So another two days of conference have come and gone. And very good it was too. Apologies that I have not been able to report until now. Anyway, we had six excellent papers and good times of discussion after them too. The last paper is always without discussion.
So we started with Jeremy Walker on Andrew Fuller and his pastoral theology. We mainly discussed pastoral visitation and its benefits and the question of what can be done to train ministerial character.
After lunch, we had the first of two sessions on John Owen. Originally Sinclair Ferguson was to have spoken but instead Crawford Gribben, whose OUP book on Owen comes out soon (John Owen and English Puritanism) spoke on his eschatology, which appears to have undergone some changes over the years - firt thinking Satan was bound, then that he was not. It was good to discuss a subject I don't recall us looking at before.
We closed the day with David Pfeiffer on Owen's doctrine of definite atonement and his preaching of the free offer. A good free flowing debate on the free offer followed, where some differences were discernible.
This first day was one of the best we have had in my memory. Good papers, good discussion. Day two was fine as well but different. We began with an unusual but highly relevant subject for the conference - Erasmus and the Greek Testament. Peter Hallihan gave us a very interesting and illuminating life of Erasmus focusing on his Greek Testament and his Latin translation. A good natured and helpful discussion followed.
The nest paper was different again as Paul Helm guided us through the bulk of Jonathan Edward's Religious affections pointing out its Lockean subtext and its politically nuanced presentation of Christian experience. Again very illuminating.
We closed the conference with an excellent and succinct lecture from Benedict Bird. He gave us seven points on Isaac Watts' life, touching delicately but clearly on his aberrant Trinitarian views and then seven further points summarising his Guide to prayer.
About 120 attended the conference both days the make up being slightly different each day. This included some new attendees and younger men. The sessions were well chaired I thought (I chaired David Pfeiffer's session hence the lack of a live shot above, the session didn't need too much chairing) and over forty must have contributed from the floor. The quality of the contributions was good too I thought.
You are to be a " faithful" servant. Faithfulness is absolutely required of a servant of Christ. You are not required to be successful: your Lord and Master was not very successful: but he was faithful, and so must you be. There is great need of faithfulness. (Andrew Fuller, Works p 408)
Men are busy, and not so far concerned, I am sure, in me, nor (I am almost persuaded) in you, as to trouble themselves with the perusal of what belongs unto us personally. For my part, I know it is my duty in all things, especially in those that are of such near concernment unto his glory as are all his truths and worship, to commend my conscience unto God, and to be conversant in them in simplicity and godly sincerity, and not in fleshly wisdom, not corrupting the word of truth, nor lying in wait with any subtle sleights to deceive. And this, through his grace, I shall attend unto, whatever reward I may meet withal in this world; for "I know in whom I have believed, who is able to keep that which I desire to commit unto him." (John Owen, end of Fiat Lux)
“Consider the infinite condescension and love of Christ, in his invitations and calls of you to come unto him for life, deliverance, mercy, grace, peace and eternal salvation. Multitudes of these invitations and calls are recorded in Scripture… In the declaration and preaching of them, Jesus Christ yet stands before sinners, calling, inviting, encouraging them to come unto him.
This is somewhat of the word which he now speaks to you: Why will ye die? Why will ye perish? Why will ye not have compassion on your own souls? Can your hearts endure, or can your hands be strong, in the day of wrath that is approaching? ... Look unto me, and be saved; come unto me, and I will ease you of all sins, sorrows, fears, burdens, and give rest unto your souls … eternity lies at the door…do not so hate me than you will rather perish than accept deliverance by me.
These and the like doth the Lord Christ continually declare, proclaim, plead and urge upon the souls of sinners…He doth it in the preaching of the word, as if he were present with you, stood amongst you, and spake personally to every one of you…” (John Owen in “Meditations and Discourses Concerning the Glory of Christ and Applied unto Unconverted Sinners and Saints under Spiritual Decays” in Works Vol 1, p 422)
Let us pray then, that when God has prepared our heart for worship, he would also teach our tongue to answer the thoughts and desires of the heart and to express them in words suitable and answering to all our inward spiritual feelings. A fitting variety of expression, and holy oratory prayer, is one of these good and perfect gifts that come from above, from God, the Father of lights and Knowledge. (Isaac Watts, Guide to Prayer, p 75)