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.

10 Random Bible Interpretation Decisions

  1. Genesis. It was right that Joseph revealed his dreams. It makes more sense to see him as good. This is why his father, Jacob, favoured him.
  2. Job. Job had only ten more after his recovery and only the girls are named. Job is given ten more children not twenty because he still had ten in heaven. The girls are named against convention in order to underline that tradition is not always correct.
  3. Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. There is nothing wrong with the traditional view that Solomon wrote the first as a young man, the last as an old man and the bulk of the middle one throughout his life.
  4. Proverbs 31 is not a mere appendix about what to look for in a wife but the climax of the call to the son by his father to marry wisdom. This wisdom points to Christ, the wisdom of God. We must marry the Bride Christ (as well as the Bridegroom as is taught elsewhere).
  5. 2 Kings. Elisha's request to Elijah for a double portion and why it was a hard thing to give is to do with the fact that a double portion is the eldest son's portion. When Elijah says he has asked for a hard thing it is not that it is hard for that to be done but being the eldest son involves great responsibility. For Christ it meant death on the cross.
  6. John 14. When Jesus speaks about going to prepare a place for his disciples he is referring chiefly to the work he is about to do on the cross. It is by this means that believers can enter heaven.
  7. Acts 16 says that the jailer was baptised along with his household. It is most likely that this reference is to all the other prisoners who also believed.
  8. Romans 14:22, 23 makes clear that faith resides in the conscience, which is the soul in its moral workings.
  9. 1 Corinthians 11:14 speaks of  long hair as a shame to a  man. Paul is probably being ironic here as he let his hair grow throughout the 18 months he was in Corinth planting the church.
  10. Revelation 20:3. How to understand the thousand years and the short time is difficult and there are various views. Those who rightly take it to refer to the period from Christ's first coming to his second still allow a short time at the end when Satan is again set free. It is better to take the thousand years and the short time to run conjointly. In one sense the period is like a thousand years of Satan bound but, in another sense, it is like a short time when Satan is free.

Joseph Parry Aberystwyth Aberystwyth


Another plaque I have noticed this time round is the one to Joseph Parry (1841– 903) the Welsh composer and musician. Born in Merthyr Tydfil, he is best known as the composer of "Myfanwy" and the hymn tune "Aberystwyth" (see below), on which the African song "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" is said to be based. Parry was also the first Welshman to compose an opera; his composition, Blodwen, was the first opera in the Welsh language.
Born into a large family, Parry left school to work in the local coal mines when he was nine years of age. He then went to work at the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, where his father was also employed. In 1854 the family emigrated to the USA, settling at Danville, Pennsylvania, where Parry again found employment at an iron works.
Though Parry had a great interest in music, he had no opportunity to study it until there was a temporary closure of the Rough and Ready Iron Works. Some of his co-workers were also musicians, and they offered music lessons while the iron works was closed. Parry joined a music sight-reading class taught by one of the men. He continued to study harmony with another co-worker, and learned how to read and write while he was learning about harmony.
He soon began submitting compositions to eisteddfodau in Wales and the USA and winning awards. During a return visit to Wales for the National Eisteddfod at Llandudno, Parry was offered two music scholarships, but was unable to accept due to family obligations. A fund was established for the support of Parry and his family while he studied music.
He went on to receive a Doctorate in Music from the University of Cambridge; he was the first Welshman to receive Bachelor's and Doctor's degrees in music from the University. He returned to Wales in 1874 to become the first Professor of Music at Aberystwyth University, later accepting a position at Cardiff University.
Aberystwyth was first published in 1879 by Stephen and Jones in Ail Lyfr Tonau ac Emynau English tr. Second Book of Tunes and Hymns). It was paired with Charles Wesley's words, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul", and first sung at the English Congregational Church in Portland Street, Aberystwyth, where Parry worked as an organist.
(Enoch Sontonga worked in a Methodist mission school near Johannesburg. Sontonga, like Parry, was a choirmaster; in 1897, he set new words to Parry's music and called the hymn Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. Welsh missionaries often brought various copies of hymnals to their African missions; it is believed Parry's hymn reached Africa in this manner. While Sontonga wrote only one stanza of lyrics and a chorus for the song, Samuel Mqhayi composed seven more stanzas in 1927. The song became the national anthem of South Africa and four other African nations.)

T H Parry-Williams Aberystwyth

I seem to be noticing more plaques in Aber than  normal. This one is for Sir Thomas Herbert Parry-Williams (1887- 1975). Parry-Williams was a poet, author and academic. Born at Tŷ'r Ysgol (the Schoolhouse) in Rhyd Ddu, Caernarfonshire, he was educated at the UCW, Aberystwyth, Jesus College, Oxford, the University of Freiburg and the Sorbonne. As a poet, he was the first to win the double of Chair and Crown at the National Eisteddfod, which he achieved at Wrexham in 1912 and repeated at Bangor, 1915. He was a conscientious objector in World War. I He was Professor of Welsh at Aberystwyth, 1920-1952. He co-founded the university's Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. He was awarded D.Litt. degrees by the Universities of Wales (1934) and Oxford (1937) and was knighted in 1958. He was also given an honorary doctorate by the University of Wales 1960 and made an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, 1968.

Lord's Day Aberystwyth August 22 2021

It was my privilege yesterday to be listening rather than preaching. We were listening to my son, Rhodri, in Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth. Numbers are limited at the moment and the congregation was scattered across the building. He preached from Ezekiel 18 in the morning and that great text Zephaniah 3:17 in the evening. How good to hear your own son preach the Word faithfully. It was nice to chat with people outside afterwards. The services can be found here.

Lewis Edwards Penllwyn

This statue is raised in remembrance and to honour the Reverend Lewis Edwards M.A. D.D.
Founder and head of the first Bala College 1837-1887 and 
who taught the Welsh people as a literary man and Minister of God, the gospel born Pwllcenawon Penllwyn 27 October 1809 Died Bala 19 July 1887

We have been on holiday in the Aberystwyth area and more than once we have been through Capel Bangor or Penllwyn where in the chapel grounds there is a bust of Lewis Edwards (1809–1887) who was born in the village and became an important educator and Nonconformist minister.
He was the eldest son of Lewis and Margaret Edward and was educated in Aberystwyth and Llangeitho. He ran schools in both these places then became private tutor to a family in Meidrim, Carmarthenshire. He had preached for the Calvinistic Methodists and, in 1829, was accepted as a regular preacher by the Calvinistic Methodist congregation at Llangeitho. In 1830 he was accepted for study at the Seceders' College, Belfast, but chose instead to study in London, at a college which later became University College. After a year in London he became a minister and schoolteacher in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. In 1833 he went to Edinburgh University, where he studied under Thomas Chalmers and Christopher North. By a special dispensation he graduated after three years instead of the usual four, obtaining an MA with honours. He was awarded an honorary DD by the University of Edinburgh in 1865.
He was now better able to further his plans for providing a trained ministry for his church. Previously, Calvinistic Methodist preachers had relied on their natural gifts. Edwards made his home at Bala, and there, in 1837, with David Charles, his brother-in-law, he opened a school, which ultimately, as Bala College, became the denominational college for north Wales.
In 1836 he married Jane Charles, granddaughter of Thomas Charles (1755–1814). Their son Thomas Charles Edwards became the first principal of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.
He died on 19 July 1887, and was buried in Llanycil churchyard near the grave of his grandfather-in-law Thomas Charles.
Edwards may fairly be called one of the makers of modern Wales. Through his hands passed generation after generation of preachers, who carried his influence to every corner of Wales. By fostering competitive meetings and by his writings, especially in Y Traethodydd, a quarterly magazine which he founded in 1845 and edited for 10 years, he did much to inform and educate his countrymen on literary and theological subjects. A new college was built at Bala in 1867, for which he raised £10,000. His chief publication was a noteworthy book on the doctrine of the Atonement, cast in the form of a dialogue between master and pupil; the treatment is forensic, and emphasis is laid on merit. It was due to him that the North and South Wales Calvinistic Methodist Associations united to form an annual General Assembly; he was its moderator in 1866 and again in 1876. He was successful in bringing the various churches of the Presbyterian order into closer touch with each other, and unwearying in his efforts to promote education for his countrymen.

Lord's Day N Ireland August 15 2021


Last Lord's Day was a little different as we were away from home and staying with others. We had also decided to fly back to the mainland from N Ireland that evening. In the end we joined the Portadown Elim congregation online in the morning with four others. This was not quite what we are used to, although Mount Pleasant the week before had prepared us. The sermon was from a member called Ken Henning, an MBE and former police chief, who preached helpfully from 1 Corinthians 13. We should have been better organised and set up to watch something in the evening but failed there and so I found myself buying my wife perfume not something I often do, especially on the Lord's Day! We flew frm Belfast to Cardiff and then drove on to a holiday place near Aber. One sad aspect to the day was to know I was so near Richhill EPC and not be able to attend.

Wedding In N Ireland


It was a great joy the other Saturday for my wife and I to be in N Ireland for the wedding of my niece Dominique to Nick Williamson. Nick's parents very kindly looked after us while we were there and the wedding itself was a blessing. First time I'd been at a wedding in the open air. There was rain at certain points but not during the ceremony and we were treated very well. Great day. The wedding was in Ballyard's Castle, a Christian Conference Centre belonging to the charity Drop Inn. See here.

10 Nants

As we travel about in Wales we see a lot of places whose names begin with Nant-. Here are ten examples.
  1. Nantyrarian, Brecknockshire (Silverbrook)
  2. Nant-y-Bwch, Brecknockshire (Cowbrook)
  3. Nantddu, Brecknockshire (Blackbrook)
  4. Nantyglo, Monmouthshire (Coalbrook)
  5. Nantmel, Radnorshire (Honeybrook)
  6. Nantglas, Radnorshire (Bluebrook)
  7. Nant Mawr, Flintshire (Greatbrook)
  8. Nantycaws, Carmarthenshire (Cheesebrook)
  9. Nant-y-ffin, Carmarthenshire (Borderbrook)
  10. Nant-y-felin, Caernarfonshire (Millbrook)

Shelley in Cwm Elan

As mentioned our holiday moved on next to Rhaeadr near the Elan Valley, where we saw the above statue in memory of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Shelley was born in Sussex in August 1792. The son of lawyer and MP Timothy Shelley, who in 1815 became a baronet, the poet would have inherited the title and estate had he lived longer. Despite a traditional ‘establishment’ background, young Shelley saw himself as a revolutionary, an idealist who was quite unrealistic and impractical. He was called "mad Shelley" by schoolmates.
He went to Oxford University in October 1810, when he was engaged to Harriet Grove, relative of his uncle Thomas Grove, owner of Cwm Elan, a large mansion later lost when the Elan Valley was flooded to create reservoirs. Their engagement was brief, however, largely because of Shelley’s writings against religious belief, which also resulted in expulsion from Oxford after only six months.
The future poet then went to London, where he met another Harriet, Harriet Westbrook, daughter of an inn-keeper. In July 1811, when Shelley was almost 19, he was invited by his uncle to stay at Cwm Elan. He chose to walk to mid-Wales all the way from the family estate in Sussex.
Whilst in Wales he was greatly impressed by the wild and romantic surroundings
"Rocks piled on each other to tremendous heights, rivers formed into cataracts by their projections, and valleys clothed with woods, present an appearance of enchantment."
"This country is highly romantic; here are rocks of uncommon height and picturesque waterfalls. I am more astonished at the grandeur of the scenery than I expected."
"...I am not wholly uninfluenced by its magic on my lonely walks."
Some brief reflections on Shelley at Cwm Elan were recorded in 1878 by an old woman who had delivered the post to Grove’s mansion
"He was a very strange gentleman. On weekdays he wore a little cap and had his neck bare, but on Sundays, donning a tall hat, he would go with the family to church". He was said to be "full of fun" and "he loved to sail in the rapid mountain streams a wooden boat about a foot in length, and would run along the bank, using a pole to direct his craft, and keep it from shipwreck on the rocks".
This lady also remembered that Shelley once put a rather reluctant cat on board his little boat!
Shelley received a letter from Harriet Westbrook while at Cwm Elan, in August 1811, that prompted him to rush back to London to see her. The young couple, aged just 19 and 16, promptly eloped and married in Edinburgh. They went to Dublin for a while, where Shelley distributed revolutionary pamphlets, then returned in April 1812. His fondness for Cwm Elan led the couple to a search for a house in Wales, as Harriet wrote in a letter on their return from Ireland:
"Strange as it may appear, we have been all through North Wales to find a house, but not one presented itself..."
Despite their wide-ranging search, it is curious that they should set their heart on the manor house of Nantgwyllt, only about a mile and a half from Grove’s house. The newly married couple moved into the large house, but their hopes of acquiring the property would fail. Harriet wrote fondly of Nantgwyllt in April, 1812 "The beauty of this place is not to be described. It is quite an old family house, with a farm of 200 acres meadow-land."
Just a day or two later, Shelley wrote in a letter:
"The house is not yet our own, although we reside here, but will be so in the course of a month. ...This house is large, it will contain seven bedrooms. ...We are now embosomed in the solitude of mountains, woods and rivers - silent, solitary, and old: far from any town; six miles from Rhayader, which is the nearest. A ghost haunts this house, which has frequently been seen by the servants."
On the April 25 1812, he wrote:
"We are not yet completely certain of being able to obtain the house where now we are. The cheapness, beauty, and retirement, make this place in every view desirable. .... mountains and rocks seeming to form a barrier round this quiet valley, which the tumult of the world may never overleap."
In a letter requesting help in securing the property, he wrote that "so eligible an opportunity for settling in a cheap, retired, romantic spot will scarcely occur again".
By the beginning of June 1812 their hopes of acquiring Nantgwyllt had collapsed. Shelley wrote on June 6 "Nantgwyllt is not ours, nor will it be". The following day, his wife wrote "you may imagine our sorrow at leaving so desirable a spot, where every beauty seems centred ...."
With the ending of their hopes at Nantgwyllt they went to stay for a few days at Cwm Elan, then left, never to return. It is clear that they were very happy together at the house which they had hoped to make their home but sadly only for a very short time in the spring and early summer of 1812. Shelley was to abandon his young wife after just two years to live with Mary Godwin. Harriet, desperately unhappy and alone, drowned herself in the Serpentine, Hyde Park, in 1816.
Shelley, by the time of his death an acclaimed lyric poet, was drowned sailing offshore in Tuscany on July 8 1822. His body was recovered and he was cremated on the beach. Many have noted the strange connections with water in Shelley’s life.
In 1937 the water level in Caban Coch reservoir fell to 55 feet below its highest point, and the remains of the manor house of Nantgwyllt were exposed. Thousands came to see this rare sight, repeated in 1947 when another record drought caused the level to drop dramatically.
Although many believed that the house was intact when the site was submerged, only the garden walls and a pile of rubble revealed the location of the house of which Shelley had been so fond

Robert Jermain Thomas Rhaeadr

Our holiday is continuing in Rhaeadr, Mid-Wales, and the party has now swollen from three to fifteen (all our children and grandchildren are here). We are opposite the house where Robert J Thomas was born.
Robert Jermain Thomas (1839-1866) was a missionary who served with the London Missionary Society in China and Korea. While a missionary to China, he developed a strong desire to work among the Koreans. Korea was then closed to foreigners because the government feared of foreign influence. (Roman Catholic priests had seen many converts in the late eighteenth century but 8,000 had been killed by the government.)
Thomas made his first visit to the Korean coast in 1865, making him the second known Protestant missionary (Karl Gutzlaff, a German Protestant missionary, was first. He visited in 1832 and distributed Chinese Bibles). Thomas learned as much as he could about the people and their language during his two and a half months there, distributing Chinese tracts and NTs as they were not available in Korean.
During this first visit, he kept a diary of which the following are the entries for 3 and 4 November 1865.
Nov. 3 This morning half-a-dozen junkmen went ashore to catch shell fish, on which three of them were cruelly beaten about the legs by a score of cowardly islanders. Our little fleet of nine junks was in a state of high indignation. We could send fifty men to fight. In their own fashion they immediately loaded their rusty matchlocks and small guns with powder only! And taking to their sampons, flying their respective flags, amidst great beating of gongs, made for the village. All the islanders were congregated like a flock of white sheep on the top of the hill. Two or three of the fiercer ones were going through all kinds of warlike manoeuvres on a near cliff. Steadily our flotilla advanced, firing volley after volley of power—the more prudent one fire about five hundred yards from the village. Two of the most daring boats advanced towards the shore, where, by this time, many of those from the hill had collected themselves and were engaged very vigorously in pelting stones; nothing daunted, these two boats seized a small junk lying off the beach, in a trice they had lifted the anchor, and amidst great acclamations brought away their prize. It is a small tub and will be given up tomorrow.
Nov. 4 Yesterday, stormy. Today two islanders fixed a small stick in the ground at low water with a piece of paper attached to it. I sent my writer for it; the following is a free translation:--"This for all to see. You are engaged in a contraband trade, a trade severely punished by our respective countries. Your vessels that come here are too much given to disturbances. You have been here already ten days. You have dared to cut wood on a sacred islet with a temple on it, rendering us liable to tempests. Your guilt is very great indeed. As we have none who after the wood, you have taken it in a thievish manner. You are all a set of thieves. You indeed are a desperate set. One of our military officials will come with a thousand men, who will do battle with you and slay you. But now we are willing to make it up and not report it. You must believe this document. The other day you snatched away a vessel; you must return it, and then we will not entertain hostile feelings toward you. Be quick, be quick."
In 1866, he was asked to join the French Naval force as an interpreter to go to Korea as a part of an invading party. However, they went to Vietnam so he took a job as an interpreter on an armed American trading ship, General Sherman. He persuaded the captain to sail to Pyongyang to establish trade between the USA and Korea, even though uninvited trade was forbidden. His personal motivation was to spread the gospel in Korea.
The General Sherman set sail on 9 August 1866 and was first spotted at the mouth of the Taedong River on 16 August. As the ship sailed up the river loaded with cotton goods, tin and glass, Thomas tossed gospel tracts onto the riverbank. Korean officials repeatedly ordered the American boat to leave immediately. On or around 25 August, the crew kidnapped Hyon-Ik Yi, a Korean government official, who was in charge of communications with the ship. An ex-military officer, Chun-Gwon Park, eventually managed to rescue Yi and reinstated him to his former position. However, Yi's two subordinates, Soon-Won Yoo and Chi-Young Park, who had also been taken hostage, perished during the scuffles. On 31 August, the crew of General Sherman fired cannons and guns at the nearby civilians, resulting in 7 deaths and 5 wounded. Both the Korean government and the early Korean Christian community agreed that it was the General Sherman that had initiated hostilities. Governor Gyu-Su Park of Pyong-An Province finally declared the General Sherman an enemy vessel and ordered his troops to prepare for battle.
When the General Sherman ran aground on a mud-bank near Pyongyang, the Koreans saw their opportunity and attacked. The crew held them off for two days. Eventually, the Koreans launched a burning boat, which set the General Sherman on fire. Among the crew, 14 were shot and killed (including one who had been shot to death two days before), four were burnt to death and two who had jumped to shore were beaten to death by angry civilians on the shore. One of these, apparently, was Thomas.
Other accounts of his death have been given. The first claim appeared on Oh Mun-hwan's "Christian News" article of 8 December 1926, reporting that Thomas was killed in retribution by the relatives of those killed by the crew of the General Sherman. The same article cites a statement from Rev. Lee Jae Bong, a minister in Southern province (1000 miles away). He had a distant relative who happened to be a soldier present during the General Sherman incident. This veteran said that one of the crew being executed by sword had a red book which he begged the soldiers to take. Oh concluded that this must have been Thomas. A year later, this account had evolved to state that Thomas tried to hand his Bible to the executioner and that this soldier later told his family that he had killed a good man ("Korea Mission Field," Sept. 1927). Others claimed that Thomas's executioner was none other than Chun-Gwon Park, who had previously rescued the government official, Hyon-Ik Yi.
The Korean official report of the incident clearly states Thomas was killed by civilians, not Park. This is corroborated by Oh Mun-Hwan's 1926 article. In another account, Thomas leapt to shore carrying a Bible, which he offered to his attackers crying, "Jesus, Jesus!" in Korean. This account was also rebutted by others who stated Thomas was waving the official signet of Hyon-Ik Yi which had probably been taken from him when he was kidnapped. Yi was later demoted for losing an important official signet.
"One government official named Pak Yong-Sik who took home some of the Bibles thrown onto the river bank, used them to wallpaper rooms in his house, so people were able to read the gospel there for themselves." This was discovered by the local Christian community in early 1900s, and people came from all over to read the words on his walls. Eventually, a church was established in the area. Certainly, Thomas's influence grew after his death. Only 15 years later, Pyongyang had become a strong Christian centre with a hundred churches.
Thomas was married to Caroline Godfrey during the years of 1863–1865. She died of a miscarriage only four months after their arrival in Shanghai, China.

Lord's Day in Swansea August 8 2021

We are on holiday at the moment - in Wales, of course. We decided to start in Swansea and stayed (the three of us) in a nice studio flat near the marina for the weekend. There are many places we could go to church in Swansea but we decided on Mount Pleasant in the morning and Ebenezer in the evening. Both are Baptist churches. Way back Mount was English speaking and Ebenezer Welsh speaking but now the difference is more to do with conservative and less conservative approaches. We needed to register for both services.
We went to Mount in the morning which was having its first in person meeting without social distancing. As we expected there was a small band up front leading worship and a number of participants. Tom Martyn preached the sermon from John 19 informing us all that Jesus has died to save us and now we need to trust in him. There was a golden moment when Spurgeon was quoted saying that the cross teaches us to honour him who in "his direst agony thought of her needs and griefs, (Mary's) as he also thinks of all his people, for these are his mother and sister and brother." It was nice to chat with people after on the large pavement outside the building.
The minister, Steve Levy, was away but we were able to catch up with him in the evening briefly. In the evening one of the elders (Dave Evans) was preaching. He took us to the phrase in Psalm 32 in whose spirit there is no deceit. Ebenezer were still socially distancing and had a smaller congregation in a bigger building. Their pastor (Graham John) was also away. Again it was good to chat briefly with one or two we know. The services can be accessed on Youtube at these places.

Midweek Meeting August 4 2021

For my last midweek meeting before leaving for holiday I decided to do something a little different. I have a series I am working on about things that are special and I thought I might do the first of these on the fact that the earth is special. It is the Goldilocks planet as it has been put. We were very few. It was on Zoom.

Lord's Day August 1 2021


My final sermons before going away were in person at the chapel. We began with communion in the morning and then I preached the next in the series from Luke. In the evening we were down to single figures in the church itself  and I did a one off from a great text. What  privilege to preach God's Word!

Midweek Meeting July 28 2021

Another fine prayer meeting and Bible Study on zoom again last week and with good numbers. We came to the end of 1 Timothy. Good timing as I am away soon, although I will take the meeting on August 4.