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.

Sarah on George

This letter was written by Sarah Edwards, wife Jonathan Edwards, to her brother, James Pierpoint of New Haven about the visit of the evangelist, George Whitefield, who came to Northampton in October, 1740.

October 24, 1740

Dear Brother James,

I want to prepare you for a visit from the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, the famous preacher of England. He has been sojourning with us, and after visiting a few of the neighbouring towns, is going to New Haven, and from thence to New York.

He is truly a remarkable man, and during his visit, has, I think, verified all we have heard of him. He makes less of the doctrines than our American preachers generally do and aims more at affecting the heart. He is a born orator. You have already heard of his deep-toned yet clear and melodious voice. O it is perfect music to listen to that alone!

And he speaks so easily, without any apparent effort. You remember that David Hume thought it was worth going twenty miles to hear him speak; and Garrick said, 'He could move men to tears or make them tremble by his simple intonations in pronouncing the word Mesopotamia.' Well, this last was a mere speech of the play actor; but it is truly wonderful to see what a spell this preacher often casts over an audience by proclaiming the simplest truths of the Bible. I have seen upwards of a thousand people hang on his words with breathless silence, broken only by an occasional half-suppressed sob.

He impresses the ignorant, and not less, the educated and refined. It is reported that while the miners of England listened to him, the tears made white furrows down their smutty cheeks. So here, our mechanics shut up their shops, and the day-labourers throw down their tools, to go and hear him preach, and few return unaffected. A prejudiced person, I know, might say that this is all theatrical artifice and display; but not so will anyone think who has seen and known him.

He is a very devout and godly man, and his only aim seems to be to reach and influence men the best way. He speaks from a heart aglow with love, and pours out a torrent of eloquence which is almost irresistible. Many, very many persons in Northampton date the beginning of new thoughts, new desires, new purposes, and a new life, from the day on which they heard him preach of Christ and this salvation. I wish him success in his apostolic career; and when he reaches New Haven, you will, I know, show him warm hospitality.

Yours in faithful affection,

10 Famous goalkeepers

As someone who played in goals as a boy myself this list is of interest as a fine bit of trivia. (We are talking about soccer, of course).
1. Algerian born writer and philosopher Albert Camus played for Racing Universitaire Algerios (RUA) junior team (“All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.”)
2. Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias played for Los Blancos Juniors
3. Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) played for Krakow University
4. Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti played in goal for Modena Juniors before moving to the wing position
5. Writer Arthur Conan Doyle played for a team called Portsmouth F C (but unconnected to the present day team)
6. Writer Vladimir Nabokov played during his time at Cambridge
7. Scientist Niels Bohr played for Akademisk Boldklub (his lesser known brother Harrald played for the national side when Denmark took silver at the 1908 Olympics)
8. Revolutionary Che Guevara (in goals and not on the left wing due to asthma)
9. Religious oddity David Icke played for Coventry City
10. Boyband Westlife singer Nicky Byrne played for Leeds United youth who won the FA Youth Cup in 1997

Welsh Rugby and Popes

Could there be any truth to the urban legend that claims every time Wales win a rugby grand slam a pope dies?
The hypothesis, based on the deaths of Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II in years when the Welsh team dominated the Six Nations, was rejected by doctors in 2008.
However, a letter published in the British Medical Journal has claimed the study made the fatal error of ignoring coptic popes.
In a revelation that could see popes locking themselves in armoured mobiles for the remainder of the year following Wales' recent success, Dr Edward Snelson claimed the 2008 study was based on "false assertions".
He quoted the study's urban legend basis, "Every time Wales win the rugby grand slam, a pope dies, except for 1978 when Wales were really good, and two popes died.
"However they included only Roman Catholic popes in their outcome measures, thus altering the statistical analysis to create a potentially false reassurance," he wrote. ....

New Book Coming Soon

It has taken a little longer than I had expected but I am hopeful that my book on What Jesus is doing now will be published by Evangelical Press next month. Available through the various channels I do hope it will be a help to many on what is sometimes a rather forgotten topic.

Death of Charles Colson

Charles Colson, the tough-as-nails special counsel to President Richard Nixon who went to prison for his role in a Watergate-related case and became a Christian evangelical helping inmates, has died. He was 80.
Colson's death was confirmed by Jim Liske, the chief executive of the Lansdowne, Va.-based Prison Fellowship Ministries that Colson founded. Liske said the preliminary cause of death is complications from brain surgery Colson had at the end of March.

10 Songs about life on the road

1. London – Thea Gilmore
(The hotel is just like yesterday's/And the city has no name/It just stands there in a grey haze/And my room is the same.)
2. Lodi - Creedence Clearwater Revival
(If I only had a dollar for every song I've sung/And every time I've had to play while people sat there drunk/You know I'd catch the next train back to where I live)
3. Homeward Bound – Simon and Garfunkel
(Each town looks the same to me/The movies and the factories/And every stranger's face I see/Reminds me that I long to be/Homeward bound)
4. Lonely hearts – Horslips
(Night has fallen again/And I hardly even saw the day/I just got out of bed/And somebody said/We're leaving right away./So I grabbed a cup of coffee/And made a bee-line for the door/As we drove through the night I could see the city lights/In the distance once more)
5. Super Trouper – ABBA
(I was sick and tired of everything/When I called you last night from Glasgow/All I do is eat and sleep and sing/Wishing every show was the last show)
6. I'm only sleeping - The Beatles
(Please, don't wake me, no, don't shake me/Leave me where I am, I'm only sleeping/Everybody seems to think I'm lazy/I don't mind, I think they're crazy)
7. The road – The Kinks
(If you play in a band that's the road that you take/Living in it, eating in it, sleeping in it/You wake up in the morning, what do you see?/The road)
8. All the way from Memphis – Mott the Hoople
(Yeah it's a mighty long way down rock'n'roll/From the Liverpool docks to the Hollywood Bowl/'N you climb up the mountains 'n you fall down the holes)
9. Radar Love – Golden Earring
(I’ve been drivin‘ all night my hand’s wet on the wheel/There’s a voice in my head that drives my heel/And my baby calls that she needs me here/It’s half past four and I’m shifting gear)
10. On the road again – Canned Heat
(Well, I'm so tired of crying/But I'm out on the road again/I'm on the road again.)

Lyrics London

I couldn't find these elsewhere so worked them out for myself. Yet another "miseries of being on tour" song then.

I am gonna call that number,
I don't really mean
To wake you from your slumber
While England is asleep.
The hotel is just like yesterday's,
And the city has no name.
It just stands there in a grey haze,
And my room is the same.

Well, I’m gonna call that number,
So far across the sea,
I wish I was in London,
That’s where I wanna be.

I love it when you miss me,
And I'm unhappy too.
Oh please don't you forget me
I am so in love with you.
Yeah, it won't be long now
And even though I know
I seem to leave my heart behind me
Every time I go.

Well, I’m gonna call that number,
So far across the sea,
I wish I was in London,
That’s where I wanna be.

Well, I feel so tired and lonely
I'm thinking of you, lover,
I wish you could console me
May be when it's over ...

I am gonna call that number,
Though I don't really mean
To wake you from your slumber
While England is asleep.
And the hotel is just like yesterday's,
And the city has no name,
It just stands there in a grey haze,
And my room is, my room is the same.

I’m gonna call that number,
So far across the sea,
I wish I was in London,
That’s where I wanna be.

Banner 2012 Final Session

The final session was from Alistair Begg on Titus 3. He simply worked his way through most of the passage so bringing to a close on the note of grace what has been a most helpful and useful conference. It has been good to be here.
The dates for next year are April 15-18. Among the speakers it is hoped will be Sinclair Ferguson, Jeremy Walker and Warren Peel.

Banner 2012 10

Sadly, Ted Donnelly was not able to take his intended final session and so Iain Murray stepped in to take the first session of the final morning. He spoke on controversies. Rich with references to church history and appropriate quotations he had several good things to say. (It will not be immediately clear why each quotation was given but they are worth reading anyway).
J Gresham Machen
"If we face the real situation in the Church and in the world, and decide, despite that situation, to stand firmly for the gospel of Christ, we shall be very likely indeed to find ourselves engaged in controversy. But if we are going to avoid controversy, we might as well close our Bibles; for the New Testament is a controversial book practically from beginning to end. The New Testament writers and our Lord Himself presented truth in sharp contrast with error , and indeed that is the only way in which truth can be presented in any clear and ringing way. I do not know all the things that will happen when the great revival sweeps over the Church, the great revival for which we long. Certainly I do not know when that revival will come; its coming stands in the Spirit's power. But about one thing that will happen when that blessing comes I think we c an be fairly sure. When a great and true revival comes in the Church, the present miserable, feeble talk about avoidance of contorversy on the part of the servants of Jesus Christ will all be swept away as with a mighty flood.
The Holy Spirit is not a sceptic, nor are what he has written on our hearts doubts or opinions, but assertions more certain, and more firm, than life itself and all human experience.
Archibald Alexander
"About this time General Posey had a mill built on his plantation, and the millwright was a Baptist by the name of Waller, a brother, I think, of a famous Baptist preacher called Jack Waller. I often talked with this man about his business and other matters ; but one day he unexpectedly turned to me and asked me whether I believed that before a man could enter the kingdom of heaven he must be born again. I knew not what to say, for I had for some time been puzzled about the new birth. However, I answered in the affirmative. He then asked whether I had experienced the new birth. I hesitated, and said, ' Not that I knew of.' ' Ah,' said he, ' if you had ever experienced this change you would know something about it ! ' Here the conversation ended ; but it led me to think more seriously whether there were any such change. It seemed to be in the Bible ; but I thought there must be some method of explaining it away ; for among the Presbyterians I had never heard of any one who had experienced the new birth, nor could I recollect ever to have heard it mentioned."
Benefits of controversy
1. God permits and sends this that things may be clarified
Latimer - Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.
2. It brings divisions that are necessary and a blessing
Charles Hodge
God allows errors to arise, most of which will be found to be bottomed upon false deductions and consequences drawn out of the Word, many opinions built and fastened upon them. And God allows this to bring us back to the original, the Word of God, that there we might rectify all. It is a great consolation to know that dissensions... are not fortuitous, but are ordered by the providence of God, and are designed, as storms, for the purpose of purification. 
Dangers of controversy
1. Not discriminating between central truths and less necessary
2. Being distracted by what is not profitable
John Brown of Haddington
"I look upon the Secession as indeed the cause of God, but sadly mismanaged and dishonoured by myself and others. Alas! for that pride, passion, selfishness, and unconcern for the glory of Christ, and spiritual edification of souls, which has so often prevailed! Alas! for our want of due meekness, gentleness, holy zeal, self-denial, hearty grief for sin, compassion to souls in immediate connexion with us, or left in the established church, which became distinguished witnesses for Christ. Alas! that we did not chiefly strive to pray better, preach better, and live better than our neighbours.
3. Treating matters of belief as the only priority
4. Underestimating how much combustible material in all our hearts
Archibald Alexander
"It has long been remarked, that no spirit is more pungent and bitter than that of theologians in their contentions with one another; and it has often happened, that the less the difference, the more virulent the acrimony."
R Candlish
"For, apart from love, brotherly love in itself and by itself is not necessarily a virtue. Nay, it may be sin. It degenerates into sectarianism, partisanship, and the poor esprit de corps of a school, a class, a clan, a coterie. It worships idols of the tribe, the palace, the theatre, the cave. You love as brethren those who happen to agree with you in holding certain opinions, cultivating certain tastes, pursuing certain ends. You love them as brethren merely on the ground of that agreement. You draw together; you club together; you frequent one another's company; you take pleasure in associating with one another, in helping one another, and in serving one another. This is quite natural, and so far, all right. Congeniality of disposition, similarity of pursuits, obviously tend to create intimacy; and within due limits, that tendency is safe and good. But if that is all - if the bond of brotherhood is thus merely natural and human - if your unity is simply the result of your unanimity - if it springs out of yourselves, and, as it is almost sure to do, centres in yourselves; it may make you strong as an ecclesiastical corporation; it may make you proud and happy as a more choice and select spiritual company, dwelling apart, nearer the throne than many. But it does not enlarge or elevate the heart. Nor does it free the soul from the yoke of self. It is itself, in fact, little better than a sort of enlarged selfishness. It does not ascend heavenward. It draws down earthward what is heavenly. It is of the earth, earthy.
5. Not foreseeing the troubles that can come into the church with controversy
In conclusion he spoke of knowing yourself (some are too slow to enter controversy some too quick) and the need of repentance. He also quoted a letter by John Newton which can be found here.

Banner 2012 09

On Wednesday evening we had a helpful question session and then after the evening meal a second address from Alistair Begg, this time on Titus 2. Again it was very warm and beautifully illustrated with quotations and pictures. He began with a quotation from Dr Lloyd-Jones “The glory of the gospel is that when the church is different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first." He then observed how amazing it is that people today can square feminism, environmentalism and even yoga with Scripture. He then proceeded by isolating the verses addressed directly to Titus (2, 7, 15) and dealing with those first and then the various categories in the chapter before briefly tackling some of the other verses. He quoted Leo the Great on the deposit. It is "a thing not of wit, but of learning; not of private assumption, but of public tradition; a thing brought to thee, not brought forth of thee."

Banner 2012 08

Maurice Roberts of Inverness gave his second paper on the subject of sanctification. He took a systematic approach to his subject. Distinguishing between justification and sanctification. The first gives us the title to heaven, the latter the nature needed for heaven.
Again the message was slightly diffuse but there were again plenty of illustrations and included these points.
1. Sanctification is never perfect in this life
2. Sanctification cannot begin before regeneration
He also argued for the Ten Commandments as a rule for the Christian life. Beginning with the first table he went into some detail on this matter speaking about our pride and mentioned our lack of love. He cautioned against new covenant theology so common today.
Sanctification can be boiled down to this - doing what God has said.
He also looked at the first table, pointing out the close links between the commands. He spoke against minced oaths (gosh, crikey, etc).
He then spoke of the problem in sanctification which is our depravity or concupiscence or indwelling sin. The mind, the will, the emotions, the conscience and the memory are the soul faculties that are transformed when we are born again. The unbeliever is not able to say "no" to sin but the believer can and must.
Two practical points. In order to make progress we need to keep in mind two things
1. Mortification 2. Vivification
It is like gardening - we need to pull up the weeds and put on the manure (I'd have said fertiliser but you know the story there perhaps).
He mentioned addiction to Internet pornography as an example of a current problem and urged us to watch and pray. He mentioned the failures of David and Peter by way of example.
Repentance is our daily calling.
Encouragements in this hard and disagreeable part of living the Christian life include
1. To live a holy life pleases God and he takes note of it
2. It greatly honours the gospel
3. Our prayers will be heard (Isaiah 66:2)
Steps to be taken include
1. Read, study and memorise the Bible
2. Secret prayer
3. Disciplined life - keeping the Lord's Day etc
4. Humility
5. Meditate frequently on the cross
6. To be willing to go wherever he may send 
A sermon on God's Way of Holiness from 2005 by Maurice Roberts can be found here.

Banner Reports

Rather than one report session this year we have had a number of reports before the main sessions. So far we have heard from Hicham who works in Carcassone, France. He is married to the eldest daughter of my elder (oops! Deacon)  Mike de Jong and is doing a sterling work encouraging outreach to Muslims.
We also heard from John Gibbon who has worked for many years in Mongolia. He was speaking in our church recently. He and his Mongolian wife are not able to live in the country at the moment but have plans to return to the far east.
Then this morning Sukra from Indonesia, still 85% Muslim, who, with his colleague also here, is involved with MERF and the work of Presbyterian churches in Southern Sulawesi.

Banner 2012 07

The first session on this Wednesday morning was Matthew Brennan's second message on John the Baptist. He suggested again that there are about 19 portraits or cameos of John in the New Testament. Having done two yesterday under the heading of John's view of Jesus he looked at another two today being on John's view of Jesus. He spoke of
3. John's perplexity
It is probably best to speak of John's perplexity rather than his doubts over Messiah. Campbell Morgan actually speaks of the "continuation of his courage". We too are often perplexed even though we may not know it at times. In our perplexities it is important that we do what John did and bring our perplexities to Jesus to have them resolved. When we do so there will be an answer. He does it in various ways. Notice, however, that in the answer there is nothing new.
4. Jesus's assessment of John
Without at all over simplifying he stressed that John truly was great and yet our privileges are greater. It is striking he said that though John rarely even met Jesus yet whereas John the Apostle is mentioned 38 times John the Baptist is mentioned 91 times (why then does James Stalker spend twice as much time on John the Apostle as on the Baptist in his book on the two?).
Very encouraging then.

Banner 2012 06

On Tuesday evening we had the first session from Alistair Begg who is to take us through the Book of Titus. This first session was on the opening chapter. Obviously not every verse could be covered but we had an excellent survey with lots of useful things in it.
He began by saying that the book, written at a critical moment in church history when Paul was about to die, is a personal letter but not a private one. It was meant to be read by the congregations. Even today churches need to have things straightened out. Once we straighten out one thing there will soon be something else to deal with. He spoke on
1. The greeting
The long greeting (only the one in Romans is longer) is not intended to inform Titus but to remind the congregations of important truths. When we teach Scripture we are in part telling the people what to expect from us. He also spoke of the way older men can be such a help to younger ministers.
2. Leadership
It is noteworthy that Paul starts here. We need to see how important this is. He protested against the feminisation of the Church of  Scotland and spoke of the great help that good elders can be - like those who defend the quarter back in American football. He then went through the various qualifications negative and positive.
3. The empty deceivers
He closed by warning against these who elders must be able to deal with.

Where are all the preachers?

This is my paper. I only gave 10 of my 12 points.
Where are all the preachers?
Our subject is not an easy one to tackle but having given some thought to the matter, it seems to me that there are a large number of factors that may well explain, at least in part, why there is an apparent lack of preachers in the churches typical of our circle. We were asked to consider the questions both of the shortage of preachers and of good preaching. This list chiefly looks at the matter of the fewness of preachers but I think has something to say to the other question too.
I would like to begin with three caveats.
1. We do not know for a fact that there is a shortage of preachers or of good preaching. We may be mistaken in either or both perceptions.
2. It may be that it is the Lord's will that there is such a shortage. It may well be the case that we are better off with too few rather than with too many, as the story of Gideon teaches us. Whereas in the past some became preachers who weren't called that is less likely now.
3. Many years ago I read a book by the late Leonard Ravenhill called Why revival tarries. Sadly, the only thing I remember about it was a chapter lamenting what was then the widespread practice of lobotomy. My fear is that someone will remember just one thing I say and come away with the false impression that I believe that we would have more preachers if we could only get rid of Christianity Explored or if only there were less assistant pastors. It would be unfair to caricature what I want to say in that way.
So 12 factors that may explain, at least in part, why there is an apparent lack of preachers.
1. The lack of conversions
It would be difficult to demonstrate that a lack of conversions leads to a lack of preachers but common sense would suggest that a shortage of conversions is likely to lead to a dearth of preachers.
2. The lack of revival
Again, proving such a thesis is almost impossible but it would seem that ministers are often called to the ministry in times of revival or at least when a measure of awakening is known, something very rare amongst us.
3. A lack of agreement on what constitutes a call
I have just spoken about being called to the ministry. Most men here will be aware that not everyone today would accept that there is even such a thing as a call to the ministry. If we accept, at least for a moment, that there is such a thing, it cannot be denied that any confusion over the matter is going to make it difficult for those who are called to know they are called.
4. The existence of so many assistantships and similar roles
When I began my ministry back in the eighties I would love to have begun with an assistant pastorate. Sadly, there were hardly any to be had. That has now changed to some extent and it is more common for men to begin that way. While that is probably a good thing in itself, it means that more men are tied up in assistant pastorates and so less are out leading churches and preaching. There has probably been a growth too in joint pastorates and perhaps parachurch roles too.
[5. The easy availability of vast numbers of sermons in recorded form
While this is probably a good thing in itself, it may well be that it has put some off attending churches, discouraged preachers who cannot preach as well as the internet giants and generally skewed a right understanding of what good preaching is.]
6. Trust in group work
Both in evangelical circles and in our own narrower Reformed ones there has been something of an epidemic of aids for small group evangelistic Bible studies. Whatever view we may take of this phenomenon it is not difficult to see the inevitable danger of it detracting from pulpit work and from preaching of a more conventional sort.
7. The rejection of the one man ministry
I am using a popular but emotive phrase for the sake of brevity. However we understand the changes that have taken place in the last few decades that can be placed under this heading and whatever we may make of such changes, the knock on effect is surely to discourage men from entering the Christian ministry as traditionally understood.
8. The growth of eldership
Again, this is not something that we want to decry necessarily. It can be argued, however, that some who might have gone into the ministry have settled for an eldership position supposing they can be just as effective while not entering full time ministry.
9. The growth of evangelical theology
There was a time when the study of theology was largely written off by evangelicals due to the incursions of liberalism. There has been a welcome resurgence of evangelical theology in more recent years which, while a good thing, has meant that some young men have such a high regard for good theologians that the ministry can appear a rather unattractive role in some ways.
[10. The ubiquity of the entertainment culture
We are a society where entertainment has a top heavy visibility and influence. Whereas the ministry once had a certain attraction as a role that draws crowds, that is now very limited and no doubt there are some busily contemplating a career in sport or sports journalism, in acting or in music who in another time or place would be giving much more consideration to preaching. At the same time, the entertainment culture can encourage preaching that is not necessarily the best for men's souls.]
11. The demise of the idea of a life career
Various changes have led to the current situation where a life career in one area is increasingly unusual. It is tempting to think then of the ministry as one of several options to pursue in life rather than giving one's whole life to such work as was once more common.
12. The downplaying of the idea of an educated ministry
While education itself can never improve preaching this phenomenon has probably led not only to poorer preaching but also to a lower view of what a minister is in general so again making the ministry a less attractive calling. No doubt other factor could be highlighted such as prayer, secret sin and the increase in educational opportunities outside the ministry but these twelve should be enough to be chewing on for now.

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At 5 pm on Tuesday our fifth session here was a discussion on the question "Where are all the preachers?" Under the highly efficient chairmanship of Lewis Allen (Huddersfield) three of us addressed the subject - Warren Peel (Coleraine) Robert Strivens (LTS/Childs Hill) and myself. Warren spoke on the need for setting forth God's Word on its own terms, exalting Christ and being doxological. Robert spoke about encouragements but identified a lack of awakening preaching as a problem as we are living in a post-Christian age but need to bring the message home and not be diffident in our preaching. He also identified personal communion with God as an important factor. I will post my own contribution separately next.

Nicholas Murray Extract


... As to the ministry, there are obviously two extremes in the Church; one among ministers, the other among the people. That among ministers, is an abuse of their office, so as to make it a stepping-stone to power, and to the exercise of undue dominion over their brethren. That among the people, arises from the idea that, because ministers are servants, therefore they are their masters. The one extreme has given rise to hierarchies, which, in their most modified forms, have been a calamity to the Church and the work — and the other has given rise to insubordination, springing from the assumption that ministers, as such, were accountable to the people, and not to Jesus Christ. These extremes exist and are producing one another; as in the state, anarchy produces despotism, and despotism anarchy. Whilst the people owe obedience to scriptural officers, exercising due authority in the Lord, ministers should ever regard the precept of their Master, "He that will be great, let him be the servant of all," and the example of their Master, who said, "I have been among you as one that serveth." They should aim to be, in every respect, "able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." But what are the characteristics of an able minister of the New Testament? We would place among these:- 
1. Decided piety
— Piety is a firm and right apprehension of the being, perfections, and providence of God, with suitable affections to him, resemblance to his moral perfections, and a constant obedience to his will. To be an able minister and faithful, this must be decidedly possessed. Otherwise, the great spring of ministerial life is wanting, or defective. No gifts however splendid or attractive can compensate for the lack of piety. It requires but a small degree of this for a young man to go through our required course of training for the ministry, and to sustain a respectable character. Its trial commences with the active duties of the ministry. There is difficulty in finding a field of labour, and division attending his settlement, his salary is inadequate, his labours are exhausting, his people are lukewarm, he is opposed in his labours, the world murmurs, his preaching is not successful, his talents are depreciated, and he is apparently neglected by his brethren. Now comes the trial of faith, piety, and principles, which soon makes apparent the real state of a minister's heart. And unless his heart is deeply imbued with the Spirit of Christ, he fails to accomplish many of the great ends for which the ministry was instituted. The lack of that Spirit also manifests itself in efforts to become what the world calls a popular preacher. One is truly popular by the force of his talents and the fervour of his piety ; another, because he makes it his main object. Between these there is a great difference. One is simple and solemn; the other, magniloquent and self-complacent. The one impresses by his thoughts ; the other, by his language. The one collects his flowers from Calvary ; the other, from Parnassus. The one wins converts to Christ; the other, makes admirers of himself The one moistens the eye with a tear ; the other, curls the lip with a smile of admiration. The one preaches strongly and boldly the doctrines of the cross ; the other, withholds them, lest they should offend, and blunts his arrows lest they should penetrate; — emulous of the reputation of a popular preacher. These nice and pretty preachers are too rapidly multiplying; and they will continue to increase or diminish in the proportion of the degree of serious piety in the ministry. Such are not ambassadors for Christ; they are but Sabbath-day performers before fashionable audiences, that seek amusement alternately at the church, the opera, and the theatre! How gladly the Jewish Church suffered from false prophets and priests ! How soon the early Church was rent and torn by ungodly ministers ! For how many ages, not excepting our own, the boasted successors of the Apostles were the vilest of men ! How even, at the present day, in some countries nominally Protestant, the lowest infidelity is decked in the robes of the ministry; and how, in communions regarded as evangelical, an unsanctified clergy are prostituting the order and ordinances of God's house, to the supplanting of a spiritual by a formal and ritual religion! And, when we examine the history of the Church, we find that true piety was the great element of the success of those who have most blest it by their ministry. It was the piety of Paul that sustained him amid his manifold trials, and persecutions, and untiring labours. We owe the glorious Reformation far more to the piety than to the policy or talents of the reformers. What but the piety of our Presbyterian fathers sustained and animated them amid the glens, and the rocks, and the mountains of Scotland, when the bloody trooper was sent out for their murder by those who worshipped in cathedrals. And if we look into the character of such men as Baxter, Doddridge, Edwards, Dickinson, Davies, Tennant, or to come down to some of our own Alumni, whose names are as fragrant ointment among us, we find that decided, warm-hearted piety was the great element of their success.
2. To be an able minister requires due qualification for the work
In the magnitude of its objects the preaching of the gospel far surpasses every other employment in which man can engage. There is scarcely any intellectual culture, civil liberty, or social order, but through its influence. And it is alike God's appointed instrument for the salvation of men, and for the moral illumination of our world. To the scheme of redemption all objects and events in our world are subordinate and subservient. This is the point where all the attributes of God converge into a blaze of glory. And the means appointed to make known the redemption which is in Christ Jesus to our world, is the preaching of the gospel. If angels, without being satisfied, are prying into its wonders; if Paul, so eloquent and aged, could say, " Who is sufficient for these things," — then a pious, uninspired man, should seek the highest possible qualifications for the ministry. The distinguishing mark of a faithful minister is this, "he shall feed his people with knowledge and understanding." Unless he possesses these, how can he mete them out to his people ? What, but sound, can an empty vessel send forth? Regarding an uneducated ministry as unfit to instruct the people, as unfitted to obtain for the gospel the attention and the respect of the thoughtful, and as very liable to become the dupes of error, and the promoters of fanaticism and folly, our Church, from its origin, has insisted on an educated ministry. Hence, it has ever been the patron of the school, the academy, the college, and of schools for the instruction of her rising prophets. Hence, the erection of this Seminary, and of its sister institutions, that the future pastors of the churches may have the benefit of a thorough training for their high duties. Mere piety will exert an influence; but it requires an alliance with talent and education to arrest the attention of the vicious, and to reform public morals. It required all the talent and education of Paul, to cross the Rubicon of Jewish prejudice; to confute the Pharisee and Sadducee in the Synagogue; the sophist in the school of Tyrannus, and the subtle heathen in all the courts of the Gentiles. It required all the talent and education of Luther and Melancthon to breast the storm of papal wrath that fell upon them ; and, like the towering cliff, to bear unmoved and uninjured, the tempest, the thunder, and the lightning, that played around them. And wherever the gospel has made signal and permanent conquests, in changing the face of society, in moulding civil and moral institutions, in correcting the opinions and reforming the lives of the intelligent and influential, it has been always preached by men of high mental endowment, and of great and varied acquisition. The living historian of the Reformation tells us, that "the Reformers always connected deep study with the laborious ministry; the ministry was the end, study was but the means." And this we might learn from their works. And here we have revealed one of the great elements of their success. The great defect of the ministry of our day is a neglect of study; and this is induced by causes which we cannot now stop to state. They are known of all men. A young man of fine promise concludes his course of study and becomes a pastor, exciting high hopes of eminence and usefulness. Amid the calls and rewards of active life, books and studies are neglected. Applauded by those who praise without stint, because without sense, he soon learns to lean upon his unassisted genius and natural sagacity. He soon discovers a way to reputation other and shorter than the dull and beaten one of industry. He soon cuts the knot that he cannot untie, and jumps the difficulty that he cannot remove, and depends less upon patience of investigation than upon his intuition to comprehend causes, and subjects, and methods of argumentation. And soon his mind, naturally fertile and productive, becomes a barren. Now his sermons are alike, whatever may be the text. All have something old, but nothing new. His people complain ; but habits are now formed which cannot be mended. His people cry for meat, and he gives them milk. Unprofited by his labours, they seek a dismission; and he must retire from a field where diligent habits of study would make him an honoured and useful man until the almond blossoms flourished upon his head. He began a man; he ends a boy. As a rule, the minister should make everything give way to a due and full preparation for the pulpit. The pulpit is the place from which to instruct the people. There, pre-eminently, he is to prove himself an able minister of the New Testament. He should ever feel that the image of God is not to be re-in- stamped upon our world by those who are talkers, and exhorters, and storytellers, instead of preachers and teachers ; and whose best prepared nutriment is but milk for babes.
3. To be an able minister of the New Testament requires the full presentation of its great doctrines
It is by the preaching of the gospel, that God has ordained to save men. Everything else, so far as saving men is concerned, is but giving scorpions for eggs, and serpents for fish. The grand object of the Saviour during his incarnation, was to prove that he was the promised Messiah, by the miracles which he wrought, and by showing that in himself all the lines of history and prophecy met and blended. His life he closed upon the cross agreeably to the Scriptures ; being made a sin offering for his people, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him. And with the cup of sorrow in his hand, and with the agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary in full view, he uttered this memorable sentiment, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." This refers, primarily, to his crucifixion, but in a secondary and important sense to the preaching of the doctrines of the cross. And, hence, after the resurrection had completed the circle of testimony to his Messiahship, and the Spirit had been granted, the work of the Apostles was to preach a crucified Christ as God's great remedy for the moral diseases of man. This was the theme of Peter amid the gatherings at the feast of Pentecost — and of Paul amid all the cities of the Gentiles. Their grand theme was " repentance towards God, and fixeth in the Lord Jesus Christ." And, hence, their ministry was mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds. And such is the course which must be pursued by all their successors in office who desire to approve themselves as able ministers of the New Testament. When we look into the ages of conflict between truth and error, we find that those have been always the victors who presented the doctrines of the cross most simply and purely. And in every branch of the Church that ministry has been most successful which has been thus characterized. The preaching of Christ and him crucified, produced the Reformation, and has sustained it. If any doubt this, let them read D'Aubigne, and Luther on the Galatians, and the Life of John Knox, and Howe's Living Temple, and his nine sermons on Friendship with God, and Flavel's forty-two sermons on the character of Christ, and his thirty-four on the method of Grace, and Owen on the Spirit, and on the Person and Glory of Christ. A Christ crucified for the sins of sinners, as their substitute, and in their law place, is the great central truth of our religion. And to the directing of the eyes of all men to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, an able minister of the New Testament will make everything subservient. The Alumni of this Seminary will all testify that thus we have been emphatically taught by the venerated Professor in whose vacated chair we place to-day a successor. And our heartfelt supplication will ascend to the God of all grace, that in this, as in all other respects, the mantle of Elijah may fall upon Elisha. And is there not need for warning upon this subject, when so many are turning away from the simplicity of Christ, spoiling the gospel, " through philosophy, and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of this world?" Instead of preaching Christ, and simply expounding His word, how many are seeking, above all things, to make adherents to their own peculiarities ! One has his theory of moral suasion, — another, of inspiration, — another, as to original sin, — another, as to regeneration, — the atonement; another, as to interpretation, — another, as to the efficacy of sacraments and ceremonies, — another, of moral and social reform. In many portions of the Church there is a raging controversy as to the mint, anise, and cummin, amid which the lifting up of the Son of Man is sadly neglected. It is the preaching of the cross that gives power to the ministry ; and when that is neglected for anything else, we cut off the lock of our strength. The truth as it is in Jesus is the only successful weapon of the ministry; and the history of the Church is pregnant with the most important lessons upon this subject. As the truth died out from the ancient Church, fancy, and credulity, and corruption had a freer play ; the tokens of departing glory and of a coming night fearfully multiplied. Shade thickened after shade. Each succeeding age came wrapped in a deeper gloom, until the sun which rose over Judea set at Rome, — until the flood of light which it poured upon the world had to retreat before that long, long night, called the "Dark Ages” which seemed to roll on as if it were never to end ! And what, in some quarters, has been made the reproach of our beloved Institution, is its true glory; and is the great cause of the rejoicing of all its friends, and of its influence in all sections of our country, and in all branches of the Church, that amid the currents and counter currents of erroneous doctrine ; amid the conflicts of philosophy falsely so called; amid the storms which have blown over the Church, and which have made some of its men of might to bow; amid the reproaches of lukewarmness and time-serving by its friends, and of bigoted attachment to antiquated formularies, and of blind submission to authority b}^ its enemies ; it has continued steadfast and immovable in the faith once delivered to the saints. So may it ever continue. And the prayer of all of us will ascend to the God of all grace that the beloved brother placed among its professors by the election of the Church, may strengthen every cord that tends to bind it, in immovable anchorage under the shelter of the Rock of Ages.
4. An able minister must be impressive
If true as the notable reviewer of Milton affirms, that "as civilization advances poetry necessarily declines," it is equally true, and for the same reasons, that in the proportion people are enlightened, is it difficult to impress them! In the age of Moses the Jews, were more easily impressed than in that of Isaiah ; and as the unsanctified mind becomes accustomed to the light of science and religion, does it lose its susceptibility of impression from the public exhibitions of divine truth! And hence the inelegant but descriptive phrase, "a gospel-hardened sinner," to describe a person who, under the influence of light, has lost, measurably, that susceptibility. We state the principle, not as an argument for the blessedness of ignorance, but for an impressive ministry. It is by the preaching of the gospel that men are to be saved instrumentally; and no effort should be left untried to raise up a ministry prepared to preach, so as to impress men with a sense of its eternal importance. And especially should this be the case in our country, where, more than in any other, the public mind is swayed by popular addresses; where the current to worldliness is so proverbially strong, and where, perhaps, more than in any other, the difficulty may be greater of arresting attention, and turning away the heart from the pursuit of vanity. Ours, beyond all others, is the country for a Whitefield, a Summerfield, a Larned, a John Breckinridge; men peculiarly adapted to sway the masses, and whose dispensation was public impression. Such men may leave no monuments to their learning ; but they give out impulses which may be absorbed by other minds, and plans of action, and thus pass away from view, but never die. May it not be that to this point too little attention is directed in our seminaries; and by our young brethren who resort to them for instruction ? Their chairs of theology, and of history, and of criticism, are filled with the best, and best furnished minds in the Church; but in many of them there is no adequate provision made for instruction in the art of preaching. In the field which is the world, the power of impression is the main thing; is it not regarded as too secondary in our theological schools? Is it not even sometimes the subject of the sneer of the dull scholastic? Notwithstanding the positive and accumulated evidence upon the subject, there is a way of talking about popular talent as if it were necessarily disconnected with profound thought ; and also a way of talking about mere scholarship, and the power of accumulation, as if they could accomplish everything. And the whole machinery of our preparation for the ministry, is calculated thus to impress our candidates for the pulpit. Hence, many of our young ministers can read their Hebrew Bibles fluently, who cannot in public read a chapter of the English version, without stumbling and mispronouncing from the beginning to the end. Many can read Homer and Horace, with accuracy and fluency, who cannot read a hymn of Watts or Newton, with the emphasis or elegance of a young lady from some of our best boarding schools. Many can write a sermon according to rule, and of power both as to truth and argument ; but when they come to preach it, so dull and slovenly is their manner, and so drawling and holy is their tone, that to their hearers it has neither sense, point, truth, or force. As spiritual fishermen they cast the net so clumsily as to drive off, instead of drawing up the fishes. And so little skill in adapting themselves to circumstances have many of our best educated licentiates, that they wander through our vacancies for years, without meeting with a congregation willing to extend a call to their educated dullness. We are far from believing that too much is done to secure the full education of our ministry ; we would rather increase than diminish the time for preparation, and the course of study ; but the conviction is deep and heartfelt, that far too little is done to give it power and impressiveness in public. We may differ as to the cause, but the fact is obvious, that our ministry, to a lamentable degree fails to impress the masses. The necessary ingredients to impressiveness in the preacher are, good writing, good speaking, and a manner at once solemn and earnest. When these are accompanied with a character for consistent piety, they cannot fail to attract and to impress. And hence they should be sedulously cultivated in order to usefulness. To be sure, education cannot supply everything where nature has been parsimonious of her gifts. But it can do much ; and what we plead for, is, that far more attention should be given to that side of the education of our ministry which fits it for impressively preaching the gospel, so as to reach the great masses that are out in ways of wandering from God.
(5) When we add to these characteristics of an able minister of the New Testament, that of entire consecration to the work of the ministry, our picture is complete
The injunction of our Lord is, "pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers unto his harvest." The Lord's harvest requires labourers, not idlers. Those who enter the field in answer to this prayer, enter it, not to seek the lordship of it, nor yet to fatten on the labours of others, but to work in it during the whole day of their lives, whether it be long or short. It is not sufficient for a true minister to feel a general desire to be useful; he must be possessed by a desire for the salvation of men, which will give him no rest but as he seeks to gratify it. Souls are his hire ; and many waters cannot quench the love which inflames his heart to obtain them. It is this one great, absorbing feeling, which takes him to his study, to his closet, to the chamber of sickness, to the pulpit. It inspires every sermon he writes, gives energy to every address he makes, and fervency to every prayer he utters, and marks all his intercourse with all men. He is seeking a place among those who, by turning many to righteousness, will shine as the stars forever, and forever. A church with such a ministry is a growing and glorious church. But will any say, this is a fancy sketch, unattainable by ordinary men ? But is not Christ the pattern for our imitation ? And his meat and drink was, to do the will of his Father. But will any say he was divine ? Then look at Paul ; from the hour the scales fell from his eyes, until the hour he went up to receive his crown from his exalted Saviour, he lived but for one object : to save men by the preaching of the truth. But will any say, he was inspired ? Then look at "Whitefield and Wesley. " When you see them dividing their lives between the pulpit and the closet ; sacrificing every comfort, crossing the ocean many times, moving populous cities, often rising from the bed of sickness to preach to multitudes, and under circumstances which rendered it not improbable that they might exchange the pulpit for the tomb ;" when you look at the lives and labour of these, and such men as Heywood, and Baxter, and Chalmers, and others among the dead and the living, you will see that we have drawn no fancy sketch. When it was announced to the dying Backus, whose ministry was greatly protracted and useful, that he could not survive an hour, " then," said he, " place me on my knees, that I may offer up another prayer for the Church of God before I die." He was placed upon his knees; and upon his knees, praying for the Church of God, he died. Such being what we consider the characteristics of an able minister of the New Testament, we proceed briefly to state: — Our country is incomparably the most inviting field for Christian exertion which the world contains. Its territory is vast, its soil productive, its wealth beyond computation, — its mind, intelligent and active; its institutions free. We possess the broadest liberty, and the most perfect security. And as free as is the air to the electric fluid, so free is our country to the exchange of thought, and open to manly discussion on all kinds of subjects. It is also the point towards which almost all the streams of emigration rising in the old world are flowing. The strangers weekly landed on our shores, under the genial influence of our institutions, are soon moulded into fellow-citizens. And a minister must possess the gift of tongues who can in their own language preach to the few hundred inhabitants of any of our rising villages on the banks of the Ohio, or on the shores of our lakes. As a nation, our physical power is vigorous, and it is all driven as by steam. The most enterprising people of Europe in comparison with our own, are but as the sluggish Rhine as it flows through Holland, to our Niagara. Indeed we possess all the great elements of power, with room to grow, and nurture to sustain. But these elements are not yet fully combined ; and a few generations are to determine whether we will be governed by infidelity and Popery, or by morality and religion. Unless the gospel gains the ascendancy in this nation, the astonishment excited by our unexampled progress to greatness, will give way to the greater astonishment of our sudden fall And whether or not the gospel shall obtain the ascendancy depends, under God, upon the fact whether or not it is supplied with an able ministry. And what but a ministry earnest as was that of Paul and Whitefield, truthful as was that of Davies and Brainerd, self-sacrificing as was that of our Scottish and Irish ancestry, can scatter the salt from the Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the east across the Great River, through Texas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, and California, in such quantities as to preserve their rapidly growing communities from moral putrefaction? Let but a tithe of the enterprise which reigns in the world around us, glow in the bosom of the ministry of our land, and soon the Rocky Mountains will cry to the Alleghenies, and the Sacramento to the Hudson, and the Columbia to the Ohio: "O, magnify the Lord with me, let us exalt his name together." Nor when we look at the state of the world, is the kingdom of heaven as near as many would imagine. This age does not answer the description of that which is to precede the setting up of the kingdom of our Lord. Before Jesus Christ becomes the king of nations, there will be a conflict which will make the earth to tremble. The signs of the times are already portentous in the old world. Popery is yet what it was in the days of its Gregories, Clements, and Johns. The lion is caged, but his natural ferocity and tusks remain. And Mahometanism is yet what it was in the days of its Alis and Omars. It is civilly weak ; it has lost its bold spirit of enterprise and imposture ; but its heart is the same. Nor has heathenism lost any of its stupid and sullen resistance to the truth. " The prince of the powers of the air," yet rules the heathen world with a strong hand. Nor will these powers always look quietly on, and without resistance, see their territories won over to the Prince of Peace. There is yet a battle to be fought, when, as seen in vision by the prophet, the blood may come up to the horse's bridles. True, the result is not doubtful. Victory wall eventually perch upon the banner under which are ranged the people and saints of the Most High. But an able ministry is needed to prepare the Church for the conflict ; to lead on the hosts of the elect, and to guide them in the coming struggle. And the present state of the visible Church loudly calls for such a ministry. A wasting and multiform fanaticism, claiming almost prophetic revelations, is deluding multitudes. A religion of forms, and sacraments, and priestly interferences, is deluding multitudes more. Prelacy, for reasons baseless as the fabric of a vision, is urging its exclusive claims to be the true church ; and in some quarters, with a narrowness and bigotry better suited to the dotage of the "Latin sister." Popery, too, is lifting up its wounded head, and is stretching its aged limbs, and is urging its gray hairs and furrowed brow, its decrepitude, its wounds, and its weakness, to make unto itself friends. And amid our evangelical churches, old heresies are rising under new names, and old errors are returning in a new dress, distracting the councils of the wise and the good, and arraying brethren against one another, who should stand shoulder to shoulder in the conflict with the common enemy. In any of our villages of one thousand inhabitants we meet with the rationalism of Germany, the infidelity of France, the apostasy of Oxford, and the stupid Popery of Ireland. And everywhere is human nature in ruins, and the carnal heart with its errors and prejudices. To silence these adversaries ; to repel their assaults upon the truth, and to save men from their snares, we need minds trained, sanctified, and active, that can pour forth light like the sun. A feeble opposition to these is worse than none, as they measure their strength, not by the volume of their own muscle, but by the dexterity with which they cause a weak opponent, like a silk worm, to wind himself up in the web of his own weaving. In our age and country, mind is unshackled, — and with the chains of superstition it has thrown aside reverence for orders, office, station. We make the statement only to record an historical fact. Nothing is now received without investigation, but error and nonsense. The attachments of clans, parties, sects, descending from one generation to another, are here unknown. The f\ict that a man is a minister obtains no notes for his opinions; and in many portions of the land, secures many against them. The most catholic principles are here discussed, as if but just stated ; and creeds and confessions, sealed by the blood of martyrs, and which have received the sanction of ages, are searched and sifted as if but just published. Amid such an array of opposition, the advocacy of truth requires the ablest minds that God has created. Efficacy as to the success of the truth is from God, but the instrumentality is with man; and the more able our ministry, the surer the hopes of its speedy triumphs. As we cannot expect every lawyer to be a Blackstone, nor every judge to be a Marshall, nor every physician to be a Rush, nor every soldier to be a Washington, nor every philosopher to be a Newton, so neither can we expect every minister to be a Paul, a Chalmers, a Miller, or an Alexander. There are various departments and fields of labour in the Church to occupy every variety of talent in the ministry; and every man sustaining that relation to the world should occupy their every talent to the full ; and, like the stars in heaven, should fill up the orbit in which they move with their light. A minister in our age and country, where so much is to be done, and yet finding nothing to do! Out upon such ministers! Had they lived in the days of Noah, they would have found themselves in lack of water when the waves of the deluge were rising around them. Such, my brother, is the ministry needed in our day by the Church and the world. It was for the education of such a ministry that our fathers founded the Theological Seminary located in this town ; and that through the years of its history, it has been fostered and cherished by the General Assembly. And it is to aid to the utmost of your ability, in the education of such a ministry, that you have been called by the Church from a sister Seminary to be a professor in this Institution. No higher mark of their confidence could the Directors of this Seminary give you than their unanimous nomination of you to the Assembly which has transferred you here; and we feel assured that that confidence will be justified, by a life consecrated to the high interests which we cheerfully commit to your trust. ....

Banner 2012 04

In the second session of the morning Jonathan Watson of the Banner spoke on the ministry we need - lessons from old Princeton. The bulk of the paper was drawn from a message on the ministry we need originally given by one Nicholas Murray in 1854, but copiously illustrated from others especially the Princetonians.
His five points were that it an able minister of the New Testament is marked by
1. Decided piety
2. Due qualification for the work
3. Giving a full presentation of the great doctrines of the New Testament
4. Impressiveness - that is making an impression on sinners
5.Entire consecration to the work of the ministry
Jonathan has been involved in putting together a book on Old Princeton in this anniversary year. It is due out very shortly.   
The message appears to be the one found here.

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In our first session of this second day we heard from Matthew Brennan of Clonmel, Ireland, who gave us a series of portraits of that sometimes forgotten New Testament figure John the Baptist, a hero (we may say) of Jesus himself. He made two points.
1. John's devotion
He began with John declaring Jesus to be the Lamb of God and the application was that as preachers we must faithfully point our hearers to Jesus Christ.
2. John's determination
We went next to John 3 and the concern of John's disciples that their master was losing his position. We were shown John's answer (with its theological understanding, consistent assertion and economic solution) and urged us to see that we are what we are by God's grace and so there is no place for envy or thinking we are indispensable.

Banner 2012 02

Our second session was led by Maurice Roberts who looked at the subject of the justice of God. This was a little diffuse but reminded us of essential truths such as the remunerative and retributive nature of God's justice, the sinfulness of sin (original, depravity and actual sin), repentance, faith in Christ, justification and judgement.

Banner 2012 01

So off to Leicester on the train again. I missed it last year so was doubly glad to be off to the ministers conference. They've built a light and airy new hall for us here at Leicester University and it is good to  be among the four hundred or so present. Ian Hamilton chaired our first session.
It was a great delight to have Ted Donnelly who was unable to speak last year due to serious illness addressing us on Psalm 34:3 urging us to exalt the LORD together. However, he had some real problems giving us the material he had prepared and eventually after several stumbles had to leave the task unfinished despite valiant efforts. The problem was that he was not able to remember what he had given us even though he had preached perfectly well yesterday in Cambridge. We were first aware of this when he repeated all that he had to say under the second heading.
The points made were these.
We should exalt the LORD
1. Because it is the purpose of our being - our calling is to glorify God.
2. Because we are able to bring something unique to God that no angel can bring for they have never known the glory of salvation. They can only long to look into such things.
3. Because we ourselves receive blessing in so doing.
4. Because by so doing we can be enabled to encourage each other.
5. Because it brings joy to the LORD himself. He needs nothing from us but he delights in our praise.
After we had sung again from Psalm 34 Geoff Thomas closed in prayer.
The troubles that afflict the just
In number many be;
But yet at length out of them all
The Lord doth set him free.

London - That's where I wanna be

They are playing this on Radio 2 at the moment. The words are by the late Sandy Denny and the music by Thea Gilmore who sings it.
THEA GILMORE - "London" (words by Sandy Denny)

Banner Conference

I hope to be at Leicester for the ministers conference, My father-in-law will be there too. He gives 10 reasons for attending here.

  1. It stands for the kind of biblical theology that has moved me most over the years. It is Reformational, endorsing the great ‘alones' of the Reformation - Christ alone the ground of our salvation, the Scriptures alone as the authority for what we are to believe, grace alone as our only approach the Holy One, faith alone as the only means of connecting with Christ’s willingness to save us, the glory of God alone as the only worthy end of our existence.

  2. It is Puritan in its approach to the ministry. The preaching must be pastoral and the chief work of the pastor must be through his preaching. It addresses all the classes of people who are there in any congregation, the unconverted, the careless, the inquiring, the backsliding, and the hungering believer. It deals with distinctions between perseverance and preservation, unbelief and doubts, the prodigal and the backslider. It encourages both the ministry that heals the broken hearted and ministry that slays the proud.

  3. It is evangelical in its warmth. It loves the Great Awakening of the 18th century, Edwards in America, Harris and Rowland in Wales, the Erskines in Scotland and Whitefield in England and everywhere else. It encourages warm devotional thoughts of revivals of religion and earnest prayer that God may revive us in these days and preaching that best serves that end.

  4. It is scholarly in its attention to exegesis and theology. One founding presence for years was Professor John Murray. I am daily reading his commentary on Romans once again and it is magnificent. The Conference reveres the Princeton tradition in which he stood at Westminster Seminary. It reveres the early years of New College, Edinburgh with Chalmers, Cunningham and Bannerman and the kind of students the teaching of those men produced.

  5. It is truly ecumenical; some years the balance of speakers is overwhelmingly Baptist while in another year they are overwhelmingly Presbyterian, but there is often a combination of them both. Then there is the sprinkling of the Dutch Reformed brethren (who incidentally pray quietly at the end of their meals together).

  6. It combines an emphasis on piety, history and the doctrines of grace. The papers reflect those strands of true Christianity. History has in fact come alive at the Leicester Conference. Some of the high spots have been Iain Murray’s biographical talks.

  7. The messages have been the bonus. The best part of the conference is to spend three days with one another, talking at meal times or over coffee or going for a walk in the afternoon to Wigton or Oadby, meeting new friends, speaking to men from Asia and Africa. There are men whom I love to see. To be with them is a benediction. I am not always stirred by their preaching, but I am invariably moved seeing them and talking to them again.

  8. There is the matter of the religious affections. By the Thursday of the Leicester Conference I am quite moved by the occasion. I often have a lump in my throat and I am touched by hearing the most simple truths. I suppose those holy feelings are what I think of most as the ethos of ‘the Banner Conference’.

  9. There is the book room and the bargains and the banter. 'You haven’t read the books on your shelves at home, what justification do you have for buying more? Does your wife know you are buying those books?'

  10. The report session is the most mind-expanding occasion as men from the four corners of the globe share their battles and blessings. They come to Leicester still bearing the sword and the trowel. Their ministries are not theoretical but on the cutting edge of kingdom expansion.

New Themelios

You can see the new online Themelios here. Song of songs and John Owen are among the topics covered with loads of reviews as ever.

Murray on MacArthur

I bought this welcome biography last year when it came out but mislaid it and so have only just read it. I am eager to commend it to those who've not had a chance to read it, especially preachers. Macarthur is one of the major preachers of our day and apart from one or two aberrations stands where the best Reformed Baptists stand. The book's strength is that it is both informative and analytical. We get a full picture of the way the ministry has grown over the years and its present vastness. Murray clearly greatly respects his subject but is not afraid to criticise or disagree when he finds that necessary yet without getting in the way. He is also interested in the bigger question of what God is doing in all this. Our indebtedness to Iain Murray, which is already great, goes up anther notch, therefore.

Works of Thomas Carlyle

(1828) Essay on Robbie Burns
(1829) Signs of the Times
(1831) Sartor Resartus (novel)
(1837) The French Revolution: A History
(1840) Chartism
(1841) On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History
(1843) Past and Present
(1845) Oliver Cromwell's letters and speeches, with elucidations, editor (3 vols)
(1849) "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question", Fraser's Magazine (anonymous)
(1850) Latter-Day Pamphlets
(1851) The Life Of John Sterling
(1858) History of Friedrich II of Prussia
(1867) Shooting Niagara: and After
(1875) The Early kings of Norway
(1882) Reminiscences of my Irish Journey in 1849
[Most of these texts are available online - see wikipedia page]

A N Wilson Non-fiction

The Laird of Abbotsford: A view of Sir Walter Scott (1980)
The Life of John Milton A Biography (1983)
Hilaire Belloc: A Biography (1985)
Tolstoy: A Biography (1988)
C. S. Lewis: A Biography (1990)
Jesus: A Life (1992)
Paul: The mind of the Apostle (1997)
Iris Murdoch As I Knew Her (2003)
Betjeman (2006)
Dante in Love (2011)
Hitler: a short biography (2011)

How Can We Know? (1985)
Penfriends from Porlock: Essays and reviews 1977-1986
Against Religion: Why we should live without it (1991)
The Rise and Fall of the House of Windsor (1993).
God's Funeral: The Decline of Faith in Western Civilization (1999)
The Victorians (2002)
London: A Short History (2004)
After the Victorians (2005)
Our Times (2008)
The Elizabethans (2011)

Wilson has also written around 20 novels

A N Wilson on Hitller

Passing a bookshop recently I spotted A N Wilson's new short biography of Hitler in the window. I saw it again in our local library doing some photocopying for our Holiday Bible Club and decided to be the first to take it out. (I hadn't used my library card for 666 days the librarian told me so if we lose the library I'm one of the ones to blame).
Anyway, the book is an excellent little tome - brief, informative and not too opinionated. The final and twelfth chapter (181-190) is worth a read. (The very fact the Guardian reviewer didn't like it is a good sign). Wilson's thesis is that Hitler was both ordinary and extraordinary. I like his observations such as  "Hitler believed in a crude Darwinism as do nearly all scientists today", the fact that this year's Olympics will be modelled on the Berlin 1936 games ("The Olympic torch was a Nazi invention) and the parallel between Hitler wanting every family to have a car and Tony Blair wanting every child to have a laptop. He says of Hitler "he believed himself to be enlightened and forward-looking, non-smoking, vegetarian, opposed to hunting, in favour of abortion and euthanasia."