The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Archive for August 2008

Name profiler

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This website, PublicProfiler Worldnames, looks interesting, though at time of posting it is somewhat overwhelmed with queries, and not providing much of anything.  It searches the incidence of your name worldwide, and also gives information by area and ethnicity.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 30 August 2008 at 22:33

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Lessons from the bramble: observations of an occasional and untaught gardener #31-35

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“You must be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” – John Owen

Observations 1-5 / 6-10 / 11-15 / 16-20 / 21-25 / 26-30 / 31-35 / 36-40.

31.  There are often readily available fruits, plucked without danger, but once get a taste for them and you will pluck few more without getting badly scratched.  The most enticing fruits are deepest within the brambles.

  • The first pleasures of sin lie on the surface, and are easily plucked.  However, once get a taste for a particular indulgence, and the pursuit of the pleasures of sin will lead you further and further in to the brambles, from which you cannot escape without pain and assistance, if at all.
  • The most enticing sinful pleasures are usually deepest within the bush.  They cannot be reached without being ensnared.
  • You can more easily reach the fruit without pain than you can extract your hand without pain.

32.  Brambles grow out of a bush or hedge, and it is often they – rather than the leafiness – that attract the eye and scratch the flesh.

  • Our sins, and those of others, are often the most prominent things about us and them.
  • In looking at ourselves, we would do well to note the sins and address them, without ignoring the leafy growth of godliness.  In looking at others, we would do well to consider and approve the leaves of the godly life without becoming obsessed by the thorns of the sin.

33.  You would be a fool to cultivate brambles.

  • How much more are they fools who cultivate sin?  Never set out to grow a crop of sins, or to nurture those which already exist.

34.  The only way to kill a bramble is to remove it completely.

  • The only way to kill a sin is to remove it completely.  Dig down to the root, get it out, burn it.

35.  We can make progress in removing brambles, even though we may not be able to remove every bramble.

  • We should recognise that mortification involves progress in fighting sin, not perfection.  The man who despairs of removing all sins and so never attacks one will never make much progress toward holiness.
  • We should set out to remove every bramble, although we can only do so one at a time.  Often we need to remove the sins closest to us in order to get to the ones that lie deepest in us.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 30 August 2008 at 22:29

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“The English Baptists of the 17th Century”

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, my esteemed father, Austin Walker, has been away, and was one of the featured speakers at a conference on The English Baptists of the 17th Century at the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies on the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The audio recordings of the conference are now online at the Andrew Fuller Conference website and blog, and doutbless there will be much of interest to historians and general scholars, especially of a Baptist persuasion.  In an act of shameless nepotism, may I draw your attention to my father’s paper on “Benjamin Keach and the Protestant Cause Under Persecution”?  You will find it on the page above (where it can be downloaded), or can go to it directly here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 29 August 2008 at 19:44

The Westminster Conference 2007

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The papers for last year’s Westminster Conference have recently been published under the title The Truth Shall Make You Free.  These and other past papers can be ordered (details on the website), and information on this year’s conference is there as well.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 29 August 2008 at 19:39

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“When all about me falters”

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Rutherford 7 6. 7 6. 7 6. 7 5

When all about me falters
And life itself seems bleak,
When all things seem against me,
Beset about and weak,
I cast myself upon you,
My Saviour, faithful, true,
And cry, with heart o’erflowing:
“I will follow you.”

Should men rise up against me
And threaten me with death;
Should Satan’s storms wash o’er me
And chill my latest breath -
I gladly gaze beyond them,
And Christ is all I view.
I pledge, with love abounding,
“I will follow you.”

When sin’s defeated spirits
Seek still to drag me down,
When, tempted and dejected,
I see my Saviour frown,
Then cast myself before you,
Convicted all anew,
To beg, “Lord, give me grace that
I may follow you.”

I wandered in the desert,
A drought beset my heart;
Elijah’s cry rose in me -
“O Lord, I would depart.”
Then from the blessed Fountain,
As sweet as mountain dew,
I drank, revived, and whispered:
“I will follow you.”

I sighted distant glory,
I turned and set my face
To gaze on things of heaven
And on the God of grace.
The world dimmed fast about me,
Before me my heart flew.
I cried: “To dwell in glory,
I will follow you.”

When I think on my Saviour,
My Christ, the Crucified,
His thorn-crowned brow, his stripes, and
Wounded, bleeding side,
His life, so freely given,
My purpose does renew;
I pray: “Dear Lord, in all things
I will follow you.”

©JRW

crown-of-thorns

See all hymns and psalms.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 29 August 2008 at 10:14

Facebook friendship #2

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In an earlier post, we considered some of the shortcomings of the view of friendship promoted by many social networking sites.

When we turn to our Bibles, we find a very different definition of friendship, a reality far richer and deeper than what we are taught by social networking: we find in Scripture relationships of sacrifice and service, of mutual affection and selfless investment in others.

God himself exemplifies the sacrifice, communication and generosity of friendship.  We find the Lord God of heaven and earth speaking “to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33.1).  Abraham was considered the friend of God both by God himself (Is 41.8) and by men looking upon their relationship (2Chr 20.7).  Note also that this was not a one-way relationship.  Yes, there was condescension on the part of God, and favour shown and honour done to Moses and Abraham in God so dealing with them, but Abraham was also called the friend of God (Jas 2.23), and he spoke with him as such.

It is no surprise then, to find our Lord Jesus as the pre-eminent revelation of what it means to be a friend.  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15.13-15).  Here again is sacrifice, service, open-hearted communication, and utter faithfulness and commitment.  The highest demonstration of love was the laying down of his life for those he loved.  These were the men with whose weaknesses and infirmities and sins he bore, who frustrated him and delighted him, who walked with him and were taught by him.  At the tomb of his friend Lazarus, this Jesus wept wracking sobs at the devastating realities of this fallen world in his dead friend.  Bearing and forbearing, Jesus loved his own and loved them to the end.  Notice that this is conscious and deliberate love: it was not because perfect and lovely, but though imperfect and unlovely that our Lord continued to love his own.  Christ’s friendship did not just happen: he chose, he loved, he died for his friends.

Even on the merely human level, we find countless lessons to learn and receive profound instruction from the Lord God, both directly and incidentally, by precept and by example.

Job laments the emptiness of the response his so-called friends bring him, not grieving with him, but suggesting that he has sinned and is being punished by a graceless God.  His distress is heightened by the failure of his relatives and the forgetfulness of his close friends (Jb 19.14).  Related to this is the bitterness of soul that follows betrayal at the hands of a man considered a friend, a distress our Lord knew all too well: “My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, and my relatives stand afar off” (Ps 38.11) and “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps 41.9).  Jeremiah uses the same imagery in describing the desolation of Jerusalem: “She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her.  All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies” (Lam 1.2).  Micah uses the notion of friendship to help paint the blackness of the hearts of men: “Do not trust in a friend; do not put your confidence in a companion; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom” (Mic 7.5) – inability to trust friends and wives is a sign of grim days.

David and Jonathan is a well-worn example of true friendship (1Sam 18-20): Jonathan loved David “as his own soul” (1Sam 18.1-4).  In the face of his own father’s attempts to kill him, Jonathan stood by David.  He stood by his friend in full recognition of the great personal cost to himself of doing so, risking his own life to do him good and to be with him.  Jonathan rejoiced in all the good and blessing and exaltation known by David, even when it was at his own expense.  They knew what it was to rejoice and to weep together.  When Jonathan died, David mourned over his lost friend, and showed all favour to his family out of remembrance of him.  David was obviously a man to inspire deep friendships: David’s friend Hushai the Archite puts his life on the line to give Absalom bad counsel that will give David breathing space in his flight from Jerusalem (2Sam 16).  The quality of loyalty as a friend was so marked in Hushai that he must work hard to persuade Absalom that he has now abandoned the king.

Paul was another man who enjoyed close friendships and the blessings of them.  Again, his friends were profoundly concerned for his well-being: “Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theatre” (Acts 19.21).  They took delight in ministering to him and serving him: it was his experience in Jerusalem (“So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him” [Acts 24:23]) and on the journey to Rome (“And the next day we landed at Sidon.  And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care” [Acts 27.3]).

John delighted to invest in his friendships, and often expressed his desire to do more than write to his friends, but to see them and speak with them face to face (2Jn 12 and 3Jn 13-14).

In marriage, the one who is loved is also a true friend: “His mouth is most sweet, yes, he is altogether lovely.  This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem!” (Song 5.16).

Deuteronomy 13.6 warns of the dangers of being enticed even by a friend who is “as your own soul.”  That is what depth of friendship means.  Psalm 15.3 describes a righteous man as one “who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend” – he is marked by faithfulness, believing the best in love.  Amos speaks of those who walk together, being agreed (Am 3.3) – there is likeness of mind, and fellowship in truth.  Walking is a man’s way of life, his way of going – friends keep company with each other.

Proverbs is a treasure house for the man who would be a true friend:

  • “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prv 17.17).  Here is the faithfulness of true friendship.
  • “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prv 18.24).  Here is the mutuality of true friendship and the closeness of a true friend.
  • “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prv 27.6).  A friend loves enough not to desert a sinning companion, and loves enough to point out that sin to the companion.  A true friend is no flatterer, not merely a cheerleader.
  • “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (Prv 27.9).  Part of the value of true friendship is the wise and earnest counsel that a true friend can and will provide.
  • “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away” (Prv 27.10).  Here is the value of the friend close at hand, and a directive to rely upon such friends in days of trouble, when they stand ready to help.  Cultivate close friendships near at hand and make the most of them.
  • “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prv 27.17).  Here again is a mutual relationship of stirring one another up, urging one another on, not allowing one another to rest on one’s laurels, but to press on.

Luke 15 paints a picture of friends who share blessing and rejoicing with one another.  John the Baptist confirms the delight that friends take in the honour done to others: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.  Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” (Jn 3.29).

What a web of wonderful qualities open up as we consider true friendship!  Here is a deliberate and conscious commitment to the well-being of another; here is mutual investment in one another’s well-being and honour; here is commitment, patience, forbearance; here is enduring faithfulness and loyalty; here is open and frank communication, transparency of heart in an environment of trust and truth; here is meaningful interaction; here is sacrifice and service and selflessness; here is a readiness to do and receive good even though it may be painful, and to work through the rockiness of the relationship when sin disrupts it; here is delight and joy in honour received by another in whose exaltation one delights; here is Christlike love.

Now look at your Facebook friends.  How many of the people on that list measure up to the Biblical standard?  Think of acquaintances and companions in the real world.  In all honesty, how many of them begin to attain to the Biblical standard?  Look at yourself.  In all honesty, to how many people are you a real friend?

Are social networking sites and those like them a good way to keep in touch?  Perhaps so.  But let us be wise.

Be wise with regard to those with whom you make friends.  Empty friendship will count for nothing when life is good, and for less when it is hard.  False and foolish friends are among the most dangerous things that the Bible describes: “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man you shall not go” (Prv 22.24).  Nothing worse than to make a friend of the world and an enemy of God himself (Jas 4.4).

Be wise with regard to what you count to be real friendship, in giving and receiving.  By all means look at your list, and let it build up, and do your thing if you can do it without sinning.  But do not mistake an occasional glance into the life of a passing acquaintance for real friendship.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 28 August 2008 at 10:14

Mencken on Machen

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Gary Brady draws attention to H. L. Mencken’s obituary of J. Gresham Machen.  Originally published in The Baltimore Evening Sun (18 January 1937), 2nd Section, p 15, it can be found at Appendix A here, and I reproduce it below.  “The Sage of Baltimore” tackles Machen fairly and squarely, making plain that though he despises his Calvinism, it has in it the virtues of cogency, consistency, coherence, cohesiveness and comprehensiveness.

H. L. MENCKEN’S OBITUARY OF MACHEN

“Dr. Fundamentalis”

The Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D. D., who died out in North Dakota on New Year’s Day, got, on the whole, a bad press while he lived, and even his obituaries did much less than justice to him. To newspaper reporters, as to other antinomians, a combat between Christians over a matter of dogma is essentially a comic affair, and in consequence Dr. Machen’s heroic struggles to save Calvinism in the Republic were usually depicted in ribald, or, at all events, in somewhat skeptical terms. The generality of readers, I suppose, gathered thereby the notion that he was simply another Fundamentalist on the order of William Jennings Bryan and the simian faithful of Appalachia. But he was actually a man of great learning, and, what is more, of sharp intelligence.

What caused him to quit the Princeton Theological Seminary and found a seminary of his own was his complete inability, as a theologian, to square the disingenuous evasions of Modernism with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. He saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting and polluting Christianity in the Modernist manner would be its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle away its essential postulates, however respectable their motives.

Thus he fell out with the reformers who have been trying, in late years, to convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and social club, devoted vaguely to good works. Most of the other Protestant churches have gone the same way, but Dr. Machen’s attention, as a Presbyterian, was naturally concentrated upon his own connection. His one and only purpose was to hold it [the Church] resolutely to what he conceived to be the true faith. When that enterprise met with opposition he fought vigorously, and though he lost in the end and was forced out of Princeton it must be manifest that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the honors of war.

II

My interest in Dr. Machen while he lived, though it was large, was not personal, for I never had the honor of meeting him. Moreover, the doctrine that he preached seemed to me, and still seems to me, to be excessively dubious. I stand much more chance of being converted to spiritualism, to Christian Science or even to the New Deal than to Calvinism, which occupies a place, in my cabinet of private horrors, but little removed from that of cannibalism. But Dr. Machen had the same clear right to believe in it that I have to disbelieve in it, and though I could not yield to his reasoning I could at least admire, and did greatly admire, his remarkable clarity and cogency as an apologist, allowing him his primary assumptions.

These assumptions were also made, at least in theory, by his opponents, and thereby he had them by the ear. Claiming to be Christians as he was, and of the Calvinish persuasion, they endeavored fatuously to get rid of all the inescapable implications of their position. On the one hand they sought to retain membership in the fellowship of the faithful, but on the other hand they presumed to repeal and reenact with amendments the body of doctrine on which that fellowship rested. In particular, they essayed to overhaul the scriptural authority which lay at the bottom of the whole matter, retaining what coincided with their private notions and rejecting whatever upset them.

Upon this contumacy Dr. Machen fell with loud shouts of alarm. He denied absolutely that anyone had a right to revise and sophisticate Holy Writ. Either it was the Word of God or it was not the Word of God, and if it was, then it was equally authoritative in all its details, and had to be accepted or rejected as a whole. Anyone was free to reject it, but no one was free to mutilate it or to read things into it that were not there. Thus the issue with the Modernists was clearly joined, and Dr. Machen argued them quite out of court, and sent them scurrying back to their literary and sociological Kaffeeklatsche. His operations, to be sure, did not prove that Holy Writ was infallible either as history or as theology, but they at least disposed of those who proposed to read it as they might read a newspaper, believing what they chose and rejecting what they chose.

III

In his own position there was never the least shadow of inconsistency. When the Prohibition imbecility fell upon the country, and a multitude of theological quacks, including not a few eminent Presbyterians, sought to read support for it into the New Testament, he attacked them with great vigor, and routed them easily. He not only proved that there was nothing in the teachings of Jesus to support so monstrous a folly; he proved abundantly that the known teachings of Jesus were unalterably against it. And having set forth that proof, he refused, as a convinced and honest Christian, to have anything to do with the dry jehad.

This rebellion against a craze that now seems so incredible and so far away was not the chief cause of his break with his ecclesiastical superiors, but it was probably responsible for a large part of their extraordinary dudgeon against him. The Presbyterian Church, like the other evangelical churches, was taken for a dizzy ride by Prohibition. Led into the heresy by fanatics of low mental visibility, it presently found itself cheek by jowl with all sorts of criminals, and fast losing the respect of sensible people. Its bigwigs thus became extremely jumpy on the subject, and resented bitterly every exposure of their lamentable folly.

The fantastic William Jennings Bryan, in his day the country’s most distinguished Presbyterian layman, was against Dr. Machen on the issue of Prohibition but with him on the issue of Modernism. But Bryan’s support, of course, was of little value or consolation to so intelligent a man. Bryan was a Fundamentalist of the Tennessee or barnyard school. His theological ideas were those of a somewhat backward child of 8, and his defense of Holy Writ at Dayton during the Scopes trial was so ignorant and stupid that it must have given Dr. Machen a great deal of pain. Dr. Machen himself was to Bryan as the Matterhorn is to a wart. His Biblical studies had been wide and deep, and he was familiar with the almost interminable literature of the subject. Moreover, he was an adept theologian, and had a wealth of professional knowledge to support his ideas. Bryan could only bawl.

IV

It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony. It is, on the contrary, a corpus of powerful and profound convictions, many of them not open to logical analysis. Its inherent improbabilities are not sources of weakness to it, but of strength. It is potent in a man in proportion as he is willing to reject all overt evidences, and accept its fundamental postulates, however unprovable they may be by secular means, as massive and incontrovertible facts.

These postulates, at least in the Western world, have been challenged in recent years on many grounds, and in consequence there has been a considerable decline in religious belief. There was a time, two or three centuries ago, when the overwhelming majority of educated men were believers, but that is apparently true no longer. Indeed, it is my impression that at least two-thirds of them are now frank skeptics. But it is one thing to reject religion altogether, and quite another thing to try to save it by pumping out of it all its essential substance, leaving it in the equivocal position of a sort of pseudo-science, comparable to graphology, “education,” or osteopathy.

That, it seems to me, is what the Modernists have done, no doubt with the best intentions in the world. They have tried to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty as [of] psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes. They may be good people and they may even be contented and happy, but they are no more religious than Dr. Einstein. Religion is something else again – in Henrik Ibsen’s phrase, something far more deep-down-diving and mudupbringing, Dr. Machen tried to impress that obvious fact upon his fellow adherents of the Geneva Mohammed. He failed – but he was undoubtedly right.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 27 August 2008 at 23:33

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