Saturday, 18 August 2012

Unordained Preachers in Eighteenth Century Wales

Many of the 'exhorters' in eighteenth century Wales were not well-off nor were many of the well educated. Indeed some were "relatively ignorant of the doctrine of religion" (Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, Vol. 1, p. 263).

"But they had been given a view of the crucified Christ as an all-sufficient Saviour, his glory had shone in their souls with an overpowering intensity, their hearts were filled with an enduring love for him, and though they did not know what much about him they felt bound to express what they did know to all around them. As Ahimaaz of old, they were full of desire to run for the King, and if they had no clear tidings at the beginning, they soon found it before running very far.  The woman of Samaria knew very little about Jesus, but after his words had touched her heart she left her water-pot at the side of the well in order to tell her fellow-citizens of the remarkable Person she had met.  So also with the Methodist exhorters: they entered into the work as they were, and God sealed their labours with blessing" (263).

These servants of Christ ran because they had a message salvation to tell to all they met.  It was a message that had eternal relevance for the whole world.  God, out of His heart of love, had provided an all-sufficient Saviour who could meets the great spiritual needs of everyone.  The eternal value of His death on the Cross ensured that it was an all-sufficient salvation that His servants were to preach.

These were among the great influences on the ministry and theology of Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Exhorters in Wales

I have mentioned the marvellous two volume work, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, and commend these strongly.  These were books that Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones read often, and especially when he was feeling a bit jaded.

But the section to which I want to draw your attention is in Vol.1, p.263.  Here we discover a vitally important matter.

We learn that when schoolmasters were being appointed to Griffith Jones's schools, a necessary qualification was "that a man should have sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures.  He had to address his pupils from the Word and catechize them."

This is an important, nay, crucial, aspect of Huguenot philosophy of education.  They saw reading, writing and arithmetic as necessary tools but these were not, in themselves, education.  They were preparatory to education, which was to bring the children to a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures and to know Christ personally as Lord and Saviour.

Not a few schoolmasters became 'exhorters' in Wales during and following the revival in the eighteenth century.  Knowing how to communicate the Gospel to children was but a short step to doing similarly with adults - and they did!  Some 40 such men worked in this capacity and gave valuable assistance to the progress of the awakening in Wales.

Atonement and Faith

James Denney, like John Calvin, viewed faith as being the interpretative key of the atonement especially as it pertains to the sinner's receiving the reconciliation purchased by Christ for the world.  It is 'faith' that unlocks Calvin's own theology and it is 'faith' that "is the correlative of Christ wherever Christ really touches the life of men." (Denney, CDR, 1917:288).  Denney argues that when Christ, the Author of redemption, appeals to men's hearts and touches their consciences, the most "natural, spontaneous, and in a sense inevitable" response is "the response of faith."  How could it be otherwise?

Yes, faith is the gift of the sovereign, saving God to men; but it is a gift that has to be exercised if salvation is to be experienced.  It is not the case that when Christ in His death died on Calvary, that all men died in Him, says Denney.  Rather is it the case that when Christ died on the Cross, he opened up the way of salvation to all men, so that on their repentance and faith they receive the reconciliation. 

It must also be recognised that 'faith' and 'repentance'are spiritual Siamese twins - where the one exists so does the other.  So when we speak of faith being the key that unlocks biblical theology, repentance is understood as well.

"There is nothing arbitrary in faith," contends Denney (CDR, 289).  It is "the one natural and inevitable way in which the salvation of God, present in Christ, is and must be accepted by men."  What faith sees on the Cross is "the revelation of a love in God [that is] deeper and stronger than sin."  In Christ crucified, we see God "entering into all that sin means for him and taking the burden of it, in all its dreadful pressure, upon itself, yet clinging to him through it all, and making to him the final appeal which God can make."  In this case, what is faith to do?  Ignore such love?  Despise it?  Spurn it?  Say it is unnecessary for him?

No.  "If a man with a sense of his sin on him sees what Christ on His cross means, there is only one thing for him to do - one thing which is inevitably demanded in that moral situation: to abandon himself to the sin-bearing love which appeals to Him in Christ, and to do so unreservedly, unconditionally, and for ever" (289, 290).

What powerful and wooing words are these!  Denney is correct: there is only one thing the awakened sinner can do and that is to flee to Christ alone for his eternal salvation.

Have you done that?  Will you do that NOW?

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Huguenots in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland

A brand new ebook from the pen of Hazlett Lynch in which he gives a thumb sketch of the influence of The Huguenots in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland.

The book focuses particularly on the Gaussen family who arrived in Ballyronan Northern Ireland about 1685, the year in which the Edict of Nantes was revoked by cruel King Louis XIV of France, and describes the influence they had on the life of the town and district.

Read about the churches in Magherafelt, how the Rainey Endowed School came into being, and about the setting up of the Library.
Had these Huguenots any influence on church life in Magherafelt, and, if so, what was it?  What denomination did the Huguenots belong to?  What is the link between the Huguenots and the Methodists? Catch the thrill of knowing about these servants of Christ, and see how their faith was shown and vindicated by their works.

Be the first to write a review of this book. 

An awful premonition - C. H. Spurgeon

‘Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.’ Matthew 16:28
Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 2:6–15

This tasting of death here may be explained, and I believe it is to be explained, by a reference to the second death, which men will not taste of till the Lord comes. And what a dreadful sentence that was, when the Saviour said, perhaps singling out Judas as he spoke; ‘Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, who shall never know what that dreadful word ‘death’ means, till the Lord shall come.’ You think that if you save your lives, you escape from death. The demise of the body is but a prelude to the perdition of the soul. The grave is but the porch of death; you will never understand the meaning of that terrible word till the Lord comes. This can have no reference to the saints, because in John 8:51–52 you find this passage:—‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.’ No righteous man, therefore, can ever ‘taste of death.’ He will fall into that deep oblivious sleep in which the body sees corruption; but that is another and a very different thing from the bitter cup referred to as tasting of death. When the Holy Spirit wanted an expression to set forth that which was the equivalent for the divine wrath, what expression was used (in Hebrews 2:9)? Christ ‘by the grace of God should taste death for every man.’ The expression ‘to taste of death,’ means the reception of that true and essential death, which kills both the body and the soul in hell for ever.

For meditation: This terrible tasting of everlasting death will be the only course available for those who have refused in this life to taste and see that the Lord is the good and gracious giver of salvation and blessings to all who trust in him (Psalm 34:8; 1 Peter 2:3).
Sermon no. 594
15 August (Undated Sermon)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

John Jones, Talsarn Calvinistic Methodist Preacher (1796-1857)

(This article was sent by Dr Alan C Clifford to mark the anniversary of the death of Calvinistic Methodist preacher, Rev. John Jones, Talsarn. To be noted is the fact that he was born on the same date by day that Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones went to be with the Lord Jesus Christ.)

If the warriors of Greece and Rome ever deserved funeral orations and funeral songs, a great Welsh preacher was entitled to them on
far higher grounds. For whom is such a claim made? John Jones, Talsarn!
He was born on ‘St David’s Day’, 1 March 1796 at Tan-y-castell near Dolwyddelan in Gwynedd, North Wales. Brought to faith in Jesus Christ through the ministry of his young friend Henry Rees, John Jones became an eminent preacher of the Gospel throughout Wales. From his later home in Talysarn, he travelled widely for more than three decades. Ever-increasing demands were made upon him by a population hungry to hear the Way of Salvation. During the last year of his life, John Jones preached the Gospel of Christ three-hundred and sixty times.

Owen Jones wrote: ‘Preaching was the delight of his heart…“There is no occupation in the world so delightful as preaching Jesus Christ the Saviour of sinners, and the ideal of human life for those who believe in Him”...His countenance beamed with the sweetest love and the most boundless benevolence...Preaching absorbed all the energies of his life...he became the most efficient and most popular preacher of the age in Wales. The epithet is applied to him to this day, “The preacher of the people.” And no one since his time has arrived at anything like his popularity… He would often preach for an hour and a half or two hours, and the people not at all tired, but delighted and enchanted, and in raptures before the close...When expressing the believer's delight over the riches of God in Christ, there was such a heavenly sweetness in his voice as electrified every congregation. As to power, flexibility, sweetness and beauty of voice, the Welsh pulpit no doubt reached its climax in the orator from Talsarn’ (Some of the Great Preachers of Wales, 1885).

John Jones’s friend and biographer Dr Owen Thomas wrote: ‘We are disposed to think that he, during those years (from 1821 to 1857), made for himself a deeper home in the affections of his fellow-countrymen than perhaps any of his mighty predecessors or contemporaries - so deep a home, indeed, that the longing that is still felt for him in the breasts of his hearers is as keen and strong as if he had died
yesterday’ (Cofiant John Jones, Talsarn, 1874).

When he died at Talysarn on Sunday, 16 August 1857, John Jones proved the blessedness of all he had preached to others. Despite advancing weakness, his spirit was filled with rapture as he was heard repeatedly to whisper, “O! Iesu anwyl! O! Iesu anwyl! O! Waredwr bendigedig!” - “O dear Jesus! O beloved Jesus! Blessed be Thy name forever!”

With great poignancy Owen Jones wrote: ‘On Friday, 21 August, the day he was buried at Llanllyfni, the shops were closed in Talysarn and all the country around; and even in Caernarfon, which is several miles away; and the work in the slate quarries was at a stand that day. And in the eyes of some, great Snowdon seemed to wear a pall...’

Before leaving the house in Talysarn, Henry Rees spoke to the large crowd of mourners: “It is not becoming to say much now. Silence is the most eloquent. If you desire to have a real sermon today, look at the coffin, the funeral car, and the grave, and think of your sweet-mouthed preacher, who is now silent forever. His name was well known throughout the Principality for thirty or thirty-five years, and his
eloquence roused and charmed the minds of Welshmen. But today there is no John Jones, Talsarn, in Wales.”  Far be it from us, however, to weep for him as men which have no hope. ‘For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him!’ ”

In the funeral procession there were eight medical men, sixty-five ministers and preachers, three abreast; seventy deacons four abreast; two hundred singers, six abreast; six thousand men and women, six abreast, trending slowly on the road from Talysarn to Llanllyfni, singing on the way some of the old Welsh tunes, ‘Yn y dyfroedd mawr a’r tonau’, ‘Ymado wnaf a’r babell’, the hills around and Snowdon in the distance echoing the sound. That day and for many a day after a great gloom rested upon Wales’.

Between his birth at Dolwyddelan to his death at Talysarn, was there any Welshman who brought more blessing to Wales through the preaching of Christ than he? Did any preacher present the Saviour of sinners more gloriously, eloquently and tenderly than he? Was there any minister whose heart throbbed with more love to Jesus and his fellow-men? Is there any better Spirit-anointed model for preachers today than the Christ-exalting John Jones, Talsarn?

Surely such servants of Christ should be remembered. Recording their labours can only enhance our appreciation of God’s grace and mercy to the people of Wales. Let us pray, “LORD, do it again—everywhere!”

Dr Alan C. Clifford

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Christ Wants His Church Back!

As a result of the Fall of mankind into sin (Gen.3), men have worked very hard to ruin, destroy and spoil Christ's church on earth, and make her their own.  You hear the cry from church Christians, "It's my church," or "It's our church."  When they say this very often they mean that they run and control it, and no one else.  Now Christ wants her back as His only Bride.

Sinners have reaped havoc on Christ's Bride, aided and abetted by Satan, the great adversary of the Church.  This unholy collaboration of man and Satan has left the church where she is today - loveless, unholy, powerless, unattractive, not useful or 'fit for purpose,' repellent, and almost dead spiritually.  Together man and Satan have made her into a disgraceful thing, a thing of reproach, and something God is ready to disown.  She has become self-willed, stubborn, rebellious, disobedient, and wayward.  She has committed spiritual adultery by running after other gods which are no gods, by cavorting with them and by submitting herself to them, and allowing them to do whatever they wanted to and with her.  She has no want of suiters and lovers.  She has gone after them shamelessly and has committed adultery with them in broad daylight.

Men like a church like that, do they not?  One they can control and run after for their own pleasure.  They have treated her as a man treats a prostitute - use her to get from her what fills their own lusts and inordinate desires.  But they do not love her as she deserves to be loved; nor do they cherish her or give themselves for her well-being.  They use her - for the baptism of children, to get their young people into full church membership and to come to the Lord's Table, to ensure that their children are married in church despite their having been living together for some time prior to the marriage, and have their deceased relatives given a proper burial.  So long as they get all these things and services, they are content.  They just use the church for their own ends.

But someone might object, "But Christ never lost His church!  She always belonged to Him.  Is that not what the word 'church' means - belonging to the Lord?" Fair point.  But what we must accept is that men, when they got their sinful hands on the church, wrested her from Him so far as the doing of His will is concerned.  Why have the churches of Asia Minor been put out of existence so soon after John wrote his letters to those seven churches?  Why is the true Christian church no longer visible and working in Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessaloniki, Collossae, Phillippi, Galatia, etc?  Because men wrested her from her Lord and destroyed her.

What a warning this is to us today.  Oh, how careful we must be as to how we behave within the church of Jesus Christ.  How careful that we by our endeavours, push Christ off His rightful place within the church and replace Him with man-made institutions.

Christ wants His church back.  She does not belong to you.  She never belonged for you.  She belongs to Christ; He bought her with His own blood.  She is His prize possession.  Whatever possessed you to take her from Him?  He wants her back and He will get her back and woe betide the man who tries to hold on to what does not belong to him? 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The way of salvation - C H Spurgeon

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 12

What a great word that word ‘salvation’ is! It includes the cleansing of our conscience from all past guilt, the delivery of our soul from all those propensities to evil which now so strongly predominate in us; it takes in, in fact, the undoing of all that Adam did. Salvation is the total restoration of man from his fallen estate; and yet it is something more than that, for God’s salvation fixes our standing more secure than it was before we fell. It finds us broken in pieces by the sin of our first parent, defiled, stained, accursed: it first heals our wounds, it removes our diseases, it takes away our curse, it puts our feet upon the rock Christ Jesus, and having thus done, at last it lifts our heads far above all principalities and powers, to be crowned for ever with Jesus Christ, the King of heaven. Some people, when they use the word ‘salvation,’ understand nothing more by it than deliverance from hell and admittance into heaven. Now, that is not salvation: those two things are the effects of salvation. We are redeemed from hell because we are saved, and we enter heaven because we have been saved beforehand. Our everlasting state is the effect of salvation in this life. Salvation, it is true, includes all that, because salvation is the mother of it, and carries it within its bowels; but still it would be wrong for us to imagine that is the whole meaning of the word. Salvation begins with us as wandering sheep, it follows us through all our confused wanderings; it puts us on the shoulders of the shepherd; it carries us into the fold; it calls together the friends and the neighbours; it rejoices over us; it preserves us in that fold through life; and then at last it brings us to the green pastures of heaven, beside the still waters of bliss, where we lie down for ever, in the presence of the Chief Shepherd, never more to be disturbed.

For meditation: Past salvation from sin’s penalty (justification): present salvation from sin’s power (sanctification): prospective salvation from sin’s presence (glorification)—what a great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). Don’t miss it.
Sermon no. 209
15 August (1858)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Get Unction.

The issues that are relevant if we wish to see God move and bless His Work are godliness of life and  prayerfulness, and regardless of the theological camp a man belongs to, there is an absence of unction.  The evidence from Edwards and DMLJ is as clear as could be that these men experienced the divine unction on their ministries and numerous conversions followed.  Sadly, the same cannot be said of Owen, who had no known conversions, though, of course, that does not mean there were none.  He did say, mind you, that he would give all his learning to be able to preach like John Bunyan, the tinker and evangelist.  Wouldn't we all!

We are fooling ourselves when we convince ourselves that no conversions equate to faithfulness to the Gospel.  Spiritual pride and arrogance drives us when we think like that.  McCheyne used to preach and pray with his face buried in his hands and the tears running down his cheeks.  My biggest fault as a preacher is that I cannot preach in that attitude, for I am far too sinful.  Perhaps we need to read McCheyne's sermons and study them closely to see how to preach the Gospel with power sent down from heaven.  We need that sense of God in our services, and not "glorified Bible studies," as DMLJ so rightly described so many so-called sermons.  Orthodoxy is important, but if a preacher studies more to be orthodox than he does to know the Spirit's power upon him, he has no right to ascend any pulpit. 

How much we crave and pursue popularity with men, and neglect being in the special favour of God. Our hearts are so sinful and wicked.

I have said it often, there are far too many 'essay readers' in our pulpits today with the result that we are far more concerned to get something out of our heads rather than get something into the hearts and heads of our hearers.  Preaching is about communication, communication of the highest and most exalted order; yet it is here that we fail so lamentably.  How sorrowful I am when I think that I used to describe my ministry as "a Bible teaching ministry."  This is vitally important, but if that is all we are doing, then God be merciful to us.  My sinful heart was so full of pride of the worst kind that I blush to even say this.  My heart is pained to admit this travesty.

One thing I have been well aware of (and its something I have done more in the breach than in the observance) and that is "the barrenness of a busy life."  Satan works us so hard that we do not do the very spiritual exercises that we know are needed.  The church also plays into this because she does not want us to be "men of God" in any real and effective sense.  So, she puts us on all these committees and commissions with the very purpose of keeping us off our knees.  She invites us here and there, all to keep us from fellowship with the Lord.  And into the bargain, we become all puffed up with pride and entertain thoughts of how good/great we really are, when in reality we are no better than unprofitable servants. 

Satan will use anything and anyone to keep a man off his knees.  R. M. McCheyne said, "What a man is on his knees before God, that he is and no more."  We're not much, are we?  Someone also said, "If you want to humiliate a minister, ask him about his prayer life."  How truly devoted is he to Christ whom he preaches and offers to the lost?  How much does he love the Saviour (Jn.21)?  What are his real priorities in ministry? 

Perhaps we are much too full of our own importance for God to use us.  Perhaps self-righteousness has taken such a hold of us that we would not be prepared to admit it.  Perhaps we imagine that by 'performing' well in the pulpit, our own or someone else's, we are pleasing the Lord.  Are we?  Is ministry just about 'performance'?  How much do we really depend upon God's anointing when we preach, and how much on ourselves? 

We need to dedicate ourselves to doing serious business with God if we are see any move of His Spirit.  But we are not prepared to do what it takes to make this a reality.  We're too busy at other things.  We need to de-clutter our lives of all that does not allow us to do that very thing.

This is surely enough to be going on with for now.  We will continue this dialogue with a view to making the necessary changes in our lives so that we reflect more closely the pattern set out in Scripture.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Respecting God's Word

Do you respect God's Word?  What a silly question, you might ask.  Well, it isn't, and I'll tell you why.  Last week I listened to a preacher who told about the way people in the Slavic countries regard God's Word written.  He said that it is wholly inappropriate for anyone to place anything on to of the Bible, for that is to disrespect it.  Nor is it deemed to be proper to leave the Bible on the floor.

But here's the one that registered with me: it is deemed to be improper for a preacher to preach with one or both hands in his pockets because that is to show a most casual attitude to God's truth written.  I have done that at times, and even then I felt it was a wrong thing to do because it revealed a certain attitude of heart towards the work that I was engaged in. 

God's Word can be disrespected by those who hold it is highest esteem.  And the disrespect does not necessarily have to be in external behaviours.  External behaviours reveal the true state of the heart.  A heart that is not right with God is a heart that is not surrendered to God and to God alone. 

Christians must learn anew what respecting the Word of God entails.  One thing is reading it with a heart that is hungry for God and for His Voice to speak into your heart.  It is reading the Word with a desire to meet afresh with the living Lord.  It is coming to it for the food that you need to sustain your spiritual life and vigour.  It is wanting to learn more about the Lord so that you can know Him in a more deeply personal way. 

For preachers, it is about sticking to the Bible when you pray and when you preach.  Not only must your sermons be biblical, but so also must your prayers.  Further, have you ever heard a minister read a passage of Scripture and you got the feeling that he did not understand what that passage was about?  he did not respect the Word.  Respecting the Word in this scenario means that you get to understand what the passage means and then you will read it properly.

For ministers, respecting the Word entails ensuring that everything you do in your church has biblical warrant, and is done in a way that honours its Holy Author.  The sacraments must be administered in a way that teaches clearly the meaning of these precious aids.  Church membership must be limited only to those who are genuine Christians.  And because the minister or eldership cannot read accurately the heart of the religious professor, if the profession is credible, that is, believable, then you accept it, and then you look for fruit appropriate to such a profession of faith.  If such fruit is not forthcoming after a reasonable period, say 12 months, then that individual will be interviewed to ascertain the reasons why, and if these are acceptable, give him/her another period to prove their worth.  If not, then their membership can be rescinded until they are ready for the responsibilities of full church membership.

Marriage must be regulated according to the teaching of the Bible, and not as is proposed today - civil partnerships, and soon to be passed, same-sex marriages.  To accept the law of the land in this matter is to go against God's will and provision for mankind. 

All the activities of the church must contribute clearly to the furtherance of the Gospel.

In these, and in other, ways, the Bible is respected as the Word of the living and true God. 

God Got It Wrong!

When the Lord told Peter to "Kill and eat," and he refused because of his Jewish scruples, God told him not to "call unclean what He had cleansed."  Yes, according to the churches, God got it all wrong.  Even if God has cleansed and forgiven, the churches simply believe that God is wrong.  They believe that He is contributing to the impurity of the church and of the Christian ministry.  They are very happy to tolerate Gospel deniers within their ranks, but not Gospel preachers.  Regardless of what God says, the churches will do their own thing anyway. 

Indeed, it is difficult to see when the churches ever took God's Word seriously, so it is no great surprise to see her acting as she does.  They have always worked to their own selfish agendas.  Maintaining the organisation is what matters.  It doesn't matter much what the organisation actually does or believes, it must be kept going.

But the fact remains that the churches are most reluctant to step up to the mark and be gracious and restorative in their attitudes, which is profoundly sad.  They cannot accept that they are wrong and God is right in this matter.  To accept that God is right means that their previous actions are under His judgement. 

The churches must return to the authentic Christian faith, and rather than just talk Christianity, demonstrate it.  Especially those churches that laud the 'doctrines of grace,' well, they must begin to show grace and not just talk about it.  They must reach out the hand of fellowship once again and seek restoration and reconciliation.

Until attitudes like this pertain, churches can forget about praying for revival.