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.

Week of Prayer

We have been having a series of prayer meetings this week as we do from time to time. The attendance has been good in the main. Having a series of meetings like this serves to underline the importance of prayer and galvanise us in the right direction. I guess about 14 different people have been along at different times, some of them several times. 

Lunch time lecture on Vavasor Powell

Southsea Castle, Portsmouth, one of Vavasor's last prisons

It was my privilege on Monday to give a lunchtime lecture at the Evangelical Library once more. I spoke on Vavasor Powell the Welsh Puritan and Baptist., who died 350 years ago this year. We were around twenty people present and most of us knew little about the man, who suffered and preached a great deal in his relatively short Christian life. The next lecture is on March 30, on Alfred Saker.

Spurgeon for tourists

This article appeared in a book of practical hints for tourists by Morris Philips in 1892. See here.

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London, October 1, 1890.
The Rev. C. H. Spurgeon still draws crowds to his tabernacle, which is situated in a part of London called Newington Butts. It is by no means a fashionable district, being in the Southeast end of the city. You tell any “cabby” to drive you to Spurgeon’s church and he will put you down at the door. But it is only a twenty minutes’ ride on a ’bus from Charing Cross; fare four cents.
That Mr. Spurgeon attracts great throngs of hearers, every one knows, but here are a few figures: His tabernacle accommodates between six and seven thousand people, and on Sunday morning, September 28, when{68} the writer was present, five thousand four hundred people listened to him. This was in September, be it remembered, when everybody is out of town and “London is empty.”
The regular members and attendants ascend the stone steps and enter the church through the front door; strangers and visitors get in by a side entrance, through an alleyway, and as they pass in, a tiny paper envelope is handed to each person. You drop into the envelope as much or as little coin as you please (for no human eye is watching you) and this envelope you in turn drop into an open box on your left, this method probably taking the place of a collection, which would be so difficult to manage where five or six thousand people have to be approached.
People sometimes ask what is the secret of this preacher’s distinguished success? The foundation of his success is his earnestness and evident sincerity.
He impresses his hearers with the belief that he believes what he is preaching. He does not seem to be making a profession or business of religion. There is nothing perfunctory in his manner; he rejoices in his calling.
Then again Spurgeon is a good and effective speaker. He talks in a slow, deliberate way, his enunciation being clear and his pronunciation perfect. Each word is distinct and clean cut. His accent is cosmopolitan; there is nothing local in it. Except for the pronunciation of a few words, such for instance, as the word “after,” to which Mr. Spurgeon gives the broad sound heard in England, you might be puzzled to know whether the great divine was born “within the sound of Bow Bells” or graduated from Columbia College.
His language hypercritical people might not call choice, but I beg to differ with them; it is exceedingly choice, being directly to the point, and like the man himself, simple and strong. There is no searching for{69} fine phrases and well-rounded periods. His ideas flow freely and they quickly find expression: there is no effect aimed at. The man trusts to the matter of his discourse, never troubling himself about his manner.
His gesticulations are few, natural and not at all dramatic. He will raise his right hand or occasionally take a step towards a small table hard by: nothing more. His voice is not musical, nor is it especially pleasing to a stranger’s ear; but it is firm, clear and penetrating, possessing those qualities most demanded in a public speaker.
On the morning of which I write Mr. Spurgeon took his text from Psalm 63, 7th verse, and held his hearers spell-bound for about forty minutes by his brilliant illustrations, his convincing arguments and his earnestness, for above and beyond all he is deeply in earnest. His prayer is beautiful; he touches a responsive chord in every heart in his fervent appeals to God for mercy and help.
Before the sermon there was singing of psalms and hymns. Mr. Spurgeon gave out hymn No. 916, “Going to Worship.” It was congregational singing, without instrumental music, one man near the pulpit acting as a sort of leader. The singing was too slow for the preacher. After the second verse he called aloud to the congregation to sing faster, himself beating time with his right hand. Psalm 34 was next given out, but when the first verse had been sung Mr. Spurgeon stopped the singing abruptly and said in a tone which was meant to be commanding: “I must beg that if you sing at all, you sing faster: there’s more heart in it if you sing quicker. Praise God as if you meant it; put your soul in the words: it will be more welcome if there’s spirit in it.”
Mr. Spurgeon’s deacons, about twelve in all, are seated on two rows of seats behind him, he and they occupying a high platform and prominent place - probably{70} fifteen feet above the floor of the church, where all can get a good view of the man’s features - all except the deacons.
The great preacher is now in his fifty-sixth year. Like his character and his language, physically he looks strong and rugged, but his health is not good.
Mr. Spurgeon belongs to a family of gospel ministers. His grandfather was an English divine; his father, Rev. James Archer Spurgeon, still living, now occupies, or did occupy until very recently, a pulpit in London; and he has two sons who follow his profession - one at Greenwich, near London, and one at Auckland, New Zealand.

P. S.—Mr. Spurgeon died at Mentone, France, on Sunday, January 21, 1892, deeply regretted by all who had ever heard him or heard of him.

Lord's Day February 23 2020

Half term makes things a little difficult and so on this second Sunday we were a little down in numbers for this and may be other reasons. Lots of lateness does not help either. Anyway, I preached on the fourth commandment and on Song of Songs 3. I have a seminary student on placement with me at present and so I had him read our consecutive readings from Psalms and Job. We had a new lady from Iran. It was a shame there were not other Iranians present.

Some recent films

Unusually, I've been out to the cinema three times in as many weeks. I enjoyed all three films.
1. A beautiful day in the neighbourhood with Tom Hanks is a lovely quiet film (it even includes a period of silence at one point - rare in films). It is based on the true story of Fred Rogers and the journalist Tom Junod (called Eric the film).  It was particularly good to have someone who prayed and read his Bible as a central character in a film and not to see him mocked. Rogers was  a PCUSA minister I don't know how sound he was or was not. Anyway I was glad I caught the film. Worth checking out on any size screen.
2. Emma was the only one I manged to see with someone - it was Valentine's Day and this was just the film for the day. The film went for every laugh it could muster (having Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart in the cast really helps) but still stuck pretty much to Austen as far as I could see. All the comedy meant that the cringing point when Emma is mean to Miss Bates is very powerful. Great stuff. 
3. Little women is also of literary stamp and this new version I found delectable. I loved every bit of it (themes, actors, costumes, scenery, etc, etc). Of course, it's been presented as a feminist piece but most of the points made in that direction I thought were pretty fair. Louisa May Alcott was of Transcendentalist Unitarian stock so there is a lot missing but on its own terms the book is wonderful and this version just beautiful.
I notice that two of the three films were directed by women (Marielle Heller and Greta Gerwig; I thought Autumn de Wild might be a woman but it is a man).
PS As I initially thought, all three are women. Apologies for the confusion.

Not this year for Wales

Frustratingly, Wales lost to the better team today, Wales 24-27 France.
The French defence was enormous.

Midweek Meeting February 19 2020

We were seven last night. We carried on in 1 Timothy 4 looking at four marks of a Christian minister. Everyone prayed, some a little longer than usual I felt. It was good to be there once again.

Day off Week 8 2020

Because it is half term this week we had a more obvious sort of day off on Tuesday. Eleri and I headed down to Dulwich  and after a leisurely stroll through the village we went to the art gallery and enjoyed looking at the pictures. The Rembrandt girl struck me most this time though the Linley sisters by Reynolds is always striking. On the way back we passed an actor (most recently Edward Heath and Lord Astor). Eleri recognised him best but even she had to look his name up (Michael Maloney). On that subject, we heard from our son in Aberystwyth how he had bumped into Taron Egerton in a coffee shop. Celebrities abound if you have eyes to see. Back home there was a little time for reading and TV too.

Lord's Day February 16 2020

A bit behind here but we did have an encouraging Sunday last time. Even though it was a half term Sunday and many members of the congregation are abroad at present we had decent numbers both services (although the evening communion was down to five). I preached on the third commandment, a rather forgotten one, am and again from Song of Songs pm. We appreciated having members around in the afternoon.

Preview Lord's Day February 16 2020

365 Albums 31-45

  1. Inside Llewyn Davies Soundtrack 2013
  2. Joshua Tree U2 1987
  3. Cuilidh Julie Fowlis 2007
  4. 6 6 6 Aphrodite's Child 1972
  5. Sing Lustily and with Good Courage Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band 1990*
  6. Epsilon in Malaysian Pale Edgar Froese 1975
  7. Trace Trace 1974
  8. Tales from the Book of Time Catherine Lambert and the Lore Liege Ensemble 2003
  9. The Chirping Crickets The Crickets 1957
  10. Hamburger Concerto Focus 1974
  11. Dona Nobis Pacem Pedal Point 1983*
  12. Guitars Philip Catherine 1975
  13. Regatta de Blanc The Police 1979
  14. Long Player Late Bloomer Ron Sexsmith 2010
  15. The Unfortunate Cup of Tea Horslips 1975
(* Suitable for Sunday playing IMHO)

Midweek Meeting February 12 2020

We were only seven on Wednesday night but it was good to look at the beginning of 1 Timothy 4 and to pray. Still not using notes, which is good (I think).

"Day off" Week 7 2020

As noted in the past the luxury of a proper day off is not always possible and this has been one of those weeks. I have had to stagger things. So I went to the cinema on Monday evening (and saw A beautiful day in the neighbourhood - more on that later) and also watched a good lot of TV the next evening. The bulk of Tuesday was spent (mostly) in the waiting room of a suite of law courts as a member of the church was involved in a hearing there. I was in the court room at one point but only briefly. I enjoyed fellowship with a fellow minister, a member of the church and relatives of the church member who had to be in the hearing. I also got a little reading done (Steve Turner on The Titanic).

Lord's Day February 9 2020

The storm was not too bad our end but it certainly kept some away. In one case a tree had fallen on the rail line. With seven away overseas and two away within the UK we did look a  little sparse but there were two visitors in the morning and some rare birds too. In the evening we were 18 and half of these were Asian (more than Africans and Europeans combined, although I confess one family of qight made a big impact!). In the morning we looked at the second commandment and in the evening at the next bit of Song of Songs and that went very well at last. We had tea at 5 pm and spent  ashort time in prayer for one of our members who has a big day coming up tomorrow. How blessed we are even in these difficult days.

Preview Meeting February 9 2020

We haven't had one of these in a while

Midweek Meeting February 5 2020

I think we were eight at the latet Wednesday night meeting. We looked at the klast three verses of 1 Timothy and I again took no manuscript, although I did have to refer to a scrap of paper reminding of the different ways people take the poem at the very end of the chapter. We began by sining Vernon Higham's Great is the gospel. We had a lively time of prayer following the Bible study and most people prayed. We finished in good time.

Day Off Week 6 2020

The latest day off was quite typical in that I spent time reading in the day adn watching TV at night but I also spent some time on a historical paper I am preparing as I felt a bit behind and a lot of time on the 'phione. I am a little but phonophobic but I talked to two of my sons and two friends at some length and I was glad to have done so.

Wonderful moment. Wonderful Internet.

Ministers Fraternals

Ministers fraternals are a great thing especially for ministers in independent churches. I go to two very different fraternals more or less once a month. It is a pity they fall in the same three days but there we are. I have mentioned both here before now First there's the Westminster Fellowship which is an all day affair (10.30am-3 pm with a short break for lunch plus time to travel there and back). Last Monday we had a speaker, which we often do. Robert Strivens addressed us on what to sing and gave us some useful historical and biblical material to chew over. He was keen to point out that the modern way of thinking is not just about using modern hymns but about a certain understanding of worship too. About 20 of us gathered and we had a good session. There are one or two psalm singers among us which slowed down proceedings but they have to think about these subjects too as you still have to decide which psam version to use and which tune. (PS we use New Christian Hymns in book form and are accompanied by a piano). Then today I joined nine other men at Hampstead Heath station to walk over the Heath and get a coffee before heading down to Gospel oak, talking all the way. This is a much looser way of doing things but means I get my 10,000 steps in, get to know some of my fellow ministers (better than I would at Westminster although this time I shared a bus ride with two different ones coming and out, which was good).

Liar, Lunatic or Lord

I was in a charity shop the other day and I saw a 2014 pocket edition of C S Lewis's 1950 work The Lion the witch and the wardrobe (see here) and bought it to go in my coat pocket. They say that reading good stuff more than once is a good idea. Having read about 50 pages I am struck by how many things I have missed in the past. I was particulalry struck by the way that when the children go to the professor to ask whether they should believe Lucy's story about Narnia we have this.

“Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is
telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”
This is classic Lewisian apologetics using the trilemma, if you know what you are looking at. In his book C S Lewis - The work of Christ revealed P H Brazier has a diagram based on the text

The whole section before all the children enter Narnia is interesting on the matter of witness, as well as other matters.

Lord's Day February 2 2020

A new month has arrived and so we began with communion, which was good. We sang hymns by Faith Cook and Timothy Dudley-Smith (our idea of modern 😏). In the morning meeting I began a new series on the Ten Commandments. I had thought of doing an intro before getting on to the first commandment but in the end combined the two sections okay. I'm also speaking to kids on the same subject using a book I found at the Carey Conference.
In the evening it was the third in the series on Song of Songs. We are still not quite there as I am finding it difficult to streamline the messages in light of having so much material available to me. Hopefully I'll get it just right next week. Among the encouraging things on Sunday was the appearance of members and others who have been missing recently. We also had visitors - an American student newly arrived and a Sri Lankan family living in the area  Hope they stick with us. I sold seven of the ten books by Elizabeth El Mostain, which was good. They are already reprinting I understand (although I don't think Elizabeth has seen the finished product yet).

Solid start for Wales

Wales 42 Italy 0

365 Albums 16-30

  1. Graceland Paul Simon 1986
  2. Laser Love After the Fire 1979
  3. Book of Invasions Horslips 1976
  4. The Slider T Rex 1972
  5. Philosophers, poets and kings Kate Rusby 2019
  6. New York City The Peter Malick Group ft Norah Jones 2003
  7. Angel on the mantlepiece Charles O'Connor 1999*
  8. Solitude Standing Suzanne Vega 1987
  9. Shepherd Moons Enya 1991
  10. Bridge Over Troubled Water Simon & Garfunkel 1969
  11. Play to Win Gabrielle 2004
  12. China Vangelis 1979
  13. Cyril Cyril Havermans 1973
  14. Hyperborea Tangerine Dream 1983
  15. The Race for Space Public Service Broadcasting 2015
(* Suitable for Sunday playing IMHO)

10 More Labels for Public Toilets

1. Guys Gals
2. Boys Girls
3. Mickey Minnie
4. Popeye Olive
5. Blokes Sheilas (Aus)
6. Knights Princesses (Warwick Castle)
7. Pirates Mermaids
8. Trousers Dress
9. Black moustache Red lips
10. Brogues Stilettos

10 Labels for public toilets

1. Gentlemen (or Gents) Ladies
2. Men Women
3. Laddies Lasses (Old Butlins)
4. XY XX
5. Adam Eve (seen in some churches)
6. Male Female
7. Batman Wonder Woman
8. Brothers Sisters (Holy Island)
9. Everyboy Everygirl (at the Everyman)
10. Chick magnets Chicks (Chicken Restaurant)

(Some get a bit graphic in emphasising M F differences. More than one has Bla for the men's and for thewomen's bla bla bla bla ba bla bla, etc)