Monday, 24 July 2017

Some Sermons Online

Sermons Online

I don’t normally have my sermons online.  However, over the last two Sundays I have been preaching at Knox Church, Perth, (Free Church of Scotland), and the sermons are now online:

There you will also find the excellent messages of the Pastor, Paul Gibson.

I have to say my visit to Perth was a blessing to my own soul and the warm welcome and hospitality of the members was deeply appreciated. I heartily commend the work of Knox Church and can recommend it as a spiritual home for those in the greater Perth area who are looking for a church that is Christ centred and biblically based.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Code of Ethics for Ministers

I thought this was an excellent statement of ministerial ethics, clearly defining what is expected in terms of godly conduct.  Given that it is from a source most Scottish Presbyterians would not be aware of, it is certainly worth sharing. Given that it is from a congregational source, we as Presbyterians could replace “Conference” with “Denomination” and substitute our own particular denomination’s name as appropriate for "Conservative Congregational Christian Conference".

The one question I might have is revealing a confidence shared with us; sometimes we are required by law to do this in the case of child protection.  We are not priests and it is wrong to give a promise of non-disclosure, although in general we should be discrete and not reveal what is shared with us without grave biblical reasons.

Sometimes things just have to be spelled out clearly and not assumed.  This is certainly the case in ministerial conduct.  There is also an adage from business, “It is not what is expected that is done, it is what is inspected ! “  Perhaps there is a case for both self-inspection, mutual inspection with a mentor and corporate inspection with our fellow elders.

Here is the Code of Ethics:

In My Own Life

I will always devote time to seeking the will of God through reading the Scriptures and prayer.

I will endeavour to keep myself physically and emotionally fit.

I will seek in all ways to be Christ like in my attitude and conduct.

I will seek mutual accountability and spiritual friendship with fellow Christians for personal encouragement and nurture in order to ensure faithfulness to my calling as a steadfast follower and competent servant of my Lord Jesus Christ.

In Relationship to My Family

I will consider each member of my immediate family as precious gifts from God, and will carefully, lovingly and responsibly meet their needs as a sacred obligation before Him.

I will give spiritual leadership in my home.

I will be faithful and loyal to my family members, loving them as Jesus Christ loves His Church.

In Relationship to the Church

I will remember that I am called to lead, but also to serve.

I will never violate a confidence given to me.

I will be diligent in my duties as pastor, never lazy, but with God as my judge and my Shepherd.

I will be Biblical in my preaching, presenting the whole counsel of God, speaking the truth in love.

I will strive to introduce people to Christ, and to build His Church.

I will consider my call to the church a sacred responsibility and stand by my commitment to the church and leaders.

I will seek the unity of the church and resist any attempts to divide the congregation, either by supporting factions within the congregation or by my own initiative.

In Relationship to Other Ministers

I will be a brother in Christ to my fellow ministers.

I will not seek to build the church I serve at the expense of another church, nor my ego at the expense of another minister.

I will not speak uncharitably of either my predecessor or my successor.

I will refrain from pastoral contacts with former parishioners except with the knowledge of thepresent pastor.

In Relationship to the Conference

I will participate in the larger fellowship of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, and seek to support through prayer and action its aims and objectives.

In Relationship to the Community

I will seek to be responsible in my personal finances. 

I will seek to build a positive relationship with the community without sacrificing my ministry to the church.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

“Prefaces to the Westminster Confession of Faith”

“Prefaces to the Westminster Confession of Faith”

Part of my summer reading in St Andrews is in preparation for our presbytery’s examination of our students on the Confession.  I am enjoying reviewing the standard commentaries on the Confession and listening to various series of lectures on the Confession featuring a Scotsman, an American and a New Zealander.  What is interesting is that all of the lectures begin with the first chapter, “Of the Holy Scriptures”.  That is natural and to be expected.  Indeed, I noted that the OPC and FCS editions of the Confession have neither of the prefaces by some of the puritan divines.  These prefaces are not part of our confessional standards, but they are important nevertheless and well worth reading.

What is interesting is that while we think of the Confession as a church document, and associate its use with teaching and ruling elders, both of these prefaces are addressed to ordinary members in general and fathers or heads of households in particular.

Manton writes, “I do therefore desire, that all masters of families would first study well this work themselves, and then teach it their children and servants, according to their several capacities.”

We do a disservice to our church families when we assume that the Confession is only for office-bearers! In doing so we deprive them of a biblical and practical theology textbook that can enrich their understanding and warm their hearts.

Some practical suggestions:
1     Read the two prefaces to the Westminster Confession.
2    Read the Confession in a systematic and regular manner.
3    Read one of the modern language editions of the Confession.  My two preferences are the Modern Study Version produced by the OPC, and the excellent edition by Roland Ward.

Yes, our students, ministers, and elders should know the Confession.  Would that the day would come again when our members and families can also be assumed to know and love the Confession.

See the two prefaces, with somewhat inaccurate OCR, at:

Monday, 3 July 2017

“The Worship of the Presbyterian Church”

“The Worship of the Presbyterian Church”

This short work by David Douglas Bannerman, published in 1884 is based on lectures that he gave in Perth and Glasgow.  Bannerman, the Free Church minister of St Leonards in Perth for most of his ministerial career, produced this succinct biblical and historical defence of the use of an optional liturgy, showing that this was the historical position of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland from the Reformation until the watering down of her practice with the adoption of the Westminster Directory for Public Worship.  The guidance of the Directory was only adopted to try and facilitated a closer union with the Reformed church in England, but that hoped for unity of practice in worship never truly emerged.

Bannerman shows that Knox’s Book of Common Order was the standard guide in the Scottish Church, outlining a rich but not prescribed and binding liturgy.  The prayers of the Book of Common Order were both models and guides to enrich Presbyterian worship.  They were the framework used by Rutherford, Dickson and Henderson and beloved by the Scottish Covenanters who resisted the imposition of Laud’s liturgy not because they were opposed to a liturgy per se, but because they were opposed to a liturgy that was inflexible and Popish in character and had no consent from the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Bannerman is not blind to the dangers that even a non-prescriptive liturgy could cause, but he gently balances this with a discussion of the advantages that such a liturgy could bring, not least a historical continuity with the worship of the Scottish Reformers and the wider Reformed church in continental Europe.
“The historical position of the Scottish Church in this matter, deliberately taken up by her best representatives both of the first and second Reformation, was that of a discretionary liturgy, regarded and used as at once a basis, guide, and stimulus for the exercise of free prayer on the part of her ministers, elders and people.”

There is a growing sense within Presbyterianism that our worship needs to return to our Reformed roots, combining freedom and form, enriched by the liturgies of the Reformation and the ancient church.  There is equally a growing danger that Presbyterian worship becomes less Reformed, reflecting the vacuous style of much modern evangelical and charismatic confusion, rather than the traditional decency and order of our forefathers.  Bannerman is a voice from the past calling us to reconsider how we approach worship, and a voice that deserves to be heard.