Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Other Great Ejection

I came across this article recently and, although I think some of the assessments are superficial and flawed in some respects, I think it provides a valuable perspective that many non-Conformists are ignorant of.

Washington was an Anglican

As I allowed an old, erroneous piece of apocrypha to slip into a previous article due to time pressures, I want to make up for it by setting the record straight in this post.

Although there is good evidence that the Episcopalian Church in America lost many members due to its support of the British Government’s usurpation of the authority of the legislative bodies of the Colonies and the unfaithfulness of George III to his subjects, nevertheless Washington was a faithful adherent of that church before, during and after the War.

John Eidsmoe's "Christianity and the Constitution" has biographies on most (all?) of the Founding Fathers. He includes one of Washington in which he states the following: “It is evident that Washington was a man of prayer, but it is more difficult to determine the nature of his religious convictions.” He states that the reason for this appears to be his own reserved nature in private and his consciousness of being the leader of the whole nation, which included many denominations. Nevertheless, Washington's denominational affliliation is clear.

Prior to the War, Washington was a member of Truro Parish of the Episcopalian Church in Vigininia and he became a vestry member on 25th October 1762, which is recorded in the vestry book of the Pohick Church of that parish. He attended when able to, and when not able to, he conducted services at home.

During the War, he remained an Episcopalian. While at Morristown, NJ, during the winter of 1776-77, the Lord’s Supper was to be administered in a Presbyterian church, and he asked the pastor, Dr Jones, “I would learn if it accords with the canon of your church to admit communicants of another denomination… Though a member of the Church of England, I have no exclusive partialities.”

After the War, he attended Pohick Church and Christ Church in Alexandria, both of which were in Truro Parish, VA, and at which he had a pew. He also attended the following Episcopalian churches, when in those cities: St Paul’s Episcopalian in New York and the Episcopalian Cathedral in Philadelphia. He was a faithful member of the Episcopalian church near Mount Vernon, as the parish rector mentions: “I never knew so constant an attendant on church as Washington.”

Read the rest...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thanksgiving to God and a Lament for William of Orange

Today is the "“Glorious Twelfth"”, as it is called in Northern Ireland, which commemorates the decisive defeat of James II by William III of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne. This day is a national holiday in Northern Ireland and the streets of Belfast and other towns in the province will resound to the sound of the fifes and drums of the bands as they parade alongside the various lodges of the Orange Order in their orange sashes.

The Orange Order exists to "uphold the Protestant faith and liberty", but it is best known for its marches to commemorate the victories of William III over James II. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland opposes membership of this organisation because of some unbiblical aspects of the Order, as stated in our Testimony and as expressed by our Professor of OT Studies, Norris Wilson, elsewhere.

This article is not about the Orange Order, but about William III. How do I, as an Ulster Presbyterian, respond to this day and to "King Billy"?

Thanksgiving to God for Deliverance from the Bloody Stuarts

On the one hand, I think it right that we have a day of thanksgiving for a remarkable day in the history of our nation. Kings James II was a bloody persecutor of God'’s people in the British Isles along with the other Stuarts, esp. the wicked Charles II. God heard the cries of his faithful people and delivered them from their enemies through William. Truly he was a Moses of sorts to the non-Conformists, and indeed to Protestants in general because James II wanted to bring the British Isles under the rule of the Pope once more.

John Howie in his famous book, 'The Scots Worthies', estimates that during the 28 years of persecution in Scotland "above 18,000 people, according to calculation, suffered death, or the utmost hardships and extremities." He breaks down this number as follows:
  • 1,700 were banished to America and 750 to the northern islands of Scotland.
  • 3,600 were imprisoned, outlawed, or sentenced to be executed when apprehended.
  • 680 were killed in skirmishes or died of their wounds.
  • 7,000 voluntarily left Scotland for conscience'’s sake.
  • 362 were executed after process of law, and 498 slaughtered without process of law.
In addition to the above, "the number of those who perished through cold, hunger, and other distresses, contracted in their flight to the mountains, and who sometimes even when on the point of death were murdered by the bloody soldiers, cannot well be calculated, but will certainly make up the number above specified."

We give thanks to God for the freedom which we enjoy as Protestants in the United Kingdom, and, through it, in many countries in the world, especially our former colonies. It would be better if the nation was called to give thanks to God in the churches, rather than to parade in the streets, have fights with the Papists and get drunk watching the marches.

Lamenting the Compromises

The flip-side of "the Glorious Revolution" and King Billy is the compromises and defects that came in with his rule that would echo through the centuries. In Scotland, the strict Covenanters had suffered the worst of the persecution and had to worship out in the open at conventicles, while their preachers roamed the hills in all weathers as their cruel hunters sought their very lives. These people are those who are the direct ancestors of the present Reformed Presbyterian Churches (a.k.a. the Covenanters). Under the Revolution Settlement of William, the Church in Scotland was once more established in law as a Presbyterian Church, but these people did not join it. Why was this? The following reasons are often stated:
  1. The Church was not merely established, but was Erastian in character, and compromised the sole headship of Christ over His Church.
  2. The vast majority of the preachers had compromised the Kingship of Christ over His Church in accepting the indulgences of the Stuart Kings, and had not confessed their sin, nor repented of it.
  3. Some of the ruling elders in the Church had been foremost in the persecution of the brethren and had blood on their hands. Many, if not all, were also involved in many lesser crimes and compromises. There was no attempt to discipline these men.
  4. The state of Reformation of the Church was degraded and had been based on the Acts of Parliament of 1592, rather than those of the Second Reformation of 1648.
  5. The solemn Covenants that the nation and Church had made with God had been trampled under foot. These Covenants had a descending obligation because of the nature of the parties: both the nation as represented by the civil government and the Church as represented by the elders were moral, or legal, bodies whose obligations continued as long as the bodies did. These entities still existed at the time of the Revolution Settlement (and they do today) and so were (and are) still under obligation. For the same reasons treaties between countries continue to have a binding obligation even though those who made it are dead. Nations might be held to account for their oaths with other nations, but not those with God!
These compromises were to lead to the further fragmentation of the Presbyterian Churches of the English-speaking world. The nature of the men who comprised the Revolution Church and the state of it was such that other Covenanters called "“Seceders"” were forced by conscience to secede at various periods throughout the 18th Century.

The Erastian nature of the Established Church was eventually to lead to Queen Victoria and her government exerting unscriptural power over the Church of Scotland and causing the "“Great Disruption"” of 1843, when a large proportion of that Church seceded to form the Free Church.

There were other ways in which the "“Glorious Revolution"” was not so glorious. The British throne was now occupied by a foreigner, which was inglorious for any nation. (The Covenanters also objected to this.) This practice was to continue with the Georges of Hanover.

The Establishment of Episcopalianism in England and Ireland under William was to lead to the continued persecution of Non-Conformists under the Penal Acts in these nations and force many to flee to America in the 18th Century. This persecution and the abuse of the British aristocrats and merchants were to follow them into America and lead to the War for Independence from the unfaithful King George III and the usurpations of the British Parliament in America. (The so-called rebellion was often referred to as an Irish Presbyterian one, but this only tells half the story, and was partially a denial by the Tories of the involvement of the Anglo-Americans. Nevertheless, the majority of those involved were Scots-Irish Presbyterians, and many of the Anglican leaders of the War for Independence were to become Presbyterians.) It was a sad day to see these sister nations divided, but the root of it was the Revolution Settlement.

The same compromises that were made in the Church of Scotland were also made in the Church of England, where the continuance of Episcopalianism, Erastianism, unbelieving leadership and lack of discipline were to be disastrous for the English and Anglican Churches, and the English nation up until the present day. If God was not gracious to raise up an Evangelical revival in the Established Church (and amongst the Methodist seceders) in the 18th and 19th Centuries, what an even worse state England would be in today!

I give thanks to God for the deliverance of our nation from bloody James, but I lament the compromises of William III and others at the Revolution Settlement.

Read the rest...

Labels: , ,

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Encouragements to Faith (Ruth 1:8-22)

These are notes on a sermon that was preached by Teddy Donnelly on last Lord's Day's evening at Trinity RPCI.

The central fact of the passage is Ruth’s decision to leave her native country for a foreign land.

This is the journey of faith from need, loss, and sadness to provision and joy.

The Importance of Encouragement

  • It was a time of lawlessness and danger (see Judges 21:25), so it was a dangerous journey.
  • Ruth was also leaving her family.
  • She was to go to a strange land and live as an alien, especially considering the relationship between Israel and Moab.
  • She was also a widow. The Hebrew word contains loneliness, abandoned, helplessness.
  • Women were utterly dependent on men.
  • Widows were mistreated (Ezek. 22:7).
  • She needed to marry, but she was giving up all hope by going as a Moabitess to Israel.
  • The journey of faith is difficult.
  • Sometimes it means a painful separation from loved ones.
  • It may mean giving up cherished plans.
  • We need encouragement.

The Means of Encouragement

  • She came to God through people. It had to be so because a Moabitess wouldn't have known the Scriptures.
  • Although her husband died early, it may well be partly through him that she came to faith. If it wasn’t him, then it would have been through someone else in the family, probably Naomi.
  • Naomi is a great example. She was thoughtful and loving (v. 8-13).
  • Here is a good mother-in-law, contrary to modern soceity's perception of the mother-in-law. (Sadly the perception can be found in reality. Are you as an in-law what you should be, or are you interfering?)
  • Naomi gives her advice with respect and no compulsion. She seeks her daughter-in-law's benefit before her own.
  • This is a lesson about the power of our lives and behaviour.
  • Note her devotion to God despite the circumstances (vv. 6, 8, 9, 13, 20, 21).
  • Her piety is not false and glib. She is candid and forthright and honest about her situation.
  • Despite her pain, she still calls God Yahweh (the Covenant God of Loving Faithfulness) and El Shaddai (The Almighty).
  • The examples of others' faith should encourage us.
  • Sometimes we suffer so that the light of our faith may shine more brightly.

The Result of Encouragement

  • Ruth is not out for herself. She is out to serve Naomi.
  • Natural affection is not enough to start the journey of faith. Orpah loved Naomi too, but she didn’t go.
  • Parents must take this on board. Your children may profess faith out of natural affection, not from real faith.
  • They must express true faith and true repentance.
  • Also, how often have believing children become too close to an unbelieving friend of the opposite sex and think they can change them. How foolish this is. Natural affection isn’t enough. It can't save others.
  • Evidence of Ruth’s faith:
    • vv. 15, 16 In response to Naomi's suggestion to Ruth that she return to her own gods, she says, "Your people will be my people and your God, my God."
    • v. 17 "Where you die, I will die." Although Naomi will die before her, she wants to live on where Naomi comes from.
    • v. 18 "The LORD to do to me, and more also…" She invokes the name of Yahweh, the God of Israel.
  • Have you come to this point? Have you gone on the journey of faith for the right reasons?
  • One is a mature believer, the other a young believer, but they both are taking the journey of faith.
  • They’re both on the way to more blessing and happiness than they can possibly imagine at this terrible time in their lives.
  • We may look at one side of an embroidery and it is full of tangles and loose ends, but then we turn it over, and see what it is really about. So it is with our lives: now we may see a tangle and a mess. We don't discern what God is up to, but we may see later on what God's purpose was, and certainly in eternity we will see the other side of the story of our lives and understand. In the meantime, let us exercise faith in trusting God even though we don't understand, believing that He is working all things for our good and His glory.
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28)

Read the rest...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Rowan Williams' Theology

In light of the recent discussions about the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, it may interest my readers to look at Garry Williams analysis of Rowan Williams theology and his response to Alister McGrath's upbeat assessment of the Archbishop at the Latimer Trust website.

Garry Williams is Undergraduate Course Leader Church History and Doctrine at Oakhill College in London, which is one of the manistays of Evangelical Anglicanism.

Here are some other articles by John Richardson:

1. Theology ‘in the Dark’
2. Theology at the Boundary
3. Open to Question

Nothing new to informed Anglicans, I know, but I thought I'd list them any way.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Church of Nigeria Stands Fast Against Williams' Compromise

Our brethren in the Church of Nigeria have responded to Rowan Williams' typical appeal for compromise over the heresy of the majority of the ECUSA by stating that his "two-tier membership of ‘Constituent Churches’ and ‘Churches in Association’ is brilliant as the heartbeat of a leader who wants to preserve the unity of the Church by accommodating every shred of opinion no matter how unbiblical, all because we want to make everyone feel at home."

They go on to say, "A cancerous lump in the body should be excised if it has defied every known cure. To attempt to condition the whole body to accommodate it will lead to the avoidable death of the patient." This must be taken in the light of the Nigerians attempt to encourage a new American Anglican church for the Evangelical remnant. See the article on the BBC website here, which includes a link to the official statement by the Nigerian Anglican Church.

Amen and amen, brethren.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Command to Separate from Professed Unbelievers and the Immoral in the Church

Spot the Difference: Balaam Williams and Jezebel Schori - Peas in a Pod

"I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked." (Psalm 26:4,5)

The current furore over the appointment of a woman who is supportive of homosexuality and calls Jesus "our mother" to be Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA has led to many within the Episcopalian churches questioning their communion with, and subordination to, such heretics. Amazingly, the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, South Carolina and San Joaquin, CA, have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who holds similar opinions to Schori, to assign them an alternative leader. (See here.) Why do they have a problem with being under Schori's authority, when they don't mind being under Rowan William's authority? What is the difference?

For many generations, evangelical believers and pastors have remained in communion with professed unbelievers who are heretics and/or supportive of, or engaged in, grossly immoral conduct. Is this in obedience to the will of God? What does the Bible teach? It is my opinion that Evangelical Anglicans and others are in clear disobedience of God's commands in this regard. But will they listen and be subject to Christ's sole headship of the Church, or continue to stop up their ears?

If We are Not to Have Company with Disobedient Believers, How Much More Professed Heretics?

"But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us… And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (2 Thess. 3:6,14-15)

Some may say that these heretics are professed "brethren", but even if they were, we should cut-off communion with them until they repent, if we are obedient to these Scriptures.

We are not to Keep Company with Sexually Immoral "Brethren"

"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner - —not even to eat with such a person… Therefore '‘put away from yourselves the evil person.'’"
(1 Cor. 5:9-12)

We are to Reject Schismatic Heretics after They Reject Admonition

"Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned." (Titus 3:10-11)

The word "heresy" comes from the Greek "αιρεσις", which refers to choosing, i.e. choosing to go another way from the orthodox faith. These are those who divide from the true faith. Let us admonish them once and twice, but if they remain impenitent, we are commanded to reject them. Did Paul mean that we could remain in communion with them, although we "reject" them? In the context of other passages, it is clear that he did not mean this: by rejection he meant excommunicating them.

Christ'’s Words to the Seven Churches of Revelation on Communion with Heretics

The Church of Pergamos was condemned for allowing sexually immoral heretics in their midst and told by Christ to repent (Rev. 2:14-16). "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam'” and 'you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans'”. How different is the Anglican Church and the PCUSA to this?

Also the Church of Thyatira was condemned because they "allow[ed] that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile my servants to commit sexual immorality…" (Rev. 2:20-24) They should not allow a false teacher or one who committed sexual immorality, and encouraged others to do so, to continue to be in their church.

In contrast, despite its own defects, the Ephesian Church was praised because they "hate[d] the deeds of the Nicolaitans" (Rev. 2:6).

Some may argue that as long as they oppose such people within their communion in some way, then they have fulfilled Christ'’s command, but is this enough? They were not to "have them there" in their midst and they were not to "allow" them to continue their practices and teach their heresy in their churches (or be in communion with them?). They were responsible to eject them. If they could not eject them, should they remain in communion with them? Should they not separate themselves? We sin if we allow such in our midst.

The Heretical Church is a Synagogue of Satan and No Church of Christ (Rev. 2:9; 3:9)

Also in the Letters to the Seven Churches, Christ calls assemblies of the OT church "synagogues of Satan", when they denied God'’s truth in Christ. Although they were born into the olive tree, they were now cut-off as being unbelievers, and the same would happen to any Gentiles who professed to be Christians, but who apostasised (Rom. 11:11-29). How can we remain in communion with a "synagogue of Satan"?

We are not to Show Hospitality to Heretics

"Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." (2 John 9-11)

If we are condemned for receiving heretics into our houses and greeting them, how much worse is it to remain in communion with them and how worse it is not to seek to get them disciplined? Do we not "share in [their] evil deeds"? These were not those who were involved in immoral conduct, but those who "[did] not abide in the doctrine of Christ".

We are to Avoid Heretics and Schismatics

"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:17,18)

If we are to avoid those who cause divisions and offences, then how can we remain in communion with them?

Those Who Remain Impenitent and Will Not Listen to the Church are to be Treated as Heathens

"[I]f he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." (Matt. 18:15-20)

Those who profess to be believers and are members of the visible Church must not be allowed to continue in sin. They are to be confronted and eventually disciplined by the Church. (If a church cannot discipline, is it a church? It cannot carry-out one of its institutional functions. This is why discipline is one of the traditional marks of a true church.) If they remain impenitent, they are to be treated as heathens. Can we remain in communion with heretics? Can we say they are brethren and say they are part of the Church? No, we must treat them as if they were no Christians at all, as if they were not part of the Church. We sin if we do not treat them as such.

We are to Come Out from Amongst Professed Unbelievers Rather than Commune with Them

"“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: '‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be my people.'’

"Therefore '’Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. '’Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.' '‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters,'’ says the LORD Almighty."
(2 Cor. 6:14-18)

Fundamentally, we are of Christ and unbelievers are of Belial, so what fellowship do we have? How therefore can we be in communion with those with whom we have no real fellowship? How can we be unequally yoked and frustrated in our Christian living and witness? The unchurched see these heretics as "the Church". We should publically separate from them to make a clear distinction.

God'’s clear command to us is to separate ourselves from professed unbelievers (i.e. those who we know reject the Truth), false teachers and those who practice ungodliness in the Church. If we do not, we disobey our gracious Father and our loving Saviour.

"He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me." (John 14:21)

Labels: , , ,

The Need for a Redeemer (Ruth 1:1-7)

"Then Elimelech, Naomi'’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons... Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband." (Ruth 1:3,5)

These are notes from this morning's sermon by Teddy Donnelly on Ruth 1:1-7. He is suspending his series on Jeremiah and doing a short series during the summer holidays due to all the absences.
  • The unbelieving German poet, Goethe, called the book of Ruth "the loveliest complete work on a small scale".
  • It may be a beautiful story, but is that all it is to believers?
  • It is a story about redemption and a redeemer.
  • It was no accident that the story mainly took place in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the ultimate Redeemer.
  • In Boaz, we see a picture of Christ the Redeemer; and in Naomi and Ruth, the redeemed.

1. The Sphere of Redemption

  • What strikes us, as we examine the book, is the ordinariness of the matter.
  • It isn't a book about kings, battles and great affairs of state.
  • God is high and exalted, but He is concerned about ordinary people and ordinary things.
  • He is even concerned for little sparrows, hence our reading from Matt. 10:24-33.
  • Christianity is not out of this world, as some people make it.
  • It is worked out in daily life and transforms daily life.

2. The Need for Redemption

  • Naomi lost her husband and her sons, but there was more to it than this loss, however severe it was.
  • We need to understand this book by putting ourselves into the historical and cultural context.

a) The Importance of Descendants

  • A man's name was continued through his sons in a way which is stronger than today.
  • The Levirate marriage existed to perpetuate the man's name and geneological lineage (Gen. 38; Deut. 25:5-10).
  • To have no children was almost to become extinct.
  • We shouldn't import the Old Testament emphasis on descendants into the New Testament era. Some people can be made to feel less because they have no physical descendants, but this shouldn't be the way.

b) The Importance of the Land

  • The land given at the entry into Promised Land was to be handed on from generation to generation
  • It could only be temporarily handed to others, because it came back at the Jubilee, which happened every 50 years.
  • There was no one to claim the land for Naomi.
  • We face a worse without a redeemer: our loss will be eternal and complete.

3. The Breadth of Redemption

  • The people were not to intermarry with the nations, especially the Moabites.
    • No descendant of a Moabite could enter the assembly, even to the tenth generation.
    • No alliance could be made with the Moabites (Deut. 23:3-6).
  • But who is at the centre of the book? A Moabitess!
  • Ruth became the great-grandmother of the great King David, and the direct blood ancestor of the greater King Jesus.
  • There are only 3 women who are listed in Jesus' genealogy:
    • Tamar, a woman who acted as a prostitute with her father-in-law, and probably a Canaanite.
    • Rahab, the Canaanite harlot.
    • Ruth, a heathen Moabitess.
  • God saves Naomis within the covenant community and brings in Ruths from outside (Eph 2:11-13).
  • Christ came to give us a name and a place in God's family.