Friday, January 19, 2007

Hindu Bath

Two million people are expected to bathe today in in the river Ganges in northern India on the main day of the Ardh Kumbh mela festival. That will make 18 million people in the last two weeks!

From the BBC:

The Mauni Amavasya is a day when sun, moon, Venus and Mercury are in the zodiac of Capricorn, a rare but perfect alignment of planets, devotees believe.

One pilgrim, Shri Mahant Vindgiri, explained why the day was so special.

"The planetary alignment is such that sun rays, when they fall on the Ganges, turn the river water into nectar. So bathing here today is equivalent to drinking nectar," he says.

Some say all amavasyas - or new moon nights - are auspicious for bathing in the Ganges, but Mauni (silent) Amavasya is also special as many pilgrims do not speak until they have had their bath.

"It is believed that on this day taking a bath without breaking your silence will bring the benefit of performing millions of yagnas [ritual offerings]," says Gulab Singh Yadav, a resident of Allahabad.

The saddest part of this ritual is that bathers believe their bathing in the confluence of three of Hinduism's holiest rivers (the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati) will wash away their sins.


What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Words & Music: Robert Lowry, in Gospel Music, by William Doane and Robert Lowry (New York: Biglow & Main, 1876)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Link to Iain Murray Sermon on "Whitefield and Catholicity"

DavidR left this little tidbit in a comment on a previous post that I did not want to get missed!

"This talk by Iain Murray, on "Whitefield & Catholicity" (20 May 2005), might be of interest to those engaged by these two extended quotes, and sort of brings yesterday's and today's quotes together!"

Do You Need Jesus? Julian Does.

My assistant Julian Freeman has an excellent post today on his need for Jesus - all from the last couple of chapters of Luke. A great encouragement!

Christians Working Together - The Example of Whitefield with Wesley

Still considering how it is that Christians of profoundly different theological slants can work together, I am posting here a lengthy quote from Arnold Dallimore's, George Whitefield (Banner of Truth, vol. 2, 1980. 256-258).

Dallimore spends an entire chapter demonstrating the catholicity of spirit that marked all of the mature ministry of the great evangelist. The more one understands the personal cost involved in this working together, the more impressive it becomes.

Again, Whitefield did not shrink from fully declaring his convictions concerning the matters over which he disagreed with Wesley and others. But this was almost exclusively done in defense of false accusations or the like. He did not spend time initiating critiques of Wesley's errant theology (as Wesley did of him - preaching entire sermons on what he considered to be the errors of Whitefield's calvinism).

The passage I quote from here is describing Whitefield's decision to not establish a counter movement (the calvinistic methodists). There is much to be learned here which I may comment on in the days to come, but for now, read the description painted by Dallimore (a fine Canadian pastor, I might add!).

During his ministry in England in the years immediately after the controversy of 1741—1744, he had devoted himself largely to his own movement. Now, however, having severed his particular ties with one branch of the Revival he was free to assist it in all its branches. In later pages we shall see him preaching under the auspices of Independents, Presbyterians, Baptists and sometimes Quakers, and above all helping Wesley, and this was the work he began to undertake from this time.

In this activity Whitefield sought to preach especially the great underlying truths of the faith, the recognized essential elements of Christianity, and he defined the basis of his collaboration, saying:

‘I truly love all that love the glorious Emmanuel, and though I cannot depart from the principles which I believe are clearly revealed in the book of God, yet I can cheerfully associate with those that differ from me, if I have reason to think they are united to our common Head.”

The tact, however, that while refusing to lead his own movement, Whitefield was assisting others, especially Wesley, drew protest from among his people. Many of them still refused to accept his resignation; they were determined to consider him their leader and some called themselves ‘Whitefieldites.’

They urged him to retain his position, increase his party and continue the prominence of his name. They reminded him that if he failed to do so he would not go down in history in the fame and glory that rightfully were his.

But Whitefield needed no reminding as to the effect of the decision he had made. He had well considered his action and to the pleas of the people he made such replies as:

‘Let my name be forgotten, let me be trodden under the feet of all men, if Jesus may thereby be glorified.’

‘Let my name die everywhere, let even my friends forget me, if by that means the cause of the blessed Jesus may be promoted.’

‘I want to bring souls, not to a party... but to a sense of their undone condition by nature, and to true faith in Jesus Christ.’

‘But what is Calvin, or what is Luther? Let us look above names and parties; let Jesus be our all in all. — So that He be preached.. . I care not who is uppermost. I know my place. . . even to be the servant of all. I want not to have a people called after my name...’

And to an American correspondent who felt that he should be quick to deny the false tales so often told about him lest they permanently damage his reputation, he stated:

‘I am content to wait till the judgement day for the clearing up of my character; and after I am dead I desire no other epitaph than this, “Here lies G.W. What sort of a man he was the great day will discover.”'

It is evident, however, that Whitefield’s decision to relinquish his leadership was one that moved him to the very depths of his being.

When he had first burst into fame at the beginning of his ministry and had been the centre of an almost unparalleled popularity, he had turned a deaf ear to the praise of men and had been concerned only to be worthy of the commendation of God. And in this present renunciation of earthly position this attitude was repeated, and it was not in any reluctance but rather with the deepest willingness and with joy that he turned from the place of prominence and became as he said, ‘simply the servant of all.’

This great renunciation, rare even in the annals of Christianity, has been grievously overlooked. But it marked a further all-important turning point in his life and if we are to have a true knowledge of George Whitefield we must fully recognize and appreciate this extraordinary deed.

Had Whitefield so desired he could have continued to lead his movement and to establish Societies and have made Calvinistic Methodism a powerful and lasting force among the denominations of England. But such prospects he gladly renounced in order that the rivalry might be removed and a new measure of harmony established, thereby

“To force the heathen world to say,

See how these Christians love’

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Holy Spirit and Working With Christians from Other Denominations

The following is an extended quote from Iain Murray's most excellent work, Revival and Revivalsim (Banner of Truth, 1994. Pages 26-30).

Murray is describing one of the primary effects of genuine, Spirit-wrought revival - true Christians of different stripe working together for the progress of the Gospel. Reminds you of something, doesn't it?

"If love is the gift of the Spirit, it follows that an eminent degree of the Holy Spirit’s working will be marked by eminent degrees of love between Christians. A narrow party spirit cannot coexist with a larger giving of the Spirit whose communion extends to the whole body of Christ. Exclusive attention to denominational interests may prevail among Christians in a period of spiritual decline; it never does so in days of enlarged blessing. Thus Davies, like Whitefield[1] and other evangelical leaders, was marked by catholicity of spirit to a conspicuous degree. Some of the most fervent words he ever wrote were called forth by the suggestion that he was primarily interested in building dissent from the Church of England in Virginia. He wrote to the Bishop of London on that subject:

For my farther vindications, my lord, I beg leave to declare that in all the sermons I have preached in Virginia, I have not wasted one minute in exclaiming or reasoning against the peculiarities of the established church; nor so much assigned the reasons of my own non-conformity. I have not exhausted my zeal in railing against the established clergy, in exposing their imperfections, or in depreciating their characters. No, my lord, I have matters of infinitely greater importance to exert my zeal and spend my time and strength upon; — To preach repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ — to alarm secure impenitents; to reform the profligate; to undeceive the hypocrite; to raise up the hands that hang down.

These are the ends I pursue and if ever I divert from these to ceremonial trifles, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.[2]

Davies went on to declare that he made no effort to win over any true Christian from the Church of England and that he would rather that men were ‘made members of the church triumphant in the regions of bliss’ by the preaching of a minister of the Church of England than that they should remain unconverted in a Presbyterian church. But it was his distress that the clergy of Virginia did not prepare men for eternity:

I find to my sorrowful surprise, that the generality of them, as far as can be discovered by their common conduct and public ministrations, are stupidly serene and unconcerned, as though their hearers were crowding promiscuously to heaven, and there were little or no danger; — that they address themselves to perishing multitudes in cold blood, and do not represent their miserable condition in all its horrors; do not alarm them with solemn, pathetic and affectionate warnings, and expostulate with them with all the authority, tenderness and pungency of the ambassadors of Christ to a dying world, nor commend themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God; that their common conversation has little or no savour of living religion . . . that instead of intense application to study, or teaching their parishioners from house to house, they waste their time in idle visits, trifling conversation, slothful ease, or at best, excessive activity about their temporal affairs ... The plain truth is, a general reformation must be promoted in this colony by some means or other, or multitudes are eternally undone: and I see alas! but little ground to hope for it from the generality of the clergy here, till they be happily changed themselves; this is not owing to their being of the Church of England, as I observed before: for were they in the Presbyterian Church, or any other, I should have no more hopes of their success; but it is owing to their manner of preaching and behaviour. This thought, my lord, is so far from being agreeable to me that it at times racks me with agonies of compassion and zeal intermingled: and could I entertain that unlimited charity which lulls so many of my neighbours into a serene stupidity, it would secure me from many a melancholy hour, and make my life below a kind of anticipation of heaven. I can boast of no high attainments, my lord; I am as mean and insignificant a creature as your lordship can well conceive me to be: but I dare profess I cannot be an unconcerned spectator of the ruin of my dear fellow mortals: I dare avow my heart at times is set upon nothing more than to snatch the brands out of the burning, before they catch fire and burn unquenchably. And hence, my lord, it is, I consume my strength and life in such great fatigues in this jangling ungrateful colony.’[3]

In these passages compassion for men and women are more prominent than catholicity, yet the two belong together, as Davies himself asserted elsewhere. He believed that a real concern to see people made Christians would keep believers from any primary desire to see their own denomination advanced. His own practice certainly exemplified that belief. His preaching in Virginia and North Carolina prepared the way for numbers of Christians who were to be of Baptist, Methodist, and other persuasions in their church connections. A few years later it was common for converts joining Baptist churches to say, ‘At such a time and place I heard the Rev. Mr Davies preach and had my mind deeply impressed.’[4] Had Davies given more prominence to the distinctives of his own church it would have been to the numerical advantage of the Presbyterians, but his prime concern was to serve a much greater cause. And he sought to implant that same cause in his hearers. In a sermon on Acts 11.26, ‘The Sacred Import of the Christian Name’, he argued:

What an endless variety of denominations, taken from some men of character, or from some little peculiarities, has prevailed in the Christian world, and crumbled it to pieces, while the Christian name is hardly regarded?. . . what party-names have been adopted by the Protestant churches, whose religion is substantially the same common Christianity, and who agree in much more important articles than in those they differ. To be a Christian is not enough now-a-days, but a man must also be something more and better; that is, he must be a strenuous bigot to this or that particular church.

Every man will find that he agrees more fully in lesser as well as more important articles with some particular church than others; and thereupon it is his duty to join in stated communion with that church; and he may, if he pleases, assume the name which that church wears, by way of distinction from others: this is not what I condemn. But for me to glory in the denomination of any particular church, as my highest character; to lay more stress, upon the name of a presbyterian or a churchman than on the sacred name of Christian; to make a punctilious agreement with my sentiments in the little peculiarities of a party the test of all religion; to make it the object of my zeal to gain proselytes to some other than the Christian name; to connive at the faults of those of my own party and to be blind to the good qualities of others, or invidiously to represent or diminish them: these are the things which deserve universal condemnation from God and man; these proceed from a spirit of bigotry and faction, directly opposite to the generous catholic spirit of Christianity, and subversive of it. This spirit hinders the progress of serious practical religion, by turning the attention of men from the great concerns of eternity, and the essentials of Christianity, to vain jangling and contest about circumstantials and trifles. Thus the Christian is swallowed up in the partisan, and fundamentals lost in extra-essentials...

Endeavour to find out the truth, even in these circumstantials, at least so far as is necessary for the direction of your own conduct. But do not make these the whole or the principal part of your religion: do not be excessively zealous about them, nor break the peace of the church by magisterially imposing them iupon others. ‘Hast thou faith in these little disputables,’ it is well; ‘but have it to thyself before God,’ and do not disturb others with it. You may, if you please, call yourselves presbyterians and dissenters, and you shall bear without shame or resentment all the names of reproach and contempt which the world may brand you with. But as you should not be mortified on the one side, so neither should you glory on the other. A Christian! a Christian! let that be your highest distinction, let that be the name which you labour to deserve. God forbid that my ministry should be the occasion of diverting your attention to anything else.’[5]

If this emphasis is the New Testament’s own emphasis, it may well be wondered why it has too often ceased to be as prominent in preaching as it was in the ministry of Davies and Whitefield. The answer is surely that catholicity thrives in the large measure of love that marks the churches in days when the Spirit of God is poured out. With few exceptions, the leaders of the work of God in days of revival have always been men of this type.

[1] ‘Happy they, who, with a disinterested view, take in the whole church militant, and, in spite of narrow-hearted bigots, breathe an undissembled catholic spirit towards all’; ‘Do not tell me you are a Baptist, an Independent, a Presbyterian, a Dissenter, tell me you are a christian, that is all I want; this is the religion of heaven and must be ours upon earth’. Works of Whitefield, vol. 2, p. 226; Sermons on Important Subjects (London, 1825), p. 684.

[2] Quoted in Foote, Sketches, p. 194. The letter, dated 10 January 1752, at Hanover, ‘was never submitted to the Bishop’s inspection’. Further on the above theme see Samuel Davies, Charity and Truth United; or, The Way of the Multitude Exposed in Six Letters to the Rev. Mr. William Stith, ed. T. C. Pears (Philadelphia: Department of History of the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1941).

[3] Ibid., pp. 204—5.

[4] Quoted in ‘A Recovered Tract of President Davies’, Biblical Repertory (1837), pp. 349—64. Baptist causes spread rapidly in Virginia in the 176os and ‘70s, aided by preachers of similar spirit to Davies. Their liberty of worship was eloquently defended by Patrick Henry who sat under Davies’ ministry in his youth. See Foote, Sketches, pp. 314-18.

[5] Davies, vol. i, pp. 298—300."

This is a passage that deserves careful re-reading and prayer for the same to happen in our day and age!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cowper on Snow (I am trying to encourage myself!)

I Will Praise the Lord at All Times
Winter has a joy for me,
While the Savior’s charms I read,
Lowly, meek, from blemish free,
In the snow–drop’s pensive head.

- William Cowper (Hymn 83, Olney Hymns)

The Last Thing I Will Say About the Chan Video

Phil Johnson weighed in today on the blog-fury surrounding my old TMC/TMS fellow student Francis Chan and a video he put on the web.

It 's not every day I write the next sentence. Phil Johnson's post represents my views on the matter completely.

Thus, on this matter, I intend to post no more.

Besides, it is cold and snowing here... if I were to post more I would have to watch Francis walking down to that glorious California beach again. (Does he ever get there? Poor bloke.)

Let it Snow???

Winter finally arrived in Toronto and two area bloggers had some interesting thoughts on snow, ice and divine sovereignty. Kirk shares how he had to rejoice in spending the day without electricity (didn't that get cold, Kirk?) and Darrin tells us how his face was disfigured from a shower of ice pellets.

Both tell us it is good to rely on the Lord through inclement weather!

As for me, I think I may post on the benefits of mid-winter mission work in the South Pacific.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Some Thoughts on How the Lord Saved Me

I grew up in a home where we went to church every week and where I always believed in God. The memory that most stands out to me from our first church was the time my Sunday School teacher taught us that the flood was not real... it was just a story that had some vague purpose. I thought she was whacked.

When I began High School, my parents had changed churches. I went with them for a while until I brought my friend Robbie to the church youth dance and some of the older kids offered us pot on the back stairs. (Sorry Mom – not sure I ever told you about that one!) Anyway, they also kept passing me notes in church when it was time to pray and that bugged me – so I asked my folks if I could go to this little Church of Christ some other family members used to attend.

Throughout my early teen years, my dear brother-in-law had been sitting down with me and explaining some basics of the Gospel. He might need to comment and correct this, but all I can recall from those conversations was that I was on the throne of my life and I needed Jesus to be “the Boss.” We had that conversation many times, and it seemed to make sense to me.

Then I went to visit my sister and brother-in-law in California – I was 15 years old. One night I was babysitting the kids while they went out - and it was if time stood still. I was sitting in their living room looking for something to do, when the thought came into my head, “Why aren’t you giving your life to God?”

I sat there and thought. And thought. I had no good reasons. And by God’s grace I went into my room, knelt by my bed and asked the Lord Jesus to “forgive me and be my Boss.” I believe the Lord saved me that night.

A few months later I was reading my Bible and saw Peter’s command to be baptized. Swallowing hard I went to my mom and told her I thought this was exactly what I ought to do. And several weeks later I “went forward” at a service of the Church of Christ and was immersed.

Now. You need to understand that this same church taught baptismal regeneration (you must be immersed in water in order to be saved). They also taught that if you sinned badly enough you could lose your salvation. Not only that, some flirtatious girl used to offer me “uppers” or “downers” if ever I wanted them! My point: there was not much Gospel and not much genuine salvation and not much sanctification.

While in High School, I thought I lost my salvation and got it back – oh, about 27 times. I had rarely, if ever, heard the Word of God preached. I spent my first semester of college trying to convince my mentor he could lose his salvation. I fought the campus-Calvinists like they carried the plague.

But God worked through feeble means to draw me to Himself when I was 15 years old.

Ask my seminary students. I demand precision and clarity in everything they do! But I am not so far removed from my past to forget that God is able to speak through... a donkey (no offense intended to any of the aforementioned!!!).