The edition of John Calvin's works which was issued by the Calvin Translation Society, is greatly enriched by the remarks of the editors, consisting not merely of notes on the Latin of Calvin, and the French translation, or on the text of the original Scriptures, but also of weighty opinions of eminent critics, illustrative manners and customs, and observations of travellers. By the way, gentlemen, what a pity it is that people do not, as a rule, read the notes in the old Puritan books! If you purchase old copies of such writers as Brooks, you will find that the notes in the margin are almost as rich as the books themselves. They are dust of gold, of the same metal as the ingots in the centre of the page. But to return to Calvin. If you needed any confirmatory evidence as to the value of his writings, I might summon a cloud of witnesses, but it will suffice to quote one or two. Here is the opinion of one who is looked upon as his great enemy, namely, Arminius:
Quaint Robert Robinson said of him, There is no abridging this sententious commentator, and the more I read him, the more does he become a favourite expositor with me. Holy Baxter wrote, I know no man since the apostles' days, whom I value and honour more than Calvin, and whose judgment in all things, one with another, I more esteem and come nearer to.
Before heading home we popped into Marks & Spencer's to spend a voucher my dad had for his eightieth. That didn't take long. He bought a long sleeved one for some reason. Marks is remarkably unchanged though it needs some attention. Its marble steps are among my earliest memories.
Back home we had a bite to eat - a ham sandwich and a Tesco value pork pie which is cheap but has no taste. We actually saw a bird on the bird table.
A bonus on this trip was that my best friend Chris was also in town to visit his mother and so we were able to meet up for a cuppa and cake in the Nine yards.
The journey home was uneventful. We had our church members meeting the same evening. We were a small number as ever.
My dad seems well. He now goes to the hospice every Monday and is being well looked after by home visitors.
Besides, the Scriptures ought to be our guide with respect to how God's mysteries are handled. Therefore let us adopt the language that it uses without being lightheaded. For the Lord knows quite well that if He were to speak to us in a manner befitting His majesty, our intelligence would be incapable of reaching that high. Thus He accommodates Himself to our smallness. And as a wet nurse coos to her baby, so He uses toward us an unrefined way of speaking in order to be understood.
Whoever, therefore, reverses this order only succeeds in burying God's truth, which can only be known in the manner that He wills to reveal it to us. That is why we must labour to unravel their obscurities in order to drag them if necessary by force into the light, so that their abominations, which they make a point of hiding, might be known to all the world.
Similarly, every Christian must be warned that when he hears them garbling as they do he must cut them off immediately at the spigot and say to them, "Either speak the language that the Lord has taught us and which He uses in His Scriptures, or go speak to the rocks and trees!"
The pattern for each day was similar. Again David Jackman began. He has looked at Psalms 44, 86 and, today, turned to Psalm 108, an interesting composite Psalm that uses Psalms 57 and 60 to form a new work Kidner called a psalm for new initiatives or adventures of faith. Jackman's approach was to give a lot of background then seek to apply it to us. As ever the application seemed weakest.
The second session each day has been taken by Don Carson, who I'd not heard for a while. It was refreshing him to hear him again. He spoke on prayer. He made the following basic but important points:
1. We need our prayer to be steeped in the Word of God (illustrated from Nehemiah 9)
2. We need our prayer to be steeped in biblical theology (illustrated obliquely by pointing out the connections between Exodus 32-34, which he said turns on at least five things [the end of divine revelation regarding the tabernacle; the play on glory and goodness; God's covenant love, his grace and truth; the giving of the law; the fact that no-one has ever seen God] and John 1.
3. We need our prayer steeped in the authority of Scripture (ie its examples, its eschatological vision, its ultimate goal
4. We need our prayer to frankly acknowledge its ignorance of God's will
In the afternoon we had the second of two sessions from Richard Coekin looking at Jonah and this time considering God the evangelist. It was good to have Jonathan Edwards quoted, Andrew Fuller referenced and Sandemaianism condemned but one is uneasy when repentance is said to be a matter of will and church growth techniques are commended.
The final session from Vaughan Roberts turned out to be an address (of sorts) on Charles Simeon (born 250 years ago this year).
The new leader of the PT made the following points in the light of Simeon's story.
1. Let the Bible speak
2. Make sure you get your message across (Simeon called for unity in design, perspicuity in diction and simplicity in delivery).
3. Expect opposition
4. Think strategically (He may not have used such a term but he was committed to bringing the gospel to the nation. He was keen to recruit Cambridge men to the ministry. A recent biographer mentions 600 won to the work by Simeon. He set up a trust to get men appointed)
5. Have a global vision
6. Be Bible Christians (Avoid being system Christians we were warned).
7. Stick at it
So basically no change at PT then. We sung two lovely hymns by Chris Idle (who was present) and Timothy Dudley-Smith and two collections of unconnected phrases about God. We were accompanied by the organ and a praise band (sometimes together!) but just now and again we were allowed to sing a capella. Brilliant! These are good people but I despair of their movement ever getting to grips with experiential Calvinism, Puritanism or the idea of preaching to the conscience.
Billie Jean was written by the late Michael Jackson and inspired the above jam in Holland by Jan Akkerman and Gareth Pearson last May. The orginal has been described as revolutionary for its time. See here. I remember reading once that Michael Jackson sat enthralled at Focus concerts in the seventies.
Luke relates that, having been hospitably received by Martha, as soon as he entered the house, he began to teach and exhort. As this passage has been basely distorted into the commendation of what is called a Contemplative life, we must inquire into its true meaning, from which it will appear, that nothing was farther from the design of Christ, than to encourage his disciples to indulge in indolence, or in useless speculations. It is, no doubt, an old error, that those who withdraw from business, and devote themselves entirely to a contemplative, lead an Angelical life. For the absurdities which the Sorbonnists utter on this subject they appear to have been indebted to Aristotle, who places the highest good, and ultimate end, of human life in contemplation, which, according to him, is the enjoyment of virtue. When some men were driven by ambition to withdraw from the ordinary intercourse of life, or when peevish men gave themselves up to solitude and indolence, the resolution to adopt that course was followed by such pride, that they imagined themselves to be like the angels, because they did nothing; for they entertained as great a contempt for active life, as if it had kept them back from heaven. On the contrary, we know that men were created for the express purpose of being employed in labour of various kinds, and that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God, than when every man applies diligently to his own calling, and endeavours to live in such a manner as to contribute to the general advantage.
Eleri took myself and some of the boys off this morning to nearby Primrose Hill to see the unveiling of a plaque. The plaque is to commemorate the fact that on June 21, 1792, the first modern eisteddfod took place there. The BBC's Huw Edwards introduced proceedings and various others, led by the deputy archdruid took part, including Rhian Medi who unveiled the memorial plaque to the founder of the modern eisteddfod Iolo Morganwg that is now a permanent feature of the site. It has taken the work of many people to get this organised and thankfulness was expressed for all their efforts. One of Iolo's descendants was present as a guest of honour. Things bardic look a bit strange but then so do most such ceremonies and it was nice to be in on one and understand most of what was going on.
I suppose messing around with the classics is just what people do. This version of Tchaikovsky's ballet piece The nutcracker appeared in 1962 and was performed by Kim Fawley and other session musicians. It is one of several attempts at this sort of thing, of which this is the best. The track gained a new lease of life in the seventies when Emerson, Lake and Palmer (whose whole career was based on this sort of thing) so appropriately used it as an encore to their famous live rendition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
To help with prayer I use GBM's Prayer Diary and the Operation World Prayer Diary (there should be a button for this in my sidebar). More recently in a desire to pray for persecuted Christians with better intelligence I have tried using the prayer guides here and here. I've also turned my own personal prayer diary into an html file for easy access at the same time.
While still in a prayerful spirit I then try and make quick visits to my online bank, my facebook and twitter accounts and one or two other things sometimes eg Youtube.
Users of the M'Cheyne system will be aware of Don Carson's helpful two books (For the love of God) offering a daily page of devotional comment. I have both volumes but it occurred to me that it must be available somewhere online and I found that Crossway have put the two volumes here and here. The snag here is that you have to go searching through to find the page you want. Further, obviously Crossway don't want to lose sales on this and so eventually they will not allow you to access all pages, which rather spoils the fun. However, the other day I was looking for a quote from Carson to lump across to here and discovered this very helpful blog. The way this is set up is that if you come to the main page you will have the text from one of the books for that day. To get the text for the other two readings you need to go through the archives (indeed today I had to do that in both cases as the current reading was not up - at least it's all there somewhere by now so you can find what you want eventually).
Obviously over reliance on technology can have its drawbacks but I have found these few sites a real help. I'll say more in a further post I hope.
I came across this from Don Carson today talking about Psalm 108 which is made up of parts of other psalms in a different context. He says
For although all of Scripture is true and important, deserving study, reflection, and carefully applied thought, the Lord God in his wisdom did not give us a Bible of abstract principles, but highly diverse texts woven into highly diverse situations. Despite the diversity, of course, there is still only one sweeping storyline, and only one Mind ultimately behind it. But the rich tapestry of varied human experience reflected in the different biblical books and passages - not least in the different psalms - enables the Bible to speak to us with peculiar force and power when the “fit” between the experience of the human author and our experience is especially intimate.
For this astonishing wealth, God deserves reverent praise. What mind but his, what compass of understanding but his, what providential oversight over the production of Scripture but his, could produce a work so unified yet so profoundly diverse? Here, too, is reason to join our “Amen” to the words of 108:5: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.”
There is a similar fiction with regard to the steps of Pilate’s judgment-seat. These exist at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, together with the holes into which they say that drops of blood fell from our Saviour’s body. In like manner, in the church of Praxed is shown the pillar to which he was bound when he was scourged, and three other pillars in the church of Santa Croce, round which he was led when taken away to die. I know not how they came to dream of all these pillars. This much, at least, is certain, that they are the offspring of their own brain; for we read not a word of them in the whole Gospel history. We read, no doubt, that Christ was scourged; but that he was bound to a pillar is their own invention. It must be obvious, therefore, that these impostors have done nothing else than attempt to rear up a huge pile of lies. In doing this, they have carried their license to such a length that they have not hesitated to make a relic of the tail of the ass on which our Savior rode, and which is exhibited at Genoa. But it is not so much their impudence that astonishes us as the infatuation and stupidity of men, in religiously embracing such absurdities. Here, perhaps, some one will allege it to be improbable that the relics which I have now named would be exhibited with so much pomp if they were not able to show whence they came, and by whose hands they were received. I answer, in one word, that nothing like probability is employed to cloak these transparent lies. For how much soever they may shelter
themselves under the name of Constantine, or King Louis, or some of the Popes, all this avails them not when they have to prove that 14 nails were used in fixing our Savior to the cross, that a whole hedge was plaited in making his crown of thorns, that the spear’s point produced three other points, that his robe was so multiplied as to be converted into three, or that it changed its form so as to be metamorphosed into a robe for mass, to which it had not the least resemblance, or that one napkin produced as many other napkins as a hen does chickens, or that our Saviour was buried after a different fashion from that which the Evangelists relate. Were I to take a lump of lead, and pointing to it, to say, “This gold was given me by such a prince,” I would deservedly be thought mad. At all events, my assertion would make no change upon the colour or the nature of the lead, so as to convert it into gold. In the same way, when it is said, “See what
Godfrey of Boulogne sent into these quarters after he had subdued Judea,” though the lie is obviously repugnant to reason, will we allow ourselves to take the account without using our eyes to see what lies plain before them?
4. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones: the recovery of the vision II: The multiplying of his influence (59-74)
IVF: The theologian of the IVF How do the statements at the bottom of p 61 about IVF fit in with earlier statements about it being one way the Reformed vision was being recaptured? Was Lloyd-Jones right to spend so much time on para-church student work? Would we encourage it today?
EMW: The people of the magazine Are campaigns typically Reformed? Why did Lloyd-Jones write on “Evangelical faith” not “Reformed faith”? (p 67) Was all this para church activity an entirely healthy thing? In what sense was there unparallelled liveliness in the witness in Aberystwyth in the sixties? (p 70) Is the significance of Packer's Knowing God underplayed here?
Westminster Fellowship: The pastor's pastor Why is the Westminster Fellowship so poorly attended today? Is there in the Lloyd-Jones story an argument for bishops?
Encouraged to read good books/Meeting Lloyd-Jones/The Library moves to London/Library Expansion Does the Library deserve a separate chapter? Again why 'Evangelical' and not Reformed? Is the story told in a rather romantic manner?
Early life/Student at Oxford What if Packer had come from Lincolnshire not Gloucestershire?
Discovering John Owen Why were the pages of the Owen set uncut?
Puritan Conference Do preachers today teach the greatness of God and the greatness of the soul? Why 'Puritan and Reformed' and not 'Evangelical'?
Discovering the true Gospel Why have we never heard of William Blatchley and F J Hobbs?
Preparing for the ministry/Discovering the English Reformers/Making history live Why would Lloyd-Jones have had reservations about starting the Banner? Was he right?
Launching the books Why start with Burrowes on Song of Solomon??
Was Scotland different to England and Wales in the fifties because Reformed truths were more often kept alive?
Highland heritage How important is Murray's interesting statement about his father? (p 133)
Studying for the ministry And what do we make of his impression regarding his son? (p 133)
Call to Princeton and Westminster How important is the Machen link?
Reformed resurgence in England/Banner work and the Leicester Conference Wales was not represented at the first Banner Conference – any significance in that? Why did the conference not meet more regularly in the earlier years? Did Lloyd-Jones come more than once, if not then why not?
His contribution What do we make of the list of events here? And does the statement 'before a Puritan reprint had appeared!' make any sense? Does JJM contradict Iain Murray's statement? (p 150) Were the late fifties under Lloyd-Jones really anything like the days of John Knox?
Is there spontaneity in the events listed? (p 149)
Expecting revival Is revival related to a rediscovery of Calvinistic truths? Has God kept a remnant or raised an army of ambassadors? Have things 'gone wrong'?
A vision fulfilled
A vision unfulfilled Is the impression is given that the Carey conference was a bad thing?
Why no mention or hardly any in the book for Francis Schaeffer, John Stott, Dick Lucas, Al Martin and maybe others? What about LTS or WEST and its predecessors? Are there other omissions?
Is a book aiming to do what this one does really possible to do?
Why the word vision? Is that the best choice? Does it need more explanation? (Cf p 144)
The rise of liberalism in the 19th Century Was the story of the 19th Century so very different to the 18th Century as far as downgrade in the churches is concerned?
The influence of liberalism in the universities and colleges Was the lack of conservative evangelicals teaching in the universities really a new thing?
Effect of liberalism in the churches JJM says that “the people in the pews did not apprehend the dangers”. Is it not more accurate to say that they were kept in ignorance? He says Reformers and Puritans were practically forgotten – why? Why (if so) was there more and more man-centredness?
Scarcity of evangelical literature Is the rise of C S Lewis and his writings genuinely significant in the recovery of the Reformed faith?
Resistance to liberalism Why was the story of resistance in the USA so different to the story here?Should the Welsh revival of 1904 (see p 153) have been mentioned in this first chapter? Are there other events or people who should have been mentioned?
2. Recovering the vision: the forerunners (27-44)
The year 1919 and the IVF In what way is what we read here of the Keswick men significant in the recovery of the Reformed faith?
E J Poole-Connor and contending for the faithfully What happened to others who heard both Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones? Is the founding of FIEC and BEC important in the history of recovering the Reformed faith?
A W Pink and Studies in the Scriptures Is it correct to see A W Pink as an early influence given that Search the Scriptures always had a very small circulation?
Jay Green and the Sovereign Grace Book Club Why has Jay Green and the SGU been forgotten? Does it matter?
Ernie Reisinger and Carlisle USA/W J Grier and the Evangelical bookshop, Belfast Was there anyone else who heard both Machen and Lloyd-Jones? What is the significance of the fact that something similar was happening both in Ireland and the USA?
Other influences Are there other things that should have been mentioned? (eg The Bible League Trust, Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony, the denominational revival fellowships, changes among SBs, area Bible rallies [though see p 71], etc) Should there be more about I C Herendeen and shouldn't he have been highlighted in his own right?
3. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones: the recovery of the vision I: Preparation of the man (47-56)
Are the statements on p 48 correct that God often raises up individuals to forward his work and that Lloyd-Jones was almost alone as 'a champion of true biblical faith' in the fifties?
Introduction to Calvinistic Methodism What can we do to keep the history of the Reformed faith alive? What does this section tell us about the power of Christian biography?
Discovering the English Puritans Is there such a thing as a call to the ministry that precedes conversion? Why would God do that? How is it that Baxter is so often the most prominent of the Puritans despite his unorthodoxies? What might have happened if Lloyd-Jones had studied for the ministry in Bala?
Discovering Edwards and Warfield What does the doctrine of providence have to teach us about books and when they are read? Was Lloyd-Jones' move to Westminster the 20th Century's 'most far-reaching and consequential development ... in the history of the evangelical cause in Britain'?
A link with A W Pink What do we make of Lloyd-Jones's experience? Did the word glory have to come from a book by Pink or would a copy of Tambourines to glory by Langston Hughes serve the purpose just as well? Is the experience really important in the recovery of the Reformed faith?
PPS The serious point here is not to go too far when praising our heroes.
I came across Batman first as a kid and always preferred him to Superman. The idea of not having super powers and yet being a super hero appealed. I liked the tongue in cheek American TV series too. I don't like the way they've developed Batman in more recent years.
1. Reformed preaching before the 1870s was generally