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.

Lord's Day May 28 2017

It was a good day yesterday again. I enjoyed the hymns once again. We sang tunes by Holst, Sibelius and others which gave a nice edge to things. There is a hymn in our book that was originally set to a well known piece of film music. The music does not appear in the book due to copyright issues and as we do not know the alternative tune given I thought we would have to go for an older hymn tune and drop the chorus.. Anyway, I explained this to our pianist for the morning who appeared not to know much about the subject (although I recall now that he was very much involved in creating the hymn book we use). After I had explained all this to the congregation he played the famous tune anyway out of his head (you have to admire such skills) and we enjoyed singing it.
As ever there were a lot of people missing but some visitors too, including three German young men from somewhere near the Staffelsee on holiday in London. A lovely couple in out church kindly looked after them for the afternoon. We also have a Dutch couple in the church who unsurprisingly turned out to have very good German. (At one point I pointed out the German boys to our Dutch friend and said they were from Bavaria. He said he had never heard of Bavaria. I said you know as in BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke). Well, then he knew where I meant.)
As for the preaching we went through most of Acts 5, which was good. In the evening we did the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast. UBM have their Christian Answer weekend in London this weekend and so there were a few extras in the evening congregation, including an old friend I have known since boyhood. People seemed quite laid back today and ready to stick around for a while - probably because it is a bank holiday weekend.

An interesting Saturday

I got everything done here that I needed to do to be out in good time for a trip into London. I popped into the Co-op to buy a cold drink and who should be there but my wife chatting to a neighbour about keeping fit. Both Eleri and I have had problems with our debit cards recently and she offered me cash in case I was short but I said I was fine.
It was as the bus pulled in that I realised that without a debit card I wasn't going to be able to travel. Anyway the bus driver was very nice about it and let me ride free the six or so stops to the place where I get the notices photocopied.
Having competed the photocopying, I enquired at Finchley Road what I could do. A very nice man called Stuart explained to me that a day travel card for Zones 1-6 is £12.30 and so even with the £3 deposit an oyster proves a cheaper option for what I wanted to do. It almost cleaned me out cash wise but eventually, after he had disappeared for 10 minutes to rejig the machine, I got myself sorted and on my way to Trafalgar Square. I tubed to Charing Cross via Baker Street and was surprised how quick I was.
In Trafalgar Square things were in full swing with young James Powell preaching. A few others preached in the sunshine while people enjoyed themselves in the Square, mostly sensibly, though one girl did decide to enter the fountains (and later on some anti-fascists turned up making a noise). I had opportunity to preach near the end - on John 5:39, 40. Early on a middle aged woman shouted at me that the Bible was rubbish so I fixed her eyeballs and asked her if she had read it, which she hadn't - so I pleaded with the crowd that she was being unfair. A few others were listening.
One young man listening quite intently turned out to be an evangelical, Lars from Dresden, just about to return to Germany after a few days in England with family. He was pleasantly surprised to hear us preaching there in the Square. I also met Nigel and Rebecca Graham and family and several church members up in London for a day trip from the Grace Baptist church in Warboys. They insisted in plonking me in the middle of their group photo.
Anyway I left shortly before 3 pm and going home I walked past New Zealand House the site of the Carlton Hotel at one time, as I usually do. I am aware of the blue plaque there marking the fact that Ho worked in the kitchens of the Carlton in 1913. I was especially aware this time round as I am reading a book at the moment (a birthday present from my wife) called A Curious Guide to London by Simon Leyland. I was on the very page that treats of Ho's stay in the city! Before I left central London I spent my last few pennies on a coffee and checked out the interesting section in the book on Trafalgar Square itself.
Before I got to the train I met a very keen vegan, part of a team out in force in Piccadilly Circus. On Friday evening I spoke to two girls in club who are vegetarian and very aware of the issues. I'm not sure they are entirely wrong in their instincts. Animals I am sure do not have souls but some of the things that go on do appear rather barbaric. It is no surprise that many are drawn by the moral arguments and the idea that it is a healthier lifestyle. The jury appears to be out on whether dairy is good or bad for you.
Back here in Childs Hill I bumped into a local character mentioned on this blog before now. I was keen to walk together as we were headed in the same direction. He was just back from a few days in Clacton and anticipating the F A Cup final (he is a big Chelsea fan). Anyway as we came along, there was a smart 'phone in a leather case lying in the middle of the road. I picked it up. It was pink, so I guessed it belonged to a female. I took it home and with my son's help I sought to establish who was the owner. A little investigation suggested it belonged to someone in one of the high rise flats nearby. I went over and was able to return the phone to the grateful owner. She was a lady in her sixties I would guess and when I said who I was she expressed an interest in coming along. I hope she will. (There was a lady who wondered into the chapel yesterday during our club for young people. She is interested in coming too. Let's see.)
After all the excitement, I was worn out. I enjoyed watching the cup final with one of my sons. A rare treat we had our tea in front of the TV like real working class types.Sadly, Chelsea lost as I thought they might.
Saturday is not over, of course, but that is enough for one day.

10 Protected Welsh Foods

Some 65 foods from the UK have gained PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) or PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)  status from the EU. Here are some from Wales

1. Welsh beef (PGI 2002) Limited to products from cattle born and reared in Wales. Products must come from cattle that have not bred.
2. Welsh lamb (PGI 2003) Limited to products that are produced from lambs born and reared in Wales.
3. Carmarthen Ham (PGI 2016) Limited to hams cured in the Carmarthen areas as designated on a map.
4. Pembrokeshire early potatoes/earlies (PGI 2013) Limited to potatoes grown in Pembrokeshire. The product must be planted in early February and harvested between May and late July.
5. West Wales coracle caught salmon (PGI 2013) Limited to Atlantic salmon that have been caught in specific tidal areas of the Rivers Tywi, the Taf and Teifi. Products must be caught using traditional coracle fishing methods.
6. Anglesey sea salt/Halen Môn (PDO 2014) Limited to sea salt prepared, processed and produced in the Menai Strait, using traditional methods.
7. Welsh wine (PDO 2011) Limited to wine produced in Wales from grapes grown in the designated area, using prescribed methods. Products must use grapes from vines growing at a height below 220 m above sea level. The product may be vinified outside of the designated area provided it is contiguous to Wales and prior authorisation has been granted from the FSA. The product must conform to restrictions regarding alcohol content, acidification and sweetening.
8. Welsh regional wine (PGI 2011) Limited to wine produced from grapes grown in Wales, although production does not have to be within a certain area. The product must conform to restrictions regarding alcohol content, acidification and sweetening.
9. Laverbread (PDO 2017) Must be made from Welsh Laver (seaweed) gathered or plucked from the coastline of Wales and must be processed within the country of Wales. All the specific steps in its production must take place in the designated area ie collection, washing and draining, cooking, mincing or chopping, etc, including packaging where required.
10. Conwy mussels (PDO 2015) Limited to mussels caught within a designated area within the Conwy Estuary using the traditional method of hand raking.

10 defeat words beginning with V

1. Vulnerable
2. Victimised
3. Vexed
4. Vitiated
5. Vicissitudinated
6. Violated 
7. Vanquished
8. Vandalised
9. Vaporised
10. Vermiculated (in the old sense of worm eaten)

Wales - what goes wrong

The Times carries an obituary today of R K S Wood a world authority on plant pathology. Wood was born in the Rhondda and loved to sing along with the Welsh anthem when Wales were playing rugby. Like so many, however, he lived most of his life in England. When he decided to apply to study at Imperial in London his school was none too helpful. The news that he had won a place to study botany at Imperial did not thrill his mother. “Wales not good enough for you, Ronald?” she asked. He never forgave his school for trying to limit his horizons and later refused to return as an honoured old boy at prize-giving. No wonder he quickly lost his Welsh accent once he got to London.
The Welsh may not like having a huge and brilliant neighbour always cramping our style but it is surely better to get used to it and show more grace.
Not that Wood himself was much better. On one occasion, seeing waiters bearing salvers filled with flutes of champagne at a smart reception, he insisted on loudly ordering brown ale. He believed that his general rudeness to those in positions of influence was the reason why he was never honoured by the state for his work. The Times article also describes him complaining to his son about a restaurant meal with a leg of lamb at £14! You can take the boy out of the valleys ....

10 Negative adjectives beginning with V

1. Vain
2. Vile
3. Viperous
4. Vicious
5. Violent
6. Villainous
7. Vituperous
8. Venomous
9. Vindictive
10. Vengeful

Pastoral Friendship Walks

I went for the first time today on what my friend Andrew King from Highbury calls a pastoral friendship walk. (I think there have been two before this one). We met at Hampstead Heath Station, walked across the Heath in glorious sunshine, stopping for refreshments at Kenwood House, and ending up at Gospel Oak. There were about seven of us. The idea is that sedentary men who can easily be loners get out in the fresh air, and do a little exercise and talk to each other. It is not aiming incredibly high then but you would be surprised how revolutionary sometimes the simplest ideas can be. I certainly enjoyed the walk (which I try to do anyway) and the chat. Thanks Andrew for getting us organised.

Dr Olivia Doll

I spotted a fascinating story in the paper yesterday. The basic story is how a sceptical scientist got his dog onto the editorial board of various science journals. Eschewing use of the dog's picture he provided this snap of Kylie Minogue in glasses for this one above. Full story here.

10 Writers who knew only posthumous fame

1. Emily Dickinson
The first collection of her poetry appeared in 1890 (four years after she died). While some critics scoffed, her lines received immediate popular acclaim. Later editions followed, then interest faded until 1924, when she was enthusiastically rediscovered. Her work has been praised ever since. Today many critics would agree that her poetry was "perhaps the finest by a woman in the English language."
2. Gerard Manley Hopkins
His posthumous fame was established by Robert Bridges putting him among the leading Victorian poets. His manipulation of prosody (particularly his invention of sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him after his death as an innovative writer of verse. Nature and religion were the two major themes in his poetic works.
3. Sylvia Plath
Plath is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best known for her two published collections, The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. She also wrote The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death by suicide in 1963. It was only in 1982 that she won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Poems.
4. Anne Frank
German-born diarist. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously following the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl (originally Het Achterhuis; English: The Secret Annex), in which she documents her life in hiding 1942-1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. It is one of the world's most widely known books and has been the basis for several plays and films.
5. Franz Kafka
Many of his works remained incomplete and unpublished when TB killed him, aged 40, in 1924. After years of tortuous efforts to "begin my real life" and to describe a precise statement of his soul, Kafka considered his efforts a failure. In a last request, he asked his friend Max Brod to burn his papers and manuscripts. Brod refused, saying that if Kafka had really wanted that he would not have given the task to Brod. Thus Kafka's best-known novels, prophetic of the nightmare state of fascism, were first published in Germany 1925-1927. The Nazis soon banned the books but translated editions surfaced elsewhere. Kafka's reputation has steadily grown since the 1940s, and today the works of his critics and interpreters far outnumber his own.
6. Edgar Allan Poe
Associated with Gothic tales of mystery and the macabre, the author of the haunting short-stories "The Raven," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum,” "Murders on the Rue Morgue" and “A Cask of Amontillado” despite his popularity now, Poe's contemporaries better knew him as a literary critic and struggling artist. For much of his life, he tried to make a living through writing but never overcame his financial difficulties or career challenges. His death at the age of 40 is surrounded by mystery.
7. Stieg Larsson
Karl Stig-Erland Larsson was a Swedish journalist and writer. He is best known for writing the Millennium trilogy of crime novels, which were published posthumously and adapted as motion pictures. Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm and worked there in the field of journalism and as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism. In 2008 he was the second best-selling author in the world. The third novel in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, became the most sold book in the USA in 2010.  By March 2015, his series had sold 80 million copies worldwide.
8. John Keats
Keats was an English Romantic poet and one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Byron and Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death. Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, his reputation grew after his death, and by the end of the 19th century he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets. He had a significant influence on a diverse range of poets and writers.
9. Herman Melville
Melville did know some early success but Moby Dick and other works were not commercial successes. His death from cardiovascular disease in 1891 subdued a reviving interest in his work. The 1919 centennial of his birth became the starting point of the "Melville Revival". Critics discovered his work, scholars explored his life, his major novels and stories have become world classics, and his poetry has gradually attracted respect.
10. H P Lovecraft
An American author who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. He was virtually unknown and published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, but he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre. Among his most celebrated tales are "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Shadow over Innsmouth" both canonical to the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft was never able to support himself from earnings as author and editor. He saw commercial success increasingly elude him in this latter period, partly because he lacked the confidence and drive to promote himself.

New Seminary Principal announced

The London Seminary announced today the name of its new principal. Bill James is the fourth principal and immediately follows Dr Robert Strivens. Previous to that Philip Eveson was principal and before that it was Dr Hywel Jones. Before that there was no principal. The annual service will be on June 24 and the speaker (on the fortieth anniversary) will be Al Mohler. The official communique says

Dear Friend
I'm delighted to inform you that the Board of London Seminary has appointed Bill James, Pastor of Emmanuel Church, Leamington Spa, as the next Principal of the Seminary. Bill will take up the post in January 2018. You can find more information about the appointment on our website here. Please pray for Bill, for the church in Leamington Spa, and for the Seminary during this exciting time of change.
Robert Strivens

Steady Blessings at Holbrooks

In the course of preparing last weekend I came across this tremendously encouraging article from Coventry on the FIEC website. I think we can all be encouraged by this. I know Ben Holmes to speak to. He's a lovely bloke. Steady Blessings.

10 religious facial hair decisions

1. Sikh uncut
2. Jewish corners uncut
3. Amish married man should wear a beard but have no moustache (too soldierly)
4. Rastafarian corners uncut (as do the Jews)
5. Greek Orthodox tradition for priests to be bearded
6. Muslim common but not obligatory
7. Muslim henna dyed often to mark having gone on pilgrimage to Mecca
8. Hindu common among sects that take a vow of poverty and so cannot own a razor
9. Pagan a beard can help the look
10. Mormon and JW leaders not a rule but beards are seldom seen

Lord's Day May 21 2017

Although I got back quite late from Cambridge on Saturday night I think considering William Perkins for a day or two before preaching was a good preparation for the Lord's Day and I was able to preach what I hope were two helpful and effective sermons. We were in Acts in the morning and I am glad that rather than simply preaching on Chapter 5:1-13 I began back in Acts 4, focusing on the normal first before the abnormal. A challenging message nevertheless. In the evening we were looking at that great parable, the parable of the weeds. Full of instruction. The evening service was preceded by communion. No new people today and quite a few missing all told but decent numbers. Loved the hymns today.

William Perkins Conference Final Paper

Our final paper was from Greg Salazar, currently studying for his PhD in Cambridge. He had four main points and spoke on
1.The Puritan defence of the sole authority of Scripture as against Roman Catholicism
Here he touched on the centrality of the Bible, the Catholic assault on the sole authority of Scripture and the Puritan response.
2. The Puritan defence of the centrality of preaching against conformists
Here he touched on attempts to supplant the centrality of preaching by emphasising the sacraments and reading Scripture and prayers
3. The Puritan defence of  the pursuit of holiness against antinomianism
Here he spoke of the Puritan pursuit of holiness and the influence of Emmanuel College, prophesyings, lectureships, etc. He also spoke of the assault on this position by Tobias Crisp, John Saltmarsh and others and the counter response from Samuel Rutherford.
He made four final applications
1, Be zealous for the authority of God's Word and on guard against supplemenetal authorities
2. Be convinced of the centrality of preaching and the folly of alternative forms of grace
3. Look for God's smiling face in frowning providences
4. Pursue disciplined holiness in community and be on guard against antinomian tendencies
(Sorry not to have posted this final report earlier) 

William Perkins Conference Penultimate Paper

It was nice to meet J Stephen Yuille today and to hear him give the penultimate paper on Perkins as a Contender for the faith. Observing that although he is called the father of Puritanism Perkins is a Reformer rather than a Puritan, He was an apologist both for the truth and for the Church of England. He gave us 15 reasons why we should read Perkins and these points were something similar to what follows
1. His unwavering commitment to the truth of Scripture in contrast to ancient and modern scepticism
2. His exegetical method which puts the lie to other accepted but flawed methods of interpretation
3. His conviction that the principal work of the Holy Spirit is to illumine what is in Scripture rather than to mystically bring about some immediate knowledge of God within
4. His emphasis on preaching as the thing that we should emphasise - an excellent corrective again to some of the ideas that are prevalent in our present time
5. His plain style of preaching which provides a glimpse into the Reformed conviction that Scripture both informs and transforms and delivers us from ceaseless homiletical innovation
6. His experiential preaching which addresses the matter of Scripture and so provides a paradigm for preachers who want to bring the mind into contact with the real meaning of Scripture. (He was careful to distinguish law and gospel throughout Scripture and to preach both).
7. His detailed description of the doctrine of predestination and his preaching of the gospel which is a corrective to those who say they admire him but fail to show the same balance. (Unlike some of his successors he never lost sight of the free offer)
8. His delight in Christ as an all sufficient Saviour which is a great tonic for those who say that Christ is the answer but do not believe it and offer all sorts of alternatives.
9. His portrayal of Christ our righteousness which provides relief to the sinner aware of his sin and of his need of a Savour.
10. His handling of the doctrine of justification and sanctification which brings light to the current and recurring debates over the relationship between the two.
11. His realism as to the difficulties of the Christian life which is a refreshing cordial to those trapped in the false teaching of a two tier Christianity.
12. His theological acumen provides a great theological, exegetical and philosophical example to us of how to handle doctrine in a balanced way.
13. His repudiation of the Spirit/matter dualistic view which is the answer to the temptation to follow a disembodied pietism.
14. His view of theology as the science of living blessedly forever which is a great antidote to enlightenment ideas that make theology a mere academic exercise. (Perkins quotes Psalm 144:15 again and again)
15. His defence of the wholesome doctrine of love speaks to a church that still struggles to harmonise faith and love, etc.

Emily Dickinson

I have mentioned Emily Dickinson before now and how I discovered her in University. She wrote 1800 poems in her life time but only had ten or eleven published. She has been brought to mind again by two media events. First, I persuaded Eleri to join me in the Phoenix, East Finchley to see A Quiet Passion the other week. I think her comment at the end "That's two hours we'll never get back again" was a trifle harsh but it is fair to say that the life of Emily Dickinson of Amherst, New England is not the stuff of movie blockbusters and so, despite valiant efforts, the film struggled to keep the interest up. More recently, on Radio 4, Melvyn Bragg has had some experts in to do an In our time on her. (See here). This was a much better format for looking at this interesting woman. I found the suggestion that not all her first person poems are about her a new angle to explore. Here is an example of her simple genius.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - 
That perches in the soul - 
And sings the tune without the words - 
And never stops - at all - 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard - 
And sore must be the storm - 
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm - 

 I’ve heard it in the chillest land - 
And on the strangest Sea - 
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Rhodri Morgan Anecdote

It has been sad this week to hear of the death of Welsh speaking Welshman Rhodri Morgan, former Welsh first minister. He was the man who gave one of my sons his degree when he graduated (Cledwyn Hughes gave me mine, Cled the Red). I like the anecdote that tells how Tony Blair once stayed at Mr Morgan's house. Apparently Tony Blair was up early in the morning and so was Morgan's mother-in-law. When she came into the kitchen an saw him she blurted out "I know who you are, You're that Lionel Blair"!. Morgan confirmed the truth of the story in an interview with David Frost some time.

William Perkins

The enterprising American Joel Beeke is currently publishing the complete works of William Perkins in 10 volumes (we've reached volume 4 so far). Meanwhile the Library at PRTS has been christened the William Perkins Library (a prize exhibit is apparently a set of Perkins writings owned by Spurgeon then A W Pink who made extensive notes in them). As part of this drive he has brought 55 mainly Americans and Canadians to Britain for a short tour that includes this conference in the historic Round Church in Cambridge to which there has been a general invite (free of charge!).
As it turns out I have a niece who lives in Histon near Cambridge (her husband is a PhD student) so I was able to come and stay with them last night and they have just treated me to a meal out. So not only am I getting to see them but I am also enjoying what so far has been an excellent conference.
On Friday night Sinclair Ferguson spoke on Perkins as a Plain preacher making four points - his influence (including a fascinating anecdote from South Korea in the nineties); his understanding of preaching; his emphasis on the plain style and his grids (as described in the Banner paperback edited by SF The Art of prophesying).
Joel Beeke opened this morning on Perkins the largest case of conscience,which is assurance. Dr Beeke is an authority on this subject and he helpfully told us about what Perkins had written and why.. Like Dr Ferguson he began with some biographical background material stressing Perkins' powerful influence. He then explained his doctrine of assurance, itemising his several writings on this subject and finishing with a summary of Perkins little book A case of conscience, the greatest that ever was: How a man may know whether he be the child of God or no (6 folio pages). You can access this here.
In the second part of the morning my esteemed father-in-law Geoff Thomas spoke on the pursuit of godliness in the ministry of Perkins. He highlighted 1. How Perkins pursued godliness (Through conversion, stud, following providential leadings [for example among prisoners] and by becoming a minister) 2. How preaching encourages godliness 3. Three essential marks of godliness (the faith that saves [knowledge, assent, trust – with which there must be a right beginning, credible fruit and a life of trusting the Lord] the repentance that saves and a new saving obedience, which includes an outward and inward obedience and a seeking to promote better affections).
So good stuff. Numbers have been good too with the 55 swollen to perhaps twice the size.

10 people who died at the age of 58

Around this time of year we like to do this. It keeps us humbled and sane(ish).

1. Machiavelli, Niccolo writer (58 years 50 days, June 22, 1527)
2. Dickens, Charles novelist (58 years 122 days, June 9, 1870)
3. Baker, Chet jazz musician (58 years 142 days, May 13, 1988)
4. Flaubert, Gustave writer (58 years 148 days on May 8, 1880)
5. Warhol, Andy artist (died of complications from gallbladder surgery 58 years 200 days, February 22, 1987)
6. Burton, Richard Welsh actor (died of cerebral haemorrhage 58 years 269 days, August 5, 1984)
7. Harrison, George Beatle (died of cancer 58 years 277 days, November 29, 2001)
8. King James I [VI] (58 years 281 days, March 27, 1625)
9. White, Barry singer (58 years 295 days, July 4, 2003)
10. Kepler, Johannes astronomer (58 years 323 days, November 15, 1630)
[Also, Joyce, James Irish writer (died of a perforated ulcer 58 years 346 days. January 13, 1941)

Spurgeon on Clarke, Doddridge and Gill

The recent shot of Augustine between books on Catholicism and Protestantism reminded of a remark Spurgeon makes (in his Commenting on Commentaries). It concerns High Calvinist John Gill and the Arminian Adam Clarke (I'd misremembered it as a reference to Wesley and Toplady). Spurgeon says
I have placed next to Gill in my library Adam Clarke but as I have no desire to have my rest broken by wars among the authors, I have placed Doddridge between them. If the spirits of the two worthies could descend to the earth in the same mood in which they departed, no one house would be able to hold them. Adam Clarke is the great annotator of our Wesleyan friends; and they have no reason to be ashamed of him, for he takes rank among the chief of expositors. His mind was evidently fascinated by the singularities of learning, and hence his commentary is rather too much of an old curiosity shop, but it is filled with valuable rarities, such as none but a great man could have collected. Like Gill, he is one sided, only in the opposite direction to our friend the Baptist. The use of the two authors may help to preserve the balance of your judgements. If you consider Clarke wanting in unction, do not read him for savour but for criticism, and then you will not be disappointed.

Midweek Meeting Wednesday May 17 2017

There were 15 of us on Wednesday! Had someone told them we were going back to Leviticus? Actually, what it was partly was four visitors - a couple from the west country up in London for the day, an old member back visiting her parents and an Iranian lady with limited English living in the area checking us out. Having said that more could have been there but the rain and whatever kept them away. Leviticus 8 is the ordination of Aaron and his sons. Parallels can be made to Christ and to his people. We had a good prayer session again.

Library Lecture on Anne Steele

There was another chance to give my lecture on Anne Steele this week - at the Evangelical Library over the lunch time. We had a decent turn out and I was able to get over the story (you can hear the Bulkington version here). I hope to put a transcript of the lecture on the Evangelical Library website very soon. She is a fascinating subject and her hymns are well worth checking out. My headings - Stories, Setting, Scene, Strict Baptists, Schooldays, Sicknesses, Sylvan repose, Social circle/supporters, Spirituality, Suffering, Success, Spiritual songs, Sadnesses.

Waterstones humour

Spotted at my local Waterstones. B B Warfield wrote that the Reformation was the triumph of Augustine's doctrine of th grace (Whichch Protestants love him for) over his doctrine of the church (which Romanists love him for). [The book on Augustine is by Robin Lane Fox].

Books recently read

My reading schedule is a bit higgledy piggledy but I have recently finished three unrelated books of various sizes. One was George Orwell's first novel Burmese Days which is a fine novel, despite what Orwell came to think, and an unsentimental insight into English attitudes in the 1920s as the British Raj began to wind down. The more Orwell I read the more I admire his skill. The other two books are non-fiction. Victorians Undone is a large roving thing by the journalist Kathryn Hughes. With chapters on Darwin's beard and George Eliot's hand it is an unusual approach to history but a fascinating read. Some will want to avoid the book because of some of the subject material it gets into and the very occasional lapse of judgement in the expressions used. Otherwise it is well written, informative and thought provoking. The third and final one to mention is a little SPCK hardback by Tudor historian John Guy. The first half is excellent but it is supplemented in the second half with discussions of More's impact down the years, including the fascinating story of how he was made saint and how first Robert Bolt and then Hilary Mantel got hold of the character and shaped him to their own purposes. Really worth a read.

Ian Brady

One of the big news items at the moment is the death of Moors murderer Ian Brady (no relation, although it does strike you when you see headlines such as MONSTER BRADY IS DEAD and Burn in Hell Brady). His final death does raise the question of capital punishment. If he and his partner in crime, Myra Hindley, had been put to death years ago wouldn't that have been better. Clearly it makes financial sense but no-one wants to argue that way. When you think of the trauma that the families of the victims have gone through and the undoubted torture it was for Brady in the end it hardly sounds like the action of a humane society. I know there are a thousand problems with capital punishment and its administration but if you think of the abolition of capital punishment as an experiment surely there is an argument to say it has badly failed.

Lord's Day May 14 2017

My, it was packed on Sunday morning. That is always encouraging. Most were regulars though it was nice to have a visit from a holidaying pastor and his wife who we first met many years ago and our American friend on his world tour who came last week returned (Mom and daughter were under the weather sadly). When he said what church he belonged to in the States I was concerned but I need to get more info. We also had a lady turn up after we had finished. She was invited along by a new member of the congregation. I gave her a Bible and urged her to read Luke or Mark. She wanted to know about the Book of Enoch (I guess that is a Da Vinci Code thing - I read today that OXFAM have told stores not to accept any more copies of that book to sell as they have too many already!).
Sunday evening was preceded by tea. We were a more select group by then. I preached on why Jesus spoke in Parables from Matthew 13, having looked at the importance of prayer from Acts 4 in the morning.

Elvis and Buddy

I enjoyed watching a documentary on Buddy Holly recently. See here. I had never seen this 1955 pic of Elvis when he came to Lubbock. You can see Buddy Holl(e)y (and Bob Montgomery) in the picture. Apparently, it was after hearing Elvis that Buddy began playing rock 'n' roll.

Reformed Conferences

This sketchy Venn diagram shows 12 Reformed Conferences and something of how those attending cross over. Most are ministers conferences but the four in yellow, red, orange and pink are aimed more broadly. I am conscious that this does not include Word Alive or Keswick. (The Affinity Study Conference is only every two years). I'm sure I've missed one or two other conferences such as the EFCC ones.

Church history anniversaries 2018

It's always good to think about what anniversaries might be coming up. These I am aware of for next year. 

Synod of Dort 1618-19 (400)
Nehemiah Wallington born 1618 (400)
William Bradshaw died 1618 (400)

Joseph Alleine died 1668 (350)
Thomas Coram born 1668 (350)

David Brainerd born 1718 (300)
John Cennick born 1718 (300) [I think this is right - not 1717]

Joseph Hart died 1768 (250)
Zachary Macaulay born 1768 (250)
Joseph Grigg died 1768 (250)

William Chalmers Burns died 1868 (150)

Grace Baptist Assembly 2017 Day 3

The assembly finished with Oliver Allmand-Smith speaking on William Gadsby and Mike Judge preaching a closing sermon. Oliver began with five things that stood against Gadsby from early on.
1. He was a sinner. Born in 1773 the ninth of 14, he was the son of a road mender. A life adn soul sort, he was profane in his language and utterly opposed to religion.
2. He was poor. His parents were desperately poor. When he married in 1796 they possessed a chest of drawers and an umbrella. They sold the umbrella for a bed! They were involved in the weaving industry, a cottage industry with such narrow margins that one mistake could wipe out all profit even working all hours.
3. He was poorly educated. He attended the church school in Nuneaton three days a week for a short while. He managed to learn to read but barely. When he began to preach he could hardly read out the Bible passage.
4. He was doctrinally aberrant. Although he lived in the era of Andrew Fuller and the rediscovery of evangelical Calvinism, he rejected those views. He called Fuller a great enemy to the gospel. He did not believe in the free offer of the gospel. He was also antinomian in his view of the Law. Along with this there was a distinctiveness and individuality, an obstinacy, that made him pour scorn on ministerial education and inter-church fellowship. Even at his ordination he behaved in a very anarchist manner.
5. He ministered to deprived and poverty stricken people. He became a minister in Desford when he was 27 before moving to Manchester in 1807, where he ministered for 39 years in the same church. Manchester was the first industrial city and the dirt, poverty, crime and vice was horrendous. Gadsby reached out nevertheless to uneducated and needy people with great success.
Despite all that was against him Gadsby was greatly used by God to be a great blessing to many, many people. At the age of 17 he saw a hanging in Coventry. One man was so emaciated that it was difficult to hang him. it left an impression on Gadsby that led to a deep conviction of sin. Eventually he was converted. He went on to be a powerful and effective preacher not only in Manchester but in many other places too. Not only that but he did a great deal to help the poor also. This included political activity on behalf of the poor.
On his grave are these words

Here rests the body of a sinner base
Who had no hope but electing grace
The love, blood, life and righteousness of God
Was His sweet theme – And this He spread abroad.

1. Be careful what you do with your heroes. If only those who often make Gadsby their hero were more like him in their desire to see souls saved and to bless his people.
2. Do not forget the importance of compassion. May his spirit live in us to the glory of God.

The very last message was given by Mike Judge. Mike was late joining us as his wife has just given birth to their third child, Lorica. Mike spoke very warmly of the Assembly and the influence it has had on him. In his sermon he took us to Acts 10. e went through the story of Cornelius and his conversion - being about both justification by faith and the breaking down of barriers.
Barriers are broken down by proclaiinng Christ in all the earth.
A reminder - all the talks can be heard by going here.

Grace Baptist Assembly 2017 Day 2 Afternoon and evening


In the afternoon we had our business meeting which is an integral part of the Assembly. Messengers from the 58 registered churches discussed future assemblies and one or two other things. There was lots of participation and a good spirit. We were free for an hour or two then before reassembling at five for our news session, which is always a good time. We heard from Glen Hanna now pastor at Downe, Kent; Matthew Cox from Chorlton, soon to move to Bethersden; there was then a reference to a new pastor going to Basildon and a lovely description of things at Derby Rd, Watford (whose paator Tom Forryan is soon off to France) by Phil Jordan. We also heard from Sandra Stevens about God's goodness to the folk in Kirby-Le-Soken in what was something of a financial crisis and from Pam Thomas of Wigan and getting to know Muslim women in Liverpool. Keith John s very kindly offered me the opportunity to say something about Childs Hill. People were particularly struck by remark about not knowing quite what to do there (after 30-odd years that is). Ma;colm McGregor so enjoyed it that he asked me to join the two speakers (Paul and Paul) later as we fielded written questions following on from their messages. People are very kind.
In between that, after tea, Paul Lintott gave his second message on justification. Having spoken of the relevance of the doctrine to the unconverted, he spoke of what an encouragement it is to believers. Good stuff.

Grace Baptist Assembly 2017 Day 2 Morning

For the morning of the second day here at the Assembly we were led by Paul Watts from Coventry for two sessions on transculturalisation. First, we had an introduction to the biblical material, chiefly from Acts and then after coffee something about practical application. This was a good presentation of the position most of us would take. I was sorry there was no immediate time for discussion as it raises a host of questions. It is an old chestnut and the devil is in the detail.

Grace Baptist Assembly 2017 Day 1

I am at the Grace Baptist Assembly today. This is the start of a three day conference that began at lunch time today and will end lunch time Thursday. I did n't get here until the second of the three messages today was almost over. I listened, however, to the opener from Malcolm McGregor (you can do the same here) a Schaefferesque state of play address full of interesting things and will get round to the news session with Ruslan Antonov from Ukraine later. Paul Lintott gave us a very helpful summary of Luther's rediscovery of justification by faith and applied it well.

Fascinating footage from 1964

This fascinating bit of footage showing the Joystrings is here prompted by the recent death of the drummer seen here Wycliffe Noble. More here.

An example of pareidolia

Pareidolia is a term that refers to the psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus (an image or a sound) by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists. Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the man in the moon, the moon rabbit, hidden messages within recorded music played in reverse or at higher- or lower-than-normal speeds, and hearing indistinct voices in random noise such as that produced by air conditioners or fans (or your printer in m case. Here is an example of something in my street that I have walked past hundreds of times and that reminds me of an image I would have seen as a child (Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and his Vox Phantom Mark III guitar.

Lord's Day May 07 2017

We began yesterday with communion as usual. We were not very many. Numbers were not so bad for the main services though there were some missing. One person visited me this week and said they were not finding the meetings so helpful. As ever, there were visitors - a Nigerian lady, an American family, a London based Zimbabwean lady. The Americans were unusual in that they are going round the world for a year. Also my sister and niece were here seeing the sites. There were four Iranians (still not up to the numbers we were the other month). It was good to be back anyway. We began on Acts 4 in the morning and looked at the beginning of Matthew 13 in the evening. I finished in the evening with Gavin Peacock's testimony as found here.

Polar Bear

Saw this picture from a Yorkshire wildlife park in my newspaper the other day. (Phtographer Russ Bridges).

Midweek meeting Wednesday May 3 2017

We had a good time of prayer the other night - probably because In allowed plenty of time and there was plenty to pray for. We were also a good number. We looked at the last of the solas or alones of the Reformation  - Soli Deo Gloria. We went to Romans 11, 2 Timothy 1 and 6 and 1 Corinthuans 10:3. What a wonderful theme.

10 Rugby terms in Welsh/10 Termau Rygbi Cymraeg

The news is that highlights of the Lions (Y Llewod) tour to New Zealand (Seland Newydd) will be available on S4C but (naturally enough) only with Welsh commentary.Time to brush up on your Welsh rugby terms.

1. Cais Try
2. Trosiad  Conversion
3. Cic adlam Drop kick
4. Tacl uchel High tackle
5. Cell gosb Sin bin
6. Seren y gem Man of the match
7. Camsefyll Offside
8. Beth yw’r sgôr? What's the score?
9. Ti’n ddall reff! You are deaf, ref!*
10. Roedd y bàs ’na mor bell mlaen, ma’ i hanner ffordd drwy wythnos nesa!
That pass was so far forward it was half way through next week

* Just noticed a mistake there. Dall means blind. Deaf would be byddar.

Bavinck on deathbed conversions

I went to the funeral of a neighbour today. It appears that he gave his life to Christ in the final week of life. Bavinck says that Arminians or Remonstrants attach little value to a deathbed conversion. When people have spent their whole lives “in sin” and have turned a deaf ear to all the invitations and warnings of the gospel, they consider such a last-minute conversion, which can no longer be proved by a new life, highly improbable, indeed impossible other than by an extraordinary act of divine mercy (Episcopius, P van Limborch) The Walloon preachers Jacques Bernard and Pierre Joncourt later expressed the same judgement. But on this subject, the Reformed generally held a more charitable opinion (C. Vitringa, Doctr. christ., III, 100–104).


I picked up a nice hardback biography of Mozart by Paul Johnson the other day and have read it with enjoyment. I like short biographies and Paul Johnson, although he is a bit schoolteacherish, is a good writer. He does well with Mozart who was clearly a genius. As a Catholic himself Johnson is good at bringing out the religious dimension. He is also keen to debunk some of the Mozart myths as seen in Amadeus, etc. The chapter on opera was the hardest to read as I know nothing about opera and have no wish to change that particularly. It is clear though that if writing operas was the only thing Mozart had done he would be rightly famous. Yet it is far from being all that he did.
Reading the biography prompted me to gather my Mozart CDs (there must be nine or ten of them) and start listening to them again. Yes, he is amazing.

Lord's Day April 20 2017

This past Sunday I was in Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Hilperton, Wiltshire.  (See here). I have preached there once before. My sister-in-law and family attend there. They meet in a primary school, It's always difficult to know what to preach in these situations. The family were with me so I wanted to use something they might not remember. Sinclair Ferguson's exploration of Philippians 3 set me thinking of that wonderful book (not that I stole hardly anything) and so I selected a fairly evangelistic sermon on Philippians 3:7-9 for the morning and 4:8 for the evening. They are lovely people and it was good to be there. It was nice to have further fellowship with some after the evening meeting.