Monday, 3 August 2009


Obviously, the great need of the hour, so far as some church people are concerned. A man, or a women!, who will tell us nice things about God and about ourselves, who will tell us stories every Sunday, and tickle our ears with more amusing stories. Someone who will turn both blind eyes to what is really going on within the church, or even within his/her own congregation, and all for the sake of peace. He/she needs to be someone who is good with a brush - to sweep as much religious and theological nonsense under the carpet as possible. Ideally, s/he must be the 'pet lamb' of the flock - nice and warm and cuddly, to be admired and gocked at by all and sundry.

Perish the thought if he were to be a man like Luther or Calvin - look at the 'mess' they made of the church 500+ years ago in Europe, both of whom were either put out of the church or had to leave it. These men brought embarrassment to their families and friends, and lost a good, safe, lucrative career in the church. We don't want men like these. They caused big splits in the united church of that time, and now it is broken up into all kinds of, what they call, denominations. They criticised other clergy, condemned what was happening within the visible church, set about changing things that had been going on for generations, even centuries. They said the church was wrong in the way it was organised, and the clergy were wrong in what they preached to the poor people. Even the sacraments were not even being administered properly, accordingly to Calvin. What a cheek he had! And Luther overturned the way people became Christians - no longer by their own supposed 'good' works, but by faith in Christ alone! And as for paying your way to heaven, well, Luther put a spanner in the works here too. These men went to town on the church in their own day, and brought the Bible into centre place, making it the supreme standard of the church.

Had the 17th century Huguenots been the pathetic weaklings that many want in today's church, the cause of Christ in Europe would have all but disappeared. These gallant saints of God preserved the flame of reformed Christianity in a land that hated it with a perfect hatred. Thank God for their consistency in their Christian witness both within and without the churches in France, etc.

Nor do we want men like Whitefield or the Wesleys as our ministers, why? Because in many places where they went, they caused riots by their preaching, and in other places there were outbreaks of revival. These men, by their preaching got up peoples' noses, and told the people they were sinners and needed to be saved. Even Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, USA, caused all kinds of unusual happenings under his preaching, and people collapsed as he preached the Gospel. He even told them about HELL! He told them that all that was keeping these good church members out of hell was the slender thread of God's mercy, and that at any moment they could drop under the weight of their own corruption into a Christless hell forever. Scary stuff! Now, we cannot have ministers like that in our churches today, because they only upset people who otherwise were fast asleep in their sin.

Or come on a few more years, to Dundee in Scotland where Rev Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) ministered for six short years (1837-1843), dying at age 29. Now, we like to hear quotations from McCheyne, but we don't want a man like him in our churches. He was too holy, too given over to God and His glory, far too straight as a preacher, convicted his hearers of their sin and guilt every time he preached, and brought them to see their abominable condition before Almighty God. He actually told them that they were unconverted, and were hell-deserving sinners! No, we don't want a man like that in the church today. That kind of preaching only turns people off and empties the churches because it shows a lack of grace and love. He only had about 1100 in his!

He even criticised other ministers, and what they preached! Could you believe it? He brought the state of the church and the nation under the microscope of the Word of God - and he was only in his mid-twenties! How dare him criticise the church or her ministers. But he did! Why? Because he loved the Lord and His Gospel much more than he loved the praise of sinful men. He loved Christ far above all others. No, men like McCheyne would not go down well in the church today.

Yet, and here's the rub, while the church might not 'want' ministers like these, she certainly 'needs' such ministers. The reformation would not have happened had the reformers not obeyed the call of God and recognised so precisely the dire needs of the church. Indeed, without the great men of courage, there would not be a reformed church anywhere in the world. Had they been 'cissies' or 'pansies,' they could not have accomplished under God what they did.

It appears that the men the church does not want today are exactly the men that she needs so sorely. The church, alone of all organisations, is of divine origin, so she of all organisations ought to be the focus of those who claim to be of a reforming spirit. Indeed, had the men within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in the seventies and eighties been the spineless males that are lauded today, that church would still be in the WCC, and would have joined the newly formed Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland in the early 1980s. Had there not been men of theological conviction, there would be no sacramental discipline in as many congregations today - Romanism would have prevailed in many of them, as it is in probably the majority of congregations within that denomination.

The sad and disappointing thing about the modern church is that there are no signs of any reformers within any of the churches today, save perhaps among the smaller denominations; but even here, the 'reformers' are frowned upon, and told not to speak about spiritual things within that denomination.

My prayer is that God would raise up a man or men who would champion the reformation of the churches in this age, and bring them back to His holy Word and Gospel. But now, as then, the reformers have always been the targets of ecclesiastical persecution.