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.


I notice that Pixar are bravely using Julie Fowlis to promote their new film Brave.
(There is an old video of the song being performed here)

Reading the Bible M

You read your Bible regularly, of course; but do try and understand it, and still more, to feel it. Read more parts than one at a time. For example, if you are reading Genesis, read a Psalm also; or, if you are reading Matthew, read a small bit of an epistle also. Turn the Bible into prayer. Thus, if you were reading the 1st Psalm, spread the Bible on the chair before you, and kneel and pray, 'O Lord, give me the blessedness of the man,' &c. 'Let me not stand in the counsel of the ungodly,' &c. This is the best way of knowing the meaning of the Bible, and of learning to pray.
Robert Murray M'Cheyne in a letter to a boy he sought to help in 1836

Reading the Bible L

The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.
Martin Luther

Novelists 7 Oliver Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith 1730 – 1774) was an Anglo-Irish writer and poet, known for his poems, plays and his only novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), Often in debt an addicted to gambling, Goldsmith began writing as a journalist and hack in Grub Street.

Twentieth Triple Crown

That means we have now won the triple crown some twenty times. Now for the grand slam!

Triple Crown 2012!

It wasn't pretty but a win's a win and we've won the triple crown!

Reading the Bible K

[D]ear brethren, if you look for a life to come, of necessity it is that you exercise yourselves in the book of the Lord your God. Let no day slip or want some comfort received from the mouth of God. Open your ears, and he will speak even pleasant things to your heart. Close not your eyes, but diligently let them behold what portion of substance is left to you within your Father's testament. Let your tongues learn to praise the gracious goodness of him, whose mere mercy has called you from darkness to life. Neither yet may you do this so quietly that you admit no witness. No, Brethren, you are ordained of God to rule your own houses in his true fear, and according to his word. Within your houses, I say, in some cases, you are bishops and kings; your wife, children, servants, and family are your bishopric and charge. Of you it shall be required how carefully and diligently you have instructed them in God's true knowledge, how you have studied to plant virtue in them, and repress vice. And therefore I say, you must make them partakers in reading, exhorting, and in making common prayers, which I would in every house were used once a day at least. But above all things, dear brethren, study to practice in life that which the Lord commands, and then be you assured that you shall never hear nor read the same without fruit. And this much for the exercises within your homes.
John Knox (in a public letter written to Scotland from Genbeva in 1557)

Reading the Bible J

Everything we read in the Sacred Books shines and glitters even in its outer shell; but the marrow of it is sweeter. If you want the kernel you must break the shell.
Jero (Letter xxix)

Novelists 6 Laurence Sterne

Laurence Sterne 1713-1768 was born in Ireland and brought up in Yorkshire, becoming a country parson. Sadly his marriage failed - chiefly his fault, it would seem. In 1759, for some reason he began what became the comic novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. A local success at first, word spread. He added volumes for the rest of his life. From 1762 he lived mainly abroad for health reasons, dying in London of tubercolosis.

Reading the Bible I

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. ... after our Lord rose from the dead, they were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down, ... Matthew ... Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter ... Luke also, the companion of Paul ... Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, ... have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, ....
Irenaeus (Against Heresies)

Morecambe and Wise

That trip to see Singin' in the rain reminded me of this brilliant Morecambe and Wise parody. I particularly like the bit at the end where he's next to the cattle trough and you're wondering how will he end up in there? Comedy genius! For the original Gene Kelly performance see here.

Another Sunday

One of the anomalies of this blog is that although my main work is preaching the Word Sunday by Sunday, it rarely gets a mention. Perhaps it seems too obvious. I must try and fix that. This last Sunday was a red letter day.
In the morning I was continuing our studies in Ephesians, beginning on the last chapter where Paul addresses children and fathers, which has to be done with wisdom and care as probably more than half of the congregation would not fall into either category.  I have two LTS students with me on placement at present so I had them read the Word and pray, which they did well. We then had lunch together, which we do every other month. It's always a good time, though hard on the waist line.
Then in the evening we had a baptism. A young woman of Nigerian background,a pharmacy student, whose family have been with us for years was baptised. It was nice to see a congregation almost as large as the morning one and to hear her testimony and to preach from the end of Matthew's Gospel.

Bang to Rights

Came across this today looking for a sermon illustration. Armstrong and Miller are not always safe but this is and very funny.


You don't really want to know this but someone over on facebook was asking how to pronounce Pontrhydyrun. My friend Alan Davey pointed out that locals say "pont-rudd-rinn" (or sometimes "pon-a-drinn"). Then Jean-Marc Alter made a fine bash at the phonetics but was caught out (like many before him) not realising that the "un" from "Pontrhydyrun" is actually an English spelling (!). Where he wants us to say reen at the end, therefore, we should be saying "un" as an English speaker naturally would. The original word was probably Pontrhydyrynn (Pont-Bridge rhyd-Ford yr-Of the ynn-Ash trees cf the nearby eatery The Ash Bridge). This means that a correct Welsh pronunciation would be "Pont-r(h)ead-ur-unn". The irony is that the chapel is not in Pontrhydyrun but up the hill from the village where Baptist George Conway started his tinplate works early in the 19th century. It is in ... Croesyceiliog ... don't get me started.

Valentine's 2012

So we made a real day of it this Valentine's. The fact the kids are in Cardiff with their auntie and uncle helps. We headed by tube first to Kings Cross and then a bit of a walk past various hospitals and similar places and the London Welsh Club to Doughty Street and the Dickens Museum. From there we walked on to Cambridge Circus and the Palace Theatre. We went via the old Baptist Union building with its statue of Bunyan and Sicilian Avenue and managed to take in one or two bookshops en route including the Dover Bookshop on the edge of Covent Garden where I bought a little book of Puritan sermons. After collecting our tickets and having a meal we went into to see the current production of Singin' in the Rain. Eleri loves musicals and in a stroke of sheer genius I booked us in at the end of last year as a Christmas present.
I must confess to almost complete ignorance of the musical beforehand, except for Gene Kelly's famous title performance. I did recognise Make 'em laugh and Good morning too and the plot was fairly familiar (the change from the silent films to the talkies). Anyway it was all done brilliantly, especially the flooding of the stage for the key number which they wisely did twice - at the end of both halves. I don't really get musicals but this was enjoyable entertainment of a very high quality indeed. Details here. We came home by bus - enough walking for one day.

The Dickens Museum

As part of our Valentine's Day celebrations yesterday Eleri and I went to the Dickens Museum in Doughty Street near King's Cross and Russell Square. I have been wanting to visit for many years and the fact we are in this anniversary year and the museum will be closed from April-December helped push me in the right direction. There is nothing particularly remarkable about the house as such, where Dickens early married life began, and the thousands of artefacts are not quite what you want to see, I guess, but along with the audiovisual provided in the basement it was worthwhile and a reminder of how phenomenally gifted and influential he was. The audiovisual interestingly pointed out that without his unhappy time in the blacking factory and the early death of his sister-in-law Dickens might have been quite a different writer toi the one he became. It is almost a cliche,of clourse, but apart from anything else, adversity does seem to produce better art. You cna find some biogrpahical videos here

I Quite Like Mondays

The last three Mondays have been pretty busy ones and I've not really reported the good things I've been enjoying. So time for a quick round up.
This last Monday (13th) I was giving a historical lecture at Bulkington Congregational Church. My good friend Mike Iliff had kindly recommended me and it was good to be in the lovely little chapel there near Nuneaton for the first time and to meet their minister Peter Mackenzie. A good crowd gathered and it was good to see a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces and to meet several when tea was served after the lecture (available here).
The Monday before was the first Monday in the month so I was down at the Westminster Fellowship. They have put us in a new room. It's a bit poky and has the humbling words Welcome to the creche on the wall but I'm sure it will do us fine. About twenty of us were there to hear Chris Jenkins of Christchurch, Baldock speak on his experiences with Evangelical Anglicans and then to discuss the matter. It seemed to me to confirm my suspicion that the Anglican approach is almost entirely pragmatic and that they really don't think at all as people like members of the Westminster Fellowship generally do. Chris's point was that may be we can learn something from them and may be we can or at least we can not bemoan the way things go with us partly because we have made the choices we have.

The Monday before that (if that's not considered ancient history) I was at the John Owen Centre leading a discussion group on the Paul Copan book Is God a moral monster? which we liked a bit because he was at least trying to defend the Bible against the atheists. Some of his exegesis got us nervous, however, and so we were reluctant to commend it too highly. It's one of those books that are worth reading even though you are bound to disagree with certain things. In the evening I was chairing the Cranford Support Trust followed by the support group meeting. Robin Asgher was then fresh back from Pakistan where, among other things, he was preaching in a church in the place where Osama Bin Laden lived and died, Abbottabad. (St Luke's Church, is as old as the town [see pic]. "A melancholy Christian cemetery can be found 500m up Circular Rd" according to Lonely Planet). Fascinating!

Baptism in Pontrhydyrun

It was my great privilege last Sunday night to be in South Wales. I was there to preach and to baptise my 15 year old nephew William, who became a Christian last summer, and with him a young couple who I had not met before, Anthony and Lizzie. The church was packed and it was a joy to see family members, old friends and members at Pontrhydyrun, etc. There must have been quite a few unbelievers there. You just hope something got through in the testimonies and the sermon, which you can hear here (no longer available).

Ryle on the cost of being a Christian 02

These are solemn and painful truths. But they are truths. They all help to show the immense importance of the subject I am now considering. They all point out the absolute necessity of pressing the subject of this message on all who profess a desire for holiness and of crying aloud in all the churches, "Count the cost."
I am bold to say that it would be well if the duty of counting the cost were more frequently taught than it is. Impatient hurry is the order of the day with many religionists. Instantaneous conversions, and immediate sensible peace, are the only results they seem to care for from the gospel. Compared with these, all other things are thrown into the shade. To produce them is the grand end and object, apparently, of all their labors. I say without hesitation that such a naked, one–sided mode of teaching Christianity is mischievous in the extreme.
Let no one mistake my meaning. I thoroughly approve of offering men a full, free, present, immediate salvation in Christ Jesus. I thoroughly approve of urging on man the possibility and the duty of immediate instantaneous conversion. In these matters I give place to no one. But I do say that these truths ought not to be set before men nakedly, singly and alone. They ought to be told honestly what it is they are taking up if they profess a desire to come out from the world and serve Christ. They ought not to be pressed into the ranks of Christ’s army without being told what the warfare entails. In a word, they should be told honestly to count the cost.
Does anyone ask what our Lord Jesus Christ’s practice was in this matter? Let him read what Luke records. He tells us that, on a certain occasion, "There went great multitudes with Him: and He turned, and said unto them, ‘If any come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple’" (Luke 14:25–27). I must plainly say that I cannot reconcile this passage with the proceedings of many modern religious teachers. And yet, to my mind, the doctrine of it is as clear as the sun at noonday. It shows us that we ought not to hurry men into professing discipleship without warning them plainly to count the cost.
Does anyone ask what the practice of the eminent and best preachers of the gospel has been in days gone by? I am bold to say that they have all with one mouth borne testimony to the wisdom of our Lord’s dealing with the multitudes to which I have just referred. Luther and Latimer and Baxter and Wesley and Whitefield, and Berridge and Rowland Hill were all keenly alive to the deceitfulness of man’s heart. They knew full well that all is not gold that glitters, that conviction is not conversion, that feeling is not faith, that sentiment is not grace, that all blossoms do not come to fruit. "Be not deceived," was their constant cry. "Consider well what you do. Do not run before you are called. Count the cost."
If we desire to do good, let us never be ashamed of walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Work hard if you will, and have the opportunity, for the souls of others. Press them to consider their ways. Compel them with holy violence to come in, to lay down their arms and to yield themselves to God. Offer them salvation, ready, free, full, immediate salvation. Press Christ and all His benefits on their acceptance. But in all your work tell the truth, and the whole truth. Be ashamed to use the vulgar arts of a recruiting sergeant. Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armor, the watching, the marching and the drill. Do not present only one side of Christianity. Do not keep back the cross of self–denial that must be carried, when you speak of the cross on which Christ died for our redemption. Explain fully what Christianity entails. Entreat men to repent and come to Christ; but bid them at the same time to count the cost.
Sorry indeed should I be if I did not say something on this branch of my subject. I have no wish to discourage anyone or to keep anyone back from Christ’s service. It is my heart’s desire to encourage everyone to go forward and take up the cross. Let us count the cost by all means, and count it carefully. But let us remember that, if we count rightly and look on all sides, there is nothing that need make us afraid.
Let me mention some things which should always enter into our calculations in counting the cost of true Christianity. Set down honestly and fairly what you will have to give up and go through if you become Christ’s disciple. Leave nothing out. Put it all down. But then set down side by side the following sums which I am going to give you. Do this fairly and correctly, and I am not afraid for the result.
a. Count up and compare the profit and the loss, if you are a true–hearted and holy Christian. You may possibly lose something in this world, but you will gain the salvation of your immortal soul. It is written: "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36.)
b. Count up and compare the praise and the blame, if you are a true–hearted and holy Christian. You may possibly be blamed by man, but you will have the praise of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Your blame will come from the lips of a few erring, blind, fallible men and women. Your praise will come from the King of kings and Judge of all the earth. It is only those whom He blesses who are really blessed. It is written: "Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven" (Matt. 5:11, 12).
c. Count up and compare the friends and the enemies, if you are a true–hearted and holy Christian. On the one side of you is the enmity of the devil and the wicked. On the other, you have the favor and friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your enemies, at most, can only bruise your heel. They may rage loudly and compass sea and land to work your ruin, but they cannot destroy you. Your Friend is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him. None shall ever pluck His sheep out of His hand. It is written: "Be not afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear Him, which after He has killed has power to cast into hell; yes, I say unto you, fear Him" (Luke 12:5).
d. Count up and compare the life that now is and the life to come, if you are a true–hearted and holy Christian. The time present, no doubt, is not a time of ease. It is a time of watching and praying, fighting and struggling, believing and working. But it is only for a few years. The time future is the season of rest and refreshing. Sin shall be cast out. Satan shall be bound. And, best of all, it shall be a rest forever. It is written: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17, 18).
e. Count up and compare the pleasures of sin and the happiness of God’s service, if you are a true–hearted and holy Christian. The pleasures that the worldly man gets by his ways are hollow, unreal and unsatisfying. They are like the fire of thorns, flashing and crackling for a few minutes, and then quenched forever. The happiness that Christ gives to His people is something solid, lasting and substantial. It is not dependent on health or circumstances. It never leaves a man, even in death. It ends in a crown of glory that fades not away. It is written: "The joy of the hypocrite [is] but for a moment." "As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool" (Job 20:5; Eccl. 7:6). But it is also written: "Peace I leave with you, My peace give I unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
f. Count up and compare the trouble that true Christianity entails and the troubles that are in store for the wicked beyond the grave. Grant for a moment that Bible reading and praying and repenting and believing and holy living require pains and self–denial. It is all nothing compared to that wrath to come which is stored up for the impenitent and unbelieving. A single day in hell will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross. The "worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched" are things which it passes man’s power to conceive fully or describe. It is written: "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented" (Luke 16:25).
g. Count up and compare the number of those who turn from sin and the world and serve Christ, and the number of those who forsake Christ and return to the world. On the one side you will find thousands; on the other you will find none. Multitudes are every year turning out of the broad way and entering the narrow. None who really enter the narrow way grow tired of it and return to the broad. The footsteps in the downward road are often to be seen turning out of it. The footsteps in the road to heaven are all one way. It is written: "The way of the wicked is . . . darkness." "The way of transgressors is hard" (Prov. 4:19; 13:15). But it is also written: "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18).
Such sums as these, no doubt, are often not done correctly. Not a few, I am well aware, are ever "halting between two opinions." They cannot make up their minds that it is worthwhile to serve Christ. The losses and gains, the advantages and disadvantages, the sorrows and the joys, the helps and the hindrances appear to them so nearly balanced that they cannot decide for God. They cannot do this great sum correctly. They cannot make the result so clear as it ought to be. They do not count right.
But why do they err so greatly? They lack faith. Paul advises us on how to come to a right conclusion about our souls in Hebrews 11, revealing a powerful principle that operates in the business of counting the cost. It is the same principle Noah understood, and that I will now make clear.
How was it that Noah persevered in building the ark? He stood alone amid a world of sinners and unbelievers. He had to endure scorn, ridicule and mockery. What was it that nerved his arm, and made him patiently work on and face it all? It was faith. He believed in a wrath to come. He believed that there was no safety, excepting in the ark that he was preparing. Believing, he held the world’s opinion very cheap. He counted the cost by faith and had no doubt that to build the ark was gain.
How was it that Moses forsook the pleasures of Pharaoh’s house and refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter? How was it that he cast in his lot with a despised people like the Hebrews and risked everything in this world in carrying out the great work of their deliverance from bondage? To the eye of sense he was losing everything and gaining nothing. What was it that moved him? It was faith. He believed that the "recompense of reward" was far better than all the honors of Egypt. He counted the cost by faith, as "seeing Him that is invisible," and was persuaded that to forsake Egypt and go forth into the wilderness was gain.
How was it that Saul the Pharisee could ever make up his mind to become a Christian? The cost and sacrifices of the change were fearfully great. He gave up all his brilliant prospects among his own people. He brought on himself, instead of man’s favor, man’s hatred, man’s enmity and man’s persecution, even unto death. What was it that enabled him to face it all? It was faith. He believed that Jesus, who met him on the way to Damascus, could give him a hundredfold more than he gave up, and in the world to come everlasting life. By faith he counted the cost and saw clearly on which side the balance lay. He believed firmly that to carry the cross of Christ was gain.
Let us mark well these things. That faith which made Noah, Moses and Paul do what they did, that faith is the great secret of coming to a right conclusion about our souls. That same faith must be our helper and ready–reckoner when we sit down to count the cost of being a true Christian. That same faith is to be had for the asking. "He gives more grace" (James 4:6). Armed with that faith, we shall set things down at their true value. Filled with that faith, we shall neither add to the cross nor subtract from the crown. Our conclusions will be all correct. Our sum total will be without error.
1. Now, let us make the serious inquiry: "What does your Christianity cost you?" Very likely it costs you nothing. Very probably it neither costs you trouble, nor time, nor thought, nor care, nor pains, nor reading, nor praying, nor self–denial, nor conflict, nor working, nor labor of any kind. Now mark what I say. Such a religion as this will never save your soul. It will never give you peace while you live, nor hope while you die. It will not support you in the day of affliction, nor cheer you in the hour of death. A religion which costs nothing is worth nothing. Awake before it is too late. Awake and repent. Awake and be converted. Awake and believe. Awake and pray. Rest not until you can give a satisfactory answer to my question: "What does it cost?"
2. Think, if you want stirring motives for serving God, what it cost to provide a salvation for your soul. Think how the Son of God left heaven and became Man, suffered on the cross and lay in the grave, to pay your debt to God, and work out for you a complete redemption. Think of all this and learn that it is no light matter to possess an immortal soul. It is worthwhile to take some trouble about one’s soul.
Ah, lazy man or woman, is it really come to this, that you will miss heaven for lack of trouble? Are you really determined to make shipwreck forever, from mere dislike to exertion? Away with the cowardly, unworthy thought. Arise and play the man. Say to yourself, "Whatever it may cost, I will, at any rate, strive to enter in at the strait gate." Look at the cross of Christ and take fresh courage. Look forward to death, judgment and eternity, and be in earnest. It may cost much to be a Christian, but you may be sure it pays.
3. If any reader of this message really feels that he has counted the cost and taken up the cross, I bid him persevere and press on. I dare say you often feel your heart faint and are sorely tempted to give up in despair. Your enemies seem so many, your besetting sins so strong, your friends so few, the way so steep and narrow, you hardly know what to do. But still I say, persevere and press on.
The time is very short. A few more years of watching and praying, a few more tossings on the sea of this world, a few more deaths and changes, a few more winters and summers, and all will be over. We shall have fought our last battle and shall need to fight no more.
The presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below. When we see as we have been seen and look back on the journey of life, we shall wonder at our own faintness of heart. We shall marvel that we made so much of our cross, and thought so little of our crown. We shall marvel that in "counting the cost" we could ever doubt on which side the balance of profit lay. Let us take courage. We are not far from home. It may cost much to be a true Christian and a consistent holy man; but it pays.

Ryle on the cost of being a Christian 01

THE COST by J C Ryle is from his book Holiness and can be found here. This is the first half
"Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not down first sit down and count the cost?" (Luke 14:28)
The text which heads this page is one of great importance. Few are the people who are not often obliged to ask themselves, "What does it cost?" In buying property, in building houses, in furnishing rooms, in forming plans, in changing dwellings, in educating children, it is wise and prudent to look forward and consider. Many would save themselves much sorrow and trouble if they would only remember the question: "What does it cost?" But there is one subject on which it is specially important to count the cost. That subject is the salvation of our souls. What does it cost to be a true Christian? What does it cost to be a really holy man? This, after all, is the grand question. For want of thought about this, thousands, after seeming to begin well, turn away from the road to heaven, and are lost forever in hell. We are living in strange times. Events are hurrying on with singular rapidity. We never know "what a day may bring forth"; how much less do we know what may happen in a year! We live in a day of great religious profession. Scores of professing Christians in every part of the land are expressing a desire for more holiness and a higher degree of spiritual life. Yet nothing is more common than to see people receiving the Word with joy, and then after two or three years falling away and going back to their sins. They had not considered what it costs to be a really consistent believer and holy Christian. Surely these are times when we ought often to sit down and count the cost and to consider the state of our souls. We must mind what we are about. If we desire to be truly holy, it is a good sign. We may thank God for putting the desire into our hearts. But still the cost ought to be counted. No doubt Christ’s way to eternal life is a way of pleasantness. But it is folly to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow, and the cross comes before the crown.
Let there be no mistake about my meaning. I am not examining what it costs to save a Christian’s soul. I know well that it costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. We "are bought with a price." "Christ gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Tim. 2:6). But all this is wide of the question. The point I want to consider is another one altogether. It is what a man must be ready to give up if he wishes to be saved. It is the amount of sacrifice a man must submit to if he intends to serve Christ. It is in this sense that I raise the question: "What does it cost?" And I believe firmly that it is a most important one. I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday and to be tolerably moral during the week, and he has gone as far as thousands around him ever go in religion. All this is cheap and easy work: it entails no self–denial or self–sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity and will take us to heaven when we die, we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!" But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of "counting the cost." Let me try to show precisely and particularly what it costs to be a true Christian. Let us suppose that a man is disposed to take service with Christ and feels drawn and inclined to follow Him. Let us suppose that some affliction or some sudden death or an awakening sermon has stirred his conscience and made him feel the value of his soul and desire to be a true Christian. No doubt there is everything to encourage him. His sins may be freely forgiven, however many and great. His heart may be completely changed, however cold and hard. Christ and the Holy Spirit, mercy and grace, are all ready for him. But still he should count the cost. Let us see particularly, one by one, the things that his religion will cost him.
1. True Christianity will cost one his self–righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another. He must really feel as well as say the Prayer Book words, that he has "erred and gone astray like a lost sheep," that he has "left undone the things he ought to have done, and that there is no health in him." He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible reading, church–going, and sacrament receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.
2. True Christianity will cost a man his sins. He must be willing to give up every habit and practice which is wrong in God’s sight. He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it and labor to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think. He must do this honestly and fairly. There must be no separate truce with any special sin which he loves. He must count all sins as his deadly enemies and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced. They may struggle hard with him every day and sometimes almost get the mastery over him. But he must never give way to them. He must keep up a perpetual war with his sins. It is written, "Cast away from you all your transgressions." "Break off your sins ... and iniquities." "Cease to do evil" (Ezek. 18:31; Dan. 4:27; Isa. 1:16). This sounds hard. I do not wonder. Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye. But it must be done. The parting must come. "Though wickedness be sweet in the sinner’s mouth, though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it, and forsake it not," yet it must be given up, if he wishes to be saved (Job 20:12, 13). He and sin must quarrel if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But He will not receive them if they will stick to their sins.
3. Also, Christianity will cost a man his love of ease. He must take pains and trouble if he means to run a successful race toward heaven. He must daily watch and stand on his guard, like a soldier on enemy’s ground. He must take heed to his behavior every hour of the day, in every company and in every place, in public as well as in private, among strangers as well as at home. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace. In attending to these things, he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of those who he can safely neglect. "The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat" (Prov. 13:4). This also sounds hard. There is nothing we naturally dislike so much as "trouble" about our religion. We hate trouble. We secretly wish we could have a vicarious Christianity, and could be good by proxy, and have everything done for us. Anything that requires exertion and labor is entirely against the grain of our hearts. But the soul can have "no gains without pains."
4. Lastly, true Christianity will cost a man the favor of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast and a fanatic, to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says, "Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his Lord.’ If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also" (John 15:20). I dare say this also sounds hard. We naturally dislike unjust dealing and false charges and think it very hard to be accused without cause. We should not be flesh and blood if we did not wish to have the good opinion of our neighbors. It is always unpleasant to be spoken against and forsaken and lied about and to stand alone. But there is no help for it. The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by His disciples. They must be "despised and rejected of men" (Isa. 53:3). Let us set down that item last in our account. To be a Christian, it will cost a man the favor of the world. Considering the weight of this great cost, bold indeed must that man be who would dare to say that we may keep our self–righteousness, our sins, our laziness and our love of the world, and yet be saved! Moreover, I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. But what sane man or woman can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved? When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew think nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo. When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown.
I might easily settle this question by laying down the principle that no duty enjoined by Christ can ever be neglected without damage. I might show how many shut their eyes throughout life to the nature of saving religion and refuse to consider what it really costs to be a Christian. I might describe how at last, when life is ebbing away, they wake up and make a few spasmodic efforts to turn to God. I might tell you how they find to their amazement that repentance and conversion are no such easy matters as they had supposed, and that it costs "a great sum" to be a true Christian. They discover that habits of pride and sinful indulgence and love of ease and worldliness are not so easily laid aside as they had dreamed. And so, after a faint struggle, they give up in despair, and leave the world hopeless, graceless and unfit to meet God! They had flattered themselves all their days that religion would be easy work when they once took it up seriously. But they open their eyes too late and discover for the first time that they are ruined because they never counted the cost. But there is a certain group of people to whom especially I wish to address myself in handling this part of my subject. It is a large class, an increasing class, and a class which in these days is in peculiar danger. Let me in a few plain words try to describe this class. It deserves our best attention. The people I speak of are not thoughtless about religion; they think a good deal about it. They are not ignorant of religion; they know the outlines of it pretty well. But their great defect is that they are not "rooted and grounded" in their faith. Too often they have picked up their knowledge second–hand, from being in religious families, or from being trained in religious ways, but have never worked it out by their own inward experience. Too often they have hastily taken up a profession of religion under the pressure of circumstances, from sentimental feelings, from animal excitement or from a vague desire to do like others around them, but without any solid work of grace in their hearts. People like these are in a position of immense danger. They are precisely those, if Bible examples are worth anything, who need to be exhorted to count the cost.
For want of counting the cost, myriads of the children of Israel perished miserably in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. They left Egypt full of zeal and fervor as if nothing could stop them. But when they found dangers and difficulties in the way, their courage soon cooled down. They had never reckoned on trouble. They had thought the promised land would be all before them in a few days. And so when enemies, privations, hunger and thirst began to try them, they murmured against Moses and God and would sincerely have gone back to Egypt. In a word, they had not counted the cost and so lost everything and died in their sins.
For want of counting the cost, many of our Lord Jesus Christ’s hearers went back after a time and "walked no more with Him" (John 6:66). When they first saw His miracles and heard His preaching, they thought "the kingdom of God would immediately appear." They cast in their lot with His apostles and followed Him without thinking of the consequences. But when they found that there were hard doctrines to be believed and hard work to be done and hard treatment to be borne, their faith gave way entirely and proved to be nothing at all. In a word, they had not counted the cost, and so made shipwreck of their profession.
For want of counting the cost, King Herod returned to his old sins and destroyed his soul. He liked to hear John the Baptist preach. He observed and honored him as a just and holy man. He even "did many things" which were right and good. But when he found that he must give up his darling Herodias, his religion entirely broke down. He had not reckoned on this. He had not counted the cost (Mark 6:20).
For want of counting the cost, Demas forsook the company of Paul, forsook the gospel, forsook Christ, forsook heaven. For a long time he journeyed with the great apostle of the Gentiles and was actually a "fellow–laborer." But when he found he could not have the friendship of this world as well as the friendship of God, he gave up his Christianity and cleaved to the world. "Demas has forsaken me," says Paul, "having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10). He had not "counted the cost."
For want of counting the cost, the hearers of powerful evangelical preachers often come to miserable ends. They are stirred and excited into professing what they have not really experienced. They receive the Word with a "joy" so extravagant that it almost startles old Christians. They run for a time with such zeal and fervor that they seem likely to outstrip all others. They talk and work for spiritual objects with such enthusiasm that they make older believers feel ashamed. But when the novelty and freshness of their feelings is gone, a change comes over them. They prove to have been nothing more than stony–ground hearers. The description the great Master gives in the parable of the sower is exactly exemplified: "Temptation or persecution arises because of the Word, and they are offended" (Matt. 13:21). Little by little their zeal melts away and their love becomes cold. By and by their seats are empty in the assembly of God’s people, and they are heard of no more among Christians. And why? They had never counted the cost.
For lack of counting the cost, hundreds of professed converts, under religious revivals, go back to the world after a time and bring disgrace on religion. They begin with a sadly mistaken notion of what is true Christianity. They fancy it consists in nothing more than a so–called "coming to Christ" and having strong inward feelings of joy and peace. And so when they find, after a time, that there is a cross to be carried, that our hearts are deceitful, and that there is a busy devil always near us, they cool down in disgust and return to their old sins. And why? Because they had really never known what Bible Christianity is. They had never learned that we must count the cost.
For want of counting the cost, the children of religious parents often turn out ill and bring disgrace on Christianity. Familiar from their earliest years with the form and theory of the gospel, taught even from infancy to repeat great leading texts, accustomed every week to be instructed in the gospel, or to instruct others in Sunday schools, they often grow up professing a religion without knowing why or without ever having thought seriously about it. And then when the realities of grown–up life begin to press upon them, they often astound everyone by dropping all their religion and plunging right into the world. And why? They had never thoroughly understood the sacrifices which Christianity entails. They had never been taught to count the cost.

Reading the Bible H

We have now before us the holy Bible, or book, for so bible signifies. We call it the book, by way of eminency; for it is incomparably the best book that ever was written, the book of books, shining like the sun in the firmament of learning, other valuable and useful books, like the moon and stars, borrowing their light from it. We call it the holy book, because it was written by holy men, and indited by the Holy Ghost; it is perfectly pure from all falsehood and corrupt intention; and the manifest tendency of it is to promote holiness among men. The great things of God's law and gospel are here written to us, that they might be reduced to a greater certainty, might spread further, remain longer, and be transmitted to distant places and ages more pure and entire than possibly they could be by report and tradition: and we shall have a great deal to answer for if these things which belong to our peace, being thus committed to us in black and white, be neglected by us ....
Matthew Henry (from his preface to Gensis in his Bible Commentary)

Bugsy Malone

At the school last night to see my fourth son Gwion (tall guy with the moustache) as Dandy Dan in an excellent production of the prohibition era musical Bugsy Malone.

Reading the Bible G

There is a directory, which every Church possesses; an infallible rule there is, and a sure record of the Saviour's mind, by which every Church must be guided. Every Church has the Bible - the Spirit's register of the will of Christ; and of it we can say that it "is profitable," - not to individual believers alone, but to Churches collectively, and to their office-bearers as such,  - "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
Andrew Gray (The duty and the liberty of a Christian church)

Reading the Bible F

“The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.”
John Flavel

Childhood songs 9 Michael row

I have a new minor hobby - twiddling with the digital radio. I like to turn to Kerraang! and hear exactly what you'd expect and Absolute Radio have designated channels for the sixties, seventies, eighties and more. I particularly like hearing songs I've never heard played on radio before. I think it was on Gold that I heard this request played. It was a song I remember my mother singing, although I understand it was number 1 here in 1961 having been popularised by the folk singer Pete Seeger before crossing over. Unsurprisingly it is an American spiritual first recorded a hundred year before Seeger got hold of it. I remember asking my mother who this Michael was. She told me Michael was another name for Jesus (which is the official JW line - she was under their influence at the time). I think I am right in saying that Calvin and other good Reformers and Puritans would take the same view though most good men today would not. The recording is from a concert organised for Pete Seeger's ninetieth a few years back. The line "meet my mother on the other side" is now full of  tear jerking meaning. (Not sure who all the people are - that muts be Rufus Wainwright with the beard, I guess, and the Irish lady must be a McGarrigle. Don't know.)

Various Resources

Over the last few weeks I've noticed a few resources on the net that may be of interest to you:
1. R C Trench's book Synonyms of NT Greek
2. R K Girdlestone's' Hebrew Synonyms
3. J L Dagg's Manual of Theology
4. F Nigel Lee's works including The covenantal sabbath

William the Conqueror

I can't remember why it came into my head now but I was remembering the other day my late father's story of how he started to read Richmal Crompton's William books. It was when he was in school (not sure what age). It was a library period and he couldn't find a book to take home and so the teacher gave him one. My dad looked at the title - William the Conqueror - and thought, oh no a history book but couldn't argue (no clues on the cover clearly). When he got it home and started to read, however, he couldn't put it down. That book was published the year he was born and was the sixth in the series. There must have been 16 of them or so by the time my dad started reading them and he reckoned he read the lot. I remember my nana buying me several paperbark versions when I was a kid. They're good fun.

Dyn Eira Arall

The boys had to make a snowman, of course (not the ones in the picture as it turns out)

Reading the Bible E

The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light; and to draw men off from it: he knows it to be that light by which his kingdom of darkness is to be overthrown. He has had for many ages experience of its power to defeat his purposes, and baffle his designs: it is his constant plague. It is the main weapon which Michael uses in his war with him: it is the sword of the Spirit, that pierces him and conquers him. It is that great and strong sword, with which God punishes
Leviathan, that crooked serpent. It is that sharp sword that we read of, Rev. 19.15 that proceeds out of the mouth of him that sat on the horse, with which he smites his enemies. Every text is a dart to torment the old serpent. He has felt the stinging smart thousands of times; therefore he is engaged against the Bible, and hate's every word in it: and we may be sure that he never will attempt to raise persons' esteem of it, or affection to it. And accordingly we see it common in enthusiasts, that they depreciate this written rule, and set up the light within or some other rule above it.
Jonathan Edwards (Distinguishing marks of a work of the Holy Spirit)

Some Prayer Requests

Malinke Tribes (W Africa). Did you read your Bible this morning? Most Malinke people didn’t. Those who did probably read it in a trade language like Bambara or French. Most of the Malinke subgroups we are praying for this month need their own Bible translation. Once that is accomplished, someone can produce other Christian materials in their languages as well.
As you read this, there is a team working on a Bible translation for one of the Malinke peoples. A good part of their time is spent taking care of daily business of cooking, cleaning, educating the children, and building relationships with Malinkes. Unlike you and me, they face the daily challenges of living in an African town where electricity is not available, so they have to rely on solar power.
To do what they are doing requires a tremendous amount of perseverance. It will take many years to complete this Bible translation, and even when the work is done, there is no guarantee that people will accept it or read it.
In addition, the Bible translation team has faced significant spiritual opposition over the years, causing the work to be slow and threatening its continued progress.

Zimbabwe. Around the world there are 16 million children under the age of 18 who have lost one or both parents Zimbabwe alone has an astonishing 1 million children orphaned by AIDS. Please pray for children who have been affected by HIV/AIDS, whether they are living with the disease or have lost parents from it. Of these children, barely one quarter attend school. Pray that their communities would be able to care for them and give them access to basic needs such as food, education and health care.
Korea. In August 2011 a South Korean pastor died in a suspected poison needle attack after smuggling runaways from North Korea to safety. Christians in North Korea are thought to number at least 400,000, but they are cruelly persecuted: they live in constant danger of imprisonment and torture in the regime’s notoriously brutal labour camps, and even of execution. Those who try to help them escape across the border do so at the risk of their lives. Pray for deliverance for our brothers and sisters in their distress, and that the Lord will protect those Christians in neighbouring countries who reach out to help them.

Novelists 5 Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson 1709-1784 is most famous for his mammoth work the English Dictionary but he wrote a lot of other things including (in 1759) a philosophical novel The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abbysinia. He wrote it to support his seriously ill mother who died as it was published. As he himself once said "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." I have read a book claiming he became a Christian in later life. If so, he may be the same as Daniel Defoe mentioned before, who someone contacted me about saying he too was converted in later life.

Reading the Bible D

To one that trembles at the divine word,the threatenings of it do not appear vain terrors, nor great swelling words of vanity, but the most tremendous realities. Such an one cannot bear up under them, but would tremble, and fall, and die away, if not relieved by some happy promise of deliverance. He that trembles at the word of God is not a stupid hearer or reader of it. It reaches and pierces his heart as a sharp two-edged sword; it carries power along with it, and he feels that it is the word of God, and not of men, even when it is spoken by feeble mortals. Thus he not only trembles at the terror, but at the authority of the word; - which leads me to observe farther, that he trembles with filial veneration of the majesty of God speaking in his word. He considers it as his voice who spake all things into being, and whose glory is such, that a deep solemnity must seize those that are admitted to hear him speak.
Samuel Davies (in a sermon on the Objects of divine favour)

King of the superlative

These days I'm usually greeted by one superlative or another when I come into the kitchen in the mornings. They're not directed at me. They come from the mouth of animal enthusiast Steve Backshall as to my sons' delight he works his way through his Deadly 60 on BBC (I'm sure he must be over the 60 by now). I've rarely seen a man so excited. The only sad thing is that Steve doesn't seem to realise that all these wonderful creatures were made by one Creator who deserves all the superlatives Steve can conjure. More here. Wikipedia tells us that  "He has dived with Great White and tiger sharks, caught king cobras and black mambas, had a redback spider on his hand and was bitten on screen by a crocodile".

Reading the Bible C

In the Scriptures be the fat pastures of the soul; therein is no venomous meat, no unwholsome thing; they be the very dainty and pure feeding. He that is ignorant, shall find there what he should learn. He that is a perverse sinner, shall there find his damnation to make him to tremble for fear. He that laboureth to serve God, shall find there his glory, and the promissions of eternal life, exhorting him more diligently to labour.
Thomas Cranmer (from his preface to the Bible)

Pencampwriaeth y Chwe Gwlad 2012

So it's time for the six nations again. England Scotland will be a good opener. Pity Wales are playing on the Lord's Day. No need for it. Euan Murray would agree. Official site here.

Evangelical Library Recommended

My good friend Jeremy Walker has just posted an appreciation of the Evangelical Library here, which is worth reading especially if you are not so familiar with it.

Reading the Bible B

God's book of 'grace' is just like his book of nature; it is his thoughts written out. This great book, the Bible, this most precious volume is the heart of God made legible; it is the gold of God's love, beaten out into gold leaf, so that therewith our thoughts might be plated, and we also might have golden, good, and holy thoughts concerning Him.
John Bunyan