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.

KJV on Radio 4

This from the Telegraph

Radio 4 to feature seven hours of King James Bible readings

BBC Radio 4 is to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible - by devoting an entire Sunday to readings from its scripture.

The event, which will take place in January next year, will last for a full seven hours, broken up into 28 readings of 15 minutes each.
Each reading is promised to be one of “the most powerful stories in the Bible”, and each will start with an introduction to explain its literary significance.  
For listeners who flinch at the idea of seven hours of Sunday school, the BBC has confirmed that the biblical marathon will be interrupted to accommodate the popular regular elements of Radio 4’s Sunday schedule, including The Archers, Desert Island Discs, Gardeners’ Question Time and The World This Weekend.
The bible readings will be preceded the previous week by a three-part documentary series, The Story of the King James Bible, presented by James Naughtie.
Despite more modern versions of the Bible, such as the New Revised Standard Version and the Good News Bible, the King James Bible is still widely viewed as the most authoritative translation ever written - as well as one of the greatest works of literature in the English language.
It was created by about 50 scholars who were appointed by King James I in 1604 to write a new translation of the Bible, and the Radio 4 series will examine how they approached their work and what signficance the finished product still has.
The programmes will be welcomed by traditionalist Christians who objected to the BBC’s appointment last year of Aaqil Ahmed, a Muslim, as its commissioning editor of religious programmes.
Two years ago, the BBC’s director-general Mark Thompson also caused controversy by saying that the corporation should treat Islam differently from Christianity. “My view is that there is a difference between the position of Christianity, which I believe should be central to the BBC’s religion coverage and widely respected and followed,” said Mr Thompson, who is a practising Catholic. “What Christian identity feels like it is about to the broad population is a little bit different to people for whom their religion is also associated with an ethnic identity which has not been fully integrated. To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.”

GBM 2010

It was great to be at the annual GBM meetings yesterday. The meetings serve to remind one of how churches can work together effectively and of the needs of world mission. We have the delegates meeting first and then various meetings with missionaries.  I got to hear Sukesh Pabari and then Graham and Sally Jones from Kenya. Sukesh is church planting but seemed most enthusiastic about the training programme using books he is translating into Swahili. The Jones's gave us three typical problems with pastors and asked for our advice. Nice presentation.
The evening rally was fine too. We heard from Sukesh, Jean Ellis and the new missionaries to Poland and Serbia plus Sarah Clay who is soon to be going to among street children in Peru. Ray Evans preached a fine and appropriate sermon (if a little convoluted in presentation). His theme was Christ's atonement and the example of mission it provides. Good stuff.
The other great thing about such a day is the chance to chat and it was great to talk with a large number of people - Hugh and Lois, Nathan and Urpha, David and Pauline, Paul and Avril, Mary, Fred, Luke, Roger, Ferris, Gavin, Jeremy, Raj, Matthew, Clive, Dennis, John, Jim, Derek, etc Sorry to miss Adrian, Philip, Malcolm and Ruth, Ellen, etc.

Bus roll

Saw this bus roll on sale on at some crazy price. I've highlighted the most important place name. Looks like the old 28 to me but I could be wrong. It's from the seventies. If you go for all that try here.

Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus

I saw this page in the new Banner mag and thought it an enterprising and interesting project


Proverbs 20:21

An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.
This is from the Christian Institute site. 

A father-of-two who won millions on the National Lottery became so bored after giving up his job that he turned to booze and eventually drank himself to death.
Keith and Louise Gough won £9 million in 2005, and like many others Mr Gough saw the win as the “answer to his dreams”.
But the couple, who were married for 27 years, separated just two years later after Mr Gough gave up his job and began drinking out of boredom.


Speaking last year Mr Gough lamented the devastating effect of the win on his life.
He said: “Without routine in my life I started to spend, spend, spend. In the end I was just bored.
“Before the win all I would drink was some wine with a meal. I used to be popular but I’ve driven away all my friends. I don’t trust anyone any more.
“When I see someone going in to a newsagent, I advise them not to buy a lottery ticket.”


The 58-year-old suffered a fatal heart attack in March this year, brought on by drinking and stress.
At the time it was believed that Mr Gough had died penniless, but last week it emerged that he had left an estate worth almost £800,000.
At the time of his death a friend said: “They were an ordinary couple with a decent but simple lifestyle.
“The money ruined that and killed Keith. It went to his head and he couldn’t handle it. The whole thing is a tragedy.”


Since the start of the National Lottery a number of jackpot winners have admitted misery because of their windfall.
Earlier this year one of Britain’s youngest lottery millionaires was found dead in his home.
Stuart Donnelly, who was 17 when he won £2 million in 1997, had become a virtual recluse as he struggled to cope with his new found wealth – and the sudden death of his father in 2000.


Mr Donnelly spent his winnings on many things including houses, one of which was for his mother, charitable donations to a hospital his brother was being treated at and an executive seat at Celtic Football Club.
But he reportedly struggled to deal with the pressure of winning the lottery, particularly at such a young age.
Michael Carroll, a former dustman, won £9.7million in 2002 but claimed it had made him miserable.


After he won the jackpot, his wife Sandra left him and took their baby daughter with her.
Mr Carroll turned to cocaine, was jailed and was later served with two anti-social behaviour orders.
In 1999 Stephanie Powell won £7.2million, but her family life began to break down as a result.
Her partner Wayne Lawrence walked out on her, claiming the stress of her riches as his reason.
In 1999 Phil Kitchen, a jobless carpenter, won £1.8 million but two years later was found dead in his £500,000 home after drinking himself to death.

Alexander Maclaren 04

His Piety
Maclaren once wrote

I have always found that my own comfort and efficiency in preaching have been in direct proportion to the depth of my daily communion with God. I know no way in which we can do our work but in fellowship with God, in keeping up the habits of the student's life, which needs some power of saying "no" and by conscientious pulpit preparation. The secret of success is trust in God and hard work.

He once said to a group of ministerial students

I thank God that I was struck down in a quiet, little, obscure place to begin my ministry; for that is what spoils half of you young fellows ... You get pitchforked into prominent positions at once, and then fritter yourselves away in all manner of engagements that you call duties ... instead of stopping at home and reading your Bibles, and getting near to God.

Bishop notes that Maclaren's “religious life was hid with Christ in God. He walked with God day by day. He loved Jesus Christ with a reverent, holy love and lived to make Him known.”
In 1905, speaking to the Baptist Word Alliance Maclaren said

We are crying out for a revival. Dear friends, the revival must begin with each of us by ourselves. Power for service is second. Power for holiness and character is first, and only the man who has let the Spirit of God work His will upon him, and do what He will, has a right to expect that he will be filled with the Holy Ghost and with power. Do not get on the wrong track. Your revival, Christian Ministers, must begin in your study and on your knees. Your revival must he for yourselves with no thought of service. But if once we have learned where our strength is we shell never be so foolish as to go forth in our own strength, or we shall be beaten as we deserve to be.

His evangelicalism
E C Dargan says that “Dr Maclaren’s theological position was candidly and thoughtfully evangelical. His sermons show how his heart and mind were anchored on essential Christian truth.” E S Moyer also speaks of him as “a profound and instructive Bible Scholar whose theological position was thoughtfully and candidly evangelical.”
However, Ian Sellers says that while

in the pulpit he expounded evangelical certainties, yet his writings and private conversations show him prepared to accept a critical position. His attitudes are thus ambiguous, though Spurgeon excepted him from the “Downgraders”

He once told students “See to it that you rectify the threatening preponderance of merely critical study by communion with your Saviour.”
In December 1887 Maclaren was to have been one of four ministers who were to meet with Spurgeon following his resignation from the Baptist Union but he was unwell at the time.
In 1954 W B Glover claimed that Maclaren

was an important mediator [ie of higher criticism], though Nicoll points out that he deliberately declined to make this his major interest. His greatness as a preacher rested on his emphasis on evangelical certainties rather than on the reconciling of old theology with new theories. Nevertheless, the example of so great a preacher who was tolerant of higher criticism and who even entertained the possibility that the story of the fall was mythical could not have been without effect.

He adds that

despite the pronounced conservatism of his attitude towards the Bible, he was aware of the work of the critics, and he stood ready to accept whatever they could clearly demonstrate. He was simply very slow to admit that radical ideas had been demonstrated.

Some brief examples of his preaching

Perhaps we can end with some examples of Maclaren's preaching. A famous sermon is his exposition of Genesis 50:26 They embalmed him and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
He begins

So closes the book of Genesis. During all the period leading up to the Exodus, Israel is left with a mummy and a hope. For three centuries that silent coffin in Egypt preached its impressive messages. What did it say? "That coffin was a silent reminder of immortality. It was a herald of hope. It was a preacher of patience. It was a pledge of progression.

He concludes

The average Christian of today may well be sent to school to Joseph on his deathbed. We have a better inheritance and fuller, clearer promises and facts on which to trust. Shame on us if we have a feebler faith.

On 2 Samuel 23:1-7, he begins

It was fitting that ‘the last words of David’ should be a prophecy of the true King, whom his own failures and sins, no less than his consecration and victories, had taught him to expect. His dying eyes see on the horizon of the far-off future the form of Him who is to be a just and perfect Ruler, before the brightness of whose presence and the refreshing of whose influence, verdure and beauty shall clothe the world. As the shades gather round the dying monarch, the radiant glory to come brightens. He departs in peace, having seen the salvation from afar, and stretched out longing hands of greeting toward it. Then his harp is silent, as if the rapture which thrilled the trembling strings had snapped them.

David Larsen commends the sermon on Jacob from Genesis 32 with its three points

1. The angels of God meet us on the dusty road of common life
2. The angels of God meet us punctually at the hour of need
3. The angels of God come in the shape that we need

He ends

Better still, the 'Captain of the Lord's host' is 'come up' to be our defence, and our faith has not only to behold the many ministering spirits sent forth to minister to us, but One mightier than they, whose commands they all obey, and who Himself is the companion of our solitude and the shield of our defencelessness. It was blessed that Jacob should be met by the many angels of God. It is infinitely more blessed that 'the Angel of the Lord'—the One who is more than the many—'encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.'
The postscript of the last letter which Gordon sent from Khartoum closed with the words, 'The hosts are with me—Mahanaim.' Were they not, even though death was near? Was that sublime faith a mistake—the vision an optical delusion? No, for their ranks are arrayed around God's children to keep them from all evil while He wills that they should live, and their chariots of fire and horses of fire are sent to bear them to heaven when He wills that they should die.

One final quotation – the close of a sermon on Matthew 13:12

Brethren. cultivate the highest part of yourselves. and see to it that by faith and obedience, you truly have the Saviour whom you have by the hearing of the ear and by outward profession. And then death will come to yon, as a nurse might to a child that came in from the fields with its hands full of worthless weeds and grasses. And empty them in order to fill them with the flowers that never fade. You can choose whether death - and life too for that matter - shall be the porter that will open to you the door of the treasure-house of God, or the robber that will strip you of misused opportunities and unused talents.

Alexander Maclaren 03

His Publications
Perhaps it is best next to consider how his well over 50 different books, which are nearly all simply written versions of preached sermons, came into being.
Maclaren resolved from the very beginning that if he could not look his hearers in the face he would give up. He wrote out fully the first few sentences of his sermons but after that his notes were scant. When one day the notes he had placed in the Bible blew away, he resolved to face his people without a scrap of paper.
Until 1862, when he was 36, he published nothing. That year a bi-centennial lecture marking the 1662 ejection was published on Fidelity to conscience. Someone had also taken down notes of his preaching and this was published privately as Sermons preached in Union Chapel, Manchester. This was the first of three such volumes that appeared over the next few years and his sister-in-law says “first made Maclaren's name known to a very wide public.” She gives examples of how they went on to be preached by many others, usually unacknowledged, as often happens with good printed sermons.
Over the next few years some lectures and a sermon were published. The lectures - Counsels for the study and the life given to the students of Rawdon College (1864) and Religious equality, in its connection with national and religious life delivered in the Corn Exchange, Manchester (1871). A sermon (on Mark 7:33, 34) was published as The pattern of service n 1871 as was his 1875 address as Baptist Union President - The gospel for the day. He also wrote up and had published A spring holiday in Italy in 1865. Apart from a book of poetry that appeared in 1889 (Heart breathings or songs of twenty years), this is the only work not containing spoken material.
There was a popular opinion in Manchester that “Maclaren is at his best on Wednesday evenings” at the smaller but still well attended week night meeting. In 1877, at his wife's suggestion a set of these Weekday evening addresses: delivered in Manchester were published and went through at least five editions.
From 1880 he began to contribute to Sunday at home. This brought him to the attention of William Robertson Nicholl who published his popular Life of David as reflected in his Psalms. From that point on Maclaren would produce a book of sermons every years or so beginning with The secret of power and other sermons 1882 and continuing with A year's ministry 1884 Christ in the heart and other sermons 1886. There was also a book of his illustrations in 1885 (Pictures and emblems) and, much later, his pulpit prayers (1907).
For much of his ministry Maclaren was a textual preacher. He was aware of the Scottish habit of lecturing through a book of the Bible, of course, but did not think an English audience would accept it. However, again urged by his wife, he attempted it and this led tot the very successful Epistles of St Paul to the Colossians and Philemon a volume in Nicholls' Expositor's Bible. Sadly, Mrs Maclaren did not survive to hear the whole series preached, dying quite suddenly in 1884.
Maclaren wrote weekly lessons for the American Sunday School Times and wrote up sermons for the in The Christian Commonwealth, The Freeman and The Baptist Times. This provided a store for further books - 1889 The unchanging Christ and other sermons; 1890 Holy of Holies (sermons on the Gospel of John); 1891 The God of the amen and other sermons. The series on John's Gospel paved the way for series on Luke and Matthew in two volumes in 1892. At that time he also started a three volume series on the Psalms, again for The Expositors' Bible. There were also a further two volumes on John and one on Mark and, in 1894, a first volume on Acts. The textual sermons kept coming - Paul's prayers 1892; The Conquering Christ and other sermons and The Wearied Christ 1893; Christ’s Musts 1894 The beatitudes 1896; Triumphant certainties 1897; The victor's crown 1897; Leaves from the Tree of Life 1899; After the resurrection 1902 and Last sheaves 1903.
Daily readings were made from his works beginning with Music for the soul Daily readings for a year from the writings of Alexander Maclaren, selected and arranged by Rev George Coates. (Also Creed and conduct and A Rosary of Christian Graces). His 1901 Baptist union lecture was called An old preacher on preaching.
In his retirement years Maclaren, at the instigation of Robertson Nicoll, began to collate his sermons into what became the multi-volume Expositions of Holy Scripture beginning in 1904 with the first volume of sermons from the Pentateuch. He had kept all his outlines and was able to put them in order and add new material where necessary. The set has gone through some 27 editions over the years and been translated into several other languages. It eventually consisted of 66 volumes and contains 1,526 of Maclaren's sermons. The major passages from Genesis to Revelation are all covered in approximately 7,000 pages.
The volumes are not a commentary in the fullest sense – not every verse is covered, for example. Most of the biblical material but there are some omissions. Tim Perrine has written of them
Broadly evangelical in nature, Maclaren's sermons are not historical - rarely referring to the current events of his day - allowing them to retain their interest and power since he first gave them. Expositions of Holy Scriptures is thus highly practical and lively. It makes a wonderful companion to more textually oriented commentaries. To read Expositions of Holy Scripture is to be in the presence of one of the greatest preachers of the last few centuries.
Following Maclaren's death much of his corpus continued to be in print and fresh collections appeared such as A garland of gladness 1945; Psalms for sighs 1946 Our Father 1949 and the Best of Alexander Maclaren 1949. There was also Sermons and outlines on the Lord's Supper 1951 and Victory in failure 1981.

His Preaching
Both in Southampton and in Manchester, Maclaren concentrated on preaching. “From early days” says the Unitarian Alexander Gordon “he preached extempore, captivating listeners with his flashing blue eyes and expressive features, his nervous energy and spare, poetic style.” Partly from reserve, and partly from conviction that preaching was the minister's main task, he left routine pastoral visitation to others and avoided social and platform engagements wherever possible. Gordon says that he also “downplayed the sacraments of baptism and communion.”
Maclaren's own idea of what preaching should be is found in a letter written in 1900 to students in an American seminary.

I sometimes think that a verse in one of the Psalms carries the whole pith of homiletics. 'While I was musing the fire burned, than spake I with my tongue.' Patient meditation, resulting in kindled emotion and the flashing up of truth into warmth and light, and then and not till then, the rush of speech moved by the Holy Ghost - these are the processes which will make sermons live things with hands and feet, as Luther's words were said to be. Then spake I,' not, 'Then I sat down at my desk and wrote it all down to be read majestically out of manuscript in a leathery case'."

He could not understand how a man could prepare a sermon weeks before it was given. “I must give it red-hot,” he would say. His most remarkable gift was his power of almost perfect composition. It was noted that he was one of the few preachers who spoke better than he wrote. His sermons were reported by stenographers and needed little correction.
When Maclaren entered the study at 9 every morning to take up his sermon preparation, it is said that he would kick off his slippers and put on heavy outdoor work boots as a reminder to himself of the hard work he was about to do. It was this work ethic - coupled with his deep devotion to Christ and his Word - that brought Maclaren his reputation as “the prince of expositors.” In a book on expository preaching Faris D Whitesell refers to different styles such as
The imaginative approach - Joseph Parker
The pivot text method - F B Meyer
The lessons method – William M Taylor and J C Ryle.
He begins with Alexander Maclaren who he says models the disciplined approach. “We use this term” he explains “because he so thoroughly dedicated himself to an expository ministry, and so doggedly disciplined himself in it.” He goes on

He shut himself in his study every day of the week and devoted many exacting hours to the preparation of each sermon. He did very little pastoral calling and administrative work, nor did he travel around the world preaching in other places. He believed that if people wanted to hear him, they would come to Union Chapel in Manchester, England, where he was pastor for forty-five years, and occasional preacher for six more years.

Maclaren himself once admitted “you have just about hit it” when it was suggested to him that what he would like to be was invisible from the time he left his study till he was in the pulpit. A modern writer, John Bishop writes “He subdued action to thought, thought to utterance and utterance to the gospel. His life was his ministry; his ministry was his life.”
In his farewell sermon at Union Chapel he said “To efface oneself is one of a preacher's first duties.” His sister-in-law wrote that

Throughout Dr Maclaren's long ministry this was his aim, or to put it differently his mind was so full of his subject that thought of self had no place. But, for this very reason, that there was no self-consciousness, his hearers could not forget his personality, and it marvellously deepened the effect of his words.

As for the preaching itself, we can say a number of things.
1. Titles. His sermon titles were not usually very striking. They always kept close to the biblical passages on which they were based.
2. Structure. Hughes Oliphant Old speaks of his clear though seldom striking outlines. He organised his sermons under three heads as a rule. A plain spoken critic once said that “he served the bread of life with a three-pronged fork.” Maclaren followed this pattern simply because he felt that for the most part it was the best way of organising his sermons. Robertson Nicoll said of his method of analysing a text that

he touched it with a silver hammer and it immediately broke up into natural and memorable divisions, so comprehensive, and so clear that it seemed wonderful that the text should ever have been handled in any other way.

3. Length. Most of his sermons run to about 4,000 words though some are longer. They must have taken around forty minutes to deliver. “Brevity is one of his greatest virtues” (H O Old).
4. Content. Bishop notes that

The real secret of his power is that his preaching was almost exclusively biblical. Current topics, questions of the hour were left severely alone in the pulpit. He never tired of quoting Archbishop Leighton's remark to those who complained that he did not "preach up the times." "Surely," said Leighton, "when all of you are preaching up the times, you may allow one poor brother to preach up Christ and eternity."
Maclaren stays with his text, gets the substance out of it, makes an application of it that is as practical and relevant as it is personal.

Dargan says “the exegesis of Scripture ... is thorough and accurate. The analysis, while not obtrusive, is always complete, satisfying, clear.”
Thomas McKibbens says that the secret of Maclaren’s power was that he was totally Christ-centred. “The essence of the whole,” he said in one sermon, “is not the intellectual process of assent to a proposition, but the intensely personal act of yielding up a heart to a living person.” In another sermon he says “Take it as a piece of the simplest prose, with no rhetorical exaggeration about it, that Christ is everything”.
He was careful to emphasise that it is not faith that saves, but the power of God in Christ. Speaking of a person running into the arms of God he says “it is not the running that makes him safe, but it is the arms to which he runs”.
McKibbens again

Maclaren regretted that he no longer heard the old ring of urgency in preaching, the earnest appeal to the unconverted, and the old, simple preaching of salvation, repentance and faith. In a striking illustration he said that if a person wished to build a house in Rome or Jerusalem he must go fifty or sixty feet down, through potsherds and broken tiles,and the dust of ancient palaces and temples. “We have to drive a shaft,” he concluded. “clear down through all the superficial strata and to lay the first stones on the Rock of Ages.”

5. Style. For Old “In the use of rhetorical forms he is sparing, and yet he is capable of some of the most beautiful similes and metaphors.” He goes on

For Alexander Maclaren preaching was a sacred art that required the same kind of concentration a pianist or vocalist gives to a performance. Happily his congregation recognized his genius. There was nothing flashy about it. It was the quality not of silk damask, but of tough, long-lasting Highland tweed. Just as a good Scottish tweed wears for years and years, so Maclaren's sermons wear as well today as when they were first preached.

Dargan says

Maclaren's style has all the rhetorical qualities of force, clearness, and beauty. It is not obtrusive or strained, is eminently natural, smooth, dignified, and at times eloquent. The tone and spirit are all that could be desired. Piety towards God, reverence, good taste, and a deep yearning for the spiritual good of his hearers animate his discourse.

Robert T Henry writes

Knowing that he spoke essentially what is printed, a modern reader cannot fail to be astounded by Maclaren’s amazing ability to compose beautiful English as he spoke it. It is not difficult to understand how a professor of English at the University of Manchester could say that Maclaren was “one of the chief, if not the chief, literary influences in Manchester.

Carlile said that “His two most striking peculiarities are his utter simplicity and his intense earnestness.” Henry goes on to remark on his simplicity. This allowed the least educated to understand clearly what he was saying. Henry quotes an old friend of Maclaren's

Once, in speaking about simplicity of style, he asked me whether I knew So-and-so, a member of his congregation who was not endowed with specially brilliant gifts. “Well, now” he said, “often when I am preparing my sermons I keep that man before me and say, What I have to do is to get this thought behind his skull".

6. Illustrations. Bishop says “He had a wonderful gift of felicitous and telling illustration. On every page are sparkling metaphors and illuminating phrases which not merely adorn but light up the subject under discussion.” Few and short, these illustrations were carefully thought out but only clothed when he faced the people.
7. Application. These, says Old, are “strong but rather impersonal”.

Alexander Maclaren 02

His Life
Perhaps we are best to begin by considering who this preacher was who so endeared himself to the people of Manchester and a large reading public.

He was the youngest by five or six years of a family of six children and was born and educated in Glasgow, studying first at the High School and then, briefly, at the University. His parents, David Maclaren and Mary Wingate, were a great and positive influence on him. Maclaren senior, originally from Perth, was a business man and joint lay pastor of a Scotch Baptist church that had broken away from a Congregationalist church led by Ralph Wardlaw. Maclaren junior warmly recalled his father's preaching, which he said was “richly scriptural, expository and instructive and withal earnestly evangelistic.”
Alexander Maclaren (and by the way, although he would always sign his name McLaren, he preferred the form Maclaren when his name appeared in print) was apparently a fairly shy and solitary little boy but quite popular with his many siblings and cousins. He once said that he knew nothing of “dreary Sundays” as a boy, though he would attend two services and be drilled in Scripture memory in the evening by his father.
In 1836, the father went to Australia to take charge of an important business enterprise, leaving his family in Scotland. It was during his father's four year absence that Maclaren was converted. This happened chiefly through attending the Bible classes of a Congregational Minister called David Russell (later his brother-in-law). Maclaren was in his early teens and somewhere around the age of 12 or 13. On May 17, 1840, he was baptised by immersion by James Paterson, pastor of the Baptist church that he joined at that time.

By the time David Maclaren returned from Australia the family had moved to London, where he joined them. In those days Oxford and Cambridge were decidedly closed to nonconformists, of course, but in 1842, when he was still only 16, Maclaren entered Stepney College, a Baptist institution in the London area. For most of Maclaren's time at Stepney, the College was under the leadership of a Welshman called Dr Benjamin Davies, an eminent Hebrew scholar who went on to work in Canada. Maclaren was heavily influenced by Davies becoming an enthusiastic student not only of Hebrew but also of Greek, among other subjects. He sat his BA at the London University before he was 20, taking examinations for his arts degree and winning prizes in Hebrew and Greek. It soon became Maclaren’s habit to spend a half hour each in the Hebrew and Greek texts every morning as part of his devotions, something he continued to do in the years ahead. (He once warned theological students unless you become “competent students of the original ... you will be living to expound a book which you cannot read.” His sermons, while never flaunting his linguistic skills, often show a keen understanding of the language and grammar of the original languages. His favourite preachers were Thomas Binney and Henry Melville. Besides his collegiate studies, he read widely in literature, being especially fond of the English poets and dabbling himself in poetry writing. Carlyle, Scott, Thackeray and Browning were his favourite writers.
Maclaren, it appears, knew from his youth that he was called to preach and never considered any other vocation. Some were concerned that he was slightly aloof in manner and at first rather youthful, being even younger in appearance than he actually was. However, there were never any real objections. “I cannot ever recall any hesitation as to being a minister,” he said. “It just had to be.” When he preached his first sermon at the age of 17 he began a written log, recording the sermon number, location, text and date of each sermon. This he kept up throughout the years to come along with a record of the outlines he prepared to preach from. These he preserved and eventually arranged in biblical order.

On graduating he commenced his first ministry at Portland Chapel, Southampton, having already served the congregation for three months. He preached his first sermon there November 16, 1845 and his ordination took place on June 28, 1846.
This first charge was a small, dying Baptist congregation that had got itself into financial difficulty. Only about 20 people were attending at a sanctuary that could seat 300! After a while the church steadied and then began to grow. Maclaren worked there for 12 years and developed a reputation as an attractive and powerful preacher. He later said, “I thank God for the early days of struggle and obscurity.”
Robert T Henry says that in those days

He often startled his hearers with his imaginative treatment of the texts and was regarded as sometimes novel, and always original. A fellow pastor in the same town, Rev Thomas Adkins, along with several denominational leaders, were not at all sure of McLaren's orthodoxy in those early years. Was the temptation to be novel so great that he was willing to sacrifice sound doctrine? While he believed and preached strongly on punishment for sin he lacked conviction concerning the eternal state of the lost and of eternal punishment. He also entertained some thoughts about the actual communion between the living and the dead. His lack of ministerial propriety, as they viewed it, did not sit well with the older pastors and leaders in the denomination. McLaren was not willing to wear the traditional ministerial dress in the pulpit and he refused to wear the traditional white tie. He also appeared to be quite careless about the colour of his clothes.

There were times after he had preached for 15 to 20 minutes when he would abruptly say, “I have no more to say!” He would then immediately sit down to the dismay of his people. Sometimes, in search of a precise word, he would stop for extremely long pauses. His people would become so uncomfortable that they felt he had broken down completely. One old Scottish lady in his congregation said that she wished to be in the pulpit with him so she could whisper the word for which he was groping "into the lad's lug".
This is probably the context for a statement attributed to Spurgeon by the Unitarian Alexander Gordon that Maclaren was “dangerous”.
Though he tried other avenues, even at Southampton Maclaren's main focus was on the preaching, and he prepared for this intensively. A keen observer of nature, he also delighted in walks on the Isle of Wight or in the New Forest, alone or with friends.
For most of his time in Southampton Maclaren was a single man but in 1856 he married his cousin Marion. They had four daughters and a son. Much later in life he gave this testimony “In 1856 Marion Maclaren became my wife. God allowed us to be together till 1884. Others could speak of her charm, her beauty, her gifts, and her goodness. Most of what she was to me is forever locked in my heart. But I would fain that it should be told that the best part of what I have been able to do all came and comes from her.”

After much solicitation from other congregations, he eventually received and accepted an invitation to the pastorate of a church begun 16 years before - Union Chapel, Fallowfield, in Manchester, where he remained until his retirement. After 11 years there, a new 1500-seat auditorium was built and every seat was filled, morning and evening.
Many attempts were made to draw Maclaren away from Manchester, but he remained there despite his dislike of the climate and the workload his pastorate entailed, both of which he sometimes complained of. McLaren remained minister at Union Chapel until June 1903, in spite of bouts of ill health, the crushing blow of his wife's sudden death on 21 December 1884, and several tempting offers including (1885) a pressing invitation to be professor of Hebrew at his old college, by then Regent's Park College.
From 1882 he had assistants. The first was John G Raws, followed by J Edward Roberts (from 1890). In retirement he became pastor emeritus. During his 45 year tenure he became one of Manchester's leading citizens, the speaker of choice at public and religious gatherings, and until his wife's death a familiar figure at Hallé concerts. Always well informed about the state of trade, he was known widely as ‘McLaren of Manchester’.
In retirement Mclaren preached less often than he had hoped but revelled in the discipline of spending part of each day writing and preparing publications. In 1909, with the encroachments of suburbia threatening his tranquillity, he gave up his house in Fallowfield, Manchester, and presented his library to the Baptist college there.
After his regular holiday in his beloved highlands, he went to live in Edinburgh, where he died after some weeks' illness. Following a simple funeral at Union Chapel, his ashes were interred at Brooklands cemetery, near Manchester.
Unlike Spurgeon, Maclaren had only one real ministry – and that was preaching. He rarely travelled and started no schools or publications or magazines. The only responsibility he took beyond his own church was two terms as president of the Baptist Union (1875 and 1901). In 1888 he represented the English Baptist Union at the Victoria jubilee celebrations in Australia. In 1905 he was president of the Baptist World Congress, in London.
Late in life he became a governor of Owens College, then the Victoria University of Manchester 1900-1905, warmly supporting the pioneering ‘undenominational’ theology faculty introduced at the university in 1904 and serving on the faculty's advisory committee. His links to the Victoria University were cemented with the award of an honorary LittD in 1902. He also received honorary DDs from the universities of Edinburgh (1877) and Glasgow (1907). W Robertson Nicoll said Maclaren was without question “the most brilliant man, all round,” that he had ever known. His scholarship was impeccable. He read widely - from Augustine to the Quakers, as well as the great British poetry and novels.

Alexander Maclaren 01

I recently gave  a lecture on Alexander Maclaren at the Evangelical Library and would like to post the lecture here in several parts.

Alexander MacLaren (1826-1910)
This year sees the one hundredth anniversary of the death of the Baptist minister Alexander Maclaren. May 5, 1910, was the exact day of his death, at the age of 84. He died in Edinburgh, after a 65 year long ministry. He was born February 11, 1826, in Glasgow. Though of decidedly Scottish origin, he spent most of his life in England.
In 1896 the citizens of Manchester subscribed for a portrait of Maclaren to be painted by Sir George Reid FRSA and put in their art gallery. At the presentation of the portrait in 1897 the Bishop of Manchester gave an address and said:
In an age which has been charmed and inspired by the sermons of Newman and Robertson of Brighton, there were no published discourses which, for profundity of thought, logical arrangement, eloquence of appeal, and power over the human heart, exceeded in merit those of Dr Maclaren.
Maclaren's preaching has been called “the supreme example, the perfect type, of the classic Protestant tradition of expository preaching.” Next to those of his fellow Baptist C H Spurgeon (1834-1892), his sermons were probably the most widely read of the time, although they do not appear to be as popular today as they once were. As a boy, I remember seeing his books in the library of the Baptist church I attended. I do not recall being encouraged to read him, even though we read his slightly younger Baptist contemporary F B Meyer (1847-1929) and Spurgeon, of course. Meyer himself, in comparing Maclaren to notable contemporaries such as Spurgeon, R W Dale, Joseph Parker and others, said,
As an expository preacher none of them equalled Maclaren of Manchester, and no other sermons were so widely read the world around. ... Dr Maclaren is said with truth to have changed the whole style of the British pulpit, and to have influenced it more (than) any of his predecessors.
In the same period the American homiletician E C Dargan (1852-1930) wrote
No critical or descriptive account can do justice to the excellence and power of Maclaren's preaching. He has been widely recognised in his own and other lands for those outstanding qualities which have given him his eminent place among the great preachers of the world. First of all, he had the physical outfit of an impressive speaker – an erect figure, a good action, a flashing eye, an expressive countenance,a carrying voice. The character lying back of the utterance was one of singular purity, depth, simplicity and humility.
A little later than Dargan, Ernest H Jeffs, in his Princes of the Modern Pulpit, says

The charm of Maclaren's preaching was intellectual and artistic. It lay in the logical closeness and firmness of his exposition, architectural culmination of proof and argument, warmth and richness of his metaphor and illustrations; and under all this was the stern challenge to righteousness and repentance, breaking into sunshine, so to speak, when the emphasis changes from the God who judges to the Jesus who redeems.

Of the three Baptists, only Spurgeon appears to be widely read now. In Maclaren's case this is perhaps counter-intuitive given that several of his volumes are of a systematic expository sort, a form of preaching that has become more popular than textual preaching in most Reformed circles. A recent reader of Maclaren commented on his experience, one that I can echo, by saying

I suddenly realised that the sermonic ability and achievements of C H Spurgeon overshadowed everyone else of that era, including Maclaren. But Maclaren is good, very good. Pick him up and read him. (see here)

African films

It so happens that I have been watching two feature films about Africa  recently. The first was the new film Africa United which I got to see for review purposes but held back on a sit the themes are not quite what was expected, in fact throughout the film there is a slightly unpleasant but perhasp essential theme (hence the 12A certificate) which will put some people off what is in many respects a fine pro-Africa film. It is the story of five pretty different African kids making their way from East Africa to South Africa to see the world cup. The format enables one to see a very positive picture of Africa though in now way glossing over the immense problems the continent faces. A series of animated sequences pepper the film. You may well want to check it out in the cinema or, better, later on DVD.
Then the week after that my wife got hold of the 2009 biopic Invictus on DVD, as it had been spoken of highly by South African friends. Again it is a well constructed film built around a world cup (this time the 1995 rugby world cup). It allows you to get a flavour of the rule of Nelson Mandela. Clearly Mandela was a very astute politician and a man who who has suffered greatly for his convictions. Very moving (though the way they drew out the cup final against New Zealand nearly turned me right against it).
Both have decent though not outstanding soundtracks which may appeal.
Both are very much humanist films and so have to taken in with a large pinch of salt. The poem Vicorian poem Invictus that gives the mandela film its name is the one that ends with what to Christian ears are quite alarming words "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul". If Africa tries to go forward with that philosophy thing can only get worse.

Bishops on regeneration

Regeneration is the ransacking of the soul, the turning of a man out of himself, the crumbling to pieces of the old man, and the new moulding of it into another shape; it is the turning of stones into children, and a drawing of the lively portraiture of Jesus Christ upon that very table that before represented only the very image of the devil. . . . Art thou thus changed? Are all old things done away, and all things in thee become new? Hast thou a new heart and renewed affections? And dost thou serve God in newness of life and conversation? If not,--what hast thou to do with hopes of heaven? Thou art yet without Christ, and so consequently without hope.

- Bishop John Henry Hopkins (1792-1868) American Episcopalian celrgyman and artist

Content not thyself with a bare forbearance of sin, so long as thy heart is not changed, nor thy will changed, nor thy affections changed; but strive to become a new man, to be transformed by the renewing of thy mind, to hate sin, to love God, to wrestle against thy secret corruptions, to take delight in holy duties, to subdue thine understanding, and will, and affections, to the obedience of faith and godliness.
- Bishop Robert Sanderson (1587-1633) English Anglican theologian and casuist

Spurgeon on regeneration

I came across this little collection again recently (the references are to the sermons)

In the first birth—born to sin, in the next—born to holiness; in the first—partakers of corruption, in the next—heirs of incorruption; in the first—depravity, in the second—perfection. 398.403

If you are really born of God, the date of your new birth is interesting to curiosity but not important to piety. 1717.237

I grant you that in many persons conversion appears to be gradual, and many things lead up to it as by an inclined plane; but as to the new birth and the reception of the divine life, there is a distinct line of demarcation—on that side of the line is death, and on this side of it all is life. 1774.201

You are saying, “How can we become Christians?” Why, you can become Christians by being created, and there is no other way. “But we cannot create ourselves,” says one. It is even so. Stand back, and quit all pretence of being creators; and the further you retreat from self-conceit the better, for it is God who must create you. 1829.150

What a marvellous life it is! It brings with it new perceptions, new emotions, new desires. It has new senses: there are new eyes, with which we see the invisible; new ears, with which we hear the voice of God, before inaudible. Then have we a new touch, with which we lay hold on divine truth; then have we a new taste, so that we “taste and see that the Lord is good.” This new life ushers us into a new world, and gives us new relationships and new privileges. 1946.75

We know not what we are born to in our second birth; for, as a man is born to trouble by his first birth, when he is born a second time, he is born to a double share of trouble. Then, he was born to physical and mental trouble; but now that he is born again, he is born to spiritual trouble; and as he shall have new joys, so shall he also have a long list of new sorrows. 2798.459

“Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward;” but when we were born again, we were born to a double set of troubles. Both our births bring us troubles; our first birth brings us the troubles that are incident to sin, and our second birth brings us the troubles that are incident to fighting against sin. 3012.533

Recollect that every man who is only born once will have to die twice; but the man who is born twice will only have to die once, and even that once dying will be no moribund experience, for it will only be the gate into eternal life. 3079.77

Focus @ Jazz Cafe Video

These clips show Focus at a recent gig in the Jazz Cafe, London. This was the last gig of the tour. Unusually, the guitarist is Menno Gootjes, the regular guitarist having had to drop out. Here we have House of the King followed by bit of flute and scat from Thijs, a little Cathedrale and the repeated Sylvia finale. Thanks guys!

Focus at the Jazz Cafe

I got to see Focus down at the Jazz Cafe on Monday and it was a pretty good night. The regular guitarist (Neils van der Steenhoven) had to go back to Holland so his former teacher Menno Gootjes (who has played with Focus before) stood in. That inevitably affected the set and there was some slippage back into tribute band mode. Menno's solo was very much a seventies rock thing, not Focussy at all. We had Focus 1, 2, 3 and 7, House of the King, Sylvia (twice) and her stepson, Aya Huppie, La Cathedrale, Harem Scarem, Hocus Pocus, and a particularly good version of Round goes the gossip. Thijs was up to his usual tricks with ocarina, melodica, car horn, voice and grand piano all featuring alongside the organ and flute. Pierre van der Linden's drumming especially his solo, a sheer phenomenon as ever.

Lloyd-Jones on Spurgeon's sermons

Following on from our little series on Lloyd-Jones prefaces, someone passsed on to me a commendation for Spurgeon's sermons that he wrote. It appeared on the dust jacket of one of the sermon volumes (Volume 9 1863). I was given the piece last summer but mislaid it and have now found it again.

I am delighted to hear of this project of reprinting the sermons of the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I am particularly pleased that you are not going to abridge or modify them in any way. In the case of Spurgeon that is particularly important, as, in the past, publishers have been guilty of allowing their own theological  prejudices to exclude what Spurgeon himself would have regarded as vital.
Throughout my ministerial life, people have told me of the help and blessing they have obtained from reading Spur-geon’s sermons. I think primarily of lay people who were not fortunate enough to have good, solid, evangelical preaching in their own churches, and who find the sermonettes and talks on the radio and television quite inadequate. Spurgeon always provides a solid meal and sustenance on which one can live.
Many preachers also, I know, have modeled themselves on him. A still larger number have often found comfort, encouragement, stimulus and helpful suggestions for their own preaching as the result of reading his sermons.
Never was the Truth he preached and proclaimed, in such a winsome yet powerful manner, more needed than today. Nothing can substitute preaching — no psychological counseling or group therapy, or any one of the latest passing fads and crazes.
May God greatly bless this venture and through it raise up many men who shall “preach the Word in season, out of season,” and at the same time bring countless Christians throughout the world to know “the comfort and consolation of the Scriptures.”

Maclaren Lecture

This is just a brief reminder that I plan to give a lecture on Alexander MacLaren at the Evangelcial Library this Monday at 1 pm. It would be great to see you there.

A Georgian Gentleman

Through my Benjamin Beddome blog I have virtually met a descendant of Richard Hall, a John Gill fan, who eventually became a member of Beddome's congregation. Mike Rendell has been working on Hall's journals for some time and the book he has produced is due out in January. Hall was interested in nearly everything so the book gives a fascinating glimpse into 18th century life and that of an 18th century Baptist fan of Beddome to boot. It's available on Amazon.


For the second part of the morning Dr Grant took us through the subject of being peacemakers in an age of conflict. This arises out of his work as an “intentional interim pastor” in various churches where there was conflict in the last 10 years (he is now 69). He gave us verses from Ephesians 4, Romans 12:18, 14:19, Matt 5:9 to begin.  He then made these points
1. Consequences when conflict is not handled well
A. It hurts people.
B. It hinders the spread of the gospel. Great illustration here of taking his brother to a Billy Graham meeting only to witness a stand off between a placard toting man and a team of stewards.
C. It helps our enemy Satan. Ephesians 4:26, 27
D. It hurts our God. Ephesians 4:30
2. Peacemaking
A. When you are the cause of the conflict (Matt 5)
He made a series of points including the eight As of apology (based on Ken Sande)
Address everyone involved
Avoid “if” “but” “maybe”
Admit specifically
Accept the consequences
Alter your behaviour
Ask for forgiveness
Allow time
He quoted Alan Eagleson the man in Canada who took the ice hockey players pension money. It gets plenty wrong with it,“I sincerely apologise for any harm that might have been caused and I hope I will have the opportunity in the future make a positive contribution.”
B. If someone has done something to you (Matt 18)
We mustn't be too wooden in our application. There must be the personal meeting first - with preparation, at the right time and in the right place, etc. Then others are to be brought in. Best done by mutual agreement. Finally, "tell it to the church". This does not necessarily mean tell it to the congregation. There is undoubtedly more than one application.  etc.
This was another helpful session. 

Gordon on Newton

It was a joy to be at the first of a series of Monday Seminars at LTS with Grant Gordon from Toronto. He has a lovely conversational style and began by explaining how he came to be in Europe at present, chiefly as part of a holiday but also doing research on John Newton. He described himself as an amateur historian as his main role has been in supervising ministerial students. His interest began about 24 years ago and since then he has made some interesting discoveries, including the recently published letters between Newton and Ryland. He has also discovered a long lost and unpublished diary of Newton, which includes many sermons by Whitefield and Wesley.
He spoke of his affection for Newton as arising from the fact that he was a normal human being rather one of these holier than thou types. His letters are his great legacy. He was a Calvinist but did not make his Calvinism obvious in an unhelpful way. There was a transparency about him that is attractive.
We then had an overview of Newton's life using interesting slides.
(Born 1725, at 6 his mother died, 11-17 At sea with father then on hos own for two ears. Aged 19-28 he was involved in the slave trade [22 converted, 23-29 Four trips, 24 Marries Mary] 29 Epileptic fit, quits seafaring, 1755-1764 Tide surveyor Liverpool, 1764-1779 minister in Olney, 1779-1807 Minister in London, St Mary Woolnoth.)
He also gave a brief outline for Ryland (1753 Born son of a Baptist pastor, 1759 Father becomes pastor,1767 Converted and baptised, 1768 Meets Newton, 1781 28 co-pastor with father, 1783 Baptises Carey, 1785-1792 sole pastor of College Lane, 1792 BMS formed, 1794-1825 Pastor Broadmead and Principal Baptist Academy).
The rest of the time was taken up with extracts from Newton's letters showing Newton's pastoral wisdom.
A short time of questions followed before the second seminar.

Spot the join

I've enjoyed seeing this ad from UBS. I quickly spotted all the references except for the racing driver who turns out to be the great Fangio. I couldn't resist tinkering with it (apologies to Salvador Dali, who I excised. Perhaps the surrealism would have appealed to him.)

Skinner Wisdom

I noticed that in his column in The Times yesterday Frank Skinner was on the same wavelength as us regarding Norman Wisdom. He begins

Norman Wisdom might not seem funny now. But you don’t get that big without being special.
In a week where the phrase "end of the pier" took on a whole different meaning, I was sad to hear that Norman Wisdom had died. I know that it’s officially Sir Norman but all that title proves is that the Queen doesn’t understand comedy. Audiences laughed at Norman because he was the little man, the loser. "Sir" spoils the joke.
Tony Benn understood. He knew that he’d never be able to carry off that left-wing voice-in-the-wilderness thing if he became Viscount Stansgate. He wouldn’t even risk Anthony.
I wonder if Norman’s working-class hero status in Albania was damaged by that "sir". Anyway, I met Norman a couple of times. The first time, he shook my hand so enthusiastically that it developed into a hug. In fact, not so much a hug as a lean — I became aware that he was laying his whole weight on me. Those around all laughed at my plight. If I stepped back he’d fall at my feet, if I stepped forward it could lead to dancing.
When you meet some comics they give you a signature or a photo. With Norman, you got a short but memorable spell as his straight man — or indeed woman. The next time I met him he did the same thing to my girlfriend.
Obviously, two brief meetings don’t constitute knowing someone. I’m not trying to get on the tribute bandwagon. I’m just celebrating the fact that Norman was one of those comics who was never off. Some comedians put on their funniness like a coat. It’s essentially stage wear. I’d say, in Norman’s case, it was more like a vital organ.
Before comedy was my job, I used to be a desperate character when it came to making friends laugh. I didn’t really have conversations. It was just routines and responses. I would use props, impressions — anything to get laughs. When I got a professional outlet for all that showing off I was finally able to relax a little in social situations. I didn’t need to get a laugh with every line. I would occasionally allow the bow tie to cease revolving. I’m not sure that Norman ever reached that stage. I admired his relentless pursuit of the next laugh, on stage or off.
Perhaps the saddest thing about the death of great old comedians is that the modern audience can never really appreciate how funny they were. Doing comedy is like sculpting in ice. It isn’t meant to last for ever. A lot of people will have seen a clip from one of Norman’s films this week and wondered what all the fuss was about.
Comedy from the past can seem like an alien world. You might laugh at the odd gag — something that has, by chance, survived the journey — but often we find ourselves just staring at it, as the American comedian Bill Hicks said, like a dog watching a card trick.
I’m not talking about an artist’s declining creativity here. That phenomenon rarely colours our judgment of his golden age. You might think that Paul McCartney hasn’t written a good song for years but you still enjoy his golden-age songs. The same is true with the works of novelists, painters, and so on but with comedy the golden age itself tarnishes. And it tarnishes quickly.
I found, during a recent viewing, that even Fawlty Towers is starting to slip away from me. I got the warm glow one sometimes gets from watching old comedy but that warm glow replaces laughter the way that cosy friendship replaces passionate sexual desire. I don’t laugh at Dad’s Army any more. I don’t even smile. I just glow. Norman Wisdom’s comedy was essentially gurning and tumbles. Physical comedy seems to have an even shorter shelf life than verbal comedy. I loved the Marx Brothers when I was a kid but Harpo is now just glow. Groucho, however, got funnier as I got older. ...

Speaking with conviction

You might kinda like this, although if you don't that's, like, cool too. Know what I'm saying?

Another busy week

I have been busy with various things recently.
1. Planning Grace Baptist Assembly 2011. Next year's dates are May 24-26 and we are again in Swanwick. Among the speakers we are hoping to be with us are Stuart Olyott, Geoff Thomas, Barry King and Gary Benfold. Do pplan to join us.
2. A trustees committee for The Bible Preaching Trust. On a charity page elsewhere you can find these details:
Eligibility Ministers of the Evangelical Christian faith who are in need. Theological students may occasionally benefit.
Exclusions Funding is not given for social causes, group projects, or to any person who cannot agree to the trust's doctrinal statement.
Type of grants Usually one-off grants ranging from £250 to £2000.
Applications This is usually either by recommendation or by letter; application forms and trust deed extracts are then sent out. Trustees’ meetings are held every four months at which applications will be considered. ‘Mass-targeting’ applications or those outside the terms of the trust may not be answered.
Grant provided by Bible Preaching Trust
The Bible Preaching Trust supports ministers of the Evangelical Christian faith who are in need.
Contact Details: Bible Preaching Trust 5 The Crescent Egham TW20 9PQ
Telephone: 01784 436139 Email:
3. As usual Wednesday night (29th) it was the midweek meeting (still in Titus 2) and on Thursday a members meeting. There are baptisms in the offing  which always encourages us and building work in progress, which always costs a lot of money. Friday night it was the clubs for children and young people. Numbers are quite low currently.
4. On Friday and Saturday we had Eleri's sisters here with their families to see our new extension. They were suitably impressed. I missed out on a walk up on the Heath. Eleri's brother-in-law managed to lose his wallet there but got most of the contents back thanks to an honest chap who traced him via Facebook!       5. On the Saturday I was preaching again in Trafalagar Square. We managed mostly to avoid the rain and it was a great opportunity once more. I was also preaching in Childs Hill Baptist Church on the Lord's Day, of course. I took a Harvest theme in the morning and Romans 8:18 at night.                                                                   
6. Monday it was Westminster Fellowship. We had Stephen Clark (Bridgend) preaching and then speaking on the gospel and contemporaneity. We pretty much agreed though some emphases I thought were not so helpful. I was glad not to have been slowed up by the tube strike.
7. That was followed by an Evangelical Library committee meeting. I got snarled up in traffic en route, like others, but we were only half an hour late starting.
8. Yesterday I was at Spring Court for a regular brief service. One or two of my mbers live here. Meanwhile I've been busy trying to complete a book I am writing. We're getting there. Watch this space.

Norman Wisdom

The comedian Norman Wisdom has died aged 95. I thought he was one of the funniest things, as a boy. It is difficult to see at this stage why anyone would find him that funny but so much has changed since the fifties and sixties that without a feeling of the period a lot of the humour is lost.