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.
I spent the evening of my birthday very happily leading the midweek meeting. There were 11 of us present. In light of the timing I thought I would take a break from James and look at my baptismal verse 2 Peter 3:13. That went well and we had a good prayer time too. We tried to pray for today's election but it is difficult to know what to pray.
1. David Livingstone (1873)
2. Theodore Roosevelt (1919)
3. Calvin Coolidge (1933)
4. Mahalia Jackson (1972)
5. John Constable (1837)
6. Paul Klee (1940)
7. Leon Trotsky (1940)
8. Anne Bradstreet (1672)
9. John Chrysostom (407)
10. Keith Chegwin (2017)
(Also Stephen Jay Gould, Lev Yahsin and Syd Barret).
We were a good number again last Lord's Day. We used the upright piano which is on my left rather than the baby grand, which is apparently slightly out of tune. Some thought the upright a little quiet, but we got the lid up for the evening. Another great set of eight hymns. We have sung a lot lately for the first time and ut has been good, where the tunes have been well known. I preached in the morning on Acts 21. It was quite a long sermon on sharing and praising and persecution with a middle section on the whole question of what is a wise plan. I hope it was a blessing. In the evening it was communion followed, curiously by a sermon on the Last Supper. A Jewish man came in in the evening which is a rare event. He claimed to be more Buddhist than Jewish. In the morning a family was there who have been missing for a while and a Latvian lady who has been away. The Portuguese lady was missing but the Colombian was there yet again. The Pakistani lady turns out to be trying to deal with a crisis that has arisen due to her circumstances. I had a difficult day last Saturday somehow but God was very good, as he so often is.
It was good last Monday to meet wth the members of the Westminster Fellowship. Dr Ian Densham had been asked to present a paper on the 19th century Anglican minister Charles Bridge's The Christian Ministry. Like many present I last read it over thirty years ago but unlike others I have not had chance to re-read it more recently but it was good to be reminded of its contents. It can be found easily enough online or in print. One anomaly that Ian discovered is that the Banner version (the one most of us are familiar with) lacks the final sections of the whole work
This sacred office is administered by agents, Divinely-called through the medium of lawful authority, and entrusted with the most responsible and enriching blessing; rendering the highest possible service to their fellow men, because that most nearly connected with the glory of the Saviour.
As to spiritual qualifications, we would be careful neither to lower, exceed, or deviate from, the Scriptural standard.
It is not easy to overcome our natural love of ease, our indisposition to self-denying devotedness, and our false tenderness in flinching from the declaration of unpalatable truths.
When we see the most "able Minister of the New Testament" that the Church has ever known, deeply penetrated, and indeed well-nigh overwhelmed, with the sense of the "necessity laid upon him" — we may well be ashamed, that with qualifications far inferior, our sense of obligation should be less accurate and constraining.”
Except we realise a high estimation of the Church, the constraining influence of the Saviour's love, and the upholding prop of Almighty grace, what is there to preserve us from sinking in despondency?
Covetousness is far more specious than worldly conformity. It has much to plead under the cover of necessity, justice, prudence, and economy.
In the Church he " transforms himself into an angel of light" — exhibiting either the attractive idol of self-righteousness — or that most inveterate form of antichrist — the dependence on the profession of a pure doctrine.
What a large share of humility, what unceasing supply of Divine grace, is needed to resist a temptation, that falls in so powerfully with the selfish principle of the natural heart!
No one attains remarkable eminence or success, without a resolute and habitual self-denial in subordinating every secondary point to the primary object.
The kindness of the world is far more formidable than its enmity. Many, who were prepared to stem the torrent of its opposition, have yielded with compromising indulgence to its paralysing kindness.
The contempt also of the Sabbath — the predominant character of pleasure, dissipation, and the general inattention or opposition to religion in the heads of the parish — too often present a hostile front to our course of effort and instruction
Thus our whole course is a struggle against the mighty current of sin — flowing out of that restless bias of the natural heart, which upon the highest authority is declared to be "enmity against God."
The Church is the mirror, that reflects the whole effulgence of the Divine character. It is the grand scene, in which the perfections of Jehovah are displayed to the universe.
If a young man has capacity; culture and application may make him a scholar, a philosopher, or an orator; but a true Minister must have certain principles, motives, feelings, and aims, which no industry or endeavours of men can either acquire or communicate. They must be given from above, or they cannot be received.
Thus discouragements, properly sustained and carefully improved, become our most fruitful sources of eventual encouragement while love to our work bears us on above all our difficulties.
The revelations made to the Church — the successive grand events in her history — and, above all the manifestation of "the glory of God in the Person of Jesus Christ" — furnish even to the heavenly intelligences fresh subjects of adoring contemplation.
the Divine call to this sacred office will be evidenced by a supply of competent qualifications for its discharge.
In considering "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus," we witness a most harmonious combination of seemingly opposite characteristics. The Ministry of our Lord was distinguished by the dignity of God, and the sympathy of a man and a brother — by the authority of the commissioned delegate of his Father, and yet by the humility of a servant, who " came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.
Ps I'm speaking at the next Westminster Fellowship on July 1 on Proverbs
I decided to spend the day trying to complete a history of the local church here that I am trying to write. Still not sure if that is enough of a break. I did get out with the dog, of course, and had a coffee. I also watched some back to back to TV with Eleri until quite late.
Late with this but we had a good day on Sunday with around 40 in the morning and about 15 in the evening. In the morning I preached again from Acts - five snapshots from ancient times. I should have made more, perhaps of Paul's willingness not only to suffer but to die if necessary for Christ. We had tea at 5 pm - a decent crowd despite many being away. For a combination of reasons we decided to wheel the upright piano from the parlour to the chapel and used that instead of our struggling baby grand. One advantage is that the upright and the PA ended up on my left hand side, where as normally we need one person on the PA to my far left and one person on piano to my far right which spread out what is usually a pretty thin congregation. This way we ended up with all 15 or so present on 24 chairs to my left. I also moved the communion table from where I preach across. We'll see how it goes. One thing I noticed that I might not have otherwise was how female we are in the evening these days. Only 20% of the congregation was male. Enjpyed the hymns today as ever. We sang another two resurrection ones and one or two we'd not sung before again. People misisng as ever. Where are they?
We were a good number last Wednesday. We looked at the second part of James 3 on two sorts of wisdom. Now we've moved to a more interactive style of presentation it was hard to keep that up. The text didn't lend itslef to that approach. We had planty of time for prayer. I think may be we are starting a little later each week.
One of the many things in ministerial life hard to judge is what to do with Bank Holidays. Bank holidays are there for us all but if you take holiday nothing gets done. Anyway, ever inconsistent the other week I took the bank holiday and my day off the next day - I was jet lagged - but this time I counted the bank holiday as my day off. This was partly because I was in London Seminary all day Tuesday (and a little of Wednesday too). Anyway one of my sons and his wife were still round and so we met up with my father-in-law and his wife in nearby Chiswick Park for a little walk and a nice al fresco lunch. Not the warmest of days it was a lovely three generational get together that we all enjoyed and were refreshed by.
This last Lord's Day was an encouraging one. An Indian gentleman contacted me the day before. He was in London on business and was catching a plane back to the US that afternoon but wanted to enjoy some fellowship before departing. Born in Kenya and brought up in Nigeria, he had spent some time in the Kilpauk Baptist Church in South India, before moving to live in Fremont, California, where he attends a Reformed Baptist church - I assume it is this one here although I may have that wrong. He joined us for communion and most of the morning service. I was preaching from Acts again on the Christian ministry. After the morning a lady asked me about membership and baptism. At least two others are considering so that is good. In the evening we had the son of one of my deacons visiting with his wife and a local lady from Namibia who we had not met before. One of my sons was visiting also with his wife at both services, so we were 14 or 15 in the evening. I looked at Matthew 26:1-5, sometimes forgotten verses. I was pleased to discover on the Sunday afternoon that the way I planned to preach these verses had been done before (by a man called J A MacDonald who I know nothing about).