Entirely unconnected with the Scottish referendum, I am heading north for a few days next week. The saints at Cumnock Baptist Church are having a Bible rally, and I have been asked if I will preach each evening from Monday 22 through Friday 26 September. The meetings begin each night at 7.30pm and all are welcome. My theme for the week, God willing, will be “The Redeemer.”
If you are able to drop by, please say hello.
Over the last week or so, I have put aside a few days to work with my friend Stephen McCaskell, who has been directing the biographical film of the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon, Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. With Stephen have been the outstanding Matt Pennings, a quite magnificent photographer (see here and here, especially if you live in Ontario) and Director of Photography on this project, and the effervescent Brandon McCaskell, sound guy and general helper.
Stephen has been sending out updates through the film’s Facebook page and on the blog. I have to say, I have been impressed with the technical skills of these gentlemen. Of course, I have no real expertise with which to judge, but the quiet efficiency and all round competence on display, together with what looks like some great final product, gives me real hope of a happy outcome to this project. I readily acknowledge that my occasional appearance as narrator could be considered to drag the whole thing down horribly, but there’s not much I can now do about that.
There remains a great deal to be accomplished, but the last few days have been profitable, as I hope the following pictures suggest.
Scotland is heading to the voting booths. The people of Scotland will shortly declare whether or not they wish their country to remain part of the Union, or secede. It is, by all accounts, a momentous decision with consequences which can in some measure be accurately predicted, some which can at least be observed coalescing, and some which no-one will have expected. The campaigning, especially as the vote looms, has become strident, even violent. Impassioned pleas ring out from both “Yes” and “No” camps. And many Christians are making what seems to be a watertight case as to how they and others should vote. And some are saying, “Yes,” and others, “No.”
We can and should recognise with thanksgiving the peculiar heritage of the United Kingdom and its constituent parts, with the blessing of genuine Christian influence upon some elements of our national systems and structures. At the same time, I aver that the United Kingdom – in whole and in its parts – is not and never really has been a Christian country. At times, more “a people of the Book,” but not a Christian country. There are Christian individuals, and there are Christian churches, and there is Christian influence, but there are not Christian countries. It’s just not how it works.
So, what difference does this make? What difference might it make in Scotland? In the rest of the Union? In Europe (geographically and politically)? Across the globe?
Andrew Fuller’s brief sermon on “Christian Patriotism” from his collected works is always a helpful read at such a time, whether one considers oneself English, Scottish, Welsh or British. Whichever dog we think we have in the fight, Fuller puts it on a proper leash.
The outcome of the Scottish vote will, in some measure, in the shorter and longer terms, change the circumstances in which the saints go about their business. But our business will not change. We are all still citizens of a heavenly kingdom. When all these things are shaken, as they are in time and most certainly will be when the end comes, the kingdom of Christ remains. Our hopes for the kingdom are not shackled to any particular country or individual or system of government. Our fears need not rise or fall with any fall of rise of any person, party, policy or process, need not be yoked to any particular nation-state. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world – not absolutely of any part or portion of it, but throughout it and above it.
As Christian citizens and Christian patriots, we have genuine and legitimate interests in such questions as those now being posed. Our responsibilities and concerns as Christians in particular nations are many. There may be pains and pleasures, profits and losses, progress and retreat, as an apparent or untraced consequence of the vote in Scotland tomorrow, one way or the other.
However, when the voting is done, and the dust has settled, and the fallout begins, Christ himself remains our peace. He has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And he came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
While, of course, Paul is not speaking about the English and the Scots – whose enmity, it might be said, sometimes seems to rival that of the Jew and the Gentile – the principle surely stands. What saints from every country have in common transcends all that divides us. When the end comes, these will not be the things that last and they will not be the things that matter. There will come a time when we shall behold a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Until then, all our wrangling and wrestling, all our voting and investing, should be conditioned by these heavenly realities. After all, whatever afflictions we suffer here – up to and including being (un)shackled (together) – they are but for a moment, and they are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Fix your eyes there before the vote. Consider it well when you or others vote. Hold fast to it after the vote. For we do not set our minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself.
Through the rise and fall of nations
One sure faith yet standeth fast:
God abides, His Word unchanging,
God alone the first and last.
Although I mentioned it before at Reformation21, readers here may wish to be aware of a planned biographical film of the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon, Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. I may have some involvement in the end product, and I have been impressed with the labours of Stephen McCaskell (whose name you might know from his collection of quotations from the great Victorian, Through the Eyes of C. H. Spurgeon: Quotes from a Reformed Baptist Preacher, available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
Stephen has sent out an update through the Facebook page:
Over the last 9 months, the Through the Eyes of Spurgeon team and I have been working hard to get ready to shoot the film. Your prayers and generosity have been so appreciated by all of us. But we’ve come into a bit of a bind—after reviewing all our costs, and after fundraising a considerable amount with your help, we’re coming up about $6400 short of what we need to finish the film. Can you please help us make up this shortfall? Go to http://throughtheeyesofspurgeon.com/donate/ to donate today.
I am sure that the help of anyone who is in a position to assist would be greatly appreciated.
In the course of a certain recent train of thought set off by a certain portion of preparation, I struggled to identify a particular set of resources.
Specifically, I was thinking of the power of example, and applying it especially to church officers. As I considered the available resources, I found myself reasonably well-stocked with pastoral theologies, and with plenty of historical studies and (auto)biographies to adorn those pages. What I do not have, in anything like the same measure, is a treasury of diaconal theology, adorned with the same wealth of biographies and other studies to show as well as to tell.
Knowing that both of my readers are well-stocked with this kind of knowledge, I am writing to ask if either of you have any suggestions for anything that falls into this category (either direct treatments of the office and/or descriptions of it, biographical or otherwise), whether more ancient or more modern, and (ideally) robustly orthodox. Authors and titles would be appreciated; links to online documents would be a special blessing! Even if you think something is obvious, please let me know – if a suggestion duplicates something I already have or know, I shall simply take it as a helpful endorsement. Thanks in advance for any help rendered, and I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.
Friends towards the west coast of the US of A might be interested in this year’s Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastors’ Conference on “The Doctrine of Scripture” on the 3rd and 4th of November.
Dr. Carl Trueman is the keynote speaker and will be addressing the doctrine of Scripture from the late medieval period to 1700. He will have four lecture sessions and two Q&A sessions.
Dr. James Renihan will be lecturing on moral law and positive law in Scripture. He will provide exposition of key passages demonstrating how these two aspects of law function in Christian doctrine.
Dr. Richard Barcellos will be lecturing on hermeneutics and the formulation of the doctrine of the covenant of works. He will discuss some hermeneutical principles of seventeenth-century federal theology and how the doctrine of the covenant of works was formulated utilizing those principles.
Almost as soon as Calvinistic Baptists appeared on the scene in 1640s England, they demonstrated a whole-hearted commitment to evangelism and church planting. They were not alone, for many of the Puritans expressed concern for the regions of their country not yet blossoming with Gospel assemblies. None of these men could be content enjoying their own privileges, but actively engaged in seeking to bring the message of Christ to others.
Good stuff from Jim Renihan in full here. It sets a standard for us today that we need more readily to embrace. In particular, we need to see our ecclesiology and our missiology more closely intertwined.