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.

Evangelical Library Annual Lecture 2018


It was a great joy to hear Donald John McLean from Cambridge speaking last night at the Evangelical Library in Bounds Green North London. His subject was the great William Chalmers Burns who died 150 years ago this year. Burns was set in the context of that remarkable coterie of evangelical ministers M'Cheyne, the Bonar brothers and John Milne of Perth. We were given his background and the story of the revival he knew in M'Cheyne's church in Dundee and then that uncertain period when he ministered in Dublin and Canada with limited success, The longest period, his time in China, was perhaps given short shrift but by that point we had begun to understand something of the character of Burns and that was the main thing that was helpfully presented to us.
Three final practical points were made - the importance of prayer and of holiness as exemplified by Burns and the Sovereignty of God seen in the way Burns was sometimes greatly blessed and at other times not so.
Prayer
Regarding Burns and prayer Bonar wrote once

Today I preached at Dundee with the object of seeking a pouring down of the Holy Spirit.
The lesson I have been learning of late is that William Burns (mutual friend of Bonar and Robert Murray M’Cheyne) is used as an instrument of God, where others have been labouring in vain, because he is much in prayer beyond all of us. It is not special words that God blesses, but prayer. 

Burns brother Islay wrote

"Above all," says an able writer in the Sunday at Home, "Mr. Burns was a man of prayer. No one could be long in his company without discovering that. All the week long 'he filled the fountains of his spirit with prayer,' and on Sabbath the full fountain gave forth its abundant treasures. There was a freshness, a simplicity, a scriptural force and directness in his prayers, that formed the best of all preparations for the discourse that was to follow. Out of doors, we have often felt, as we heard him preach, that the opening prayer of the service was like the ploughing up of the field, it so opened the heart, and quickened and informed the conscience; the sermon that followed was the sowing of the seed in the prepared soil; and the concluding prayer was like the after harrowing of the ground, fixing down the seed that had been sown."

Holiness
His consecration to the Master was so rare and so complete, during the years of his great work as an evangelist at home, that the sight of his handwriting reminded one to the last, that there are some who do illustrate the word, Man's chief end is to glorify God. The handwriting was unchanged by so many years constant use of his adopted and much-loved hieroglyphic, and the signature of his last letters was exactly that which he used to affix in his youth, to the tracts he gave to anxious inquirers, accompanied with the assurance of his interest and prayers.

John Milne wrote
I had abundant opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with Mr Burns, as he lived and laboured with me constantly for between three and four months. I never knew any one who so fully and unfalteringly obeyed the apostolic precept —‘Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them.’ I was struck with his close walk with God, his much and earnest prayer, his habitual seriousness, the solemnising effect which his presence seemed to have wherever he went, and his almost unwearied success in leading those with whom he conversed to anxious, practical, heart-searching concern about their state in God's sight.

No comments: