but not most of them. I'd not met the pastor Robert Lightowler before.
Anyway, I headed back to London and got here around 11.30 pm. I'd agreed to take Rhodri down to Gatwick where he was due to catch a plane to Vietnam with Qatar Airways the next day at 9.15 am. Because it was so late I went through the centre of London and got back home by round 4 am and went to bed. Before six Rhodri was on the phone to say that there'd been a problem over his ticket and he needed me to come and redo it - by 8.15 am! So off I went again and after a prayerful but nerve wrenching trip I arrived at the south terminal again - only to find I needed to be at the north terminal! Just when Rhodri had given up I got to him and he was able to board the plane with only short while to spare. (We later heard, 26 hours later, that he'd made it to Sibyl in Hanoi via Doha and Singapore - but hadn't slept).
I came home via the M25 as I'd have to pay the congestion charge otherwise - same length of journey but around 30 miles longer. I was pretty tired by then but had agreed to be in a meeting at the Evangelical Library so I headed down to Baker Street and fortified by coffee made it through. I had some afternoon kip and finished preparation for the evening. We weren't many but we had a good time of prayer after looking at the end of Deuteronomy 15.
The next day we had someone here doing a survey. He's been booked to look at the house and the church over these few days. Niall is brother-in-law to one of my deacons' wives. He remembered sleeping here when he was still single years ago and courting Ali's sister. I'd quite forgotten.
My parents-in-law have also been around as Geoff was speaking at the Pilgrim Homes conference on dementia. Eleri went for the morning and thought it was useful. They treated us to a meal in Pizza Hut, Brent Cross, on the Thursday. Geoff is also preaching at the Evangelical Reformed Church in South Hackney on Sunday.
Only by today have I felt over my tiredness and a cold and have concentrated on more preparation for the Lord's Day with meetings for children and young people tonight. Good attendances.

New Photo Series 11


Stair Well

Christian's Great Interest

I almost forgot, when I was in Norfolk the other week the chairman commended the book The Christian's Great interest by the Puritan William Guthrie (first published in 1658). It was a favourite among some church members when I first came here and is an excellent book. if you've not read it, you ought to.
It describes simply, clearly and in an attractive style what it means to be a Christian and how to become one. Guthrie has been called "a master spiritual physician". His wisdom is seen on every page of this work.
'I am finishing Guthrie,' wrote Thomas Chalmers once, 'which I think is the best book I ever read.'
On the same book John Owen once said 'That author I take to be one of the greatest divines that ever wrote. His book is my vade mecum. I carry it always with me'.
Perhaps the title isn't the best but it is a great little book. It includes material on what is and is not the unforgivable sin.

Nollaig Shona Daoibh


My heading (NO-Lihg HO-nuh JEEV) means "You [pl] have a Happy Christmas." - a bit early I know but Enya has a new album And winter came. I'd no't known it was coming but I was in Tesco the other night and saw it and bought it as an early Christmas present for my dad to give me (!thanks dad!). The next night I heard the lady herself on Frontrow (listen again).#
There is nothing new here really (though we hear an electric guitar by Pat Farrell on one track, which must be a first or was there one on the Celts album?) but an Enya album is an Enya album and they are obviously all different to some extent. The association with Christmas and snow works well for me. I so liked Amid the snow on the last album. Indeed that whole album was headed in the direction where this one has ended up.
So we start with the title track - similar to other solo piano Enya pieces (Lothlorien, Memory of Trees, etc).* Then comes Journey of the angels, a pleasant modern carol. White is in the winter night (a single) is in the jaunty Enya genre and is a more secular celebration of Christmas with references to mistletoe, holly, skating, snow, children, candlelight, a choir singing glory, etc and the almost obligatory moon and stars.
The fourth track is a hymn often associated with Christmas O come, O come, Immanuel. I've always loved it. Inevitably she breaks into Latin. The whole thing is well done. She finishes with a new version of Silent night in Irish Oíche Chiún using the same choral style.
Track 5, Trains and winter rains (another single) is atmospheric and ends with a nod to the Christ child and the line "And in the sky, the star alone". Dreams are more precious is another modern carol. The secularising tendency is stronger here with its follow your dreams message. Perhaps the strongest track on the album Last time by moonlight is a nostalgic love song mentioning Enya staples - snow and moonlight. Magic! The later Stars and midnight blue is in the same vein but sadder and musically less successful.
One toy soldier is ostensibly a traditional secular Christmas piece, complete with bells (resisitance to their use elsewhere shows great self-restraint). May be there's more going on here as a broken heart manages to cope with the superficial joy of Christmas cheer. The spirit of Christmas past is a simpler call to cheer up as "Tomorrow will be Christmas Day". The penultimate CD track My! My! How time flies is another jaunty piece, perhaps the most interesting lyrically, though how Neil Armstrong and Isaac Newton end up being referenced with Tchaikovski, the Beatles, Elvis and B B King I don't know. I'd thought "a king who's still in the news" was a Christ reference rather than an Elvis one. Apparently it is a tribute to an Irish guitarist called Jimmy Faulkner.
The i-tunes and Japanese editions have a bonus track Miraculum in Latin which uses the One toy soldier melody and appears to reference her previous hit Sail away (Vela).~
So a bit sentimental and safe I guess but great fun.
#Wikipedia says it's been trialed since September! It was released November 7.
*Wikipedia says it's a reworking of Midnight Blue (B side of Wild Child 2001). Knew I'd heard it somewhere. Is Stars and Midnight Blue drawing on the same source?
~Wikipedia says it marks the 20th anniversary of the Watermark album

Anything Bush can do


It's not easy being president. He phoned to apologise to Nancy Reagan, 87. Somehow I don't think the media will treat him like Bush though.

Link to a review

I thought this review here may be of interest and help to someone. One of the first funerals I ever took was a premature baby boy. Thanks Martin.

Akkerman in Haverhill


On Saturday I went with Rhodri to see Jan Akkerman and Gareth Pearson at Haverhill arts centre. They'd been in London on Wednesday but that's prayer meeting night and in a very short tour this was the only reasonable prospect, although I was a little cagey about using a Saturday night like that. Anyway in the end we made something of a trip of it travelling the 66 miles by way of Saffron Walden. We also took pictures of each other at Ugley and had a little look at the impressive Audley End, which is shut up at this time of the year. Saffron Walden is oozing with history and this was a good bit of reconnoitring for a future trip. It has several old buildings (Tudor, Georgian, etc) lots of antique shops and a nice market square. Everything was about to close by the time we got there and so we had a quick look around then had some chips and headed off across country and over the Essex/Suffolk border to Haverhill.


I saw someone describing Haverhill as the ugliest town in Suffolk - which is rather unfair but you can see their point. We looked for somewhere for a coffee and there wasn't really anywhere we could see so we went into a Wimpy. Rhodri had coke which was fine and I had a coffee which was not. He decided he wanted ice cream. They brought this very nice looking ice cream but it was tasteless. Rhodri was sat with his back to the counter but with a mirror in front of him. Through the mirror he could see a tub of Sainsbury's Basics ice cream. That's what they'd given him! I guess such a product is aimed at shutting little kids up but shame on Sainsbury's for producing it and on Wimpy for serving it.

The arts cnetre is actually a lovely old place inside and out and we had a great concert. Pity there weren't more there. It was good to see Graham, Gareth's dad, who I was in school with, and who goes to my home church. The Akkernutters (Leigh, Lloyd, Jim,etc) were out in force. Gareth did a nice set and talked a bit as he does. It's a shame that great talent and personality are not enough to win you fame and fortune. It was good to see Gareth again and pass on a copy of Steve Nichols' Getting the Blues which seemed appropriate. I also gave one to Jan later (plus a copy of my own book) and had a chat ranging over the happiness of sea lions, Rabindranath Tagore and the Rabbi's tunnel, etc. His own set was superb. He wandered on stage picked up his battered Lowden and said it was cold waiting upstairs so he'd decided to come down (!). He then sat (Gareth had stood) and got going. First we had what he called a medley of old Dutch carpenter songs (ie Focus stuff - beginning with bits from Eruption, unheard until then the Akkernutters told me, Le Clochard, Sylvia, Anonymus, etc). He then played two of the suites from his acoustic album and rather different version of Tranquiliser. I think it was Firenze and something else next (probably not) and then a bit of Django type stuff plus another track. He then got into a storming version of Hocus Pocus that was mesmerising. Sadly (though not surprisingly) a string broke part way in and so we never got to hear the whole thing. Instead he called Gareth up to do another number while he re-strung. They finished off with a fascinating duet playing with Michael Jackson's Billie Jean which Gareth had tackled earlier. Slightly surreal, Jan ended thanking Gareth then Graham (who's been driving Jan around - usually with his head out of the window trying to have a smoke!) then me (!) then Leigh. He would have named the whole audience if he could have - or at least the Welsh ones!

After a quick chat and some photos we headed off into the wet night and got home just outside my personal curfew looking forward to the Lord's Day.

John Newman Martyr


I happened to be in Saffron Walden on Saturday where I saw this blue plaque. Newman was one of hundreds killed in Mary's reign. A pewterer worked with pewter, commonly used for drinking vessels and other objects right to the end of the 18th Century. The entry in Foxe doesn't tell us much more than the plaque. it is a reminder of great faith in difficult times.

John Denley, John Newman, and Patrick Packingham
Mr. Denley and Newman were returning one day to Maidstone, the place of their abode, when they were met by E. Tyrrel, Esq., a bigoted justice of the peace in Essex, and a cruel persecutor of the Protestants. He apprehended them merely on suspicion.
On the fifth of July, 1555, they were condemned, and consigned to the sheriffs, who sent Mr. Denley to Uxbridge, where he perished, August eighth, 1555. While suffering in agony, and singing a Psalm, Dr. Story inhumanly ordered one of the tormentors to throw a fagot at him, which cut his face severely, caused him to cease singing, and to raise his hands to his face. Just as Dr. Story was remarking in jest that he had spoiled a good song, the pious martyr again changed, spread his hands abroad in the flames, and through Christ Jesus resigned his soul into the hands of his Maker.
Mr. Packingham suffered at the same town on the twenty-eigth of the same month.
Mr. Newman, pewterer, was burnt at Saffron Waldon (sic), in Essex, August 31, for the same cause, and Richard Hook about the same time perished at Chichester.

Spirit not intermittent

I came across this helpful quotation from Bonar's Life of John Milne of Perth on page 150 of Iain Murray's new book on Lloyd-Jones.

The Holy Spirit is not intermittent; not limited to revival seasons. Parents give good gifts at all times; and more so God. We are commanded to do all duties in the Spirit; to live, walk, pray, work in the Spirit. We should not be blamed for carnality if the Spirit were not always attainable. God is not impoverished by the abundance of bestowment. Like the sun, He is never exhausted.

Nice Quotation

Going through some stuff recently I noticed I'd jotted down this quotation from Simon Singh's Codebook (p 189). Ths statement was made by Stuart Milner-Barry and is also quoted here and here.

"To feel that you know your enemy is a vastly comforting feeling. It grows imperceptibly over time if you regularly and intimately observe his thoughts and ways and habits and actions. Knowledge of this kind makes your own planning less tentative and more assured, less harrowing and more buoyant."

New Photo Series 10

Transport committee meeting place

Refreshing Brooks 02


The final part of the ET article


Act of restoration
In 1648 Brooks was invited to be minister of St Margaret’s, New Fish Street Hill, but laid down uncompromising terms. He requested that the parish elders chosen under the Presbyterian system should resign and that the godly people of the parish should gather in conference to own one another’s grace and receive godly strangers, though differing in opinion, into their church.
Furthermore, he would offer communion only to members of this newly constituted church and baptise only their children. In effect, he wanted to transform this parish church into an Independent congregation. This was too much for the people and negotiations broke down.
It was not until March 1652 that, with an order from the committee for plundered ministers, he was finally settled at St Margaret’s. After the Restoration, Brooks continued to preach, first in London, then at Tower Wharf and in Moorfields, near St Margaret’s.
In 1662 he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity and was ejected from his living. He continued to preach in London, however, apparently suffering little persecution. Unlike many ministers, he stayed in London during the Great Plague of 1665, faithfully tending his flock and comforting those afflicted by the Great Fire of 1666.
The lengthy treatise London’s Lamentations (Works Volume 6) is based on Isaiah 42:24, 25 and is ‘a serious discourse concerning that late fiery dispensation that turned our (once renowned) city into a ruinous heap: also the several lessons that are incumbent upon those whose houses have escaped the consuming flames’. It is ‘perhaps the most remarkable contemporary memorial’ of the event.


The fall of death
In 1672 he was licensed to preach as a Congregationalist in Lime Street under the Declaration of Indulgence, but that licence was revoked in 1676. In that same year his first wife, Martha Burgess, a godly woman whom he greatly treasured, died.
He wrote: ‘She was always best when she was most with God in a corner. She has many a whole day been pouring out her soul before God for the nation, for Zion, and the great concerns of her own soul’.
He later married a godly young woman named Patience Cartwright — she, as Grosart puts it, ‘spring-young’ and he ‘winter-old’. She proved an excellent companion in his closing years.
Brooks died on 27 September 1680 and was buried on October 1 at Bunhill Fields. In his funeral sermon John Reeve spoke of Brooks’ ‘sweet nature, great gravity, large charity, wonderful patience and strong faith’. Grosart discovered and printed his Last Will and Testament, composed six months before. It begins:
‘Death is a fall that came in by a Fall: that statute Law of Heaven “Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return” will first or last take hold of all mortals; the core of that apple that Adam ate in Paradise will choke us all round one by one; there is not one man living that shall not see death; though all men shall not meet in Heaven, nor in Hell, yet all men shall meet in the grave whither we and all a[re] going’ [spelling modernised].
Brooks’ most important legacy lies in his published writings and in this anniversary year we may want to take time to peruse one or other of his works, giving thanks to God for what remains. In Brooks own words:
‘Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, which makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee which gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most, but he who meditates most, who will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian’.

Refreshing Brooks 01

This is the first part of an article that appears in the current Evangelical Times

In 1860 James Nichol published the six volume works of the Puritan Thomas Brooks. Of all the Puritan divines Nichol reprinted, Brooks proved to be the most popular.
Thomas Brooks was probably born some time in 1608 — 400 years ago this year — and in spite of their age, these chunky volumes were republished in 1980 and remain in print (and on-line). They contain a treasure trove of what Richard Baxter called ‘affectionate practical’ writing and what a more modern writer has dubbed ‘treatises for the heart’.
Unlike some Puritans, Brooks is not difficult to read. For Spurgeon, he was ‘of all the Puritans ... the most readable, if we except John Bunyan; and if he cannot display the depth of Owen or the raciness of Adams, he leaves them far behind in excessive sweetness and sparkling beauty of metaphor’.
According to Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson, ‘He communicates profound truths in a simple manner and is appropriate reading for young people and adults. His writings exude spiritual life and power and are particularly comforting for true believers’.

Smooth stones
In 1860 Spurgeon published a book (now available on-line) with the witty title, Smooth stones taken from ancient brooks containing around a thousand sayings gleaned from Brooks writings. Here are some examples:
‘There is no such way to attain to greater measures of grace than for a man to live up to that little grace he has’.
‘Zeal is like fire: in the chimney it is one of the best servants; but out of the chimney it is one of the worst masters. Zeal, kept by knowledge and wisdom in its proper place, is a choice servant to Christ and the saints; but zeal not bounded by wisdom and knowledge is the highway to undo all, and to make a hell for many at once’.
‘As a body without a soul, much wood without fire, or a bullet in a gun without powder, so are words in prayer without the spirit of prayer’.
The works
Brooks was a prolific writer. Between 1652 and 1670 he produced some 16 highly popular books of Christian devotion and edification. Apples of Gold (1657) reached 17 editions by 1693. Many works were later translated into other languages.
Volume 1 of his Works begins with his famous Precious remedies against Satan’s devices. This ends with the following ten ‘helps’: Walk by the rule of God’s Word; don’t grieve the Spirit; strive for heavenly wisdom; resist Satan’s first motions; labour to be filled with the Spirit; remain humble; pursue watchfulness; retain communion with God; fight Satan by drawing strength from the Lord Jesus; and be much in prayer.
Also in Volume 1 is The mute Christian under the smarting rod on coping with suffering and the cryptic titles Apples of gold and A string of pearls which look, respectively, at youth and old age and at heaven.
Other volumes contain such excellent fare as Heaven on earth on assurance, and The privy key of heaven on prayer. Volume 4 contains no less than 58 sermons on a single text — Hebrews 12:14 (The crown and glory of Christianity, or, Holiness the only way to happiness).
Mystery man
But what do we know of the man himself? In short, very little. In Nichol’s edition of his works, the editor, Alexander Grosart, is forced to dwell on the lack of information about Brooks and why it has been lost.
There is no known portrait of Brooks and we know nothing of his ancestry or parentage. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) suggests he was born in Sussex, possibly Lewes. Since Brooks died in 1680 aged 72, he was born in 1607 or 1608.
The first solid date we have is a Cambridge University record stating, ‘Thomas Brooks: matriculated as pensioner of Emanuel, July 7th 1625’ — the year Charles I became King. Pensioner suggests that Brooks was well born. Emmanuel was a strongly Puritan college and he probably rubbed shoulders with men like John Milton and the prospective New Englanders Shepard, Cotton and Hooker.
When or how he was converted we do not know. After 1625 the meagre trail again disappears. It is now thought that he left university before graduation and was not ordained until around 1640. In 1652 he writes of having preached for 13 years, mostly in London, but his ministry had been an unsettled one.

An Independent
A strong Puritan, Brooks always stressed that true religious knowledge must be inward, experimental, even mystical — not merely external, notional and formal. The ODNB suggests that in the spectrum of Puritan thinkers he can be placed ‘on the radical side of Independency’.
He denounced antinomians and the radical ideas of Levellers and Fifth Monarchy Men, but like Owen and Thomas Goodwin he believed strongly in the autonomy of the local church.
As an Independent during the Civil War (1642-1648) he supported the army and was close to Thomas Fairfax, Commander-in-Chief of Parliamentary forces. He almost certainly acted as a chaplain to Parliamentary commanders on land and sea.
His ministry at sea is mentioned in some of his ‘sea-devotions’. He also speaks of enduring ‘some terrible storms’ but adds, ‘I have been some years at sea and through grace I can say that I would not exchange my sea experiences for England’s riches’.
Preaching to Parliament
In 1647 and again in 1651 he signed declarations issued by Independent and Baptist churches that openly espoused the principle of rule by the godly. On 14 November 1648 he preached the funeral sermon for Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, urging army leaders ‘to side with the Saints, let the issue be what it will’.
A month later, after the purge of the Long Parliament, he preached to the Rump a sermon on Psalm 44:18 (later published as ‘God’s delight in the progress of the upright’) in which he not only justified the action but exhorted the MPs to execute ‘justice and judgement’. In 1650 he appeared before Parliament again to preach a thanksgiving sermon from Isaiah 10:6, following Cromwell’s victory at Dunbar.
Brooks was one of the Independent ministers Cromwell called to his residence in July 1652 to discuss providing godly men to preach the gospel in Ireland. In early 1655 Cromwell again asked him to be present at an interview with the Fifth Monarchy Men.
(Concluded in another post)

Last weekend


Had a pretty full weekend, preaching four times up in Norfolk. I have hardly been to that county before so most of the people I met were new to me. As you enter Norfolk it reminds you this is Nelson's county. As for Norwich I knew they had a football team but not that the cathedral spire is England's second tallest.
Since returning this rhyme learned as a child has risen to the surface of my mind
The man in the moon
came tumbling down
and asked his way to Norwich;
The man in the South,
he burnt his mouth
With eating burning hot porridge.
I went up via Haverhill as I hope to hear Jan Akkerman and Gareth Pearson there Saturday. As I went on and it began to get dark the rain seemed to come down heavier and heavier. It got a bit late and so in a change of plan I went straight to the church in Norwich where I was to preach.
On the Saturday night I was preaching at a Bible rally in Prince of Wales Road Evangelical Church which is a Railway Mission Hall (very nice art nouveau fronted building with modern well kept interior). It's opposite a night club called MERCY (if you're looking for the church just ask for mercy!). About 6 or 7 local churches were represented, including the one I was in, Norwich Reformed, Cromer Baptist, Great Ellingham RB, Diss Baptist, etc. Also Surrey Chapel. Despite the rain about 40 or so were present. The chairman was Joe Hart from Diss and I preached on Hebrews 6. It was good to be there. It was nice to see again the new minister at Cromer Jon Davis and his wife Lisa, who was with us some years ago. I also bumped into the Foleys, originally from Cwmbran, who are now working with rural ministries at Great Moulton.
I was staying with Bob Gilbert and his family in Brooke and very welcome I was made. Bob is the elder at the Norwich church and I have come to know the family through a college friend who married a Gilbert. They are at Pains Hill Chapel in Surrey. Part of the Railway Mission heritage is an afternoon service. The morning service only started in more recent years. So I preached there at 10.30 am (following communion led by Bob) and 3 pm with a very nice roast in between. We were joined for this by two men from the church - one of who has come to Norwich fairly recently from Knaphill.
In the evening we had tea and some nice chats at Great Ellingham Reformed Baptist where Hugh Collier is the minister. A nice old building and a decent congregation, it was good to be there. I preached on Luke 18:13 (the Pharisee and the tax collector).
I headed off around 8 pm and was able to be home in pretty good time. Very chatty when I got in but not too tired. They'd had a good day here with visiting preachers.