One hundred thirty four years ago today was the birth of Dr. J. Gresham Machen, Princeton Seminary Professor of New Testament, author of Christianity and Liberalism, co-founder of Westminster Theological Seminary (1929) and first moderator of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1936). Machen’s integrity as a defender of orthodox Christian doctrine and practice, and his leadership in exemplifying and declaring the same, are a legacy we as confessional Reformed Protestants (Presbyterian & Reformed Churches) build upon to this day.
The following link provides numerous resources on the life, ministry and legacy of J. Gresham Machen.
I also highly recommend the series on Machen by historian Darryl G. Hart, which were podcasted on Historian Ecclesia, a resource of ReformedForum.org:
The Character of John Brown
Among the things which obviously claim our attention in the character of Mr. Brown, we must not pass over the astonishing extent of his scholastic acquirements. Though possessed of no very considerable fund of originality, his capabilities for the acquisition of almost every species of literary knowledge was such, that he outran most of all his contemporaries, though possessing every advantage of a regular education, and that from their infancy. Ordinary attainments, whether in languages or science, could by no means satisfy the ardour of his inquisitive mind. With a memory strongly retentive, a solid and discriminating judgment, and an inflexible and persevering assiduity, with the blessing of God on his labours, he acquired and secured an uncommon share with which, from a child, he had cultivated a very particular acquaintance, so that he could repeat almost every text, and state its meaning and connexion. His feet were early turned into the paths of wisdom. Apprehended by the grace of God while his mind was yet young and tender, he made choice of his law as the rule of his life, and solemnly devoted himself to his service. In prayer, public, secret, or domestic, he overstepped the rules of almost any prescribed routine; even amid the ordinary business of life, the breathings of his soul were continually breaking forth in ejaculations of gratitude and praise, particularly while composing, or committing his discourses to memory. He possessed such an habitual evenness of temper, that hopes realized or disappointed seemed neither to elate nor greatly depress his spirits. He lived always conscious of God’s presence, and as one who had learned to lay down the sinful suspicion that men by nature have of Him. On hearing a peal of thunder he remarked, “that is the low whisper of my God.” His Christian Journal, which presents a good index of the general tone of his mind, bears this inscription, “The soul that is ever attentive to God never hears a voice that speaks not to Him; the soul, whose eye is intent on Him, never sees an atom, in which she does not discern the face of her best beloved.” He was scarcely ever seen to weep, unless it were from the impressions of divine truth on his own heart, or compassion for perishing souls. Bodily pain, or the death of relatives, he suffered without a tear; but when warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and, in Christ’s stead, entreating and beseeching them to be reconciled to God, his heart got frequently too big for utterance.
Yesterday I tweeted a request to Reformed bloggers in the know to post on the Reformed side of American medical icon, the late Dr. C. Everett Koop, who died Monday at the age of 96. Dr. Koop’s medical and public service bonafides are a matter of public record. One quick and easy summary may of course be accessed, where else? Wikipedia! Here also is a press release from HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sabelius, detailing his legacy from the point of view of the federal government. But in addition to his service to the City of Man, Dr. C. Everett Koop was an accomplished lay leader in the City of God, serving as a Presbyterian church elder, and until the day of his death, a board member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE), the para-church organization which was so instrumental in introducing me to and cultivating in me the Reformed faith and theology.
Incidentally, tomorrow afternoon, my pastor and I depart for ACE’s Texas Hill Country Bible Conference in Boerne, Texas. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of tribute they put together for him there. For now, though, the ACE website offers a “Koop Classic”: Life, Bioethics and Christianity (2010, ACE).
But in answer to my (“all about me”–apologies to Dr. D.G. Hart 😉 request, two of my favorite Reformed bloggers has indeed posted remembrances of Dr. C. Everett Koop: Drs. Michael Horton and Kim Riddlebarger. You may read Dr. Horton’s at the White Horse Inn blog, and Dr. Riddlebarger’s post at the Riddleblog. Horton gives a nice summary of meeting Dr. Koop and his service to his church, Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, featuring the audio of a 2001 interview and a link to Dr. Koop’s contribution (“Faith-Healing and the Sovereignty of God”) to Horton’s out of print 1990 expose of televangelism, The Agony of Deceit–download it as soon as possible! Riddlebarger adds an amusing anecdote of Dr. Koop’s sobering reaction to his sense of humor. Both posts are great reads.
Be sure to peruse the other links I tweeted yesterday regarding the late Dr. C. Everett Koop from Christianity Today and Banner of Truth magazines and the Gospel Coalition blog featuring both compliment and criticism. Finally, in search of an image of Dr. Koop inside the building of Tenth Pres, I ran across a video of his 2010 marriage to Cora Hogue (pray comfort for her in her loss), officiated by former pastor, Phil Ryken, who is now the President of Wheaton College, whose sermons are still featured on ACE’s broadcast, Every Last Word. For those who are interested in viewing this heartwarming moment, the service begins about 30 minutes into the video, after the beautiful music of Westminster Brass.
The following episode of the Reformed Forum’s new podcast, East of Eden, was tailor-made for the readers of this blog! East of Eden is a podcast devoted to discussing all things Jonathan Edwards. Not the recent politician with good hair and a bad reputation, but the eighteenth century preacher of the First Great Awakening who became known as the theologian of revival. In this week’s episode, the co-hosts interview a guest to be named below as they discuss Edwards’ sermon on “The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth.” One comment made by Nick Batzig sums up nicely both the sermon and the theme of this blog: “You can have truth in the mind without godliness in the heart, but you can’t have godliness in the heart without truth in the mind.”
Later, I will update this post with a transcript of the context of the preceding quote. In the meantime, listen to the entire episode, “Christian Knowledge,” to be challenged to inform your godliness with a thorough understanding of the truth which accords with godliness (Titus 1:1).
Maybe you’ve seen the news about the Coptic fragment which contains writing which has Jesus referring to “My wife…” It was amusing to see how many people at work today had to ask me, “Hey, Chitty! Did Jesus have a wife?” My answer was that during his first coming, he came to purchase a people whom Scripture calls “The Bride of Christ,” and when he returns, he and his Bride will enjoy the marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). So, no, he didn’t marry an
individual during his earthly ministry 2,000 years ago because he is saving himself for his Bride, the church.
There was one curious thing about this fragment making news today: what major Christian holiday is coming up? It’s not Christmas or Easter. Monday did mark Rosh Hashanah for the Jews, but stories like this don’t usually coincide with Jewish holidays.
The timing may be evidence that this fragment is genuine. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think the apparent assertion of the fragment reflects the truth of the matter. But a serious scholar presented it to a conference of peers, submitting it for peer review, besides the fact that it is not being publicized in conjunction with any major Christian holiday.
Here’s what Michael Heiser, who blogs at PaleoBabble, has to say about it:
Now, to be clear, this discovery isn’t PaleoBabble — at least not yet. Karen King is a good scholar. She teaches on the history of early Christianity (which would include Gnostic sects) at Harvard. I don’t believe for a minute she’s faking anything.
UPDATE: Although it is true that this “Jesus’ Wife” papyrus was not heralded in the sensationalistic way which is usually case with the stories breaking the week of Christmas and Easter, questions are being raised about the propriety of the anonymous owner’s intentions in allowing Harvard scholar Karen King to introduce it to the world as she has. After all, according to the NYT article, Dr. King is interested in giving other scholars a chance to “upend (her) conclusions.” Yahoo News informs us of the discussion in progress
In case I’ve never mentioned it, I love the way Penguin publishes their books! It’s probably just the nostalgia associated with the first Penguin Classic I ever bought as a teenager, Pilgrim’s Progress.
Recently, I was browsing at Barnes and Noble and discovered a recent church history book published by Viking (Published by the Penguin Group). Naturally, I was drawn in. The book is called Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Oxford Professor of Church History, Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Perusing the introduction, it became clear that, while this writer may be a super scholar (he’s got a long list of awards and other honors to his name), he is not a believer, although he used to profess faith. In fact, he was an Anglican deacon, but refused to enter the priesthood due, fortunately, to controversy swirling around homosexual clergy. See his Wikipedia entry linked above for more on this story.
Although intrigued, I was not quite sure if I should spend my money on the book, so I visited that old place where people can check out books temporarily without having to pay for them, unless they are returned late. Remember libraries? Pretty cool places.
Reading the introduction is a roller coaster ride for an orthodox Christian like myself. MacCulloch, as close as he has always lived to Christianity, makes some rather odd observations about the development of Christianity, but he assures the reader he is a “candid friend of Christianity” (p11). Fair enough. The writing is very engaging, and I have a healthy respect for common grace as it relates to the vocation of unbelievers, and I am sure there is much good information I can gain from this book.
My pastor and his family swung by our house this afternoon, and I showed him that I was reading MacCulloch’s Christianity, and wanted to learn what he knew about the writer. He said they used his previous history, Reformation, as a textbook at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also said that the British WTS Church History prof, Carl Trueman, knows MacCulloch and respects his work. My pastor also wants me to let him know what I think after I read it. If any of my readers are familiar with MacCulloch’s work, please share your thoughts and reactions with us in the comments section.
So, with such a hearty endorsement, I suppose I can afford to set aside the other books I’m bogged down in, and focus on this one for a few weeks until I can’t continue. As much as I love books, I’m a slow and easily distracted reader. My “ADD” will kick in at some point, I’ll return the book to the library (on time, hopefully), and then go purchase the paperback edition of both Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, and Reformation: A History.
Here’s a BBC interview of MacCulloch on his history of Christianity, in case you’re interested in what’s in store for me as I read his book:
I just went to the Sovereign Grace Ministries website and downloaded yet another rap written by “The Voice” Curtis Allen, who previously was challenged to rap on the Heidelberg Catechism in honor of Kevin DeYoung’s recent book on it, and now, for reasons I’ve yet to read, if not only because of popular demand due to it’s novelty, a rap on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, accompanied, and containing commentary and instruction, by Dr. D. A. Carson.
When you get your bottom jaw off the floor, you can visit both posts here and here. You can download each song if you please, and read the lyrics (some of us need to read the lyrics). After I downloaded them, I put them together in a playlist with an album name of my own invention, “RAPechism.”
Looks like those Baptistic, charismatic Calvinists are good for something after all 🙂
On Friday, January 21st, 2011, Dr. John Fesko, Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California, was the featured speaker at Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, pastored by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger. He was invited to speak on his comprehensive new book, Word, Water and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism (© 2010 by J. V. Fesko, published by Reformation Heritage Books). The link to Dr. Fesko’s lecture may be downloaded from this post at the Riddleblog. First, Dr. Fesko describes the background to his book, then he summarizes respectively the history of the doctrine of infant baptism (paedobaptim–Part I of his book), the Biblical-Theological Survey of the Doctrine (Part II), and finally he briefly describes Part III: Systematic-Theological Construction of the Doctrine. This first in a series of posts will review Dr. Fesko’s discussion of the background to his writing of the book.
The background, we learn, is ultimately connected to his upbringing. As an infant, Dr. Fesko was baptized in the mainline denomination of the Presbyterian Church (USA). His parents apparently held nominal ties to this Reformed heritage, and the Fesko family wound up attending a number of churches over the years, landing among the Baptists in the end. While in college, Dr. Fesko listened to R. C. Sproul tapes on his Walkman, which lead him to realize that he was more Reformed than he was Baptist, and so he resolved to examine the outstanding Reformed doctrines he’d yet to deal with to be sure they were true–issues like infant baptism, so that, were he to minister in a Reformed church one day, he would not have to “hold his breath” as he administered the sacrament.
After seminary, while attending the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Dr. Fesko read a book by Paul Jewett which he says is called, A Case Against Infant Baptism, which inadvertently impressed upon him the indispensability of covenant theology and laid the groundwork to his finally embracing paedobaptism. In searching the web for this title, however, I was unsuccessful in tracking it down, but found instead a book by the same author called Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace: An Appraisal of the Argument That As Infants Were Once Circumcised, So They Should Now Be Baptized, which apparently argues for the practice. Unfortunately, Dr. Fesko has a little trouble with recall on this and another title below, but, we can afford to forgive him this minor oversight. I share a marginally similar experience to the one Dr. Fesko describes, in my own examination of the issues related to the biblical doctrine of baptism. Over the past several years since my transition to theologically Reformed convictions, including the truth of infant baptism, I would periodically revisit the case for the Baptist view of believer’s baptism (credobaptism). Each time, after re-exposing my newfound paedobaptistic persuasion to the critique of the Baptist doctrine, I would come away with new reasons to believe that Scripture in fact does command and exemplify infant baptism, although not in a manner that satisfies the Baptistic hermeneutic (method of interpretation) which emphasizes as central the differences between the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant, rather than their points of continuity.
The Reformed covenantal hermeneutic emphasizes how the nature, promises and signs of the Covenant of Grace outweigh the various administrative changes between the Mosaic and New Covenants. Big-picture issues like these bring into sharper relief the seemingly unclear Biblical testimony to infant baptism. In other words, with all due respect to my Baptist friends, when it comes to the Mosaic and New Covenant administrations of the overarching Covenant of Grace, they seem unable to see the whole covenantal forest for the New Covenant trees.
The second element in the background to Dr. Fesko’s writing of Word, Water and Spirit comes from his ministerial environment in the South. He says, “if you cannot throw a rock in the Bible without hitting a covenant, in the South, you cannot throw a rock without hitting a Baptist church.” Many Baptists, who, in the providence of God, come to embrace Reformed theology and appreciate so much about the doctrine and practice of a Reformed Presbyterian church will hold out on the Reformed practice of infant baptism. In his ministry to such believers in his congregation, Dr. Fesko tried to provide comprehensive evidence to help his converted Baptist congregants understand and believe in infant baptism, and the degree to which he would prepare such material for their benefit also facilitated his desire to publish on the subject of the Biblical and historical case for infant baptism.
Dr. Fesko was also interested in making sure his congregants understood the Biblical doctrine of baptism as a whole, not just the aspect of it that related to its administration to the infant children of believers. He observes that there is a troubling trend toward church growth by downplaying more objectionable doctrines, like paedobaptism. He desired not only to help people understand infant baptism, he wants them to understand what a sacrament is, what Biblical covenants are, and even the true nature of God’s grace itself. Many struggle to understand what grace is. I, too, struggled to understand the classical definition of grace as “unmerited favor” until I was introduced to the Reformed doctrines of grace. Once I came to grips with the fact that a sinner is unwilling to believe because as one who is dead in sin, he cannot (“Total Depravity”); that God’s election of him is not conditioned on God’s foreknowing or foreseeing that he would receive Christ (“Sovereign Election”); that the atonement of Christ for the elect in particular is properly understood in terms of his mercy, rather than his resentfully seeing such an act as inherently unjust of God’s part (“Particular Redemption”); that when the Holy Spirit enables a sinner who was dead in sin to believe and to willingly embrace Christ as his own crucified and risen Lord (“Effectual Calling”); and that God will not only prevent me from “losing my salvation,” but will graciously preserve me in such a way that I will, by his grace, persevere in my faith in him (“Perseverance of the Saints”–for more biblical testimony on these doctrines of grace, see the link in my Featured Sites widget in the sidebar), then and only then did it make sense to me how it is that grace is God’s favor for me which I in no way earned. It is in this way that God’s grace is truly unmerited favor. Just as Reformed theology helps one truly understand the nature of grace, so does Reformed covenant theology as a whole help the believer understand the Bible’s full teaching on the significance, proper candidates and proper attitude toward the mode of baptism.
God’s progressive revelation of his redemption of the elect in Christ was something Dr. Fesko often found insufficiently treated in the typical book or essay promoting the Reformed doctrine of baptism. Why is redemptive history important in relation to baptism? It helps us to better understand the nature of circumcision and baptism, the connection between the two, and why the sign of the Covenant of Grace is changed from the former to the latter with the transition from the Mosaic to the New Covenant at the first advent of Christ. Dr. Fesko finds that Reformed presentations of infant baptism often focus more on the New Testament in defense of infant baptism, and not quite enough on the Old Testament revelation of the subject. He would remind his readers that as important as the New Testament witness to infant baptism is, Christians ought not to build their doctrines on only half of the Bible, but on the entirety of the Scriptures. Too many do not realize that indeed the doctrine of baptism is, in fact, found in the Old Testament. Pierre Marcel’s book, Baptism and the Covenant of Grace (actually, Marcel wrote Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism), which was possibly re-titled Infant Baptism (again, we’re apparently relying on Dr. Fesko’s memory), writes, for example, that for Karl Barth, the Old Testament matters little when it comes to most doctrines, with the possible exception of the doctrine of the atonement.
Dr. Fesko finds that theological journals provide perhaps some of the most helpful information on any doctrinal question, baptism among them. He therefore desired the readers of Word, Water and Spirit, who ordinarily have no access to such information, to benefit from such journals and show them where they can go to learn more on the subject of baptism. This was another compelling reason for him to write the book.
In the next post, we’ll follow Dr. Fesko’s summary of the historical-theological section of the book, which makes up roughly half of its contents.
Don’t miss these great podcasts this week.
- The White Horse Inn— “Exile, Exodus and Conquest“: On this program the hosts will explore the themes of exile, exodus and conquest showing how they each culminate in the great announcement that Jesus Christ has been given “all authority in heaven and earth” to judge, to save, and to reign forever.
- Christ the Center— “The Life and Thought of Herman Bavink“: Dr. Ron Gleason discusses his new intellectual biography, Herman Bavink: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian.
- Mid-Cities OPC Sermon—“Cleaning House in the Family of God” (Matthew 12:43-50). Preached by Pastor Joe Troutman on January 16, 2011. This is the church plant my family is visiting. I think you’ll appreciate Rev. Troutman’s preaching.
I heard an interesting description of how American Christianity effectively developed into a form of Anabaptism. Dr. R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California (WSC), was interviewed this past week on Christ the Center podcast episode #157 regarding his contribution to Always Reformed, a festschrift that has recently been published in honor of WSC President and Professor of Church History, Dr. Robert Godfrey (see Dr. Clark’s post here). From what I’ve been able to gather over the past couple of years, Dr. Godfrey is an earnest student of the phenomenon of Sister Aimee McPherson’s ministry in the 1920’s, and holds her up as an example of what American Christianity is. Clark’s chapter is entitled, “Magic and Noise: Reformed Christianity in Sister’s America.” To some extent, it seems that this very subject of the Anabaptistic flavor of American Christianity is at the heart of this chapter, as may be inferred by the chapter’s title itself.
About twenty-two minutes into the interview, Clark introduces this topic by urging the study of “Sister” (as she is wont to be called) on Reformed believers. He does this because, according to Clark, in many ways McPherson’s type of Christianity is more indicative of the nature of American Christianity than the Reformed faith can lay claim to anymore. America has come a long way since the faith of the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock and the Salem witch trials (which is probably all Americans remember about those early Christian settlers (for help with that, listen to this and this). Clark believes that the Reformed would be aided in reaching America for Christ, and American evangelicals for the Reformed faith if they would see themselves more as cross-cultural missionaries, rather than natives.
Dr. Clark offers the disclaimer that his Anabaptist diagnosis of American Christianity is largely due to the fact that his primary field of research is the sixteenth and seventeenth century Reformation, rather than early twentieth century Christianity. He admits that in part he is interpreting the McPherson phenomenon and the nature of “native” American Christianity in the light of the sixteenth century Anabaptist movement, but he does attempt to support his conclusion with appeals to others who have written more extensively on Christianity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
There are parallels between the Anabaptist movement of the sixteenth century and current American Christianity. Clark explains that people tend to think of the Anabaptist movement as just another facet of the Protestant Reformation, but he points out that the Anabaptists (also known as “Radical Reformers”) more or less “rejected all of the key doctrinal commitments” of the Protestant Reformation in favor of much more radical positions. Clark’s thesis is that the way American Christians commonly think about the nature of authority, epistemology (how we know what we know), Scripture and its authority, the church and eschatology (the doctrine of the end times) often bears strong resemblance to sixteenth and seventeenth century Anabaptism. Dr. Clark goes into a little more detail on this in the interview between minutes 33:15 and 42:06.
This portion of the interview caught my attention because Clark’s comparison is consistent with a conclusion I came to in my own personal pilgrimage from independent Baptist fundamentalism to Reformed theology and practice. After learning that the ultimate source of the bulk of historic Baptist theology comes from the Reformed Westminster Confession of Faith (see my newly updated “Creeds, etc.” page), and the parallels I saw between Baptist distinctives and the historic Anabaptist movement, I concluded that everything that’s right in the Baptist tradition was learned from the Reformed tradition, and everything that’s wrong in the Baptist tradition was learned, or “caught,” if you will, from Anabaptism. I realize that the 1689 Baptist Confession disclaims any formal connection between their doctrines and those of the Anabaptists, but the parallels are just too striking to Reformed paedobaptists.
This is why I encourage you to take time to listen to at least this section of the interview, if you don’t have the time or inclination to enjoy all of it. It’ll be thought-provoking time well-spent, if you ask me.
Tenth Presbyterian Church is truly one of the flagship churches of the Reformed tradition in America. Two especially prominent ministers have pastored it, namely, Donald Grey Barnhouse, more recently James Montgomery Boice and finally, Dr. Philip Ryken, who has recently moved to the presidency of Wheaton College. If you’ve never heard any of these men preach, you have missed a great blessing.
Justin Taylor blogged on the announcement of the new candidate to follow in these great preachers’ footsteps, Glasgow, Scotland native, Dr. William “Liam” Goligher. You can read his post here, and the announcement published by the Pastoral Selection Committee of Tenth Presbyterian may be found at the following link here.
New St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church in Dallas hosts an annual Reformation Conference the weekend before Reformation Sunday. This year saw their fourth such conference, “Gospel-Driven: From Doctrine to Discipleship,” featuring the teaching of Dr. Michael Scott Horton, Associate Pastor of Christ United Reformed Church of Santee, CA (see Dr. Horton’s Adult Bible Class page), J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, host of the White Horse Inn radio show (and podcast), Editor-In-Chief of Modern Reformation Magazine, and author of an ever-growing number of books, three of which were the subject of this year’s conference (see his Wikipedia entry for more info).
Two of the three books have already been published, but the third, on which Dr. Horton spoke, is to be published in the coming months. These books are (in order), Christless Christianity, The Gospel-Driven Life, and I think the title of book three will be The Gospel Commission. The first volume addresses the heart of the problem with all of contemporary evangelical, even Reformed, Christianity–an exchange of preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for the preaching of self-salvation by self-improvement in a variety of manifestations–preaching “good advice” at the expense of preaching the good news. The Gospel-Driven Life addresses why preaching the gospel (along with regularly receiving the Lord’s Supper) is essential for Christian growth and sanctification, not just evangelism. Finally, The Gospel Commission (if that is it’s actual title) will go into how the church is to obey the imperative Great Commission out of a conscious response to the gospel indicative of the complete authority over heaven and earth given to the Lord Jesus Christ by his Father (Matthew 28:18).
This was an exciting opportunity for me to meet the man who first introduced me to Reformed theology. Back in 1991 Dr. Horton published his first book, Mission Accomplished (later revised and republished as Putting Amazing Back Into Grace). In the providence of God, Dr. Horton was invited to promote the book on a morning talk show on, of all places, the Trinity Broadcasting Network! During this interview, Dr. Horton had the unique opportunity to introduce Calvinism to the constituents of the Word of Faith heresy of Kenneths Hagin and Copeland, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, and more recently Joyce Meyer, John Hagee and Joel Osteen, myself among them. I recall mostly his emphasis on how the doctrine of election and predestination, far from squashing evangelism, actually motivates it. I found my introduction to Reformed theology and its benefits fascinating and exciting. At the time Dr. Horton was leading a ministry called Christians United for Reformation (CURE). I subscribed to CURE’s newsletter for a short time–I found it equally fascinating and really cool, but I also found it to be waaay over my head. So I got on with my life, marrying my first wife, moving off to Missouri to study to be an Independent Baptist missionary (which plan would change), living life between my initial and later providential and interesting encounters with Reformed theology.
I brought my copy of Mission Accomplished with me to the conference to get it autographed by Dr. Horton, along with the copy of The Gospel-Driven Life which I purchased at the conference. It was my joy to be able to personally thank him for his introducing me to Reformed theology, and when I mentioned that I saw him on TBN, he grimaced with shame as if a deep, dark secret had been exposed, and we all enjoyed a laugh at the stark irony of his television debut. Then as he opened my book and began writing on the first page, he informed me that the host of that talk show was fired not long after that episode. He assured me that the fact that he had been a guest on the show “was not unrelated” to his firing–WOW! But it makes perfect sense, considering that it would not be long before Dr. Horton would edit an expose of the Word of Faith movement, The Agony of Deceit. But just think, that TBN host’s firing may have just been one of the best things to ever happen to him. I consider it a noble sacrifice for the cause on his part. I just wish I could remember that host’s name so I could search for videos of his interviews on YouTube in the hopes of finding his interview of Michael Horton. Now that would be a blast!
If you’ve never listened to the White Horse Inn, then you are not aware of just what a heady, yet eminently edifying and motivating speaker Dr. Horton is. The way he helped us understand the covenantal nature of God’s relationship to Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church simply boggles the mind with how it brings together so many aspects of the biblical revelation of redemption and also highlights the importance of the doctrine of justification by grace alone (sola gratia) that is received by faith alone (sola fide). He even mentioned how Pope Benedict XVI has admitted that the Bible’s use of the form and content of ancient Near Eastern Suzerainty/Vassal treaties in his covenantal dealings with his people makes it understandable that the Reformers taught what they did about justification. Horton observed that when the Pope sounds more like the Reformers than contemporary Evangelical theologians, you know you are living in a Salvador Dali painting!
You can download the audio of the messages below (PS–I hear there’s a video in the works, but haven’t heard if and when it’ll be released):
- Christless Christianity: The Problem
- Gospel-Driven Life: The Solution
- Gospel Commission: The Application
- Questions and Answers with Dr. Horton
- The Missionary Servant: The Sermon
In his employment as a shepherd–a calling so much ennobled in the patriarchal age, and so universally celebrated both in the ancient and modern pastoral–he enjoyed more leisure, and better opportunities, for prosecuting his favourite studies, than could have fallen to his share in almost any other business; nor did he neglect to improve such promising circumstances. In a very short time he left far behind him many who had the advantage of every thing calculated to quicken their progress,–proper books, leisure to study them, and the best masters for their instructors. Left to his own resources, however, he acquired the knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, with a rapidity that attraced the attention of the neighbourhood, and became the general topic of conversation. But while this procured him many friends, it at the same time hurt the pride, and excited the malice, of some of his outstripped rivals in the race of literary fame. It was, accordingly, whispered, that the progress he was making in his studies, in the absence of all instruction, bearing no proportion to the powers of the human mind, could only be accounted for by supposing that his unaccountable progress was effected by the agency of the devil; who, with a similar temptation, had seduced the mother of mankind, and has, in all ages, taken the advantage of the studious and scholastic habits of individuals to entangle them in his snares.–“Report ye, and we will report: come, let us smite him with the tongue.” Notwithstanding that this malevolent slander had absurdity deeply imprinted on its forehead, it was eagerly laid hold of by the ignorant and credulous, and so widely circulated, that the innocent victim felt it extremely distressing, and more especially since even Mr. Moncrieff appeared, for a season, to be influenced by it, and withdrew his countenance from him–a thing which, he afterwards admitted, was very cruel and unkind. For although the charge of diabolical intercourse was no longer admissible in the criminal courts of the country, yet the superstitious notions and prejudices handed down from the dark ages of popery were, at that period, so far from being eradicated from the minds of the people, especially in sequestered corners of the country, that such surmises were still capable of ruining a man’s peace, and inflicting a serious wound on a mind of even the most ordinary feeling. To one so ardent in the prosecution of knowledge, and so anxious to attain the qualifications necessary for a minister of the gospel, it must have been no common affliction to have all his pleasing anticipations thus cruelly blighted in a moment; for, as he apprehended, the immediate tendency of this foul reproach was to blast his religious character, and counteract his whole purpose, by shutting against him the door of the divinity hall. On those who were best acquainted with him (the members of a praying society with which he was connected,) the slander had no impression; they continued his steady friends, and their attachment seemed to strengthen in proportion to the anguish he suffered from such an unmerited calumny. In the narrative already quoted we find him speaking thus: “The reproach was exceedingly distressing to me; however, God was gracious, for I enjoyed remarkable mixture of mercy and affliction. At the beginning of the trial these words, ‘The Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life,’ were peculiarly sweet to my soul.”
We resume our biography of the Reverend John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787), as he joins the Scottish Secession Church and teaches himself Latin and Greek while a humble, rural shepherd, preparing himself to one day become a shepherd of souls. We are also treated to a providential encounter that wins the young Brown the gift of a Greek New Testament.
To this party (the Secession Church) our shepherd considered it his duty to join himself; and, anxious to become a shepherd of souls in their communion, he prosecuted his studies with incredible ardour and perseverance, and soon acquired a considerable acquaintance with the Latin and Greek languages. In these difficult studies he had no instructor, excepting that, on some occasions of rare occurrence, he could find an hour to call on one or other of two neighbouring clergymen, namely, Mr. Moncrieff of Abernethy, and Mr. Johnston of Arngask, father of the late Dr. Johnston of North Leith, who kindly assisted him in surmounting any formidable difficulty that threatened to arrest the progress of literary pursuits. Having now obtained such an acquaintance with the Greek language as enlivened his hopes that he should ultimately succeed in his darling object of acquiring the necessary qualifications for preaching the blessed gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, he pressed forward with renovated vigour and growing confidence. But amongst the many things wanting to accelerate his motion, he was, at this time, anxious to obtain a Greek Testament, that he might have the satisfaction of reading, in the original language, the character and work, the holy life and vicarious death, of Him who feedeth his flock like a shepherd, and laid down his life for his sheep. Buoyed up with these hopes, and excited by this anxiety, after folding his flock one summer evening, and procuring the consent of his fellow-shepherd to watch it next day, he made a nocturnal trip to St. Andrews, distant about twenty-four miles, where he arrived in the morning. He called at the first bookseller’s shop that came in his way, and having inquired for the article in question, the shopman, on observing his apparent rusticity and mountain habiliments (dress characteristic of his occupation), told him that he had Greek Testaments and Hebrew Bibles in abundance, but suspected an English Testament would answer his purpose much better. In the mean time some gentlemen, said to have been professors in the university, happened to enter the shop, and learning what was going on, seemed much of the shopman’s opinion. One of these, however, ordered the volume to be produced, and, taking it in his hand, said, “Young man, here is the Greek Testament, and you shall have it at the easy charge of reading the first passage that turns up.” It was too good an offer to be rejected: the shepherd accepted the challenge, and performed the conditions to the satisfaction and astonishment of the party; and Mr. Brown very modestly retired with his prize.
In the year 1733 a serious rupture took place in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in consequence of an act of Assembly passed in 1730, by which it was enacted, that reasons of dissent against the decisions of the judicatories of the Church should not be entered on the record; an enactment which prevented all who dissented in any case from exonerating their consciences by recording their dissent. This gave rise to much righteous indignation on the part of the godly ministers in the Church—an indignation which was augmented when, in 1732, the most solemn remonstrances against intrusive settlements were not so much as listened to. Along with these harsh dealings it was made a cause of censure for any minister to animadvert on the proceedings of the Church courts. Several ministers—inasmuch as they were bound by solemn engagement to the truth as expressed in the subordinate standards—found that they could not, as faithful servants of Jesus Christ, submit to censure for what appeared to them their obvious duty. Accordingly, Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, having freely animadverted on the growing defections of the Church, in a sermon delivered before the Synod of Perth and Stirling, in 1732, was called to account before said Synod, where he was found liable to censure in terms of the enactment aforesaid. To this decision, however, from a sense of duty, he peremptorily refused to submit, both before the Synod and General Assembly. Mr. Erskine was at this time joined by Messrs William Wilson, James Fisher, and Alexander Moncrieff: who, after due deliberation, finding that they could not, with a good conscience, continue in the communion of the church under these circumstances, seceded from her ecclesiastical jurisdiction, on the following grounds:–1st. The sufferance of error without adequate censure. 2d. The infringement of the people’s rights in electing their ministers, under the law of patronage. 3d. The neglect or relaxation of discipline. 4th. The restraint on ministerial freedom in opposing error and maladministration. 5th. The refusal of the prevailing party to be reclaimed. On these, and other solemn considerations, stated at large in their Testimony, they constituted themselves into a distinct presbytery, fully persuaded of the lawfulness of their separation.