Thursday, May 26, 2016

To Thirst For the Living God

"My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" -- King David
"There is in true grace an infinite circle: a man by thirsting receives, and receiving thirsts for more." -- Thomas Shepard
"O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." -- King David
"I thirst for thirstiness; I weep for tears." -- Thomas Gataker
"I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land." -- King David
"The Samaritan woman at the well found the Lord thirsting, and by him thirsting, she was filled. She first found him thirsting in order that he might drink from her faith. And when he was on the cross, he said, "I thirst," although they did not give him that for which he was thirsting. For he was thirsting for them." -- Augustine
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." -- Isaiah
"We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee stil:
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill." -- Bernard of Clairvaux
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." -- The Lord Jesus
"O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still." -- A.W. Tozer
"But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." -- The Lord Jesus
"With meat and drink indeed I'm blest,
Yet feed on hunger, drink on thirst.
My hunger brings a plenteous store,
My plenty makes me hunger more." -- Ralph Erskine

Monday, May 16, 2016

RBO is the Place to Go

I want to highlight a very valuable website which is fast becoming a go-to repository of some of the best Reformed reading material on the Internet: Reformed Books Online. It is run by my friend Travis Fentiman, who is a licentiate in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). I am a contributor to the site as well. 

There are a number of great websites around which have assembled collections of Reformed literature. I recommend the Post-Reformation Digital Library, Monergism, A Puritan's Mind and others. But as RBO has grown and expanded (and continues to do so weekly), I think it has become a site that all Reformed Christians will find to be simply invaluable as it makes available and accessible material from the time of the Reformation forward to the present on such a wide range of topics that readers of this blog will appreciate.

For example, those interested in Psalmody, Psalters or the Establishment Principle or the writings of the Westminster Divines or Scottish Covenanters will have hours and hours of edifying reading. If you desire to read all Reformed Systematic Theologies available online, and much, much more [see also several recommended reading lists here], RBO is the place to go.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Presbytery Inn Interview

My friend Devan Meade recently interviewed me at his website The Presbytery Inn about three of my favorite subjects: books, John Calvin, and books. :) 

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Plea Answered: Wilhelmus à Brakel's Commentary on Revelation Translated

It was just over 7 years ago today that I published "A Plea to Translate Wilhelmus à Brakel's Exposition of Revelation." When Father Brakel's "The Christian's Reasonable Service" was translated into English in the 1990s -- a great service to the church indeed -- a decision was made not to translate the final portion of it consisting of his commentary on Revelation because it represented a postmillennial eschatological perspective (common to all Puritans, whether Dutch, Scottish, English or American). This omission in translation left a gap for English readers desiring both to have a full translation of à Brakel's magnum opus, and those interested to read for themselves his understanding of the last book of the Bible.

I am pleased to report that this gap has finally been filled by J. Parnell McCarter and his team at the Historicism Research Foundation who have now produced an English translation of this work titled "
Not to be Ignored: Rev. Wilhelmus à Brakel's Commentary on Revelation" (2016), which is now available for purchase in paperback or digital format. For those who have been waiting, as I have, for this important work to be accessible in English, please see the announcement of this publication here for details on how to purchase your copy.

Many thanks to Mr. McCarter and those who assisted in the project for this valuable contribution to the church! 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In Which Women Deacons Were Approved by the Westminster Assembly

Let me tell you about the time that the Westminster Assembly passed a proposition authorizing in their Presbyterian church order that women be included in the office of deacon. The story is fascinating, especially of how it ends, and, well, maybe better told by Dr. Wayne Spear in his "Covenanted Uniformity in Religion: The Influence of the Scottish Commissioners on the Ecclesiology of the Westminster Assembly," pp. 119-121.
The Assembly still had before it another proposition from the Second Committee, 'That widows, which we read of, I Tim. v. 3, and elsewhere, are included under the name deacons.'[211] This came up for discussion on December 28 and 29, 1643.
The Independents, especially [Sidrach] Simpson and [William] Bridge, argued most strongly in the Assembly for the inclusion of deaconesses in the church. Simpson, for example, drew from 1 Timothy 5 the points that qualifications for the widow are given, some of them the same as are required for bishops and deacons; that she is to be enrolled, i.e., elected; and that she is not to depart from her employment.[212] Significantly, he related the passage in 1 Timothy to the text that was so central in the Independents' ecclesiology, Romans 12:6-8, understanding 'he that sheweth mercy' (with a curious change in gender) to refer explicitly to the widow, or deaconess. The position taken by the Independents was supported by other leading men of the Assembly only by Lazarus Seaman and George Gillespie. 
The notion that the widow in 1 Timothy 5 was a deaconess went back at least to [John] Calvin, who also appealed to Romans 12:8. In the Institutes, Calvin held that there are two grades of deacons: those who distribute alms, and those who devote themselves to the care of the poor and sick. 'Of this sort were the widows whom Paul mentions to Timothy [1 Tim. 5:9-10]. Women could fill no other public office than to devote themselves to the care of the poor.'[213] Calvin's teaching on this point was taken up by the English Separatists; Henry Barrow's A True Description out of the Word of God, of the Visible Church (1589) made a distinction between the 'most diligent and trusty deacons' and 'most loving and sober relievers' in the church.[214] The latter, who are designated as officers,
'must be women of sixty years of age at the least, for avoiding of inconveniences: they must be well reported of for good works, such as have nourished their children, such as have been harbourers to strangers: diligent and serviceable to the saints, compassionate and helpful to them in adversity, given to every good work, continuing in supplications and prayer night and day.'[215]
Some of the strongest leaders in the Assembly argued against including widows or deaconesses as officers, holding that they were, in the Timothy passage, the recipients rather than the bestowers of the alms of the church: [Charles] Herle, [Stephen] Marshall, [Herbert] Palmer, [Thomas] Temple, and [Cornelius] Burgess all took the negative side.[216]
When it came to a vote, the Assembly was evenly divided: the proposition passed by just one vote. Had [John] Lightfoot been present, the outcome would have been different, for he strongly opposed the proposition; but, as he said, 'It was my unfortunacy to be called into the city before it came to a vote.'[217] In the next session, there was a long debate on Romans 16:1-2 as a proof text, which ended in a negative vote, and the Assembly went on to other matters.[218]
In the process of editing, the only significant change  that was made in the section was that this reference to widows was quietly dropped. Although technically this amounted to changing a previous vote of the Assembly, it was not objected to, undoubtedly because of the divided opinion in the Assembly when the proposition was originally passed. As far as can be determined, the existence of deaconesses in the church was no more than a matter of theory, even for the advocates of their inclusion. 
[211] Lightfoot, Journal, 43.
[212] Lightfoot, Journal, 94-25.
[213] Calvin, Institutes, 4.3.9.
[214] In The Reformation of the Church, ed. Iain Murray (London: Banner of Truth, 1965), 197.
[215] Murray, Reformation, 99.
[216] Lightfoot, Journal, 94-96.
[217] Lightfoot, Journal, 96; Gillespie, Notes, 5. 
[218] Lightfoot, Journal, 97-98.
HT: Steve Bradley

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Blog: The Presbytery Inn

Be sure to check out a new blog by my friend Devan Meade: The Presbytery Inn. It is a place where good theology is "on tap." It combines edifying articles, book reviews, quotes with good beer. The description says it all:
The Presbytery Inn. A bar and guest house for those of a Confessional Presbyterian persuasion. If you like to talk about Turretin while drinking an Oatmeal Stout, this is the place for you. Feel free to stretch your legs, take a walk around the establishment, and note that there are many dusty corners and small nooks in this creaky old inn. We find those places that have been the most lived in are the ones that provide the greatest rest. And, indeed, the one who called us before the foundation of the world, is the one in whom we find our greatest rest. This website is intentionally confessional, subscribing to the original Westminster Confession of Faith.

Friday, July 17, 2015

How Then Shall We Live, According to a Puritan

Richard Rogers, "Seven Treatises":

Sundry necessary observations for a Christian, fit also to meditate upon. 
1. That we keep a narrow watch over our hearts, words, and deeds continually. 
2. That with all care the time be redeemed, which hath been idly, carelessly, and unprofitably spent. 
3. That once in the day at the least private prayer and meditation be used.
4. That care be had to do, and receive good in company.
5. That our family be with diligence and regard instructed, watched over and governed.
6. That no more time or care be bestowed in matters of the world, then must needs.
7. That we stir up ourselves to liberality to God's Saints.
8. That we give not the least bridle to wandering lusts and affections.
9. That we prepare ourselves to bear the cross, by what means it shall please God to exercise us.
10. That we bestow some time not only in mourning for our own sins, but also for the sins of the time and age wherein we live.
11. That we look daily for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, for our full deliverance out of this life.
12. That we use (as we shall have opportunity, at least as we shall have neccessity) to acquaint our selves with some godly and faithful person, with whom we may confer of our Christian estate, and open our doubts, to the quickening up of Gods graces in us.
13. That we observe the departure of men our of this life, their mortality, the vanity and alteration of things below, the more to condemn the world, and to continue our longing after the life to come. And that we meditate and muse often of our own death, and going out of this life, how we must lie in the grave, all our glory put off; which will serve to beat down the pride of life that is in us.
14. That we read somewhat daily of the holy Scriptures, for the further increase of our knowledge, if it may be.
15. That we enter into covenant with the Lord to strive against all sin, and especially against the special sins and corruptions of our hearts and lives, wherein we have most dishonored the Lord, and have raised up most guiltiness to our own consciences, and that we carefully see our covenant be kept and continued.
16. That we mark how sin dieth and is weakened in us, and that we turn not to our old sins again, but wisely avoid all occasions to sin.
17. That we fall not from our first love, but continue still our affections to the liking of Gods word, and all the holy exercises of religion diligently hearing it, and faithfully practicing the same in our lives and conversations: that we prepare our selves before we come, and meditate and confer of that we hear, either by our selves, or with other: and so mark our daily profiting in religion.
18. That we be often occupied in meditating on Gods benefits and works, and sound forth his praises for the same.
19. That we exercise our faith by taking comfort and delight in the great benefit of our redemption by Christ, and the fruition of Gods presence, in his glorious and blessed kingdom.
20. Lastly, that we make not these holy practices of repentance common in time, nor use them for course.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Family That Prays Together

It is a well-known truism that “the family that prays together stays together.”

The saying was invented by Al Scalpone, a professional commercial-writer, and was used as the slogan of the Roman Catholic Family Rosary Crusade by Father Patrick Peyton (P. Peyton, All for Her, 1967). The crusade began in 1942 and the slogan was apparently first broadcast on 6 Mar. 1947 during the radio programme Family Theater of the Air. The Crusade in Britain started in 1952, and the expression now has many (often humorous) variant forms. [Jennifer Speake, ed., “The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs” (5th ed., 2008), p. 109]

Though the saying comes directly to us through a 20th century Roman Catholic “crusade,” the principle behind the saying is a Biblical and Protestant one.

Religion is absolutely necessary to preserve domestic union. For families are but little societies, as societies are larger families; and therefore religion, which is confessedly the best bond and cement of union in states and larger communities, is likewise so in little domestic governments: and family prayer is as much a duty in this smaller sphere of action, as public worship is a national concern. [Jeremiah Seed, “Domestic Love and Union Recommended and Enforced” (Serm. III) in “Discourses on Several Important Subjects. To Which are Added Eight Sermons,” (5th ed., 1757) Vol. 1, pp. 68-69]

Seed adds: 

Besides, the united devotions of a whole family acting in concert will be more effectual, than the solitary prayers of any single member, when detached from the whole body: as they have a tendency to beget in others a correspondent piety, to propagate the flame from breast to breast, and to encourage, countenance, and give a sanction to exemplary holiness: but chiefly, because God has promised, that where two or three are gathered together, he will be in the midst of them. It is a beautiful and amiable sight to behold a well-regulated society, glorifying God with one heart and one mouth, canceling their former sins by repentance, and forming settled resolutions of obedience for the future.
Add to this, that the joint devotions of a family are as necessary to derive a blessing upon a family, and to return thanks for blessings already received; as the applications of each individual are to beg God, or to thank him for, his own personal advantages. [Jeremiah Seed, “The Duties of Family and Private Prayer Considered” (Serm. XI) in “Discourses on Several Important Subjects. To Which are Added Eight Sermons,” (5th ed., 1757) Vol. 1, pp. 290-291]

More recently, Herbert Lockyer writes:

A home which puts Christ first and is bathed in prayer never breaks apart. When the first family was formed, family prayer began, with the head of the family as the priest. 'I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.' Genesis 18:19 'There can be no true family life without family religion, and family religion is best sustained by family worship,' says W.C. Proctor. The proverb has it that, 'A home without prayer is like a house without a roof.' Manifold promises are for those whose home life is permeated with prayer. 'A family that prays together, stays together.' Family prayer is 'the bond of family love, the cement of domestic amity, and the sweetener of home life.'" [Herbert Lockyer, "All the Promises of the Bible (1962)," p. 219]

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What is Freer Than Gift?

There is a wonderful chapter in Daniel Rogers' “Practical Catechism” on the free offer of the gospel. Below are some extracts from it designed to whet the appetite, stir the appreciation of God’s free offer of grace in the gospel, and in his words, “teach thee to mend thy slow pace, and run, yea, fly to this offer and free gift.” Read the full chapter in the link below from pages 88 to 108. Daniel Rogers (1573–1652) was an English Puritan minister and scholar, son of Richard Rogers, and a student of William Perkins.

Article IV.
The gospel and the offer of grace in it, is the revealer of this deliverance.
 “That is his gracious offer, made to the soul therein: which is nothing else, but the expression of the covenant of grace, that he is willing a poor soul may come to him without doubting and fear, because he holds out the Golden Scepter unto it, and bids it, Be reconciled. Hither refer all those texts wherein this offer is made, both in the covenant and in the seal of Baptism, Isa. 55.1, Ho, every one that thirsteth come. And, Let him that thirsteth, drink freely, Rev. 22.17, and John 7.37, In the great days of the feast, Jesus cried, If any man thirst, let him come.
And surely whoso will profit by this Article, must get this lesson by heart: That the Lord who freely purposed, and faithfully sent his Son into the world, still continues his freedom, and doth offer the Lord Jesus with his excellency most freely. A bottom of most unspeakable comfort to all poor, bruised reeds and broken souls. For if he be freely offered, what poor soul should doubt to accept him? What is freer than gift? He that gave him freely, cannot withdraw him again, nor keep back his satisfaction from a needing soul, as if he repented. And having given him once, he cannot recall him, for why then gave he him? And if he be wholly given, even with all his excellency, what particular thing can be denied with him? It behooves us then much to understand the truth of this freedom: which in a few particulars I will name.
 First, God offers Christ of his own accord, therefore freely. It never came into the heart of Angel or man to dream of it, or desire it. Romans 5, When we were yet enemies. The sun doth not arise more freely over the head of a drunkard snoring in his bed, or wallowing in his vomit, than the Lord Jesus came and is offered to a sinner in his blood and woeful misery. Preventing kindness is free, ere we desired it. See Isa. 65.1.
He offers it to whom he pleaseth, passing by millions of people in the world, and offering it to such and such nations, as he did of old to Israel, neglecting the world; so that it is merely unconditional and free, as when Paul came to Athens or Ephesus, who had never heard of gospel before.
Q. What are you so large in opening of this?
 A. Because it’s the main hinge whereupon the door of hope and faith turneth: the offer of God satisfied, being the immediate object to which the soul is to resolve and empty itself. The offer I say assisted with a promise. For an offer is no otherwise differing from a promise, than as a general out of which a particular issueth; the promise is included in an offer, but yet in special expressing the Covenant of God to all that receive the offer, that he will receive them, be their God, both in pardon and in all-sufficiency. Into these the soul doth wholly pour forth herself: which that we may understand, consider this, that we have to do with the Father immediately, but with our Lord Jesus only mediately, as a means to lead us with confidence unto him. The Father properly looks at the Son as our surety, and us, for his sake: but we look at him directly, and to our Lord Jesus, as our Mediator. So that look what we can show for our reconciliation, must come from the Father, and that is his offer and promise, oath and covenant of mercy. Into that therefore the poor soul is to resolve itself, all her doubts, fears, temptations and distempers whatsoever, and so to remain settled. So that it mainly concerns the soul to understand the nature, ground, and properties of the offer and promise.
Fifthly, this should sear us from all infidelity and contempt of God’s offer: Oh! It’s free and from mere good will, the Lord is tied to none; He hath rejected millions of Jews and Turks and baptized ones, and chosen to offer grace to thee. And, shall the contempt of the free offer of that which thousands would have been glad of (upon the price of going from sea to sea for it) be pardonable? Do but consider what woeful punishment will lie upon thee, who refuseth such an offer laid in thy lap, when as many poor souls would rejoice if the spending of days and nights might procure them a tender and believing heart to receive it; and yet complain, that they cannot come by it. Oh, tremble at the freedom of this offer! Be humble and base thyself to consider but this; I am a poor wretch, standing to the mercy of a free God, who hath it to give where he will, and to deny it at his pleasure. If he gave it to a prodigal son, and deny it to a moral civilian: if he give it to one that came into the vineyard at the eleventh hour, and deny it to him that came in at the seventh: if he deny it to the willer and runner, and be found of such as sought him not, who shall allege against freedom? May he not do with his own as he pleases? Oh, despise none! Lest the Lord make the despisers to seek the despised (as the Gileadites sought to Jeptha) and be glad of their portion. Oh! Turn all emulation and scorn into humility; and deep adoring of this freedom.
Fourthly, let it teach thee to mend thy slow pace, and run, yea, fly to this offer and free gift. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Victory Song For Christ

"On January 1, 1541, during his stay in Worms [Germany], [John] Calvin wrote the poem Epinicion Christo cantatum 'just for fun.' This 'Victory Song for Christ' was a poem with clear allusions to the events in Worms." -- Wulfert de Greef, The Writings of John Calvin, p. 140

This 124-line epic poem is Calvin's only known poetic work, originally written in Latin, and thus far, only translated in full into German and French. Written in 1541, and circulated amongst friends in manuscript form. It was finally published for the first time in Geneva in 1544, after it had already been added to a Catholic index of prohibited works by the inquisitor Vidal de B

Calvin later, in a letter to Conrad Hubert, on May 19, 1557, stated: "By nature I was inclined to poetry, but I have bid it farewell, and for twenty-five years I have composed nothing, except at Worms, following the example of Philipp and Sturm, I was led to write for diversion that poem that you read." (Calvini Opera 16, no. 2632, col. 488) 

Jean-Henri Merle d'Aubigné later translated a portion of this poem from the French version into English, from History of the Reformation in the Times of John Calvin, Vol. 7, Chap. 19, which is here reproduced for our readers. "It is the only poem of his that we possess, and it contains some fine lines." It concludes with an eloquent cry of exultation in the victory of Jesus Christ over his enemies at the last day. 

Yes, the victory will be Christ’s, and the year which announces to us the day of triumph is now beginning. Let pious tongues break the thankless silence and cause their joy to burst forth. His enemies will say, What madness is this? Are they triumphing over a nation which is not yet subdued, are they seizing the crown before they have routed the enemy? True, impiety sits haughtily on a lofty throne. There still exists one who by a nod bends to his will the most powerful monarchs, his mouth vomiting a deadly poison and his hands stands with innocent blood. But for Christ death is life and the cross a victory. The breath of his mouth is the weapon with which he fights, and already for five lustra he has brandished his sword with a vigorous hand, not without smiting. The pope, leader of the sacrilegious army, wounded at last, groans under the unlooked for plagues which have just fallen upon him, and the profane multitude is trembling for terror. If it be a great thing to conquer one’s enemies by force, what must it be to overthrow them by a mere sign? Christ casts them down without breaking his own repose: he scatters them while he keeps silence. We are a pitiful band, low in number, without apparel, without arms, sheep in the presence of ravening wolves. But the victory of Christ our king is for that very reason all the more marvelous. Let his head then be crowned with the laurel of victory, let him be seated on the chariot drawn by four coursers abreast, that his glory may shine forth before all.
 Que tous ses ennemis qui lui ont fait la guerre 
Aillent après, captifs, baissant le front en terre:
Eck still flushed with his Bacchic orgies, the incontempent Cochlaeus, Nausea with his wordy productions, Pelargus with his mouth teeming with insolence, -- these are not the chief men, but the shameless multitude have set them for standard-bearers in the fight. Let them learn then to bow their necks under an unaccustomed yoke. And you, O sacred poets, celebrate in magnificent song the glorious Victory of Jesus Christ, and let all the multitude around him shout ‘Io Paean!’

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Calvin on the Free Offer of the Gospel and God's Love to All Men

John Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon No. 28 (on Deut. 4.36-38), p. 167:

It is true that Saint John saith generally, that [God] loved the world. And why? For Jesus Christ offereth himself generally to all men without exception to be their redeemer...Thus we see three degrees of the love that God hath shewed us in our Lord Jesus Christ. The first is in respect of the redemption that was purchased in the person of him that gave himself to death for us, and became accursed to reconcile us to God his Father. That is the first degree of love, which extendeth to all men, inasmuch as Jesus Christ reacheth out his arms to call and allure all men both great and small, and to win them to him. But there is a special love for those to whom the gospel is preached: which is that God testifieth unto them that he will make them partakers of the benefit that was purchased for them by the death and passion of his Son. And forasmuch as we be of that number, therefore we are double bound already to our God: here are two bonds which hold us as it were strait tied unto him. Now let us come to the third bond, which dependeth upon the third love that God sheweth us: which is that he not only causeth the gospel to be preached unto us, but also maketh us to feel the power thereof, so as we know him to be our Father and Saviour, not doubting but that our sins are forgiven us for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, who bringeth us the gift of the Holy Ghost, to reform us after his own image. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Robert Hamilton: First 'Reformed Presbyterian'

To Sir Robert Hamilton of Preston (1650-October 20/21, 1701) is credit given for the first recorded instance of the term "Reformed Presbyterian,"* which he wrote of himself in his dying declaration. He was:
  • A leader of the Scottish Covenanters;
  • A combatant at the Battle of Drumclog (June 22, 1679);
  • A fugitive from English justice, who was exiled in Holland for many years for his Covenanter convictions;
  • The man whose influence led to the Dutch Presbyterian ordination of James Renwick, the last Scottish Covenanter minister to be publicly executed; and he was
  • An author of the 1679 Rutherglen Declaration and the 1692 Sanquhar Declaration.
John Howie, biographer of the Covenanters, devoted a chapter to the record of his life in his famous "Scots Worthies." His life indeed was the stuff of heroic adventure novels. Much maligned, ever zealous, hunted and on the run, willing to sacrifice lands and title, "with Moses he made that noble choice, rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season, and did esteem a stedfast adherence to the cause of Christ, (with all the reproaches that followed thereon) greater riches than all his brother's estate. For out of a true love to Jesus Christ, his covenanted cause, interest and people, he laid his worldly honour in the dust, continuing still a companion in the faith, patience, affliction and tribulation of that poor, mean and despised handful of the Lord's witnesses in these lands, who still owned and adhered unto the state of the Lord's covenanted cause in Scotland" (John Howie, Scots Worthies, p. 600).

When he finally returned to Scotland in 1689, he could not in good conscience accede to the Erastian Revolution Settlement. On account of his involvement in publishing the 1692 Sanquhar Declaration, he was arrested and spent some eight months in prison until he was released upon the magistrates' prerogative. After a life spent in the service of Christ's covenanted cause in Scotland, he left this world with a dying testimony in which he stated:
I die a true Protestant, and to my knowledge a reformed Presbyterian, in opposition to popery, prelacy, and malignancy, and whatever is contrary to truth, and the power of godliness, as well against flattering pretenders to unwarrantable zeal on the right hand, as against lukewarmness on the left; adhering with my soul to the holy sweet scriptures, which have often comforted me in the house of my pilgrimage, our confession of faith, our catechisms, the directory for worship, covenants, national and solemn league and covenant, acknowledgment of sins and engagement to duties, with the causes of God's wrath, and to all the faithful public testimonies given against defections of old or late, particularly these contained in the informatory vindication, and that against the toleration, and the two last declarations emitted since this fatal revolution, which testimonies I ever looked upon as a door of hope of the Lord's returning again to these poor backslidden lands.
And now, my dear friends, let nothing discourage you in that way. The Lord will maintain his own cause, and make it yet to triumph. The nearer to-day it may be the darker, but yet in the evening time it shall be light, and the farther distant ye keep from all the courses and interests of this generation, the greater will your peace and security be. O! labour to be in Christ, for him, and like him, much in reading of the holy scriptures, much in prayer and holy unity among yourselves. Be zealous and tender in keeping up your private fellowship for prayer and Christian conference, as also your public correspondences and general meetings, go to them and come from them as these intrusted, really concerned and weighted with Christ's precious controverted truths in Scotland, and labour still to take Christ along with you to all your meetings, and to behave yourselves as under his holy and all-seeing eye when at them, that ye may always return with a blessing from his rich hand. Now farewell, my dear Christian friends, the Lord send us a joyful meeting at his own right hand after time; which shall be the earnest desire, while in time, of your dying friend,
Sic subscribitur,R. HAMILTON.
Matthew Hutchison wrote concerning this testimony:
In such sentiments as these we find the true inner spirit, the real sustaining power of these faithful men. Religion was to them after all much more than a public testifying for the truth; it was a living and walking by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the joy of his holy fellowship upheld them in all their sorrows and trials. 'In Christ, for Him, like Him,' that was the sum of their testimony, that was their aim and their glory.
James Renwick himself once wrote the following witness to the legacy of Robert Hamilton:
But let the world say what it they will, I must say this, and I say it without vanity or flattery, that a little of Robert Hamilton's spirit in such a day as this is very much worth.
John Howie adds:
The faithful Mr. Renwick called him Mi pater, my father, and ever had a high esteem and regard for him, as the contents of most part of his letters bear: Yea, in the very last letter he wrote, he accosts him thus, 'If I had lived and been qualified for writing a book, and if it had been dedicated to any, you would have been the man; for I have loved you, and I have peace before God in that; and I bless his name that ever I have been acquainted with you, &c.'
* "He left a written testimony to the cause for which he had laboured and suffered, urging his brethren to unwavering steadfastness and watchfulness against defections. In this deed, we find for the first time that we have noticed, the combination of the words that afterwards became the designation of the church, "I die a true Protestant, and to my knowledge a Reformed Presbyterian." (Matthew Hutchison, The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland: Its Origin and History, 1680-1876, p. 138)

"How We Got the Name Reformed Presbyterian
The first recorded use of the term was in 1701. In that year Robert Hamilton died. Among his last words were these: 'I die a true Protestant, and to my knowledge a Reformed Presbyterian.'" (Peter Lippincott, ed., Psalm Singing of the Covenanters, p. 19)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Humble Theologian

On April 15, 1675, Herman Witsius (having recently been offered both the positions of a professorship of theology and a local pastorate in Franeker, Holland) was awarded the degree of Doctor in Divinity at the University of Franeker, which is the second oldest university in the Netherlands (after Leiden University). It was on this occasion that he gave an Inaugural Address, which has since been published under the title “On the Character of a True Theologian.” It is considered one of the most eloquent and Biblical descriptions of true theology and true theologians. I encourage all – layman, church officers, and students alike – to “tolle lege, take up and read.” What strikes me particularly, however, is the humility of the speaker, which to me speaks volumes about what it means to be a true man of God.

Thus, my hearers, I have delineated a true theologian. How little I resemble, how very far I differ from such a one, no one knows better than myself. What groans, what tears, should not the consciousness of my ignorance, sloth, and deficiencies of every kind cause to flow forth while I reiterate on what I have declared!...I tremble and throb with emotion as often as I reflect on the nature and extent of those duties which God now requires at my hand and which you have called me to undertake. Yet ought I to lose courage on these accounts? Or should I lower the exact standard of duty that it may the less strongly condemn my deviations? This, God will never allow. I had rather, in truth, my hearers, that you should all detect how little I am what I ought to be, nay, how absolutely unqualified I am – I had rather blush a hundred times a day for my failures than that I should, by proposing an imperfect standard, displease others less and lay an unction to my own soul as foolish as flattering. (“On the Character of a True Theologian” [1994 ed.], pp. 47-48)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today marks the 450th anniversary of the first Protestant Thanksgiving worship service on North American territory, at Fort Caroline, Florida (near modern-day Jacksonville), on June 30, 1564, by French Huguenot colonists. 

It was in 1562 that the first French Huguenot expedition, organized by Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and led by Jean Ribault, landed on the bluffs of the St. John's River, and staked their claim to the site. The second expedition, led by Ribault's second-in-command, René Goulaine de Laudonnière, returned on June 22, 1564, and by June 29, his men had constructed a fort named in honor of King Charles IX of France. The following day, Laudonnière held a service of thanksgiving in which, he wrote, “On the morrow about the break of day, I commanded a trumpet to be sounded, that being assembled we might give God thankes for our favourable and happie arrivall. Then wee sang a Psalme of thanksgiving unto God, beseeching him that it would please him of his grace to continue his accustomed goodness toward his poore servaunts, and ayde us in all our enterprises that all might turne to his glory and the advancement of our king.”

This Thanksgiving service took place 54 years before the Berkeley Hundred Colony, Virginia Thanksgiving celebration (December 19, 1619) and 56 years before the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving celebration at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, in the autumn of 1621. Although summer may not seem to us today to be the ideal season for thanksgiving, yet we can take every opportunity to remember with gratitude "the grace of God's accustomed goodness to his poor servants," and today, we might give special thanks to him for the legacy of those brave French Huguenots souls who settled in Florida 450 years ago and staked a claim for the banner of Christ in North America. "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5.18).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tercentenary of Matthew Henry's Death

Today marks 300 years since the entering of Matthew Henry, the great minister and Biblical commentator, into glory, in the fifty-third year of his life on earth. On June 21, 1714, he was traveling from Chester to Hackney, England, when he showed symptoms of not quite being himself. During the trip, before reaching Tarporley, his horse stumbled at a hole in the road and threw him off. Apart from being wet, Henry had no particular complaints from the fall, but disregarded the wishes of his friends to stay at Tarporley, and instead pressed on to Nantwich, Cheshire, where he preached a sermon on Jer. 31.18 at the Presbyterian Meeting House on Pepper Street, which turned out to be his last sermon. Again, he did not seem as lively as usual during this sermon, and afterwards he dined, but then was persuaded to undergo some bloodletting for his health. After the procedure, fell asleep but was awoken by friends who were concerned about him, much to his displeasure. Later, he repaired to the home (now known as the Queen's Aid House, 41 High Street, an Elizabethan-era landmark) of the minister of the Meeting House, Joseph Mottershead, where before going to bed, he spoke of the preciousness of spiritual comforts in time of need, and "blessed God that he had those comforts." He said to those around him, "Pray for me for now I cannot pray for myself," and to his old friend Mr. Illidge in particular, "You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men: this is mine, -- That a life spent in the service of God, and communion with him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that anyone can live in this world." It was a restless night for Henry, and finally around 5 am on Tuesday, June 22, 1714, he suffered an "apoplectic fit," and lay speechless until about 8 am, at which time, "he gently expired." 

Henry was buried at Trinity Church in Chester, mourned and eulogized by many, but through his many edifying writings, of him it may be said more than most, "he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11.4).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Help Me To Be Thankful Always

A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day.
“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High.” (Psalm 92.1)

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
(I Thessalonians 5.18)

“Is any merry, let him sing psalms.” (James 5.13b) 
What return shall I make to my ever-blessed Redeemer for all the favours he hath bestowed upon me? Help, I entreat you, help me to be thankful, and as you abound in prayer, abound in praises. I find my heart too backward to this divine exercise. I am ready enough to ask for mercies, but alas! how slow to return thanks! Indeed sometimes God touches me from above, and my heart, hard as it is, is melted down and quite overcome with the sense of his free grace in Christ Jesus towards me. But I want always to go on my way rejoicing; I want the heart of a seraphim;
 I want to sing as loud as they
Who shine above in endless day. 
I could almost say more than they, and why should I not return angelic thanks? But my heart is as yet unhumbled, I see not what I am, what I deserve, and therefore set not a due value on the divine mercies. Pray therefore, …, that I may receive my sight, that my eyes may be opened, and that seeing what God hath done for me, I may break out into songs of praise, and by such heart-transforming divine exercises be gradually trained up for eternal uninterrupted communion with that heavenly choir, who cease not chanting forth day and night hallelujahs to Him that sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb for ever.
 – George Whitefield, Letter XXXIII (Jan. 25, 1738), George Whitefield’s Letters: For the Period 1734 to 1742, pp. 35-36 

The whole life of a Christian should be nothing but praises and thanks to God. We should neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, but eat to God, and sleep to God, and work to God, and talk to God; do all to his glory and praise. 
– Richard Sibbes, “Divine Meditations and Holy Contemplations,” in The Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 7, p. 185

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Covenanter 'Canon'

Note: Despite the title, this is not a post about Scottish Covenanter military history. J

Psalm tunes, in my own view, are a circumstantial aspect of worship, not governed by the regulative principle of worship, but by “the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed” (WCF 1.6). That said, it is human nature to have favorite tunes, and the Scots who employed the 1650 Psalter were historically no exception. 

When the 1650 Psalter was first published, it was tuneless, or “words-only.” The first collection of tunes used by the Scots in conjunction with the 1650 Psalter was published in 1666 by an Aberdeen printer [John Forbes]. It contained a “canon” of 12 tunes, plus one other. "By the end of the [17th] century these twelve [Common Tune, King's Tune, Duke's Tune, English Tune, French, London (London New), Stilt (York), Dunfermline, Dundee, Abbey, Martyrs, Elgin -- although there is some variation to this list according to other sources] were canonized as embodying the accepted and inexpansible musical tradition of the Church of Scotland. At that point the canon was closed, and it remained fixed for a long time subsequently. All twelve (Bon Accord being an extra) were common-metre tunes. Even the finest of the old tunes in other metres were forgotten....In view of these facts the conclusion is irresistible that the true Covenanters' tunes are to be found only within the restricted number named." (Millar Patrick, Four Centuries of Scottish Psalmody, pp. 111-112) 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Quadricentennial of Pocahontas' Wedding

Today marks the 400th anniversary of the wedding of Indian princess Pocahontas to the English colonist John Rolfe in Jamestown, Virginia, which occurred on April 5, 1614. It was an important milestone in American cross-cultural relations, and in American history.

After her conversion to Christianity, she was baptized by Alexander Whitaker, son of the famous Puritan scholar, William Whitaker, and took the name Rebecca. John Rolfe, who was famous in his own right for being credited as the first to successfully cultivate tobacco in the New World, had lost a wife and child in Bermuda previously, but fell in love in Rebecca, and the two were married by Rev. Richard Buck, who was the first chaplain to the Virginia General Assembly.

The two lived in Virginia for a short while, and had a child, Thomas, in 1615, before they traveled to England, where Pocahontas died in the Lord in March 1617, in Gravesend, Kent, England.

Theirs was not the first marriage between a European and an Indian princess, however, nor the first Christian wedding in America. In 1566, Ernst d'Erlach, French Huguenot nobleman and survivor of the infamous 1565 Fort Caroline massacre, and Princess Issena of the Timucuan Indian tribe, were wedded at Ormond Beach, Florida, in a Huguenot ceremony.

Although Princess Issena is remembered by some, the name Pocahontas -- who is credited with saving the life of Captain John Smith and bringing peace to the conflict between his colonists and the braves of her father Chief Powhatan -- stands alongside those of Squanto and Samoset, who helped to further the cause of Christ in colonial America.

Monday, March 10, 2014

EPP has gone Kindle!

My friends at the Encyclopedia Puritannica Project (EPP) have made an exciting announcement, which I wish to share on this blog. After having made many wonderful Puritan and Reformed classic works available on CD format, the EPP has now gone mobile by expanding into the realm of Kindle. Their announcement notes:


The EPP is pleased to offer a selection of works, including many from the EPP CD, in Kindle format! These works have been released to the Kindle store and are available through Amazon.

Further works are planned for release, both through the Amazon Kindle store, and also as exclusives on the EPP site. Content planned for the EPP CD 4.0 will be released early on the Amazon Kindle store as well.

A sampling of the works currently available (and more are planned) at the EPP Amazon Kindle store include:

Anarchy In Worship (James Begg)
Calvinism And Arminianism (John Girardeau)
Christology Of John Owen, The (Richard Daniels)
Domestic Duties, Of (William Gouge)
Exposition Of Psalm 119, An (Charles Bridge)
Family Altar, The (Various Authors)
Practice Of Piety, The (Lewis Bayly)
Sabbath Defended, The (James Gilfillan)
Specimen Of Divine Truths (Abraham Hellenbroek)
Thoughts On Family Worship (James Alexander)
Thoughts On Religious Experience (Archibald Alexander)
Westminster Shorter Catechism Explained, The: Volume 1 of 2 (James Fisher, Ebenezer Erskine, Ralph Erskine)
Westminster Shorter Catechism Explained, The: Volume 2 of 2 (James Fisher, Ebenezer Erskine, Ralph Erskine)
William The Baptist (James Chaney)

Be sure to visit the EPP website and its new Amazon Kindle store for more details on this exciting development, and for future announcements as the Project advances its goal of making classic Reformed and Puritan literature more accessible to 21st century readers.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Kind of Paradise

John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress, in The Works of John Bunyan, Vol. 3, p. 132:

Now I saw in my dream, that Christian went not forth alone, for there was one whose name was Hopeful (being made so by the beholding of Christian and Faithful in their words and behaviour, in their sufferings at the Fair), who joined himself unto him, and, entering into a brotherly covenant, told him that he would be his companion.

Richard Sibbes on the means of grace known to Puritans as 'holy conference,' Bowels Opened, or, Expository Sermons on Canticles IV. 16, V. VI., in The Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 2, pp. 133-134:

We see there is excellent use of holy conference. The church coming to the daughters of Jerusalem, speaking of Christ her beloved, that she is 'sick of love,' &c., the daughters of Jerusalem are inquisitive to know Christ more and more. Here is the benefit of holy conference and good speeches. One thing draws on another, and that draws on another, till at length the soul be warmed and kindled with the consideration and meditation of heavenly things. That that is little in the beginning may bring forth great matters. This question to the church and talking with her, 'I charge you, if you find my beloved, to tell him that I am sick of love,' breeds questions in others, 'What is thy beloved?' &c. Whence, upon the description of her beloved, her heart is kindled, she findeth her beloved; so that talking of holy and heavenly things is good for others and ourselves also. 
It is good for others, as it was good for the daughters of Jerusalem here; for thereupon they are stirred up to be inquisitive after Christ. And it was good for the church herself, for hereupon she took occasion to make a large commendation of Christ, wherein she found much comfort.
2. Good conference, then, is good for ourselves; for we see a little seed brings forth at length a great tree, a little fire kindleth much fuel, and great things many times rise out of small beginnings. It was a little occasion which Naaman the Assyrian had to effect his conversion, 2 Kings v. 2. There was a poor banished woman, a stranger, who was a Jewish maid-servant. She told her lord's servants that there was a prophet in Jewry that could heal him, whereupon he came thither, and was converted and healed. And Paul sheweth that the very report of his bonds did a great deal of good in Cesar's house, Philip, i. 13. Report and fame is a little matter, but little matters make way for the greater.
This may put us in mind to spend our time fruitfully in good conference, when in discretion it is seasonable. We know not, when we begin, where we may make an end. Our souls may be carried up to heaven before we are aware, for the Spirit will enlarge itself from one thing to another. 'To him that hath shall be given more and more still,' Mat. xiii. 12. God graciously seconds good beginnings. We see the poor disciples, when they were in a damp for the loss of Christ, after he comes, meets them, and talks of holy things. In that very conference their hearts were warmed and kindled, Luke xxiv. 32. For, next to heaven itself, our meeting together here, it is a kind of paradise. The greatest pleasure in the world is to meet with those here whom we shall ever live with in heaven. Those who are good should not spend such opportunities fruitlessly.
And to this end, labour for the graces of the communion of saints; for there is such a state. We believe it as an article of our creed. How shall we approve ourselves to be such as have interest unto the communion of saints, unless we have spirits able to communicate good to others? pitiful and loving spirits, that we may speak a word in due season.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Isaac Ambrose Entered Glory 350 Years Ago

"Oh! how should all hearts be taken with this Christ? Christians! turn your eyes upon the Lord: 'Look, and look again unto Jesus.' Why stand ye gazing on the toys of this world, when such a Christ is offered to you in the gospel? Can the world die for you? Can the world reconcile you to the Father? Can the world advance you to the kingdom of heaven? As Christ is all in all, so let him be the full and complete subject of our desire, and hope, and faith, and love, and joy; let him be in your thoughts the first in the morning, and the last at night." -- Isaac Ambrose (Looking Unto Jesus, p. 715)

It was 350 years ago today that English Puritan (Presbyterian) Isaac Ambrose entered glory (1604 - January 20, 1664). He was a minister of the gospel, a writer, and, by the grace of God and by means of much spiritual meditation and contemplation, showed himself to be, in the words of Thomas Watson, "a true citizen of heaven; it is known what place he belongs to by his speech, habit, gesture. There is a kind of angelical brightness on him; he shines in holiness, as Moses' face shone when he had with God in the mount. He is still doing angels' work; his life is a very heaven upon earth." 

After a faithful ministry, he was ejected from his pulpit for nonconformity in 1662. "He spent his later years in meditation and quietude among his friends in Preston. A lover of nature as well as of God, like his namesake the patriarch, 'Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide.' [Gen. 24.63] He spent a great part of his time every summer in Widicre wood, where, seldom seen by any, except on the Sabbath, he communed with his own heart and his God. The last time he was seen alive was by some friends from Garstang, of whom he is said to have taken leave with unusual affection and solemnity. Immediately after they left him he retired to his place of meditation, where he was found by an attendant in the moment of death. He departed in 1664 at the age of sixty-one." (Robert Halley, Lancashire: Its Puritanism and Nonconformity, Vol. 2, p. 202) 

Of Ambrose, Dr. Edmund Calamy the Historian wrote, "He was holy in his life, happy in his death, and honoured by GOD,and all good men." 

"The writings of Isaac Ambrose breathe with the inspired pulse of a person who has experienced the love and joy of God. He urges his readers, '[l]abour so to know Christ, as to have a practical and experimental knowledge of Christ in his influences, and not meerly a notional [one]'" (Tom Schwanda, Soul-Recreation: The Contemplative-Mystical Piety of Puritanism, p. 81).

I write of him today because Ambrose taught me personally much of the nature of true Christian warfare; the beauty of the covenant of redemption; the value of meditation; the benefit of writing a spiritual diary (which he included extracts from in his devotional manual, Media, as an encouragement to others to take up this useful practice); the importance of all the means of grace, public and private; and the blessing of solitude when it is improved upon as a opportunity to communion with God, as well as the blessing of serving the Lord within the family and other spheres to which we are called. It is good to remember the godly man who points us to Christ, and Ambrose was indeed such a man. For those who are interested, I commend the following links as an introduction to his life and legacy.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

'Puritan' Nickname Coined 450 Years Ago

It was in 1564, according to Thomas Fuller (The Church History of Great Britain, Vol. 2 (1854 ed.), p. 474), that the term 'Puritan' first began to be used by English Bishops who opposed those who desired a purer, Reformed religion in the Anglican Church (although the movement itself began earlier). Perhaps hearkening back to the name Cathari, or Puritan, which was applied to other sects at different times in church history, it was intended as an odious slur, as was 'precisian,' and 'Presbyterian,' as used by Archbishop Matthew Parker, for instance, in his letters to describe the reforming party of his church. As with many such labels, what was intended as an insult was eventually embraced by those so-called, although other more neutral terms such as 'dissenters' and 'nonconformists' were sometimes preferred. John Geree embraced 'Puritan' and 'Nonconformist' in The Character of an Old English Puritan, or Non-Conformist (1646):

The Old English Puritan was such an one, that honored God above all, and under God gave every one his due. His first care was to serve God, and therein he did not what was good in his own, but in God’s sight, making the word of God the rule of his worship. He highly esteemed order in the House of God: but would not under colour of that submit to superstitious rites, which are superfluous, and perish in their use. He reverenced Authority keeping within its sphere: but durst not under pretence of subjection to the higher powers, worship God after the traditions of men. He made conscience of all God’s ordinances, though some he esteemed of more consequence.

Robert Bolton, for example, spoke of 'Puritan' as "the honourable nickname of the best and holiest men" (Mr. Bolton's Last and Learned Worke of the Foure Last Things (1635), p. 12).

Robert Bolton, A Discourse About the True State of Happinesse (1631), p. 163:
I am persuaded there was never poor persecuted word, since malice against God first seized on the damned angels, and the graces of heaven dwelt in the heart of man, that passed through the mouths of all sorts of unregenerate men, with more distastefulness and gnashing of teeth, than the name of puritan doth at this day; which notwithstanding as it is now commonly meant, and ordinarily proceeds from the spleen and spirit of profaneness and good fellowship, as an honourable nickname, that I may so speak, of christianity and grace.

Elsewhere he is reported to have said:
All those nick-names of Puritan, Precisian, Hypocrite, &c. with which lewd tongues are wont to load the saints of God, are so many honourable badges of their worthy deportment in the holy path, and resolute standing on the Lord's side.

Samuel Rutherford, Letters (1894 ed.), p. 512:
I assure you, howbeit we be nicknamed Puritans, that all the powers of the world shall not prevail against us.

George Gillespie, English Popish Ceremonies (1846 ed.), Vol. 1., p. 39:
...they make godly and zealous Christians to be mocked and nicknamed Puritans, except they can swallow the camel of conformity....We know the old Waldenses before us were also named by their adversaries, Cathares or Puritans; and that, without cause, hath this name been given both to them and us.

Packer sums up the issues beautifully. J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, p. 114:

Because of their concern for preciseness in following our God's revealed will in matters moral and ecclesiastical, the first Puritans were dubbed 'precisians.' Though ill-meant and derisive, this was in fact a good name for them. Then as now, people explained their attitude as due to peevish cantankerousness and angularity or morbidity of temperament, but that was not how they themselves saw it. Richard Rogers, the Puritan pastor of Wethersfield, Essex, at the turn of the sixteenth century, was riding one day with the local lord of the manor, who, after twitting him for some time about his 'precisian' ways, asked him what it was that made him so precise. 'O sir,' replied Rogers, 'I serve a precise God.' If there were such a thing as a Puritan crest, this would be its proper motto. A precise God -- a God, that is, who has made a precise disclosure of his mind and will in Scripture, and who expects from his servants a corresponding preciseness of belief and behaviour -- it was this view of God that created and controlled the historic Puritan outlook. The Bible itself led them to it. And we who share the Puritan estimate of Holy Scripture cannot excuse ourselves if we fail to show a diligence and conscientiousness equal to theirs in ordering our lives according to God's written word.