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.

Welsh and Proud 4 Walter Clopton Wingfield

Walter Clopton Wingfield
Walter Clopton Wingfield 1833-1912
Born (1790-07-04)16 October 1833 in Ruabon, Denbighshire
Died (1867-01) 1912 (aged 78) London
 Fields          Military, Leisure

 Known for  Inventing lawn tennis (disputed)

Welsh and Proud 3 George Everest

George Everest
George Everest 1790-1866
Born4 July 1790 near Crickhowell (1790-07-04)
Died1 December 1866 (1867-01) (aged 76) London
ResidenceCrickhowell, Wales
 Field                              Geography

 Known for                    Great Trigonometric Survey of India, Mount Everest named for him
(He pronounced his name Eve-rest)

Thumbs up for evening services

See Tim Challies here

Augustine on singing and its temptations

This is from Chapter 4 of Book X of Augustine's Confessions

49. I was more entangled and submissive where the pleasures of hearing are concerned until you cut me loose and gave me back my freedom. Now when I hear music vibrant with your Scripture, sung with skill in a sweet voice, I yield to some degree, I must admit, but am not hypnotised by it, since I can break off at any point. Nonetheless, when the music carries a meaning that enters into me, it makes something in my heart honour it, I know not how properly - do I prize it higher than I should? When music is added to the sacred words, I find that our souls are kindled to more ardent piety than when they stand alone, as if each emotion of our spirit were being touched by its own special tone or tune, intimately responsive to it by some secret tie. A delicious physical sound should not melt our reason, but should attend it as its subordinate partner - but once admitted on these terms, it tends to skip ahead of reason and take the lead from it. When this occurs, I go wrong without realising it, and only recognise what has happened later on.

50. Yet at other times, suspicious of being misled, I adopt too great a caution, harshly willing to ban all melodic sweetening of David’s words sung in the psalms, not only from my own hearing but from that of the entire church - though I think it safer to follow a rule often reported to me as being that of Athanasius, Alexandria’s bishop. He had the cantor so flatten out the tune that he seemed rather to be speaking the psalm than singing it. But in the last analysis, when I recall the tears I shed at the church music when I first returned to the faith, and how moved I am even now by the meaning of the music rather than the music itself - so long as the words are sung in a clear voice appropriately fitted to the tune - I see just how useful music can be. So, though my mind hovers between pleasure’s danger and the custom’s benefits, and I would not want to adhere blindly to one view of the matter, I increasingly favour the practice of singing in church, which can strengthen the wavering soul’s feeling for religion. Yet I must testify for myself that when I am moved more by the music than by its meaning, I feel this offence should be punished, and wish I had not listened to the cantor. That is my plight. Weep for it, all you whose concern for virtue issues in good works - those without that concern will not care enough to weep for me. But you, Lord my God, hear me, heed, look on with pity, and heal me, before whom I am made a riddle to myself, which is the symptom of my sins.

Things seen (normal human beings)

I was in a  local shopping centre recently and as I was coming up the escalator this woman called down to her husband or boy friend hurrying him along to something she wanted him to be with her on. She urged him to keep up with her "like normal human beings" - this as she and her partner literally ran through the centre. "Normal human beings" are not a common reference point for me as they are for some but I did wonder if her language was justified.

Britain's Great War

We watched the first of four episodes of Jeremy Paxman's series for BBC 1 on the First World War last night. It was pretty good. I had not realised that Britain was actually invaded in that period with over a hundred dying on the north east coast. My grandfather was a conscript who was at the Somme so I have always been aware of the war but not well informed about it really. Eleri's grandfather was a conscientious objector. More here.

Things seen (Augustine)

I was sat drinking coffee in a coffee shop and I came to the famous part of the Confessions where Augustine is converted (I mean the Tolle Lege bit). Anyway after reading it once again and being moved by it I looked up and I noticed on the other side of the street there was one of these fellows who walks around with a stick and something written on it (probably Jesus) as a way of witnessing. As he walked along with his friend a woman shouted something at him - probably not complimentary. She and her friend appeared to be people with a drink problems. After stopping briefly he walked on with his friend and she and her friend headed the other way so that we six soon briefly formed a triangle - me and Augustine in the coffee shop, the professing Christian and his friend at one angle and the two alcoholics at the other. Augustine was once as lost as the drunks and so was I but God saved him (and me) as he saved the man witnessing and his friend I hope.

Pete Seeger

I hear Pete Seeger has died. See here. I was looking for a version of Turn Turn Turn but spotted this. I remember my mother singing this gospel song that he re-discovered. I notice it includes the line "meet my mother on the other side". You betcha.

Welsh and Proud 2 John Cowper Powys

John Cowper Powys
John-Cowper-Powys 2.jpg
John Cowper Powys (1872-1963)

8 October 1872
Shirley, Derbyshire
Died17 June 1963
Blaenau Ffestiniog
EducationSherborne School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
OccupationAuthor and lecturer

Welsh and Proud 1 Robert Recorde

Robert Recorde
Robert recorde.jpg
Robert Recorde (1512–1558)
Bornca. 1512
Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Died1558 (1559)
London, England
FieldsMathematician and physician
InstitutionsUniversity of Oxford
Royal Mint
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
University of Cambridge
Known forInventing the "equals" sign (=)

Novelists 36 H Rider Haggard

Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856 –1925) was an English writer of adventure novels set in exotic locations, predominantly Africa, and a founder of the Lost World literary genre. He was also involved in agricultural reform throughout the British Empire. His stories, situated at the lighter end of Victorian literature, continue to be popular and influential. His earliest novels are his most famous - King Solomon's Mines (1885) Allan Quatermain (1887) She (1887) Cleopatra (1889). He wrote many more right up until 1921.

CYSK 12 David Brainerd

David Brainerd (1718–1747) was an American missionary to the Native Americans who had a particularly fruitful ministry among the Delaware Indians of New Jersey. During his short life he was beset by many difficulties. As a result, his biography (penned by the great Jonathan Edwards) has become a source of inspiration and encouragement to many Christians, including missionaries such as Carey, Jim Elliot and Brainerd's cousin, the Second Great Awakening evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801–1829). Despite his expulsion from Yale (for a youthfully rash pronouncement on one of the lecturers' faith), the University later named a building after him (Brainerd Hall at Yale Divinity School), the only building on the campus to be named after a student who was expelled. He was indirectly responsible for the founding of Dartmouth and Princeton Colleges.

Augustine's Confessions

I was at the John Owen Centre today for the 42nd (apparently) meeting of the Theological Study Group, which is a book reading group. Our book for today was an old one (we try and alternate with newer ones). Under the competent chairmanship of Jeremy Walker eight of us discussed Augustine's Confessions. Most of were working from Roman Catholic Garry Wills' relatively recent translation. There was general agreement among the eight of us that this was worth reading although some of it was hard to grasp. Augustine was a n enthusiast, almost maniacal at times. We liked the evangelical Augustine but recognised that there were other elements there that we would not be happy with. It is good when a real classic proves to be as good as people say. There was a variety opinion on the value of the exegesis and the spiritual stimulus it might prove to be. Next time it is Bruce A Ware's The man Christ Jesus.

10 Songs with lion in the title

1. The lion sleeps tonight Tight fit
2. Little lion man Mumford and sons
3. Young lion Vampire Weekend
4. Three Lions Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds
5. Iron Lion Zion Bob Marley and the Wailers
6. Gold lion Yeah Yeah Yeahs
7. Lion Toto
8. Lion's Den Dry the River
9. Can't tame the lion Journey
10. Lions Dire Straits

10 songs with tiger in the title

Not sure why this was on my mind
1. I'm a tiger Lulu
2. Tiger feet Mud
3. Eye of the tiger Survivor
4. Tame my tiger T Rex
5. Tiger ABBA
6. Tiger Emeli Sande
7. Neon tiger The Killers
8. Tiger in the night Katie Melua
9. I've got a tiger by the tail Buck Owens and the Buckaroos
10. Easy tiger Kids in Glass houses

Lord's Day January 26 2014

We were in Matthew 3 (Jesus's baptism) and Esther (6) again yesterday. Numbers were down rather especially in the evening for some reason. The sermons were quite a contrast. I found it a little difficult to find my way preaching on the baptism of Jesus for some reason and the sermon came out relatively short (under 30 minutes). I found Esther 6 much easier and it was approaching 40 minutes by the time I had finished. I tried to be evangelistic in both - and hopefully did that. Praying was much more difficult than preaching for some reason.

10 Football Knights

1. Trevor Brooking Jun-2004 For services to sport; also received CBE 1999 and MBE 1981
2. Matt Busby Jun-1969 After guiding Manchester United to the European Cup title
3. Bobby Charlton Jun-1994 For services to football; regarded as second footballer to be knighted; also received CBE 1974 and OBE 1969
4. Alex Ferguson Jun-1999 Only the eighth football manager or player to be knighted; was also awarded an OBE 1984 and a CBE 1995
5. Tom Finney Jan-1998 For services to football; regarded as third footballer to be knighted; also received CBE 1992 and OBE 1961
6. Geoff Hurst Jun-1998 For services to football; regarded as fourth footballer to be knighted; also received MBE 1975
7. Stanley Matthews Jan-1965 For services to football; regarded as first footballer to be knighted; also received CBE 1957 (the only footballer knighted whilst still playing - people feared the Queen would stab the ball by mistake ;-))
8. Alf Ramsey Jan-1967 For services to football (following England's 1966 World Cup triumph)
9. Bobby Robson Jun-2002 For services to football; also received CBE 1990
10. Walter Winterbottom 1978 For services to sport; also received CBE in 1972 and OBE in 1963 (first England manager)

George Eliot and C H Spurgeon

In an interesting essay on George Eliot here Ernest Payne says
There are a number of references in the correspondence to Spurgeon. George Eliot shared the general interest in the great preacher. While on holiday in the Scilly Islands in June, 1857, she records that "the excitement we saw in the town was owing to the expectation of Mr Spurgeon, who was going to preach for the benefit of an indebted chapel." The following year she writes to a friend: 'Your account of Spurgeon tallies with all I had conjectured from newspaper accounts and from one or two of his printed sermons which I have read - also with his portrait. The only thing that shook me with a doubt was Ruskin's testimony, but Ruskin is a man of strange whims." Ruskin had become a frequent hearer of Spurgeon at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall and contributed 100 guineas to the building fund for the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
In 1859, John Blackwood, the publisher of George Eliot's novels, wrote a long letter to George Henry Lewes after hearing Spurgeon preach. "His voice and elocution seem to me to explain his popularity," he said. "They· are wonderful. As for his matter, I certainly shall not go to hear him again. As for doctrine, he announced in the most unhesitating terms the miserable hopeless creed of the extreme Calvinists that men are sent into the world preordained to Heaven or t'other place and that no conduct on their part can have the slightest influence on their future fate." But George Eliot continued anxious to hear Spurgeon for herself. No opportunity occurred until November, 1870, at the time of the Franco-German War. She was then fifty-one years of age and in poor health. Spurgeon was still only thirty-six. In writing to a friend afterwards, she expressed her satisfaction at being at last able to satisfy her curiosity, but her verdict was unfavourable.
"My impressions fell below the lowest judgement I ever heard passed upon him," she wrote. "He has the gift of a fine voice, very flexible and various; he is admirably fluent and clear in his language, and every now and then his enunciation is effective.  ... And the doctrine. It was a libel on Calvinism, that it should be presented in such a form .... It was the most superficial, grocer's back-parlour view of Calvinistic Christianity; and I was shocked to find how low the mental pitch of our society must be, judged by the standard of this man's celebrity ....  Just now, with all Europe stirred by events, that make every conscience tremble after some great principle as a consolation and guide, it was too exasperating to sit and listen to doctrine that seemed to look no farther than the retail Christian's tea and muffins."*
It was hardly likely that Spurgeon would appeal to one who, however sensitive her spirit in certain matters, had renounced the conventional in conduct as well as thought. That her description gives only a partial and prejudiced picture of Spurgeon as a preacher is shown by his influence over a number of outstanding Victorians of shrewd judgement.
*More fully the letter to Miss Sara Hennell, 18th Nov. 1870 reads
Yesterday, for the first time, we went to hear *. I remembered what you had said about his vulgar, false emphasis; but there remained the fact of his celebrity. I was glad of the opportunity. But my impressions fell below the lowest judgement I ever heard passed upon him. He has the gift of a fine voice, very flexible and various; he is admirably fluent and clear in his language, and every now and then his enunciation is effective. But I never heard any pulpit reading and speaking which in its level tone was more utterly common and empty of guiding intelligence or emotion; it was as if the words had been learned by heart and uttered without comprehension by a man who had no instinct of rhythm or music in his soul. And the doctrine! It was a libel on Calvinism that it should be presented in such a form. I never heard any attempt to exhibit the soul's experience that was more destitute of insight. The sermon was against fear, in the elect Christian, as being a distrust of God; but never once did he touch the true ground of fear- the doubt whether the signs of God's choice are present in the soul. We had plenty of anecdotes, but they were all poor and pointless - Tract Society anecdotes of the feeblest kind. It was the most superficial grocer's-back-parlour view of Calvinistic Christianity; and I was shocked to find how low the mental pitch of our society must be, judged by the standard of this man's celebrity. Mr. Lewes was struck with some of his tones as good actor's tones, and was not so wroth as I was. But just now, with all Europe stirred by events that make every conscience tremble after some great principle as a consolation and guide, it was too exasperating to sit and listen to doctrine that seemed to look no further than the retail Christian's tea and muffins. He said "Let us approach the throne of God" very much as he might have invited you to take a chair; and then followed this fine touch - "We feel no love to God because he hears the prayers of others; it is because he hears my prayer that I love him." You see I am relieving myself by pouring out my disgust to you. Oh, how short life - how near death - seems to me! But this is not an uncheerful thought. The only great dread is the protraction of life into imbecility or the visitation of lingering pain. That seems to me the insurmountable calamity, though there is an ignorant affectation in many people of underrating what they call bodily suffering. I systematically abstain from correspondence, yet the number of acquaintances and consequent little appeals so constantly increases that I often find myself inwardly rebelling against the amount of note-writing that I cannot avoid. Have the great events of these months interfered with your freedom of spirit in writing? One has to dwell continually on the permanent, growing influence of ideas in spite of temporary reactions, however violent, in order to get courage and perseverance for any work which lies aloof from the immediate wants of society. You remember Goethe's contempt for the Revolution of '30 compared with the researches on the Vertebrate Structure of the Skull? "My good friend, I was not thinking of those people." But the changes we are seeing cannot be doffed aside in that way.

10 Lawyers turned theologians

1. Tertullian 160-225 (Church father and Montanist)
2. John Calvin 1509-1564 (Calvinist)
3. Pierre Charron 1541-1603 (Catholic theologian)
4. Nathaniel Ward 1578-1652 (Puritan minister in New England)
5. Moses Amyraut 1596-1664 (Amyraldian)
6. Thomas Erskine of Linlathen 1788-1870 (Liberal lay theologian)
7. Charles G Finney 1792-1875 (Semi-Pelagian theologian)
8. C I Scofield 1843-1921 (American dispensationalist theologian)
9. Tokutaro Takakura 1885-1934 (Japanese theologian)
10. Bishop James Pike 1913-1969 (American Liberal TV theologian)

Lord's Day January 19 2014

A little bit behind again but it was a good day on Sunday once again as we carried on with Matthew's Gospel and the Book of Esther, with good attendances morning and evening, perhaps because we had communion in the evening. In the morning we looked at John the Baptist and how to come to Christ and in the evening at the examples good and bad of Esther and Haman. What a joy to preach the Word.

Outsiders re-posted

This appeared on my blog in 2008 and I thought it deserved a tidy up and a re-post.
I enjoyed watching a documentary about the late oscar winning film director Anthony Minghella this week. We have been aware of Minghella in our house since Truly, Madly, Deeply and it was an interesting and informative if slightly hagiographic account (St Anthony of Minghella it seemed he was). During the course of the programme (and this was a very small part of it) a case was made for him being an outsider based on his being of Italian parentage growing up in the Isle of Wight. It struck me because this same week I saw an interview with Meera Syal in the Daily Mail headlined "I've felt like an outsider all my life, says Meera Syal". In the article she proceeds to try and explain herself as one with the "ability to stand back and see the bigger picture" and puts it down to growing up in two cultures, etc. The article suggests that she has found some sort of equilibrium now by marrying her husband Sanjeev Baskhar, the key thing about him being his similar background (but she was married to journalist Shekhar Bhatia and that didn't work out so I don't think one can be simplistic).
Personally, I think it is the other way round. I think that certain people tend to be objective, tend to feel like they're on the outside looking in. They tend to veer to certain careers, understandably. I have those same tendencies and for a long time I tended to see it in terms of being different - growing up in a border county, neither English nor Welsh; being working class but going to university; being Baptist but Reformed, etc, etc. At some point (I forget how now) I came to see that it was just my perspective that made me feel like an outsider and no matter how much on the inside track I became I would always feel like an outsider, which I do.
I put this up
1. Because it's on my mind
2. It may help someone who keeps feeling like an outsider to see why and not get frustrated
3. It may help make sense of this odd blog but perhaps not

10 well known people who heard Spurgeon preach

1. Lord John Russell, Prime minister 1846-1852, 1865/66
2. William Gladstone, Prime minister 1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886, 1892-1894
In January 1882 Gladstone requested a reserved seat in the Tabernacle to hear his friend Spurgeon preach. He arrived early with his son and sat in the vestry with Spurgeon until the service. Following the visit, the PM’s enemies criticised him as an Anglican for visiting a Dissenting Chapel. This did not deter Gladstone from inviting Spurgeon, on several occasions, to Downing Street for breakfast or lunch. The two split politically in 1886 over giving Home Rule to Ireland.
3. John Ruskin the art critic
Ruskin and Spurgeon shared social concerns and were firm friends. Ruskin regularly attended Spurgeon’s Surrey Gardens Music Hall services, and when Spurgeon was ill he visited him with gifts of pictures. Ruskin gave Spurgeon a complete set of his Modern Painters which the preacher annotated and frequently quoted. Letters and visits were exchanged over the years, and when The Metropolitan Tabernacle was being built, Ruskin contributed 100 guineas, a considerable sum in those days.
4. George Eliot the female novelist
5. Matthew Arnold the poet and cultural commentator (who mentions Spurgeon several times in his Culture and Anarchy)
6. Queen Victoria (in disguise, allegedly)
7. Lord Shaftesbury the political reformer
8. David Livingstone the missionary and explorer 
9. H H Asquith MP (Later Prime minister)
10. David Lloyd-George (later Prime-minister) in 1884 and 1888

Parker and Gandhi

According to Gandhi's biographer Joseph K Doke, who was a Baptist minister himself, Gandhi only heard Spurgeon the once. In his book Gandhi and the nonconformists: encounters in South Africa (1986) James D Hunt says of Gandhi's period in London

There he heard the Baptist evangelist Charles H. Spurgeon but did not find him enlightening. He was most attracted to the Congregationalist Dr Joseph Parker (1830-1902), whose huge City Temple (seating 2,500) was located near to the law courts. Gandhi attended the Thursday noon services designed for businessmen and shopkeepers during their lunch hour. "It was his appeal to the thoughts of young men that laid hold of me," he reported, "and I went again and again." Parker was moderately liberal, a famous preacher who used common-sense anecdotes and had a rousing emotional delivery.
Years later, Bishop Frederick Fisher in India reported a tale of these times. There is very strong gossip among his friends that he at one time presented himself to the City Temple in London for membership, but was discouraged by the officiary because he could not answer all their theological questions to their satisfaction.

Spurgeon and Gandhi

I was talking to someone the other day about Spurgeon and he mentioned that Gandhi had heard him. That didn't seem right but I checked and it is true. Gandhi was in London 1888-1891 studying for the bar. Spurgeon did not die until 1892 and preached his last sermon in the Tabernacle the year before in June.
The book Gandhi and his ashrams by Mark Thomson (1993) says (inaccurately to some extent at the end considering that Spurgeon once said that "the religion of the Hindoos is neither more nor less than a mass of the rankest filth that ever imagination could have conceived").
"During this period Gandhi began to learn more of other religions. He had developed a distaste for Christianity during his childhood. In Kathiawar conversion to Christianity was associated with eating beef and drinking alcohol, and he was repelled by the proselytising efforts of missionaries bent on damning all other faiths as "heathen". A Christian friend in London convinced him that meat-eating and drink were not enjoined by the Scriptures, and suggested he read the Bible. Gandhi found he could only read the Old Testament "with much difficulty and without the least interest or understanding", but the New Testament inspired him. He thought the Sermon on the Mount comparable to the Gita. He began to attend church services, and from Nonconformists such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Dr Joseph Parker he learnt of a radical interpretation of Christianity that was neither dogmatic nor intolerant of other faiths, and imbued with the spirit of humanism. "
The fact of Gandhi hearing Spurgeon is confirmed in Rajmohan Gandhi's biography (2006) here. He also mentions him hearing the Anglican F W Farrar.

What seventies prog rock was all about

This video of the late Rick van der Linden's Trace has it all - hair, satin, banks of keyboards, a drum break, etc, etc. Not to everyone's taste I'm sure.

Lord's Day January 12 2014

We are rather behind with this, which is a pity as it was an encouraging day. We are getting back into a more regular pattern now, although two of our students who study away were still around and one who studies in London is not back yet. I preached from the end of Matthew 2 in the morning and from Esther 4 in the evening. Looking at the prophecy of Jesus being a Nazarene I decided to change my view and take the view that Matthew is referring to Judges 6 and is saying that Jesus was a sort of Nazirite. We had tea together in the afternoon. In the morning we were seeking to comfort one of our members whose mother recently died in a car crash in Nigeria. She had just been celebrating her eightieth birthday. She was a strong believer so there is comfort there. In the evening we had visitors including someone really seeking the Lord. That's always encouraging.

10 Actors turned preachers

There is a reference in the Spurgeon biography to James Sheridan Knowles, an actor turned preacher. I also read of Thomas Barnardo's conversion recently where there was an actor turned evangelist involved at one point (John Hambleton I think). Here are ten names I have found who more or less meet the description. Perhaps the list can be improved.
1. Stephen Gosson English satirist and Anglican clergyman 1554-1624
2. George Whitefield Methodist Evangelist and amateur actor in his youth 1714-1770
3. James Sheridan Knowles Irish Dramatist, actor and latterly Baptist preacher 1784-1862
4. John Hambleton Evangelist and one time actor 1820-1889
5. Spencer Houghton Cone American Baptist Chaplain and some time actor 1785-1855
6. Charles B Parsons American Methodist preacher and former actor 1805-1871
7. Gu Ren'en or Ku Jen-en Flamboyant Chinese evangelist and one time movie actor 20th century
8. Peter Trumper former equity card holder and friend of Anthony Hopkins who became a Presbyterian minister in Wales lived 1934-2015. See here.
9. R Gary Heikkila Former Hollywood actor and ordained minister now retired 193*-*. See here.
10. Kirk Cameron American actor and street preacher 1970-. See here.

The well-known preacher Alistair Begg appeared in the 2004 film Bobby Jones: stroke of genius

Spurgeon again

Election is a good thing; to be chosen of God, and precious; but we are elect in Christ Jesus. Adoption is a good thing; to be adopted into the family of God is a good thing—ah, but we are adopted in Christ Jesus and made joint-heirs with him. Pardon is a good thing—who will not say so?—ay, but we are pardoned through the precious blood of Jesus. Justification—is not that a noble thing, to be robed about with a perfect righteousness?—ay, but we are justified in Jesus. To be preserved—is not that a precious thing?—ay; but we are preserved in Christ Jesus, and kept by his power even to the end. Perfection—who shall say that this is not precious? Well, but we are perfect in Christ Jesus. Resurrection, is not that glorious? We are risen with him. To ascend up on high, is not that precious? But he hath raised us up and made us sit together with him in heavenly places in Jesus Christ—so that Christ must be good positively, for he is all the best things in one. And if all these be good, surely he must be good in whom, and by whom, and to whom, and through are all these precious things.

Spurgeon the Strict Baptist

On page 125 of Tom Nettles' new biography of Spurgeon he quotes him at the meeting of the Baptist Brethren when the Met Tab was to be opened in 1861 (see whole thing here).
Spurgeon says
I am glad that we have here brethren representing different views among us. Here I am a strict Baptist, and open communion in principle; some of our brethren are strict in communion, and strict in discipline; some are neither strict in discipline nor in communion. I think I am the closest to the truth, but you all think the same for yourselves, and may God defend the right.
It is slightly confusing at first (today we call strict communionists Strict Baptists) but what he means is that Baptists at the time (as now) may have
A baptised membership and a strict communion (as Strict Baptists do today)
A baptised membership but a communion open to all believers (as we tend to do here)
An open membership and communion (typical of FIEC churches and others)
In practice we do allow some manoeuvre on membership but each fellowship has to make a decision in this area. Who will we accept as members? Who will we accept to the communion table? It is neat to match up the answers to the questions but, like Spurgeon, many of us feel that in an imperfect world a discontinuity is right.

Three Wales

I was in Wales again last Monday, for the third time in 12 days. We went to Cardiff on Christmas day and spent the time from then until the Saturday there. I preached back here on the Lord's day and then we headed to Aberystwyth for new year, getting back on the first. Then on the sixth I took my boys Dylan and Dewi back to Cardiff and Swansea, respectively. That's a total of over 900 miles, not including little extras like my wrong turnings. Listened to lots of music and one or two church history lectures. Wales has a good infrastructure and the mountains are worth seeing. We missed the worst of the weather, thankfully.

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From my facebook page (more or less)

Lilian Searle 1918-2013

I'm taking a funeral this afternoon. It is for the lady who was the oldest member of our church.
I first met Lilian in 1983 when I came to be the pastor here. I was 24 years old and Lilian was 65. She was, even then, one of the older generation.
In 1983 Lilian had recently retired from the civil service but was active in the retirement fellowship. She used to get about in a little red car that she carried on driving until her eyesight became too poor to do so safely. She and her friend Ann Mathews would be there Sunday morning and Sunday evening without fail for many years. When I came here, Lilian was the church treasurer, a task she had fulfilled very well, but from which she stepped down shortly after. Her full involvement in church life continued for many years after that and it was only bit by bit that she eventually came to the stage where she could no longer join us at our meetings.
Lilian's parents lived in Salusbury Road, Kilburn. When Lilian was due to be born, however, her mother went home to West Wratting, Cambridgeshire, to her parents and that's where Lily was born. Her father was a taxi driver and owned his own business. Following the death of his first wife, Lily Bucknell, he remarried and had two children in addition to the son John (Jack) born to his first wife, Lilian (named for that first wife) and Albert (called George). Lilian once told me of a day trip they all made to Paris. They wanted to see the Eiffel Tower but it was a little further away than expected. Apparently her brother decided to make his own way there but the rest of the family did not know and so they spent the rest of the day looking for him and never did get to see the Eiffel Tower!
Being born in 1918, at the end of the first world war, Lilian's earlier years were lived through difficult and demanding times. One has the impression of a happy family life but with some pressures. Lilian was an exceptionally bright girl and went to Kingsbury Girls Grammar where in June 1934 she passed with a credit in 5 of the 13 subjects and gained a distinction in mathematics and then matriculated in 1935 from the University of London. She would have loved to have gone on to study for a degree at university and become a school teacher of Mathematics, but financial necessities meant that it was not possible. Lilian left school at 16 and began to work for the locally based Abbey National Building Society. She went on to take her civil service examinations and by the time she was 20 was happily living with her parents at 92 Gladstone Park Gardens, Cricklewood and working in London.
It was on the 25th August that everything took a dramatic turn with a confidential letter at work. The year 1939 and, as we now all know, war was about to come again. The immediate upshot for Lilian was a sudden transfer from the familiar sights of London to unknown Tetbury. The government had decided to place a number of civil servants outside London for reasons of safety and security. I remember her telling me how when she finally arrived at her billet, after a long day travelling, her landlady Mrs Constable, said to her and her friend “Come on in, you must be starved”. Lilian assumed this was a reference to being hungry but in that part of the world being starved meant being cold!
About a year later Lilian then moved to Worcester and it was while she was here that she really came into the orbit of Christian people through her friends Elsie and Mary. That first Christmas it wasn't possible to go home to mum and dad and so, through Elsie, she was invited to spend it in Malvern, in the home of the St John family, well known through the missionary and writer Patricia St John.
It was during the war that Lilian first came to trust in Christ for herself. She saw that as conscientious as she undoubtedly was she was a sinner and she needed to trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and strength to do right. This she continued to do from her twenties into her thirties and forties and on into her eighties and nineties by God's grace. On the 24th January 1943, she was baptised, which was one of her first acts of obedience we can be sure.
Eventually, she was able to move back to Cricklewood permanently. While cutting the garden hedge she spoke to a neighbour who invited her to come along to Willesden Green Baptist Church and that is where she was a member for the next 20 years. During that time she grew as a Christian, benefiting not only from the evangelical preaching of the Word but from evening lectures at the newly started London Bible College on Marylebone Road and with thousands of others hearing Billy Graham preaching in White City and elsewhere. She became aware of the British Evangelical Council (now Affinity) and at an early point became a personal member.
I am not sure exactly why she left Willesden Green but there was a difficulty and so she decided to begin to come to us here in Childs Hill. At that time John Pretlove was the minister. John later moved to America but she continued to keep in touch with him. I guess it was he who introduced her to the RSV Bible, which she always used as her preferred version. Lilian became a Sunday School teacher and a deacon and served the church in many other ways. She was a great asset.
As I say, she was treasurer when I came but resigned from that fairly early on. This was partly because she then became very much involved in the establishing of Spring Court, where she was to live for the next nearly 25 years. The development was originally undertaken by the Baptist Men's Association and Lilian was one of our church members appointed to the committee that worked to establish it. It must have been a great moment to see the place up and running after all the planning. She sold her Gladstone Park Gardens home and moved there to become one of the first residents. For most of her time there she was very much involved in the daily life of the community serving on various committees. It was my joy for some years to meet with her and other residents once a fortnight. I particularly remember her prayers. Lilian was a woman who knew how to pray. She had no stock phrases but would genuinely shut herself in with God and make her requests known.
Eventually even this came to an end. For a while she was pretty much confined to her room with a sore on her leg caused by the diabetes she had had for some time. Eventually she was hospitalised and an amputation was recommended. Those were tough days but she came through them and was able to move into the home in Wembley, next door to Doris, Elsie's sister, who she had known so many years. That was slightly frustrating in that even though Doris was next door they could seldom meet. Then sadly Doris went to be with the Lord on 11th January 2013.
This last year of life was not easy. Lilian kept quite bright almost to the end. I last saw her five days before she died. She was rather sleepy and not up to any real conversation. When I met with her, we always prayed and read the Bible. On this occasion I read just one verse. I read it because it was Christmas and because it seemed appropriate. It was 2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. That's the verse I plan to expound under the headings
1. Realise what the Lord Jesus did for Lilian
2. Realise what that meant for her and what it can mean for you
It is easy to say nice things about Lilian. There is a lot to say. There is the example of her faith. All through her life people in this country were turning away from the faith and crying it down. Not her though. She continued to believe all the way through by God's grace. With her faith came service to God. She continued to serve as long as she could. Then there was her patience and orderliness. Our strengths are often our weaknesses. Lilian liked to go to bed quite late and if she then woke up late she could be in a bit of a fluster as she would still have to go through her morning routine before going out. God is a God of order, however, and she is an example to us there. I could also mention her kindness and friendliness. She was very formal. I remember when I was first married. I sensed an awkwardness from Lilian about speaking to Eleri. It then dawned on me. I had not formally introduced her to Lilian. Once that was done it was nothing but friendliness. I remember too how at Spring Court she would lean over backwards to keep the peace and to be friendly to all. What a good example she has left us.

Lord's Day January 5 2014

We began with communion at around 10.15. I then preached morning and evening looking at the flight into Egypt and the slaughter of the Bethlehem children from Matthew 2 in the morning and at Esther 3 in the evening. Both services were decently attended with a few visitors in. Having not preached twice on a Sunday much recently I noticed some things I have in the past. First, if you preach two sermons in one day, almost by definition one will be better than the other. In that case it is probably best to do the better one in the evening, which I don't think I did. There is also the matter of overlap. Because I dealt partly with Herod in the morning and Haman in the evening, there was a certain similarity in the material. I was probably a little tired in the evening too as were others. That's okay but one needs to take care. I read a very long chapter - our consecutive reading from Ezekiel. With one or two comments it took 15 minutes and that was too long. Still learning.

His middle name is Hamish

The current round of Sherlock on BBC 1 reveals that John Watson, assistant to Holmes, has the middle name of Hamish. (Conan Doyle only gives the middle initial H, and Hamish is Dorothy L Sayers' educated guess). It made me think of another Anglo-Scot, to whom so many of us are indebted, with the middle name Hamish.

CHBC Motto Text 2014

I have made it my practice over the last few years to begin the year with a  motto text. This ear it is Romans 13:12. An mp3 will soon be on the church website and the text of the sermon can be found here on preached sermons.


We were in Aberystwyth on the first day of the year. I have come across it before but I wanted to note how during the day there was a knock at the door and some children from over the road to my wife's parents came to the door and sung a lovely traditional Welsh song. Calennig is the Welsh for "New Year celebration/gift," though literally it translates to "the first day of the month," deriving from the Latin Kalends (cf the English word "Calendar").
Wikipedia says that many people give gifts on New Years morning, with children having skewered apples stuck with raisins and fruit. In some parts of Wales, people must visit all their relatives by midday to collect their Calennig, and celebrations and traditions can vary from area to area. In Stations of the Sun Ronald Hutton gives an example of a Calennig rhyme from 1950s Aberystwyth,
Dydd calan yw hi heddiw,
Rwy'n dyfod ar eich traws
i ofyn am y geiniog,
Neu grwst, a bara a chaws.
O dewch i'r drws yn siriol
Heb nesid dim o'ch gwedd;
Cyn daw dydd calan eto
Bydd llawer yn y bedd.
("It is new year's day today, I have come over to you to ask for a penny or a crust and bread and cheese. O come to the door pleasantly without waking anyone; before the arrival of the new year again many will be in the grave.")

Geoff Thomas Festchrift Errata

When I put together the biographical piece for last year's festschrift The Holy Spirit and Reformed Spirituality it was not possible to consult with Geoff directly and so a number of minor errors crept in. To date I am aware of five of these.
1. At one point I say that he did "university level study in Biblical studies with Greek and philosophy at the nearby Baptist College in Cardiff". These studies were in fact at Cardiff University.
2. There is a reference to "his mother's uncle, Oliver Bound" that should be "Oliver Bown".
3. I also messed up on some dates. His last grandchild was born in 2007 (not 2008)
4. His father's dates should be Harry Eastaway Thomas (1904-1978)
5. His mother's dates should be Elizabeth Francis (1906-1994)

Spurgeon on religious terrorism

I have started ion Tom Nettles' wonderful new biography of Spurgeon Living by revealed truth and noticed this from his fast day sermon at the Crystal Place in 1857. Whole sermon here.
Any religion that does not infringe upon morality is beyond the force of legislature. But when once religious teachers teach immorality, and when once a religion compels men to sin, down with it; no toleration to it. It is impossible that there should be any quarter strewn to vice, even though embellished with the name of religion. If it be any man's religion to blow my brains out, I shall not tolerate it. If it be any man's religion to meet me as the Thugs do, and garotte me, and murder me, I shall not tolerate his Thugism. If it be a man's religion to commit bestial acts in public, I for one would touch his conscience, but believing that he has none, I would touch him somewhere else.

Robins British and American

When preparing my Christmas icons series the other week I googled the robin and found that Americans have a different robin bird to us. More recently I was able to check this out when we had some Americans visiting the house. I showed them one of several cards we had up showing a robin redbreast in the snow. Blank faces. Is it some sort of finch? they asked. I explained.
Then more recently still I took in a good slice of the 1964 film Mary Poppins that people were watching. In the spoonful of sugar scene nesting robins are shown, as  above. They are clearly mechanical birds of some sort but I remember thinking down the years what poor examples they were not resembling any bird I'd ever seen. I now see that they are representations of American robins and not bad. Of course, the very idea that such birds would be seen in London is a gaff and duly noted at the appropriate place on IMDb here.

10 UK slang words for parts of the body

1. Barnet
2. Bonce
3. Gob
4. Lugholes
5. Peepers
6. Hooter/conk
7. Bum
8. Tummy
9. Pins
10. Clodhoppers

Wild Wales

As we passed through a rain soaked Wales today I remarked to my wife that this was wild Wales. I suggested I should write a book on the subject so people could borrow it.
She was straight back with "By George, you should!". She's very quick.