The similar phrase 'Worldly Christianity' is one used by Bonhoeffer. 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.

GBM Meetings

It was good to be at the annual meetings of Grace Baptist Mission in The Friends Meeting House near Euston once again on Tuesday. The morning meeting allows the 116 or so churches involved to have their say on how the mission is run and although this is obviously a little unwieldy it is unique and no doubt a better approximation to biblical norms than what happens in most societies. As we were reminded the council is also elected by the churches and so the input from local churches is strong. The difficulties that have been experienced in Kenya were rightly alluded to without any detail. It was good to have the report on all the various activities of the year and to know that financially there was actually a surplus this time round. Of course, the present climate means no-one can be too sure what will happen next and once again a tiny minority of churches refused to vote for the proposed budget.
It’s always good to see a large number of familiar faces at these events – not every name immediately comes to mind, sadly, but I had some nice conversations with various people. I grabbed a bite to eat and ended up chatting with the present minister at Over (it used to be Over Strict Baptist Church which if you say it quickly is as funny as St Thomas More Catholic Church which I saw again in Bradford on Avon on Monday). David Smith is from South Africa and seems a good hard working fellow with a heart for sinners.
The afternoon was spent running to various seminars. I managed to fit in three. First, one on training ministers. Jonathan Bayes introduced the work of Guelph based Carey Outreach Ministries and Robin Dowling spoke of his imminent return to FUSBC, the Seminary in Medellin, Colombia – short term at present but may be more long term. Every man and his dog seems to minister overseas these days (there were more examples later in the day of short trips to Armenia and Kenya – I’ve been myself on an occasion!). It’s all very good I’m sure but sometimes one wonders what happened to the Pauline method of going to a place, working hard then leaving the locals to get on with it. I suppose that the argument is that if Paul had been able to use jets he would have.
I bumped into the Days from Pontrhydyrun, Luke Jenner, now at Welwyn, fresh back from the Philippines in connection with CCM, Norman Hopkins from Strood in Kent to talk about the law and the new covenant Baptists and John Hall from Westerleigh who is always guaranteed to show that things are much worse even than I had thought, which in itself is cheering.
Next it was a GPT session with Maciek Stolarski talking about the work in Armenia (where Sin is serious a simplified Ralph Venning work and no 22 in a series, has just been translated) and Ruth Firth from Latvia explaining to Tim Curnow how she has almost finished a simplified version of Horatius Bonar’s Everlasting Righteousness. This reduction of English classics to simplified form ready for translation does seem a way forward. Sin is serious is now available not only in Armenian but also in Bulgarian, Burmese, Kiswahili, Slovak, Spanish and Portuguese.
I went on to hear Malcolm and Ruth talk about the work in Latvia in the main hall. There are lots of encouragements and this lovely couple are obviously working very hard. One senses an underlying discouragement however with the general lack of enthusiasm for things Reformed.
Several spoke at the evening meeting (chaired again by Geoff King) including Jonathan and Robin who I’d heard but also Anthony Green from Peru and Andrew Gullett, who with his wife is about to go out to Kenya to work. We also heard from Nathan and Urpha Javed who are planning to be involved in church planting in Bradford (not on Avon). What a task they have. It made me wonder if they should rethink parading people like that and let them get started first and then come before the meeting. On more than one occasion things have been announced with a fanfare and then come to nothing. Or could they not have asked someone like Tim Mills to talk about reaching people in Bradford? One also wishes there was more of a spotlight on others doing similar work, such as Robin Asgher in Cranford.
Anyway we sang, the tie-less John Benton briefly preached from Acts 1 and we headed home with our goody bags full of info for the folks who couldn’t make it. Nothing on earth is perfect but this is a bright spot in a dark world and I for one was glad to have been present.

Last night I showed the free DVD Comment entendons-ils? This has been done quite well by Roger Cook. Rather than simply focusing on Fiona Steward in Bordeaux (where Alan Davey is) he visits other works and let's them also plead for workers. Clearly the mission field there is vast, demanding and on our doorstep.

Afon Lwyd

Had a nice day in Cwmbran on Monday with the family. Walked along the Afon Lwyd (Grey River - so named from the days of industrial revolution). A warm day for October. Popped into Trowbridge en route home.

Bus Driver School

There was something over at Alan's about buses and it made me think of this. It's slightly long and an audio rather than a visual thing really but very funny - and very accurate (in my limited experience).

Pepper and Mini

It's been a long time coming but on Wednesday Eleri eventually took the youngest boys to buy some rabbits for the hutch we've had in the garden the last few weeks. Owain in particular is wrth ei bodd (chuffed). They've called them Pepper and Mini. I don't know why.

25 Years Reflections 03

3. Over this period of 25 years I must have preached over 2000 sermons plus midweek meetings and other specials. We've covered most of the Bible though there are 9 or 10 books still to go, mostly in the OT. I've also preached various topical series and seasonal things, etc. I also teach the children in the Friday night clubs and on a Sunday morning where we alternate between theological and biblical material. This is the thing I've given most attention to. I think it has helped me to stay fresh and those who've been willing to sit under the teaching ministry have gained the most.
4. The period has been marked by few conversions. We have regularly given out thousands of tracts in Golders Green and sought to reach people in other ways but with little impact. Perhaps we've seen an average of one a year at most. One particular regret is not seeing anyone converted from an unbelieving home like I was. Indeed, some older children of the church remain unconverted. Oh how I wish there had been more conversions. But God often works at different rates and there is no reason why more may not be converted in the years to come.
5. Because the congregation is constantly changing it's quite hard to remember all the people I've preached to over the years. Over the last few weeks I've been jotting down the names of those I can remember bit by bit as they've come to me. Those here for any length of time must number well over 200. I began with those I'd baptised. Like Paul I find it difficult to remember exactly who I've baptised but I make it about 22 here.
I've mentioned the 4 originals who remain. They were supplemented early on by people like Ellen, Billy, Paul and Eleri, of course. About 30-40 others with these make up the current congregation. These include my wonderful deacons Mike, Billy and Paul – the finest deacons in the country I'd say.
Some have died, of course, but there have been remarkably few funerals to take. I think that's a London thing. The biggest drain has been families who would like to have stayed but were unable to afford to live here, people like the Barnses, Yerbys, Harrises, etc (so nice to see so many of them last Saturday). We've lost three good deacons that way. When we include children there must be over 60 such.
Also there have been a number of LTS students – about 15 I think, some with families. Three of them went on to be my assistants for a year – Mark Raines, Robin Asgher and Ian Middlemist. What a joy that has been.
Others we remember include people like the Fawells and Messis; Mariam from Ivory Coast and Marilyn from the Philippines; people only with us a short while like Georgina from New Zealand, Hiroto from Japan and Martin T now in Durham; au pairs like Martina, Mirka, Lucy, Franziska, Christin, Mahela; one or two students like Judith and Catherine; various Koreans; Africans like Ayoade and Dr Banda; the Achimugu family – a congregation in themselves; some failures like Mike B, Mark & Belinda and others; characters like Bill Smith who used to tether his goat at the back of the church and Kath Hill a large lady who would sometimes come with rats concealed about her person. From Angola, from Zambia, from Brazil, from the Philippines, from all over Europe (except Scandinavia) we have or have had people from about 30 different nations I guess.
6. I ought to say something Christian work outside the church too but there's no time. Being in London there are endless committees to be involved in and conferences to go to. The church has been very good about this and I'm thankful to them. I've also been able to write three books, which I'd like to commend, especially the latest one dedicated to members of the congregation past and present.
7. Finally I'd like to pay tribute to my family. I remember a meeting with my deacons once when I said that there was a church in Wales showing some interest in me. They didn't think that was a good idea. We don't want to lose your family they said! I felt a little left out at the time but they were right. By God's grace I was able to serve here as a single man. However, my family is a great asset. To be in such a family, especially to be the wife of such a man does involve certain sacrifices and this is sometimes forgotten. I do want to place on record my thankfulness therefore. Similarly there are family back in South Wales who miss out to some extent because I'm here. People sometimes moan about the one man ministry but in fact there's no such thing. Without the support of friends and family I couldn't do half of what I do.

25 Years Reflections 02

At first I suppose it was a little like the previous pastorates of the 50s and 60s. My 4 predecessors all came as young evangelical men, single or newly married, fresh from theological college and served 4-7 years then moved on to other things. Well, after 5 years I married. Eleri felt similarly to me about London. By then I'd actually got to like the place a bit and I assured here she would too – give it 5 years or so. Having a Welsh speaking school nearby has helped I'm sure – there are parts of Wales where you might speak less Welsh. The boys, of course, are actually Londoners and they certainly like it.
Anyway fast forward another 20 years and here we are today. By this time I really like London and can see clearly this was God's plan all along. I'm now more like the first 3 ministers here who served for 25, 35 and 25 years respectively. Although I must make clear that it is not that I've been preaching for 25 years to the same people. Far from it. In fact only four of those who originally called me are still with us now - Lilian, Ken, Mike and Ali. They are among the finest people I know. Others, equally fine, for a variety of reasons have moved on. One of the frustrations over the years has been the high price of housing and the difficulty some have had living near the chapel. With all the various changes our membership has continued to hover somewhere between 25 and 30. These have been happy though in many ways difficult years. At such a time it is right to reflect on the ministry and I just want to make a few more remarks before closing.
1. Firstly, let me say how thankful to God I am to be celebrating 25 years as pastor. It may not seem much of a thing but many men are kept from it for various reasons. I'm thankful for the health to have done it. Since I became a Christian I've only been ill twice on a Sunday. When I was 17 I had a bad attack of asthma and once some time in the 80s I was sick and Steve Mitchell (the elder here) preached instead of me. If I'm going to be ill I try to be ill on a Tuesday if I can - my official day off.
Some men find the mental strain too much. When it gets too much for me I tend to switch off and go to sleep. I do remember one crisis here where I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I decided to look up nervous breakdown in the medical dictionary but it said that there's no such thing, which I though was rather unfair.
I'm also thankful that the Lord has kept me from serious doctrinal error or from a public moral fall. That is entirely God's grace. Some men go into para-church work which it seems to me can be a temptation. In other cases the church simply can't afford to keep a man on or there are splits over various issues. I'm thankful that we have been kept so much from all these.
2. One does feel slightly fraudulent. Although there have not been so many obvious public failures and sins one feels very guilty when it comes to secret duties, especially prayer. I have to confess that there has been a lack of prayer and even a relative neglect of the Word sometimes. No doubt there would be more to celebrate if I had been more faithful here.

25 Years Reflections 01

In connection with the recent celebration I've been doing some thinking and prepared something to say. It begins

When I was 10 I wanted to be a scientist. When I was 12 I was converted and by the time I was 14 I'd decided that what I really wanted to be was a minister. I probably had as much idea of what a minister was as I did a scientist but I was sure that was what I wanted to be. More – what God wanted me to be. And that's what I've been for the last 25 years. I now have a little better idea of what a minister is and my sense of call is stronger than ever.
The time between feeling called and actually becoming a minister I spent studying and preparing in other ways. I did O and A levels then an English degree in Aberystwyth and got my teaching certificate in Cardiff – I didn't want to become a minister because I was unable to do anything else. All the while I was learning to preach – something I was quite poor at initially. I kept listening to good preachers like Geoff Thomas though and began to get the idea.
In 1981 I came to study here in London Рat LTS in Finchley. Although throughout this time I'd often thought of overseas work (I spent 5 weeks in India in 1978) it seemed to me that the thing to do was get some training at LTS then pastor a church somewhere in Wales. I didn't really like London. Too big, too busy, too unmanageable. Londoners seemed to me rather blas̩ Рnever excited about anything. (I now realise there's too much going on to get excited every time). It's single advantage it seemed to me then was people. There's no shortage of people in London, people from every nation. I sometimes say to people if you really want to be a missionary Рcome to London!
Anyway in January 1983 I preached here for the first time. I didn't know where Childs Hill was. I remember Philip Eveson the Principal assuring me it wasn't far. Anyway I left nice and early, caught the bus and found it was quite close. I remember that Sunday morning. It was quite cold. I didn't have a coat on. My mother always made me wear one and so I suppose I was rebelling. Rebellion leads to suffering! Anyway because I was early I spent a lot of time trying to keep warm while waiting for them to open up. Eventually an old lady called Violet Hunt, now with the Lord, arrived and let me in. Over the next few months I got to know the situation here.
There were two groups I suppose in the church – younger and older. The younger people were mostly students and had discovered Reformed teaching, chiefly through the efforts of a slightly older couple Mike and Cathy Peat (who now live in Woking). There were some tensions over this and similar matters but I felt I could understand where both sides were coming from.
I think they approached my LTS contemporary and fellow Welshman Bernard Lewis first. He declined, however, and took the easy option – he went on to be a missionary in Papua New Guinea! Having failed with him they asked me to be pastor and I was glad to accept. Here was a small church, committed to right doctrine, a church with a variety of people who I felt I could relate to. They didn't mind too much that I was single and only 24. I particularly liked the efficient way they dealt with calling me too. I only preached here 3 times if I remember rightly, though I spent quite a while with individuals. Then they grilled me one night in the parlour. Oh yes, they took me up on the heath and tested my skills with a Frisbee one time too. The only snag was that it was in London! But then that's where the people are. So I came.

Great Weekend 03

The final element of the great weekend (yes, I know it's Wednesday by now!) was Geoff speaking at a ministers fraternal in West London. For the last few years I have been involved in a fraternal made up of Reformed men from West and North West London meeting in Gunnersbury. Our convener thought we were getting too large but some are still keen and so for the first time we met at Gerard Hemmings house in Amyand Park on Monday. One of us four Welshmen present (not me) had spotted that Geoff was due to be in London and so asked him to speak.
About 12 of us were treated to a lovely morning as Geoff reminisced about Lloyd-Jones - recalling meetings and confessing failures to appreciate him in his time. He spoke of an eight-fold legacy.
1. The example of his devotional life 2. His reading of the big books (though there were some gaps like Spurgeon) 3. His preaching 4. His controversies (with Graham, Packer and Schaeffer) 5. His pastoral work 6. Lloyd-Jones churches all over Wales and beyond 7. Iain Murray 8. His failures - such as not speaking out against abortion.
Geoff himself is 70 and so it was a very special morning, one on which it felt good to be alive. It prompted me to start reading Iain Murray's new book on Lloyd-Jones, which is excellent.
PS I notice that you can download the text of John Peters biography of Lloyd-Jones here

Great Weekend 02

On the Sunday Geoff preached. In the morning he looked at the Ephesians who had not heard of the Holy Spirit in Acts and applied it in a non-second blessing cessationist manner. It satisfied our Charismatic friend as Geoff simply stuck to the text.
We had lunch together following that. Still being larger than usual we used the chapel to get us all in. There were a few extras. I unearthed the minute book appointing me. Quite unspectacular in style. My favourite line is the matter of fact "We need to give £100 a week extra". There was a message from a lady in New Zealand who was given a tract some years ago, came in was converted and moved on 5 weeks later. She could remember the text (Galatians 3). So encouraging. We also sang happy birthday to Mike who is 50 and Geoff (we'd celebrated as a family the day before) and Ben, one of our teenagers.
We also had tea together and then in the evening service Geoff preached on being sealed with the Spirit in line with his earlier message. Just great stuff. Some of the congregation had not heard Geoff preach before. I think they thought he was just there as my relation. They were pleasantly surprised. Eleri's brother-in-law Glyn was there in time for the final bit. He'd been speaking at a young life get together in Quinta. Most of the family had to be straight off after the evening service. It's been great seeing everyone.

Great Weekend 01

So we celebrated my 25 years in ministry last weekend. I'm slowly recovering. First, a big thank you to all of you who were not able to be present at any of the meetings but sent greetings. it is appreciated.
On Saturday afternoon about 80 or so gathered I guess. We were made up of members of the congregation past and present, family members and other friends. My former elder Steve Mitchell kindly chaired. In the service my deacon Mike de Jong spoke appreciatively and sometimes teasing me and my ways. (I didn't know I said 'Oh man' a lot but I do). I was able to respond. I couldn't say half the things I wanted to but I will post some of what I wrote down another time. My father-in-law Geoff Thomas, who was 70 this week (congratulations!) preached. unconventionally he took the letters of my name as an acrostic and framed the sermon around that (Garwood - a reference to my first minister in Cwmbran; Aberystwyth - Where I want to university and sat at Geoff's feet; Reformed - for those who don't know; You - meaning the church in Childs Hill who called me. Boys - my sons; Reaching out; Author; Devotion Yokefellow - Eleri).
Eleri and I then cut a beautiful cake and we then had a lovely tea followed by speeches and presentations. Various people gave me cards, etc, but we were also presented with a gift from the Korean church that meets on our premises and the church. They gave us an album of photographs which we enjoyed seeing, flowers and a collection of messages some of which were read out. There was also a fat cheque and a booking for tea at the Ritz!
My mother-in-law spoke about how Eleri and I met, Mrs Eveson about my LTS days and Robert Yerby (my former church secretary who had so kindly come all the way from Guernsey) about the early days. Mike then played a series of out-takes from sermons. very funny. It's a good job I can take teasing.
It's not entirely nice to be talked about like that, a little like being at your own funeral (though cutting the cake was more like a wedding). Anyway it's nice to be appreciated I guess and I think the fact that it is all of grace did shine through - I hope so. How good is the God we adore. To him be all the glory.
Typically, in the midst of it all some fellow turned up wanting financial help. I told him there was nothing we could do at that moment and helped him to stock up on sandwiches and other goodies before escorting him away in case he got up to mischief.

Barcellos at Salisbury

You may have missed this brief report on the Salisbury Conference here. I'd like to have gone.

World's finest

This snapshot of the Sunday morning congregation was taken last Sunday to mark my 25 year anniversary

Focus in Harlow

Went to see Focus in Harlow last night. It's 35 miles away so not too inconvenient. I'd never been to Harlow before but I knew it was a new town like Cwmbran where I come from so it was what I expected. The Playhouse is a nice municipal theatre holding 300 or so. It was full. This was part of a current tour by three seventies bands in their present form - The Groundhogs, Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash and Focus. They were given about 45, 60 and 75 minutes each.
I've only ever known one person who liked the Groundhogs, a boy from my home church. I seem to recall swapping Horslips records with him to see if I liked them but can't recall the music. What we got last night was heavy blues from the original and very skilful Tony McPhee (lots of tremolo arm and scraping the strings) backed by a fine rhythm section. I couldn't understand anything Mr McPhee said or sung. That seems to be his trademark.
Next up were Wishbone Ash. They were quite popular when I was in school although I never really listened to much. I liked it when Martin Turner introduced Warrior by asking not who remembered the song but who remembered the cover of the album Argus, which I did. This was much more up my street. Having two lead guitarists (one on a Fender, one on a Gibson) was novel. This was blues with some country and a bit more commercial. I could even understand some of the words. I guess this was the band a large number had come to see and they were not disappointed. The fellow in front of me loved it. He told me there are two WAs out there at the moment and this was the best.
As for Focus we were clearly in a different league. As musicians all four appeared to me to be streets ahead. Here we had rock music with style and incorporating jazz and those famous classical influences with great panache. Possibly above some of the rock types present. They began with Focus 1/Anonymous and House of the King from the first album. Good choices. Thijs actually sang the manifesto on Focus 1! I'd never heard that before. "Focus yourself on the love You own mankind. Communication again." We then had the more recent Aya huppie followed by an excellent Eruption including Tommy, Sylvia (with a nice bass and drums intro) and a long Hocus Pocus beginning with Thijs solo and including the intros and a drum solo from Pierre. One brief encore followed (Focus 7 or Hurkey Turkey?). All too brief then - no Hamburger Concerto or Focus 2-6. Nice to speak to Thijs and Bobby after.

LTS Inaugural

It was good to be at LTS on Tuesday. Much of the day was taken up with a board meeting and then in the evening there was an inaugural public lecture from the new principal Robert Strivens. This is the first time I remember such a thing being done and it was slightly odd to have a lecture in the context of public worship (we sang hymns and David Earle and I led in prayer, Irving Steggles the Board Chairman led). The lecture was provocatively entitled "The local church - a little heaven on earth?" Drawing on the work of Greg Beale, Mr Strivens sought to enthuse about the local church, not in a starry eyed but in a biblical manner, pointing out its centrality throughout God'sdealings with men. A seminary is a strange sort of beast in many ways and it was good to have the centrality of the local church underlined in this manner. About 70 were present I guess.

Westminster Conference Programme

For further information please contact (before the end of November) the Secretary on 01924 497184 or (Double click image to enlarge.)

Bloggy Man 46

Hymn of the week 29

It's quite a while since we had one of these. I went looking for this hymn for Sunday in New Christian Hymns and found it wasn't there. It is in Grace. Written by one Richard Lee, it doesn't seem to be very well known.

Far beyond all comprehension
Is Jehovah's covenant love;
Who can fathom its dimension
Or its unknown limits prove?

Ere the earth upon its basis
By creating power was built,
His designs were wise and gracious
For removing human guilt.

He displayed His grand intention
On the mount at Calvary,
When He died for our redemption,
Lifted high upon the tree.

O, how sweet to view the flowing
Of His soul-redeeming blood!
With divine assurance knowing
That it made my peace with God.

Freely Thou wilt bring to heaven
All Thy chosen, ransomed race,
Who to Thee, their Head, were given
In the covenant of grace.


We were over at an induction today for Andrew Hill in the newly refurbished premises at Highgate Road Chapel in Kentish Town (an FIEC church for many years I believe but formerly Baptist). The preacher was John Nicholls, now director of LCM but for many years pastor of Cole Abbey Presbyterian Church. We had mostly redemptive historical insights from 1 Chronicles 28 and Scots quotes and anecdotes. Also taking part were Robert Strivens, the new LTS Principal; Gwynn Evans, pastor at Hayes Town Chapel where Andrew was mentored while at LTS and the Highgate Road elder Wiltshire bred Tim Collier. Over a hundred were present and there was a lovely spread after. Nice to chat with people. Conducting a teaching ministry in London these days is no easy task but the service seemed to strike the right note of cautious optimism. We pray God's blessing on the work.
Andrew can be seen with Lanu form Burma our LTS student
in a publicity shot for the Seminary.

John Nicholls

Whyte on the minister

Another quotation prompted by Iain Murray this week. It is from Alexander Whyte writing on the character Knowledge from Pilgrim's Progress. See here.

Other men may squander and kill their time as they please, but a minister had as good kill himself at once out of the way of better men unless he is to hoard his hours like gold and jewels. He must read only the best books, and he must read them with the 'pain of attention.' He must read nothing that is not the best. He has not the time. ... The best books are always few, and they must be read over and over again when other men are reading the 'great number of books and papers of amusement that come daily in their way, and which most perfectly fall in with their idle way of reading and considering things.' And, then, such a minister must store up what he reads, if not in a good memory, then in some other pigeon-hole that he has made for himself outside of himself, since his Master has not seen fit to furnish him with such a repository within himself. And, then, after all that, - for a good minister is not made yet, - understanding and memory and industry must all be sanctified by secret prayer many times every day, and then laid out every day in the instruction, impression, and comfort of his people. And, then, that privileged people will be as happy in possessing that man for their minister as the sheep of Immanuel's Land were in having Knowledge set over them for their shepherd. They will never look up without being fed. They will every Sabbath-day be led by green pastures and still waters. And when they sing of the mercies of the Lord to them and to their children, and forget not all His benefits, among the best of their benefits they will not forget to hold up and bless their minister.


Dewi was playing in goals for the school at the end of the street today so I sauntered down to look. They were only one down when I left. They must have tired in the second half.

Iain Murray

Yesterday was a good day. It started with a call from my good friend Chris. We have this arrangement whereby he phones me from time to time and I phone him once a year. (It's a little like the arrangement with my dad, though less equal, where we phone each other when we are totally embarrassed it's been so long).
It was good then to go on to the Westminster Fellowship. Iain Murray spoke. About 30 of us were present.
He first gave us a word of exhortation. He saw three great needs at the present time - Less confidence in ourselves, increased and persevering faith in God and continued prayer for and working to revival. He said lots of wise and helpful things some of which, such as the need to pray more and meditate on Scripture more, chimed in very much with my own current thinking.
He then spoke on unction. First he said what it was not. It is not to do with buildings, voice, gifts such as oratory, length of sermon, how good the sermon is technically, church office, etc. Rather it is the evident presence of God felt by preacher and congregation. It is preaching that is marked by a focus on Christ and love for men. He quoted from James Garretson's book on Archibald Alexander later. I think it is the quote that speaks of the necessity of
"that solemnity which arises from the fear of God; and that affectionate manner, termed unction which arises from a deep feeling of the truth and importance and excellence of what he utters from the Word of God. This qualification, which is nothing else but piety in a lively exercise, is of the utmost importance to good and useful preaching. . . . Without it he may be a good preacher, a splendid orator . . . . but there will be an essential defect in his sermons; the right spirit will be wanting. And while the multitude may be pleased and the refined gratified, the hearers will not be edified, nor sinners converted."
Amongst hindrances to unction he mentioned a lack of pastoral work, grieving the Spirit, a lack of holiness. Unction involves feelings, it is a experience but faith is at its heart.
After lunch we spoke about the subject and as I might have expected things became less clear. I think it's one of those subjects that because it involves a certain amount of subjectivity is not easy to discuss. There are great mysteries here. One man spoke of his very limited success in the UK and yet (with the same material) great success overseas. Someone contrasted the spectacularly successful but otherwise disastrous Jonah with Isaiah and Jeremiah who though much better examples saw very limited success. It is very easy to be dismissive of the whole idea of unction but I'm sure that is a mistake.
The new programme for Westminster was available. A little lacking in inspiration I'm afraid.
After that I went on to the Evangelical Library for our committee. Things proceed slowly as ever. We look to the Lord.
Then home to the family. Put the youngest boys to bed (for once). We read about the crossing of the Jordan from a family Bible story book we have.

Advice on preaching

Here you will find the following by John Livingstone (thanks IM once again).
It is most probable that no gift, no pains a man takes to fit himself for preaching, shall ever do good to the people or himself except a man labour to have and keep his heart in a spiritual condition before God, depending on Him always for provision and the blessing. Earnest faith and prayer, a single aim at the glory of God and the good of people, a sanctified heart and bearing, shall avail much for right preaching. There is sometimes somewhat in preaching that cannot be ascribed either to the matter or expression, and cannot be described as to what it is or whence it cometh, but with a sweet violence it pierceth into the heart and affections and comes immediately from the Lord. But if there be any way to attain to such a thing, it is by heavenly disposition of the speaker.
A man should especially read the writings, and labour to follow the gifts, of those whom God hath, in the most eminent manner, blessed in the converting and confirming of their hearers, rather than those who seem to have rare gifts for learning without such success. It is very needful that a man prudently discern what is the nature and extent of the gift that God hath given him, so that in attempting to imitate others he does not stretch beyond his own line, but only correct the defects of his own gift, and labour to improve and stimulate what is good therein.
It is very fitting that a man have plenty and variety of words that, as need requires, he may vary his expression. And sometimes the enforcing of the same thing with other words to the same purpose hath its own use, especially to a dull auditory; and so we find that often in the Prophets and Psalms and poetic Scriptures, the same thing will be twice expressed, only in different words. But a custom of multiplying synonymous words and expressions and sentences to the same purpose is very unsavoury to an understanding hearer that seeks matter and not words; it would appear to proceed from scarcity of matter and a desire to fill the hour any way.
The light of nature, which is a spark of the will of God, hath taught many useful rules, even to pagans, about the right way of making solemn speeches before others. Most of these are, with due discretion, to be applied to preaching, so that what is thought unseemly in the one is to be avoided in the other. But the best rules are taken from the preachings of Christ, of the Apostles and Prophets.
Directions and Mistakes in Preaching
1. A mean should be kept, so that there is not too much matter in one sermon, which only overburdens the memory of the hearers and would seem to smell of ostentation; and, on the other hand, that there be not too little, which hungers the auditory, and argues an empty gift.
2. The matter should not be too exquisite and fine, with abstruse learning and quaint notions which go beyond the capacity of ordinary people, and also savours of ostentation, nor yet too common and such as most of the auditory might themselves devise; for it procures careless hearing and despising of the gift.
Moreover, these faults should be shunned:
1. Too many particular points reckoned, as eight or ten, which loads the memory, and too few is flat. 2. Too exquisite a method, and none almost at all. 3. Too much should not be left to assistance in the time, and yet not all should be premeditated. 4. Ordinarily do not go beyond the hour. 5. Not too much Scripture cited, nor too little. 6. Not to insist long in proving clear doctrines. 7. Not too few doctrines, nor too many. 8. Not to insist on points that may be spoken to on any text. 9. Neither too many similitudes, nor none at all.
1. Not too fine, nor too common. 2. Avoid many synonymous words and sentences.
Utterance and Voice:
1. Not like singing. 2. Not long-drawn-out words. 3. Not affecting a weeping-like voice. 4. Not too loud, or too low. 5. Not to speak too fast, or too slow. 6. Not to interrupt with frequent sighing.
Endnotes: Reprinted from Select Biographies, vol 1, Wodrow Society, Edinburgh, 1845, pp 287-9. Livingstone was the famous minister of Covenanting times whose preaching was so much blessed on the Monday of a communion season at Kirk of Shotts.

Luther on preaching

Another via Iain Murray. This from Luther (in a letter may be):

I have never troubled myself with fears about not preaching well, but I have often been troubled and terrified that I must stand in God's presence and speak of his great majesty and glorious nature. Therefore, only be strong and pray.

Spurgeon on the church's perpetuity

Listening to Iain Murray today. He always has good anecdotes from church history and excellent quotations. Here's one from Spurgeon:

But why all this, dear friends, why is it that we have seen the Church endure to this day? How is it that we are confident that even should worse times arrive, the Church would weather the storm and abide till moons shall cease to wax and wane? Why this security? Only because Christ is in the midst of her. You do not believe, I hope, in the preservation of orthodoxy by legal instruments and trust deeds. This is what too many Dissenters have relied upon. We certainly cannot depend upon creeds; they arc good enough in their way, as trust deeds are too, but they are as broken reeds if we rely upon them. We cannot depend upon parliament, nor kings, nor queens. We may draw up the most express and distinct form of doctrine, but we shall find that the next generation will depart from the truth unless God shall be pleased to give it renewed grace from on high. You cannot, by Presbytery, or Independency, or Episcopacy, secure the life of the Church—I find the Church of God has existed under an Episcopacy—a form of government not without its virtues and its faults. I find the Church of God flourish under a Presbytery, and decay under it too. I know it can be successful under an Independent form of Church government and can decline into Arianism quite as easily. The fact is that forms of government have very little to do with the vital principle of the Church. The reason why the Church of God exists is not her ecclesiastical regulations, her organisation, her formularies, her ministers, or her creeds, but the presence of the Lord in the midst of her; and while Christ lives, and Christ reigns, and stands and feeds his Church, she is safe; but if he were once gone, it would be with her as it is with you and with me when the Spirit of God has departed from us, we are weak as other men, and she would be quite as powerless.
(From Sermon Christ is Glorious—Let Us Make Him Known March 20th, 1864)

What a day may bring

The above picture shows the sheltered housing complex Garth House next to the church here in Childs Hill. A fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning and more than 30 mostly elderly people, including a member of our own congregation, have been made homeless by the devastation. It was a fierce fire around 20 or so fire vehicles were involved in dealing with the blaze. The fire appears to have started in the roof and thankfully there were no injuries as far as we know. Some people will have lost everything, however, as most of the top floor has been badly affected. The firemen and policemen seemed to do their job well although a little officiously at times, turning some people away from church at times and making others take circuitous routes. Barnet seemed to be very well organised in looking after those affected. We are all praying for them.


Golden Brown Autumn at Waitrose

I don't want to fill the blog with adverts but the season set me thinking on Keats' wonderful Ode to Autumn and then I saw this ad. The added bonus here is the well chosen Golden Brown by the Stranglers (yet more high brow low brow). The reader is, of course, Roger McGough. Sadly, this is a link not a video.

Learning guitar

Guitar Lesson- Hocus Pocus - Focus

This is partly in the vein of high brow low brow again though mainlyan advert. I don't play guitar but one of my sons had guitar lessons once so I urged him to ask about learning Hocus Pocus (a lifeling favourite fo mine). As this advert reveals, it's not a song for beginners.

Bad Christians 02

As noted I'm working through Keller's book The Reason for God and have reached his section on how come Christians are so obnoxious. I'd like to add a second observation on this.
Another unhelpful trait found in some Christians is freeloading - taking advantage of the generosity of other Christians. As with divisiveness, it was something not unknown in New Testament days. Again there are probably various reasons for his but again I think it is something that often goes back to how one becomes a Christian. Given that forgiveness is all of grace and can't be won or earned, there is always a temptation to think that everything else ought to be grace too. And yet rightly not everything is by grace. Clearly Christians ought to be kind to each other and everyone else but they are under no obligation to provide everything gratis or near to that. Some Christians can't see this and are mortified at the idea of not getting things free or at least at a knock down price. Again it is a mindset problem and once we see our way through it then there aren't too many problems. We cannot assume anything is gratis or free but for God's grace itself.

Bad Christians 01

I'm working through Keller's book The Reason for God and have reached his section on how come Christians are so obnoxious. I'd like to add an observation on this.
One trait found in some Christians is their divisiveness. Given that we are to work at unity and show Christ by our love, this is not always easy to defend. Paul even warns against tolerating divisive Christians. Why does it happen so frequently then?
I think that part of the answer lies in the very process of becoming a Christian in the first place. When you become a Christian you are pretty much saying that most people are wrong - it's a difficult moment but when you've done it once it can get easier with time. First you say most of the world is wrong, then many or most Christians are wrong, then a few more. Before you know where you are everyone's wrong but me and thee (and I'm not sure about thee).
And my point? This is one of the traits we can see in others and to some extent we may understand it. We also ought to beware of getting into such a compulsive way of thinking.