The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Michael Haykin

“The Pure Flame of Devotion”

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Many readers of this blog will doubtless know the name of Michael Haykin. In November last year, Michael reached his 60th birthday, and was presented with a festschrift to mark the occasion, The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Christian Spirituality. It is a fine volume, and the hardback is currently available slightly cheaper than the paperback at Amazon.com, and pretty much at the same price through suppliers at Amazon.co.uk.

With a rich selection of contributors (Douglas Adams, Peter Beck, Joel R. Beeke, Nathan A. Finn, Keith Goad, Crawford Gribben, Francis X. Gumerlock, David S. Hogg, Erroll Hulse, Clint Humfrey, Sharon James, Mark Jones, Sean Michael Lucas, Tom J. Nettles, Dennis Ngien, Robert W. Oliver, Kenneth J. Stewart, Carl R. Trueman, Austin R. Walker, Donald S. Whitney, Malcolm B. Yarnell, and Fred G. Zaspel) and such a fine theme, this is certainly worth looking into. Enjoy!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 15 March 2014 at 21:13

Haykin recommends . . .

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Michael Haykin answers the question (and there are a couple of other stimulating ones) “What are 5 of the best theology books you’ve read and can recommend to others?.” The answers are interesting, but a word of explanation would have profited.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 30 December 2011 at 21:55

Review: “Christ is All: The Piety of Horatius Bonar”

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Christ is All: The Piety of Horatius Bonar

Ed. Michael A. G. Haykin and Darrin R. Brooker

Reformation Heritage Books, 2007, 226pp., paperback, $10 / £7.99

ISBN 978-1-60178-033-1

Following a fairly lengthy and enjoyably rich biographical introduction, the bulk of this book consists of sixty-five mainly very brief excerpts from the works of Horatius Bonar, concluding with some suggestions as to further, deeper reading. The selections are well chosen, being wide-ranging in their material, crisp and pithy in their substance, and effective in showcasing the breadth of Bonar’s thinking together with its central themes and constraining focus upon the Lord Christ. Fitting well with the series’ (Profiles in Reformed Spirituality) intent to expose the best and deepest spirituality of previous generations, this is a book to do the soul good, not least in introducing Bonar as a godly man and gifted writer of poetry and prose to today’s believers.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 25 November 2011 at 09:25

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Snippets from Haykin

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 21 July 2011 at 12:47

Pondering a picture

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Michael Haykin is pondering this well-known picture of Particular Baptist luminaries from the eighteenth century, and has so far pondered thrice: here and here and here. Haykin looks at the prominence of certain figures, their relationships hinted at in their positions, and the different theologies represented.

A sample of these thoughts on how art is sending a message about stature and theology:

The seated figures in the front row–(from l. to r.) William Carey, Joseph Kinghorn, John Ryland, Jr., Andrew Fuller, and John Foster–were all remarkable figures, but the creator of this portrait seems to have wanted to highlight Hall. He is standing in a posture that surely bespeaks the preacher with a Bible in his right hand. And if the Baptists of that era were about anything it was preaching. As a means of grace, it was second to none as a way of communicating God’s will and presence. All of the men in the picture were preachers (except for Foster, who tried to preach but failed miserably in it–his forte was the written essay), why highlight Hall in this regard? Does it reveal the conviction that Hall represents the cream of Baptist preaching? There is no doubt, for many of that era, Hall was the greatest of a great generation of preachers.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 5 October 2010 at 11:33

“God’s Care for the Widow: Encouragement and Wisdom for those who Grieve”

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I should like to draw your attention to (and, incidentally, to draw to your attention) a new book written by my father, Austin Walker, and published by DayOne.

Over his decades of pastoral ministry, he has cared for several widows, not least among whom were my own Mamgu (my Welsh grandmother), as well as several other ladies in this church and – as opportunity provided – one or two further afield.  Disappointed at the relative absence of modern material equipping the saints to care for widows, he has distilled the material developed during those times into a brief and cheap book (128 pages, £5) of relatively short and accessible chapters, as listed below.  You can also read a sample.

Whether you are a pastor or other Christian seeking to minister to grieving widows, want to prepare for such an eventuality, want a sensitive gift for more or less recently widowed women, or would appreciate this counsel for yourself, here is an outstanding resource, accessible without being shallow, truly sensitive without being mawkishly sentimental, Scriptural both in its substance and its tender application.  I strongly recommend it.

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1  A defender of widows
  • Chapter 2  God relieves the widow
  • Chapter 3  Three funerals and three widows
  • Chapter 4  God’s bottle for your tears
  • Chapter 5  Submitting to God’s wise ways
  • Chapter 6  Joy before the Lord
  • Chapter 7  God’s salvation in Zarephath
  • Chapter 8  Resurrection in Zarephath
  • Chapter 9  The sympathy and indignation of Christ
  • Chapter 10   Resurrection in Nain
  • Chapter 11   The love of Jesus for his mother
  • Chapter 12  Omnipotent compassion
  • Chapter 13   The care of widows
  • Chapter 14  ‘Really widows’
  • Chapter 15   Serving Christ as a widow
  • Chapter 16  Younger widows
  • Chapter 17  Standing fast
  • Chapter 18   A living hope

The official overview states that “this book is written for widows to comfort them in their various troubles.  Throughout the Bible God makes himself known as the one who defends, comforts and provides for the widow.  From the days of Moses and  the prophets, to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ and the early church, widows have been the object of his fatherly care.  Written under the conviction that the church of Christ is responsible for relieving the distress of widows this book seeks to draw out God’s wisdom for the widow.  Naomi, Ruth, the widows of Zarephath and Nain, the Jerusalem widows, and Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ are among those considered.”

Here are some of the endorsements:

James 1:27 is very clear on some of the deeds that need to emanate from a converted heart: a life separated from the corruption of the world and the taking care of orphans and widows. In recent days much has been written about adopting orphans, but little is written specifically for widows and their needs. Here is considerable help and encouragement for widows, as well as important insights for those who minister to them. May Austin Walker’s much-needed and welcome application of the numerous passages on widows have a wide circulation!

Dr Michael A G Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, & Director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies & Research Professor of Irish Baptist College, Constituent College of Queen’s University Belfast, N. Ireland

This book will help widows. There is nothing better than the counsels to be found here.

Revd Geoff Thomas, Pastor since 1965 of Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth, Wales

Does the Bible have much to say by way of precepts and examples concerning God’s special care for and  commitment to the broken hearts and shattered lives of widows? Do the Scriptures address the church regarding its peculiar responsibilities to be sensitive and caring with respect to the peculiar needs of its widows? Are there clear directives to widows themselves regarding how they may best cope with their widowhood and even use that state as a platform for greater service to Christ and to his people? In this Scripture-soaked book, written out of an experienced and caring pastor’s heart, these questions are answered with tenderness and biblical authority. Thank you, Pastor Walker, for giving us a much-needed book.

Albert N. Martin, B. A.; D. D. — former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Montville New Jersey; Conference Speaker; lecturer in Pastoral Theology

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 3 May 2010 at 19:48

Gill and Fuller: papers from Haykin

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Michael Haykin makes available his papers from the True Church Conference hosted by Grace Life Church of Muscle Shoals, AL, the first on John Gill and hyper-Calvinism, and the second on Andrew Fuller.  Both papers are posted in PDF format:

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 2 March 2010 at 16:48

Robert Morrison Project

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The Robert Morrison Project (new link in sidebar) is dedicated to the publication of Reformed literature in China.  Dr. Tom Nettles, Dr. Brian Vickers, Dr. Michael Haykin and Dr. Joel Beeke serve on the board of directors.  You can read more about it at the White Horse Inn.

Robert Morrison was the first Protestant missionary to China.  He began his labours in 1807 and died in 1834 in Canton.  Read more here or here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 29 January 2010 at 17:11

Another blog blizzard

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I had a blast through the blog reader recently, and whittled it down, knocking away huge chunks of debris.  Here is a selection of what caught my eye as worth considering a little more.

OK.  Nuff.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 27 January 2010 at 15:49

The Puritans or the Bible?

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Michael Haykin has an interesting and brief post about why he does not feel slavishly bound to follow the Puritans in everything, despite his very high regard for them:

Why do I love the Puritans? Well, it is because of their robust soteriology that is faithful to the Word of God, their awesome biblical piety, and their keen ecclesiology. And after all, my seventeenth-century Baptist forebears were Puritans. But, and this is why we study history, they and their age are not the standard by which we measure biblical fidelity. That belongs to one source: the very one that they loved and sought to uphold—Holy Scripture. It alone is the canon and rule of faith.

So, there are some things in which I do not hesitate not to follow the Puritans. In the big picture, they are small things, but they illustrate that for me Scripture alone can bind my conscience. I wear a wedding ring on my left hand’s ring finger—the Puritans rejected the use of such because of the pagan origins of wedding rings. I do not dispute the historicity of those origins. But it is more important for me to bear witness to the permanence and desirability of marriage in our neo-pagan environment than protest against Norse paganism!

Or with regard to the keeping of days, I find it odd that in a world that is increasingly out of sync with the Gospel story and is utterly ignorant of some of the key events of that story that some of our churches, who would regard themselves as modelling Puritanism for the twenty-first century, fail to take advantage of the traditional church year that recalls Advent, Palm Sunday, Pentecost or Trinity Sunday. Would I re-introduce these days of remembrance into Baptist life? Yes, I would, for they help to remind us of critical aspects of the Gospel. Trinity Sunday, for example, would be an excellent antidote to Baptist churches in which the Trinity is never the subject of a sermon, year in, year out. And Pentecost would help some Baptists overcome their fear of the Holy Spirit!

As you can see, the argument is that he does not need to follow the Puritans where Scripture does not ultimately bind his conscience.  I would absolutely agree.  However, it is interesting that the piece ends with his eschewing the Puritan pattern of not ‘keeping days’ i.e. following the church calendar.

Unfortunately, at this point the logic of the piece seems to fail.  Surely not observing the days of the church calendar is not about Puritanism or the lack of it, but does have to do with biblical fidelity?  Why did the Puritans and others like them (before and after) not observe these days?  Was it not, at least in part, because they found no commands in the Bible to observe any high days of the “traditional church year”, but rather to observe the Lord’s day and – with varying regularity – that repeated ordinance mandated by Jesus, namely, the Lord’s supper?  Is this not part of their “biblical piety” and “keen ecclesiology”?

This note is not an argument for or against the keeping of days, although I myself would tend against it; nor am I saying that a better understanding of the Trinity and less “fear” of the Holy Spirit would be bad things.  But, if we are going to say that we follow Scripture first and fundamentally, the issue is not whether the Puritans were right or wrong, or whether their context demanded different applications to ours, but whether or not the Bible actually speaks to the issue in the first place.  If it does, reaction (to anything) or tradition (good or bad) is not the issue.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 8 October 2009 at 11:22

Posted in Christian living

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Booth is booked

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Michael Haykin tells us that he is working on a new book on Abraham Booth by Dr Ray Coppenger, to be published by Joshua Press.  The title of the new book — to be shortly released — is “A messenger of grace”: A study of the life and thought of Abraham Booth (1734–1806).  Inspiration for the title — so apt for Booth — comes from these lines of William Cowper’s The Task, Book II, lines 395–407:

“Would I describe a preacher, such as Paul,
Were he on earth, would hear, approve, and own,
Paul should himself direct me. I would trace
His master strokes, and draw from his design.
I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain,
And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste
And natural in gesture; much impressed
Himself, as conscious of his awful charge,
And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds
May feel it too; affectionate in look,
And tender in address, as well becomes
A messenger of grace to guilty men.”

For more on Booth, check out these posts.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 18 August 2009 at 21:12

Posted in Book notices

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Andrew Fuller & Samuel Pearce

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Michael Haykin has been going Fuller & Pearce nuts over at the not-too-surprisingly-named Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies blog.  Dr Haykin has been editing Andrew Fuller’s Memoir of his friend, “the seraphic Pearce.”  He tells us of Fuller’s tearful reaction to the news of his friend’s death, and then informs us that he has discovered a work of Pearce he has previously overlooked: let us hope that this gets an airing, if it has not done so already.

Then we are provided with a series of snippets from both men, giving a window into their hearts and a sketch of their piety:

Fuller on Pearce’s joyful Christianity:

In many persons the pleasures imparted by religion are counteracted by a gloomy constitution: but it was not so in him. In his disposition they met with a friendly soul. Cheerfulness was as natural to him as breathing; and this spirit, sanctified by the grace of God, gave a tincture to all his thoughts, conversation, and preaching. He was seldom heard without tears; but they were frequently tears of pleasure. No levity, no attempts at wit, no aiming to excite the risibility of an audience, ever disgraced his sermons. Religion in him was habitual seriousness, mingled with sacred pleasure, frequently rising into sublime delight, and occasionally overflowing with transporting joy.

Samuel Pearce on the human state:

I consider man as a depraved creature, so depraved, that his judgment is as dark as his appetites are sensual; wholly dependent on God, therefore, for religious light as well as true devotion: yet such a dupe to pride as to reject every thing which the narrow limits of his comprehension cannot embrace; and such a slave to his passions as to admit no law but self- interest for his government. With these views of human nature, I am persuaded we ought to suspect our own decisions, whenever they oppose truths too sublime for our understandings, or too pure for our lusts.

And on the solution to the human dilemma:

If the gospel of Christ be true, it should be heartily embraced. We should yield ourselves to its influence without reserve. We must come to a point, and resolve to be either infidels or Christians. To know the power of the sun we should expose ourselves to his rays: to know the sweetness of honey we must bring it to our palates. Speculations will not do in either of these cases, much less will it in matters of religion. ‘My son,’ saith God, ‘give me thine heart!’

Andrew Fuller comparing true Christianity with other religious systems:

The various kinds of religion that still prevail, the pagan, Mahometan, Jewish, papal, or Protestant, may form the exteriors of man according to their respective models; but where is the man amongst them, save the true believer in Jesus, that overcometh the world? Men may cease from particular evils, and assume a very different character; may lay aside their drunkenness, blasphemies, or debaucheries, and take up with a kind of monkish austerity, and yet all may amount to nothing more than an exchange of vices. The lusts of the flesh will on many occasions give place to those of the mind; but to overcome the world is another thing. By embracing the doctrine of the cross, to feel not merely a dread of the consequences of sin, but a holy abhorrence of its nature—and, by conversing with invisible realities, to become regardless of the best, and fearless of the worst, that this world has to dispense—this is the effect of genuine Christianity, and this is a standing proof of its Divine original. . . . this is true religion.

Fuller on joy – again – in the life of Pearce – again:

A little religion, it has been justly said, will make us miserable; but a great deal will make us happy. The one will do little more than keep the conscience alive, while our numerous defects and inconsistencies are perpetually furnishing it with materials to scourge us: the other keeps the heart alive, and leads us to drink deep at the fountain of joy. Hence it is, in a great degree, that so much of the spirit of bondage, and so little of the Spirit of adoption, prevails among Christians. Religious enjoyments with us are rather occasional, than habitual; or if in some instances it be otherwise, we are ready to suspect that it is supported in part by the strange fire of enthusiasm, and not by the pure flame of Scriptural devotion. But in Mr. Pearce, we saw a devotion ardent, steady, pure, and persevering: kindled, as we may say, at the altar of God, like the fire of the temple, it went not out by night nor by day. He seemed to have learnt that heavenly art, so conspicuous among the primitive Christians, of converting everything he met with into materials for love, and joy, and praise.

And, Fuller on true greatness:

. . . the way to true excellence is not to affect eccentricity, nor to aspire after the performance of a few splendid actions; but to fill up our lives with a sober, modest, sincere, affectionate, assiduous, and uniform conduct.

Thank you, Dr Haykin.  Ready for more when you are!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 10 August 2009 at 12:00

An ordination sermon by Abraham Booth

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Abraham BoothOver the last couple of days, Michael Haykin has blogged his discovery of a new sermon by Abraham Booth, which may be included in Booth’s works, currently being published.  (Aside: does it render me ineffably weird that discovering a new sermon from someone like Booth sounds like a very exciting thing to do?  I think I know my wife’s answer to that already.)  It was an ordination sermon, and we now have some quotes to give us a flavour:

When I contemplate the Apostle Paul, as the most honoured and useful servant of the Lord Jesus, in spreading the glories of divine grace, I can hardly forbear wishing, like Augustin, to have beheld him in the pulpit; if, thereby, I might form a more correct idea of his doctrine and manner of preaching. Yet such a wish is quite unavailing; and indeed, the gratification of it quite unnecessary. For that incomparable man, in his several epistles, has drawn his own character both as a Christian and as a minister of Christ. In the words of our text, we have the representation of Paul in the pulpit. His grand business is, to manifest the truth.

Take care, that under pretence of being open and explicit, you do not degenerate into dogmatism, or become personal in your, addresses. In the pulpit, you have to do rather with characters than with persons. You are bound, in faithfulness and in duty, to declare, that drunkards, covetous, self-righteous men, shall not inherit the kingdom of God: but you must not single out any particular person before you; for you will then become ungenerous, and the consequences will be injurious.

The more you keep the approbation of conscience, and the favour of God, in your eye, the more careful will you be to study your text and to manifest the truth which it contains; that the understanding and the conscience of your hearers may be duly enlightened, feel its authority, and God himself approve your labours. My brother, you have first of all to do with the understanding of your hearers, and as there is a glorious harmony and influence in divine truth, it must certainly operate on the will.

If you preach the whole counsel of God faithfully, you must expect to be treated by some as an Arminian—if you assert the unchangeableness of salvation for those who, though undeserving, yet believe in Christ, you must expect to be reproached by others as an Antinomian.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 8 May 2009 at 12:33

Reading the church fathers

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church-fathersIn response to a recent post on the early church, my friend Paul asked what might be recommended reading for those looking to get their teeth into the church fathers . . . not literally, of course, that would be gruesome.

In responding, I should make clear that I am no expert on Patristics.  So, you get personal opinions from someone not that widely read in this sphere, and whose taste may not be too well-developed.

That said, I imagine that for many the classic introductory text would be Augustine’s Confessions (or here).  It is essentially a spiritual autobiography that contains much instruction.

Also from Augustine, I profited a great deal from The City of God.  Written in the aftermath of the sack of Rome by the Goths, it considers the true identity of God’s kingdom and the activity of God in the history of the world, with much that remains relevant today.

Athanasius On the Incarnation is another that ought to be read, if only because it was written by a man who famously stood against the world for the sake of the truth.  Though probably written before the Arian controversy in which he became embroiled, here he lays the foundation for his stance in that most monumental battle for the full divinity of Christ Jesus.

Another with similar steel in his spine was the author of Against Heresies, Irenaeus of Lyons.  Forced by circumstance to take up the polemic pen, he identified, studied and exploded various poisonous theological opinions.

If history is your thing, and you want to get to know some of the names and issues, then Eusebius is probably your man.

Gregory Nazianzen wrote On the Holy Spirit which you might be able to track down.

If you like sermons (and you should!), then you might try the homilies of Goldenmouth himself, John Chrysostom.  There is a selection here.  For plain and penetrating explanation, still helpful and stimulating.

If all this seems a little daunting to anyone, two modern works that would serve as excellent introductions are Michael Haykin’s Defence of the Truth or Nick Needham’s 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, volume 1 (sadly seems to be out of print at the moment).  Michael gives you a brief outline of several men and their battles.  Nick gives more of an overview of the early church, with the advantage that after each significant section you get a chunk of primary source material from various authors.  Both are highly recommended.

You will also be pleased to know that I remembered something from a real expert: Michael Haykin gives his own suggestions here and here.

If you are looking for the works of the early church fathers, then this seems to be the mother of all sets!

I trust this serves its purpose of giving you some idea of where you might begin.  Any other suggestions, feel free to post below.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 24 March 2009 at 14:04

“Defence of the Truth: Contending for the Faith Yesterday and Today”

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Defence of the Truth: Contending for the Faith Yesterday and Today by Michael Haykin

Evangelical Press, 2004 (160 pp, pbk)

defence-of-the-truth-haykin1The life of the ancient church (circa AD 100-600) is the mine from which Dr Haykin draws the gems which constitute this brief training course in Scriptural apologetics.  Shortly after the ministry of the apostles in person had ceased, God raised up a variety of men to lay hold of the apostolic ministry committed to writing and to defend the truth which was then under assault.  The author’s six short essays concentrate on six characteristic stands for the truth.

These studies cover a balanced range of topics.  They deal with the rebuttal of pagan error concerning the Christian church in the Letter to Diognetus, and Irenaeus of Lyons’ assault on Gnosticism; there is an interesting chapter on millennial views in the early church; we see Athanasius and the Cappadocian fathers defending the doctrine of the Trinity, and Augustine setting forth a Christian view of history in The City of God; we learn, too, of Patrick of Ireland’s evangelistic zeal.  Some of these names and episodes are far from being common knowledge in the present-day church, and this ought not to be so.  Defence of the Truth brings these occasions and individuals to our attention as facts to be remembered, brethren to be esteemed, and examples to be followed.

Each of these vibrant and informative sketches ends with a brief applicatory passage (together with recommendations for further reading), in which the author seeks to press home some of the more obvious lessons from the episode just considered.  If there is any particular disappointment with the book, it is that these exhortatory sections could not be more fully developed.

The men held up for our instruction in these pages were fallen and sinful, and we are not asked to pretend otherwise.  At points we see good men differing, and the author points out where some of these men were perhaps mistaken, or where a particular emphasis in their writing (even one profitable in their own time) sadly became the seedbed of error in the church many years afterward.

Nevertheless, we should be stirred up as we see men, valiant for truth, standing firm for Christ and his kingdom in an age when – much like our own – the things they loved were under assault.  It would be worth our while to take up this training course and to seek to learn from it how better to serve the cause of Christ in our own generation.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 24 March 2009 at 13:23

Haykin on the early church

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church-fathersMichael Haykin is always good value, and some of his material on the early church that I have read and heard has been penetrating and profitable to the mind and soul.  He was recently interviewed by the Christ the Center panel on the Reformed Forum podcast.  The focus of the interview was upon the importance of reading and studying the early church fathers.  You can access the episode in which he was interviewed here.

HT: Andrew Fuller Center.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 21 March 2009 at 20:34

Revival and reformation

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In two posts, linked in theme but not by design, Jeff Smith and Michael Haykin both engage with issues of Baptistic attitudes to church polity, purity, and the progress of the gospel, taking in issues of tradition and catholicity.

Jeff Smith, continuing his series of lessons from 18th century Particular Baptist history, points to Baptist negativity toward the 18th century revival because of their suspicions about those at its forefront: Whitefield and the Wesleys, and the Calvinistic Methodists, for example.  Many of those concerns had to do with church polity:

They had a hard time accepting that anything good could come out of a denomination they refused to consider as a true church. This was partly related to what was a commendable and faithful commitment of the Baptists to the importance of biblical church order. In some instances, however, this commitment went wrong by swinging over to the extreme of failing to have a proper spirit of catholicity toward all true Christians.

He draws out some important and challenging questions:

What is the lesson for us as Reformed Baptists as we enter into the 21st century? Well here we are reminded of how important it is to have a catholic spirit toward all true Christians, though they may not be part of our circle of churches. Though some may have difficulty accepting this, God in his sovereignty sometimes greatly blesses and uses men who are not Reformed Baptists; men who don’t have everything right in their ecclesiology, or even men who are wrong in other areas of their theology. They have the gospel and they preach the gospel, but they are lacking in some areas. May I dare to say it, they may even be confused Arminians. Yet God uses them, and He may even use them in ways He’s not using any of us. We need to be able to rejoice in that. We need to ask ourselves, if God raised up some men in our day full of the Holy Spirit; men who are preaching the gospel and whose preaching God is mightily blessing with every biblical evidence of true conversions (not merely decisions, but real conversions), and those men are Methodists or Episcopalians, or Assembly of God or some other denomination, or some other kind of Baptist, other than Reformed Baptist, could we rejoice in that and be thankful for it? Could we even consider those men as our friends and brothers and even work together with them insofar far as we can? Or is our almost immediate knee jerk reaction to be critical and to pick at any and every fault we can find to try to discredit any one God is using who is not one of us?

And again:

Related to this, there’s a common mistake we need to be aware of. It’s the error of thinking that there can be no revival without thorough reformation first. It’s true that reformation sometimes precedes revival. Likewise it’s true that we must always be pursuing more and more thorough reformation. If we are not seeking to reform our lives and our churches by the scriptures, it is presumption to expect revival. But in God’s sovereignty it is simply a fact of history that sometimes revival precedes reformation. Some of the Particular Baptists thought there could be no church renewal if there was a neglect of believer’s baptism and the principles of Baptist church government. They were wrong, and because they felt that way, they renounced the revival when it came.

Michael Haykin has been making some similar points:

Take the revival among English and Welsh Calvinistic Baptists at the close of the “long” eighteenth century. In the wake of this dramatic renewal came a fresh evaluation of what constituted the parameters of the Calvinistic Baptist community. During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries these parameters had been oriented around the concept of the church as a congregation of baptized believers and any missional component largely lost. Revival came to be linked to Baptist polity. This focus among Calvinistic Baptists on ecclesiological issues and their linking of spiritual vitality to church order, however, received a direct challenge from the Evangelical Revival. The participants of this revival, who knew themselves to be part of a genuine movement of the Spirit of God, were mainly interested in issues relating to salvation. Ecclesial matters often engendered unnecessary strife and, in the eyes of key individuals like George Whitefield, robbed those who disputed about them of God’s blessing.

By the end of the century many Calvinistic Baptists agreed. While they were not at all prepared to deny their commitment to Baptist polity, they were not willing to remain fettered by traditional patterns of Baptist thought about their identity. Retaining the basic structure of Baptist thinking about the church they added one critical ingredient drawn from the experience of the Evangelical Revival: the vital need for local Baptist churches to be centres of vigorous evangelism. There is no doubt that this amounted to a re-thinking of Baptist identity. From the perspective of these Baptists, Baptist congregations and their pastors were first of all Christians who needed to be concerned about the spread of the Gospel at home and abroad.

Haykin also draws some positive and challenging conclusions:

May we, the spiritual descendants of those brethren-oh what a joy to have men and women like Andrew Fuller and John Sutcliff, Samuel Pearce and Anne Steele, Benjamin Beddome and Benjamin Francis as our forebears!-not fail to learn the lessons they learned so well!

Oh to treasure the traditions these brothers and sisters have handed on to us, but a pox on traditionalism! This is not a contradiction: to love our traditions, but to want nothing to do with traditionalism. The latter loves the past because it is simply the past and thinks that things were always done better then. The former loves the traditions of the past for they are bearers of truth and we dare not lose that treasure.

Oh to be found faithful to the end of our days to the faith once for all delivered to the saints and which these brethren have handed on to us. But oh to avoid like the plague the aridity of traditionalism in second- and third-order theological truth, not daring to think new thoughts in these areas. Fuller and his friends were not so fearful.

These are important points, and need to be borne in mind.  But let us also look forward a little distance from the time my brothers are writing about.

In 1813 the Baptist Union was established, on the back of such endeavours as the Baptist Missionary Society.  At the time, it was a distinctively Calvinistic body.  It was then restructured in the early 1830s to include General Baptists.  That re-establishment was on the broad and undefined basis of “the sentiments generally denominated evangelical.”[1] Those involved seemed to think that they knew what those sentiments were, and they were substantially convinced that such a foundation was sufficient to bear the weight of what would be built upon it.

Fast forward just a few years, and into the heritage of truth that the Particular Baptists of the 18th century passed down steps C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).  He – if you study his life and read his writings carefully – was as much a reformer as he was anything else.  God used him mightily in the middle of the 19th century to bring the gospel to countless thousands and to establish a multitude of churches.  True catholicity reigned in Spurgeon’s heart alongside a blood-earnest attachment to Jesus and the truth as it is in him.  There was no contradiction.

Toward the end of his life, Spurgeon knew that he had expended his energies in the cause of Christ.  In March 1891, a preacher from the College called E. H. Ellis left for Australia.  Spurgeon bade him farewell: “Good bye, Ellis; you will never see me again, this fight is killing me.”[2]

What was the fight?  It was that which church history calls the Downgrade Controversy.  Those sentiments usually denominated evangelical – being largely assumed and undefined – had not held back the tide of error sweeping in “the New Theology.”  Spurgeon averred that the Baptist Union as he knew it had been founded “without form and void” and remained so.

I am not drawing direct parallels between the Higher Criticism against which Spurgeon contended and some of the men implicitly referenced in the work of Jeff Smith and Michael Haykin, but I do think that the period after the 18th century provides us with salutary warnings and necessary exhortations.

The best men are always genuinely catholic in spirit.  They love all those who love Jesus in truth, even when they disagree with them over matters that they mutually confess to be of genuine and significant importance (e.g. church polity).  Men like John Owen, Jeremiah Burroughs, George Whitefield, and Charles Spurgeon were able to see across and attempt to reach across certain divides.  It does us well to cultivate the same spiritual wisdom.

However, in so doing, let us not lose sight of gospel distinctives (even more than ecclesiological ones, though not ignoring that the former feeds and defines the latter).  The truth is too high a price to pay for peace and unity (even in the short term).  We must not breed a suspicious and judgemental spirit, but we must maintain a discerning and distinguishing one.  We would be fools if we allowed catholicity of spirit to blind us to issues of truth and error.  I accuse neither of the men referenced of this, but I know that wise men make judicious and righteous statements, and the foolish apply them in muddle-headed and dangerous ways, and that there are more of the latter men than there are of the former, with obvious consequences.

What a tragedy it would be if, on the one hand, we failed to recognise a genuine work of the Spirit of God, even if “God in his sovereignty sometimes greatly blesses and uses men who are not Reformed Baptists.”  We should rejoice wherever Christ’s kingdom advances, and yearn to be useful and fruitful in that work, alongside all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity.  But, on the other hand, what a tragedy it would be if the inheritance we bequeathed to a generation to come was one of theological fuzziness, of pie-eyed and ungrounded optimism and well-meaning indistinctness that sold them into decades of unanchored drifting or bloody contention for the truth, or both.  In this regard, we have to say that – in surveying the broad theological landscape, not least among the “young, restless and reformed” and those to whom they look up – there are issues of which we must be aware, matters of pith and moment that are all too easily dismissed or overlooked.  Too little catholicity, and we may miss the boat.  Too much, and we sink it for future generations.

Some truth matters more, some truth matters less, but all truth matters.  We need wisdom to judge where the lines are drawn, and to recognise where they exist, even while we accept that some are scored more deeply than others.  Some are barely visible to the naked eye, although they exist and are worth knowing and appreciating.  Some we can reach across at certain times and in certain places even while we will never erase them.  Some we must maintain, even with sorrow.  Some are inviolable boundaries: our only efforts in those regards are to defend them with all we have and are, reaching out only to pull people across them from error and danger into truth and safety.

Let us be content, then, to be thought broad or narrow (as the spirit of the age dictates and the tenor of our own time and place in it require), so long as we are walking closely with Jesus, in spirit and in truth.  Conflict is miserable, and we must not allow times of conflict to determine all our conduct in times of peace.  At the same time, let us remember that our conduct in peace will determine our conduct in war.  The crisis will not form our character, it will only reveal it.  Taking this into account, consider that Spurgeon was fighting because he would not see Christ dishonoured, and that became a fight to the death.  In the midst of the battle, speaking to College students on the preacher’s power, he remarked

trimming [the gospel] now, and debasing doctrine now, will affect children yet unborn, generation after generation.  Posterity must be considered.  I do not look so much at what is to happen to-day, for these things relate to eternity.  For my part, I am quite willing to be eaten by dogs for the next fifty years; but the more distant future shall vindicate me.  I have dealt honestly before the living God.  My brother, do the same.[3]

There are lots of dogs, and they will eat us: let the dogs of liberalism eat us for our convictions, and the dogs of the blinkered hyper-orthodox for our catholicity, and the dogs of broad evangelicalism for our narrowness, and the dogs of the world for our exclusivity.  There are lots of dogs.  But let us content to be sheep of Christ’s flock, in company with other true sheep.  Let us pray for and pursue both revival and reformation, personally and corporately: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

If I may be permitted to reach across, while holding firm (the point will be clear if you look up the original!), let me end with a hymn from Charles Wesley:

A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!

Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!

Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
And let me ne’er my trust betray,
But press to realms on high.


[1] Ernest A. Payne, The Baptist Union: A Short History (London: Baptist Union, 1959), 61.

[2] Autobiography, 3:152.

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining it,” in An All-round Ministry, pp.361-2.

Blog blizzard

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The following is not a series of recommendations in itself, more a bundle of interesting posts from the blogosphere over last few days: putting it here is for my own benefit as much as for anyone else

A choice drop of honey . . .

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Michael Haykin thrills us with the news that material from the once-eminent but now-almost-forgotten Baptist, Thomas Wilcox, will be published before too long, DV.  Wilcox authored the tract A Choice Drop of Honey from the Rock Christ and was a massively appreciated author in his own day.  We fear from Dr Haykin’s post that Stephen Yuille’s edition will simply be of the Choice Drop tract as a monograph, rather than the entire collection of tracts he has discovered.  We earnestly hope it is the latter, and – if it is not – humbly encourage Dr Haykin, if at all possible, to make the pdf of the whole available (or even find someone to re-publish all the material), so that others can also benefit from Wilcox’s Christ-centred, heart-warming labours.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 25 October 2008 at 08:58

Samuel Pearce and John Ryland Jr.

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Michael Haykin directs us to a new blog devoted to the writings of John Ryland Jr. and gives us a tasty morsel from the seraphic Pearce, the young preacher so highly esteemed by Ryland, Andrew Fuller, John Sutcliff, William Carey, et al.  Pearce, when dying, wrote to Fuller and asked, “How can I be a Christian, and not submit to God?”  This is the spirit we need to be faithful and fruitful in our day.

On the Ryland site is a sermon on the indwelling of the Spirit from Romans 8.9.  You can catch something of the flavour of Ryland’s ministry from the following section, in which, having distinguished between “the flesh” and “the Spirit”, he begins to delve into what it means to be indwelt by the Spirit, and how we can know whether or not he truly dwells in our hearts:

The best evidences that we have the Spirit of Christ, which I can mention, are such as follow:

A spiritual and endearing discovery of Christ to the soul. producing an abiding sense of his excellence and glory, so that the way of salvation by him appears divinely excellent and worthy of all acceptation.

A spiritual conviction of the reality and certainty of the divine testimony concerning Christ and the gospel. John vi. 69. 1 John i. 1-3.

A union of heart with the Redeemer, acquiescing in the glorious ends of his mediation; entering into his views of the controversy between God and man, resting satisfied with his decision; glad that God is justified, his law magnified, justice secured, and grace delightfully displayed.

An habitual regard to Christ in our daily walk with God; not only acknowledging our need of his mediation at our first return to God, but from day to day looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life; loving to draw nigh unto God by him, through the assistance of the Spirit of grace.

A true conformity of temper and disposition to our blessed Lord, and to the genuine tendency of his gospel. How Iovely was the whole of his temper and conduct! How impossible it is, we should discern its beauty, and not be concerned to imbibe and imitate it.

A spirit of love, ardent zeal, genuine philanthropy, activity for God, and resignation to God, meekness, gentleness, self-denial, and love to enemies. He could not, indeed, set us an example of repentance. But his gospel tends to inspire and increase it, all through life, and to promote tenderness of conscience.

It is a strong evidence that we have the Spirit of Christ, when we have a proportionate regard to the different branches of evangelical religion, both towards God and man: having respect to all his commandments, and not being partial in his law. Christ’s was an obedient spirit.

The continual tendency of all discoveries from the Holy Spirit will be to strengthen us in holy practice and to excite an irreconcilable hatred of all sin, and an insatiable thirst after perfect conformity to the Saviour.

If we have the Spirit of Christ, we shall love his cause, delight in his image, seek the welfare of his people, long to promote his kingdom, and rejoice to see others called. We shall set our affections on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. We shall live here as strangers and pilgrims, who seek a better country, that is, an heavenly one.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 10 October 2008 at 10:18

“A Foundation for Life: A Study of Key Christian Doctrines and their Application”

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A Foundation for Life: A Study of Key Christian Doctrines and their Application edited by Michael A. G. Haykin

Joshua Press, 140pp, pbk, $16.99 (Canadian).

This little volume is aimed at new believers with the desire of instructing them in basic truth, and then encouraging them to study Scripture for themselves.  In order to accomplish this, sixteen authors present eighteen brief treatments of several foundational Christian truths.

The format of the book is helpful (key Scripture references are given in full in the side margins, for example) and the layout is clear.  Each treatment is a positive assertion of truth, and all are admirably short and clear.  Brevity has not betrayed the contributors into shallowness or triteness, although at a couple of points the attempt to present profound truth in brief compass runs this risk.  The general standard of these treatments is high, although some in particular stand out as dealing comprehensively yet incisively with particular matters of Christian doctrine.

A Foundation for Life is not setting out to provide all the answers to every question, and neither is it afraid to leave the reader with work to do.  These brief essays demand intelligent reading and active engagement, and prompt further inquiry and study.

Not every reader – especially, perhaps, if he or she is looking for something to give to others, or for use within the church – will agree with the balance, emphasis, or even the detail of every contribution.  Some will wish that more had been said more fully and distinctively at certain points; others, perhaps, will wish that the contributors had left certain things unsaid.  There is, of course, much that (of necessity) has to remain unsaid in a book with this scope and aim: many truths of historic, Biblical Christianity are not treated directly here, but rather assumed, and some might have desired that certain of these would have received more explicit coverage – the sovereignty of God, the nature of saving faith, or the fall of man and sin, for example.  Different individuals will doubtless have different opinions at this point, but those seeking to use this book for pastoral or teaching purposes should be able to supplement this volume with other appropriate material, and flesh out, explain or clarify particular or specific issues along the way.

Importantly, this book not only engages the mind, but also penetrates to and warms the heart, and works upon the will.  It is a stimulus to faith, and most of the essays give the reader something to do as a result of its reading.  The contributors’ own faith is clearly in evidence, and they point consistently and repeatedly to Christ.  Their evident and explicit dependence on Scripture is welcome, regardless of minor differences of opinion.  That in itself will be a valuable lesson to the young Christian.

Wisely employed, this book could be a useful resource for churches, a handy tool for pastors, and a great help not only to new believers, but also to all who wish to advance in their understanding of some of the basic truths of Scripture.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 22 August 2008 at 21:52

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Nuggets from Michael Haykin

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Three nuggets of truth and wisdom at Michael Haykin’s blog, one of them his own reflection, two others transmitted from the past, coming to us via Professor Haykin from “the seraphic Pearce”:

Read and profit.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 2 August 2008 at 21:58

Critiques

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A neat little post from Michael Haykin here provides some helpful counsel for those who feel themselves conscience bound to offer a critique of another: this is the spirit in which to go about the work.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 28 July 2008 at 11:41

“The armies of the Lamb: the spirituality of Andrew Fuller”

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The armies of the Lamb: the spirituality of Andrew Fuller edited and introduced by Michael A. G. Haykin

Joshua Press, 2002 (302 pp, pbk)

The letters collected in this volume provide an insight into the heart and mind of a great man of God. Andrew Fuller was at the vanguard of the recovery of balanced, Biblical Christianity – what he called ‘strict Calvinism,’ the ‘Calvinism’ of Calvin, as opposed to the hyper-Calvinism and antinomianism that infected so many churches of the time – among the Baptist churches of the eighteenth century. Best known as one of William Carey’s ‘rope-holders’ during the missionary’s rightly famed labours in India, we should remember that Fuller’s labours laid much of the foundation for Carey’s evangelistic zeal and work.

The letters in this volume reveal various facets of Fuller’s life, and the spectrum of his labours. Furthermore, Michael Haykin’s helpful biographical introduction (and the two appendices) provides a more comprehensive framework which fills out the picture of Fuller that develops as one reads. Distinctively Baptistic, yet always irenic, Fuller was ‘not fond of fighting.’ Nevertheless, the gifts the Lord bestowed upon him often found him in the front line of the fight for gospel truth.

His letters are marked by tenderness, honesty and courage, built on Scriptural conviction. They rebuke, correct, exhort, encourage, and instruct in righteousness. There is something here for every reader – for young and old, for pew and pulpit, for churches and individuals, believer and otherwise. Fuller’s language is simple, earthy, and colourful. His sentences are pithy, and his pages abound in gems of practical godliness (letter #12 being a particularly fine example). He is determined always to be thoroughly Biblical, and his evangelistic zeal is constantly evident, particularly in the combination of honesty and tenderness he shows in dealing with unbelievers.

The picture that develops is of a man centred on Christ, whose love for the Lord and his church was his motivating force. There was a robust and manly vigour about everything that Fuller did. One of his motto texts was Ecclesiastes 9.10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” He is always passionate and wholehearted, whether tender and weeping, or standing in defence of the faith. However, that vigour and passion do not merely excite our admiration – they challenge our own laxity.

Of such letters in this collection, one stands out. Letter #7 is a circular addressed to the churches of the Northamptonshire Baptist Association. With searing honesty Fuller unpacks the causes of spiritual declension of the churches and sets forth a Scriptural remedy. Here Fuller unfurls the banner of Biblical Christianity. He challenges those who think in terms of what they ‘must do for God’ rather than what they ‘can do for God.’ Fuller stirs up in others the same holy dissatisfaction he felt with his own attainments. He toiled at his Christianity physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually – it demanded and joyfully received all the strength of his redeemed humanity. Scripture is his standard and Christ his model as he calls on every Christian to aspire after ‘eminence in grace and holiness’ and stirs up a concern ‘not to float on the surface of Christianity, but to enter into the spirit of it!’

The poignancy and faith of his later letters, written with his approaching death in mind, will not fail to leave the reader both moved and inspired. Fuller’s life provides an example of the active, practical godliness so lacking in our own age, and his letters give a glimpse into the privileges and responsibilities of being a Christian, a member of ‘the armies of the Lamb, the grand object of whose existence is to extend the Redeemer’s kingdom.’

This volume is a rallying call to the armies of Christ, rebuking our lethargy and encouraging us to live to the glory of God, and preach a full-orbed Christ to a needy world. I trust it will inspire readers not only to search out more of Fuller’s own works (which are eminently worthy of study), but also to seek after his God-centred, Scriptural spirituality, to aspire to eminence of grace and holiness, and to pursue the vigorous and balanced Christianity that the age in which we live demands.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 2 May 2008 at 12:40

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