Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Repeat of History in the Church of Scotland

Writing of the origin of the Relief Church, one of the early secessions from the national church in Scotland, William Blair comments:

“From the terms employed by Thomas Boston (junior) in December 1759 when he demitted his charge we learn how the evangelical party in the Church of Scotland was waning and the moderate party gaining strength:

"Those who adhere to the ancient principles and practice of the Church of Scotland are now reduced to such a small and inconsiderable handful, that they are quite run down by their numerous opponents, and have it not in their power to reform those crying abuses, nor to do justice to the oppressed, while they continue in the communion of the Church."
(“The United Presbyterian Church; a Handbook of its History and Principles”, William Blair, 1888)

Boston followed the logic of his argument; he left the national church in order to exercise a gospel ministry in an evangelical Presbyterian body, uncompromised by the spiritual indiscipline of the national church.  It might be argued that Boston was wrong and the evangelical cause (perhaps in response to the strength of the various secession churches) did indeed grow in the national church after 1759.  However, that growth was so resisted by the liberal wing that the majority of these evangelicals themselves left in the Disruption of 1843 and joined the Free Church of Scotland.

When it becomes impossible to reform crying abuses and exercise biblical discipline, is it right to continue in the communion of that denomination?

The Dangers of a Narcissistic Ministry

"Egotism, or a disposition to bring forward a person's self, is a  characteristic of a weak mind and a contracted heart. It is not an agreeable feature in any man's character ; but it is peculiarly disagreeable when it is a leading trait in the character of a man who, from the office he fills, should be distinguished by the wide comprehension of his views, and the generous liberality of his afflictions.

Such a man is a minister of the gospel; and there is something incongruous and disgusting in one whose mind ought to be habitually employed about the glory of the Divine character — the order and stability of the Divine government — the restoration of a ruined world to purity and happiness— the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son of God — the transforming and consoling influence of the Holy Ghost — the joys and the sorrows of eternity — and whose grand business it ought to be to bring these things, in all their reality and importance, before the minds of his fellow-men — it is incongruous and disgusting in such a man to appear primarily anxious to draw men's attention to himself — seizing every opportunity to bring himself into notice — exhibiting the truths of the gospel chiefly for the purpose of displaying his own talents— calling men's attention to them more as his opinions than as God's truth, and less ambitious of honouring the Saviour, and saving those who hear him, than of obtaining for himself the reputation of piety, or learning, or acuteuess, or eloquence. This is truly pitiable : and if angels could weep, it would be at folly like this."

John Brown, Commentary on Galatians