Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Some Worcestershire Sauce from Baxter

A good dash of Worcestshire sauce gives flavour and piquancy to the most bland of dishes.  (Do they have it in the USA?)

Well here is some good strong Worcestshire theology, courtesy of Richard Baxter who quotes the Worcestshire Profession, (sic).  Baxter accepted the role of Confessions of Faith as guides, although he felt that it was restrictive to impose them.  He had a high opinion of the Westminster Standards, but preferred the use of a core confession that was not as detailed.

Baxter says that the Worcestersire  Profession expressed in brief the sum of his own belief. I quote from Joshua Wilson’s “ An Historical Enquiry concerning the Principles, Opinions and Usages of the English Presbyterians” (1836) who quotes the introductory portion of every paragraph to serve as a specimen of the whole:

" I believe that there is one only God, the Father, infinite in being, wisdom, goodness, and power, &c.

" I believe that mankind, being fallen by sin from God and happiness, under the wrath of God, the curse of his law, and the power of the devil, God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son to be their Redeemer, who, being God, and one with the Father, did take to him our nature, and became man, being conceived of the Holy Ghost in the virgin Mary, and born of her, and named Jesus Christ; and, having lived on earth without sin, and wrought many miracles for awitness of his truth, he gave up himself a sacrifice for our sins, and a ransom for us, in suffering death on the cross, &c.

"I believe that God the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, was sent from the Father by the Son, to inspire and guide the prophets and apostles, that they might fully reveal the doctrine of Christ," &c.

The above he entitles in the margin, " Profession of Assent ;" what follows he calls, " Profession of Consent."

" I do heartily take this one God, for my only God and my chief good; and this Jesus Christ for my only Lord, Redeemer, and Saviour ; and this Holy Ghost for my Sanctifier, &c.

" I do also take the ten commandments for a general standing rule of obedience; and the Lord's Prayer for a perfect rule for prayer, most admirable for comprehension of matter, and exactness of method," &c.

" This," he adds, " is my religion : this I profess, subscribe, and stand to. He that professeth this, and lives accordingly, shall by me be taken for a good Christian, by what name or title soever men call him."

I have not been able to source a copy of the Worcestershire Profession / Confession.  Can anyone help?

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Lessons from the OPC
Can the Battle Be Won From Within?

Given the situation in the PCUSA, which has now endorsed marriage as “the union of two persons”, I thought this extract from Paul Elliot on how the Orthodox Presbyterian Church separated from the forerunner of the PCUSA was pertinent:

“Some people believe that they must stay in their church that has descended into apostasy, fight the battle against error from within. Some believe the battle can still be won from within, while others believe that it is simply not permissible to leave a church or denomination, win or lose, because to leave would constitute schism.

Both contentions are specious. When liberals are in control of a denomination, Bible-believing Christians must leave. Dr. J. Gresham Machen faced just this kind of situation in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) in the 1920s and 1930s. An apostate minority, facilitated by a doctrinally-indifferent majority, gained control of the PCUSA's seminaries, its mission boards, key leadership positions, and the pulpits of many of its churches. Although in retrospect it is obvious that the roots of the decline went back almost 100 years, liberal dominance occurred within a space of about 15 years, beginning in the early 1900s.

Machen came to the conclusion that separation from error was mandatory. He was instrumental in founding an independent seminary, and an independent mission agency, on a sound Biblical basis. From his own writings it was obvious that he intended to leave the PCUSA, and eventually he did. In the early 1920s Machen wrote:

“If the liberal party really obtains full control of the councils of the Church, then no evangelical Christian can continue to support the Church's work. If a man believes that salvation from sin comes only through the atoning death of Jesus then he cannot support by his gifts and by his presence a propaganda which is intended to produce an exactly opposite impression. To do so would mean the most terrible bloodguiltiness which it is possible to conceive. If the liberal party, therefore, really obtains control of the Church, evangelical Christians must be prepared to withdraw no matter what it costs. Our Lord has died for us, and surely we must not deny Him for favour of men.

Leaving is Not an Admission of Defeat

The stay-and-fight mindset assumes that to leave would be to stop fighting or to admit defeat. This is not the case at all. But what this mindset also assumes is that those who remain true to authentic Biblical Christianity must attempt to conduct whatever "fight" they can, under the corrupt authority of a church or denomination where men who are the enemies of the Gospel hold sway.

Leaving Doesn't Constitute Schism - Staying Does

Some who hold the stay-and-fight position contend that leaving their church under any circumstances would constitute schism. Machen in his time strongly opposed such thinking. He believed that separation from a Church could be countenanced only if it was demonstrated that that organization had abandoned the authority of the Word of God for another authority, only, that is, if it proved thereby that it was not really a Church of Jesus Christ. Under such circumstances, however, it would virtually be an act of schism to remain, for then one would be separating oneself from the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Machen understood that separation from apostasy is not schism, but that remaining in a church that has departed from the faith is itself an act of schism, and aids and abets the lie that such a body is still a true church of Christ.

Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord God: 'Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity...I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man...' " (Ezekiel 14:6-8). “

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Presbyterian Apostasy Continues

News from the Presbyterian Church USA that a majority of Presbyteries have now voted to amend the definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two persons, traditionally a man and a woman.”

In some ways the PCUSA is being honest.  There is no attempt to say one thing and do another; they have simply redefined marriage to be a relationship between two persons. In contrast, in Scotland the Presbyteries have decided in effect to affirm that the Scripture clearly teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, but that individual congregations are free to ignore this and admit to membership and office practicing homosexuals.

In a statement online the PCUSA evangelical pressure group, the Presbyterian Lay Committee, through its chairwoman states:

“We see this attempt to redefine what God has clearly defined as an express repudiation of the Bible, the mutually agreed upon Confessions of the PCUSA, thousands of years of faithfulness to God’s clear commands and the ordination vows of each presbyter who voted to approve what God does not bless”

“By approving the amendment by a majority vote, PCUSA presbyteries ratified the decision of the 2014 General Assembly to change the definition of marriage from between “a man and a woman” to “between two persons, traditionally a man and a woman,” thereby expanding same-sex marriages in the PCUSA beyond what is currently allowed through the Authoritative Interpretation (AI) issued by the same assembly. That AI already allows ministers in states where same sex marriage is legal, to officiate at weddings for same sex couples.

For full statement see:  http://tinyurl.com/nkfvncq

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Faith and the Mortification of Sin

“The doctrine of justification by free grace cannot be rightly preached, except the doctrine of mortification and destroying of sin be jointly preached with it; for, the same faith which layeth hold on Christ for righteousness, doth rest upon him also for grace and strength to subdue corruption and sin. Acts xv. 9 ; and if he be not employed for the latter, he will not bestow the former : thus sin and corruption were those things which Paul destroyed, in so far as he did hold forth the most solid and ready way how to get them destroyed, while he taught the doctrine of justification.”

James Ferguson,  (1621–1667),

The Catechism and the Apostles’ Creed

Many people imagine that the Shorter Catechism, 1647, necessarily represents the whole mind of the church in Scotland in theological matters. In actual fact, although this catechism was wholeheartedly approved by the Scottish church and became the standard catechism in use, it lacks reference to the Apostle’s Creed.

Many editions of the Shorter Catechism add the Apostle’s Creed as an appendix; it was not however part of the original catechism as conceived by the Westminster Assembly. This was basically a political compromise because some of the members of the Assembly rejected the use of the Apostles’ Creed.

This was certainly not the position of the Scottish Commissioners who passionately defended the use of the “Belief”, the Scottish term for the Creed.  Indeed in a not to subtle attempt to influence the Westminster Assembly the Scottish General Assembly of the Church of Scotland had actually published two catechisms in 1644 which included the Belief.
The first was “The ABC, or a Catechism for Young Children” 1644,  (not to be confused with a similarly titled “the ABC with the Catechism” that was condemned by the GA of 1649).

Qu. 12.  What call ye true faith
A. It is the true knowledge of Jesus Christ with assurance of salvation in him.
Qu. 13. Rehearse the Articles of your Faith ?
A. 1. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord. Etc

In a similar vein but for more advanced scholars was “A New Catechism According to the Form of the Kirk of Scotland”,  (1644):

Q. Rehearse the 12 Articles of the Belief ?
A. I believe in God the Father Almighty, etc.

Q. What is contained in the first article ?
A. Our confidence in a loving and powerful God.

Q, How many Gods are they ?
A. One.

Q. How many persons are in the Godhead ?
A. Three : God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Q. What is it to believe in God ?
A. To put our whole confidence in him, trusting that he will provide for us in all things needful for this life, and the life to come.

These catechisms merely reflected the common practice of the Reformed church in Scotland, (which also accepted the Palatinate or Heidelberg Confession which similarly includes the Apostles’ Creed.)

In an attempt to foster a new uniformity in worship and instruction the Scots sacrificed the Apostles’ Creed to the radical English Independents who were opposed to its use in worship.  I would argue that in doing so we cut ourselves off from our rich Scottish Reformed liturgical tradition, isolated ourselves from the practice of other continental Reformed churches, and impoverished our instruction of our members.

I was raised in a Presbyterian tradition which never used the Belief and was led to believe that the use of the Creed was the mark of Liberalism, which recited the creed but denied the plain understanding of its teaching.  Isn’t it time that we took back what rightly belongs to us and return to the usage of the Reformers and the Second Reformation  leaders who so highly valued the usuage of the Apostles’ Creed.

(NOTE: Both of the catechisms mentioned are found in Alexander Mitchell’s ”Catechisms of the Second Reformation” 1886.)

Aids to introduce the psalms sung in worship.

John Brown of Haddington, 18th century Scottish theologian.

Here, accused of traitorous conspiracy against his sovereign by king Saul, or by Cush one of his courtiers, David
(1.) Appeals to God, concerning his innocence of that crime, ver. 3-5.
(2.) He supplicates, that God, as governor of the world, and King of Israel, would protect him from danger, plead his cause and give judgment for him, ver. 1, 2, 6, 9.
(3.) In the exercise of faith, he depends on God, to protect and deliver him, and to avenge the injuries he had sustained upon his implacable adversaries, ver. 10, 16.
(4.) He resolves to ascribe the glory of all his deliverances to God alone, ver. 17.

WHILE I SING, let me contemplate the spotless innocence and the finished righteousness of my Redeemer, together with the injurious usage he received from his brethren of mankind and the fearful ruin which has befallen, or awaits his incorrigible foes. Let me carefully approve myself in his sight who searches my heart, and who must quickly be my final judge. Let me implore the just vengeance of heaven, against my spiritual enemies. And not unto me, but to his name be the glory and praise of all my protection and deliverance.

John Cumming, 19th century Scottish Presbyterian.

David, being falsely accused by Cush, one of the kinsmen of Saul, (2 Sam. xvi. 7), has recourse to his God for defence and deliverance. In verses 3—5, he vindicates his innocence of those crimes which were laid to his charge. In verses  5 — 9, he entreats the Lord to make known the real character of his enemies, not merely for his sake, but for the sake of His church. In the remainder of the Psalm, he predicts the overthrow and ruin of his foes, and the glory that willthence redound to his God.

If we are in Christ Jesus, neither the accuser of the brethren, nor the law which Christ has fulfilled in our stead, shall be able to lay anything to the charge of God's elect. Let us, however, strive at further attainments in that evangelical righteousness which the Holy Spirit alone can foster, and thus " let our light shine before men, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father which is in heaven."

SING THIS PSALM with earnest desires to be delivered from sin, and the world, and the flesh — our persecuting foes ; and with confidence that our prayers will be heard.

David Dickson   Scottish Covenanter, 17th century

The Prophet as a type of Christ mystical, and an example  of Christians suffering, being slandered of treason against his Prince, by one of the courtiers: First, flees to God for delivery, ver. 1, 2. 
Secondly, declares his innocence, ver. 3, 4, 5. Thirdly, requests the Lord to judge between him and his enemies, ver. 6, 7, 8, 9. Fourthly, in prayer is made confident that the Lord will plead for him against his enemies, ver. 10, 11, 12, 13, and will return their devised mischief against him, upon their own head, ver. 14, 15, 16. Whereupon, in the last place, he promises praise to God for his righteous judgment, ver. 17.