Saturday, November 26, 2005

Overcoming the World

What is the World?
The world and all that is in the world is described as 'the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life' (1 Jn. 2:16).

How does the world try to separate us from Christ?
It seeks to conform us to its own image (Rom. 12:1-2) rather than that we should be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

In what which ways does the world seek to conform us to its image and separate us from Christ?
It works to this end by:
1) blinding us against the loveliness and excellency of Christ by its attractions;
2) deadening our spiritual senses in order that we do not see our need of Christ;
3) engaging our hearts and affections rather than Christ;
4) giving us excuses for neglecting Christ (Luke 14:18-20);
5) taking away our time and energy by the cares of this life.

What is the world's strength?
The strength that the world has in us lies in the natural enmity of the carnal mind and sinful heart to the things of God. The flesh is a worldly spirit to whom the things of God are foolishness (1 Cor 2:12) and the world is able to play upon its desires (Ezek. 33:31).

How does the devil make use of this world?
The devil as the god of this world blinds men against the gospel of God (2 Cor 4:4) by 1) overrating the value of the things of this world and underrating the eternal (Gen. 3:4-5); 2) emphasising afflictions in this world more than the afflictions of eternal condemnation in the world to come.

How do we overcome the world?
We overcome the world by our faith (1 Jn. 5:4).

How does faith overcome the world?
Faith unites us to Christ (1 Jn. 5:5), from whom the world tries to separate us (Jas. 4:4). Faith lays hold of every part of the armour of God, and is the crucial part of that armour ('above all taking the shield of faith' Eph. 6:16).

Where does the strength of faith lie?
Faith as that which unites us to Christ communicates strength from Him to us. As the vine communicates life to the branches, so Christ is our life (John 15:4; Col. 3:4) and we can do all things through Christ which strengthens us (Mk. 9:23; Phil 4:13; John 15:5). Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith is the hope of glory and strengthens us with might in the inner man (Col. 1:27; Eph 3:16-17). As Christ has overcome the world, so we through faith in Him are able to do likewise (John 16:33; Rev. 3:21).

What is the perspective of faith?
Faith as the the evidence of things not seen, sees beyond this present, temporary world to the recompence of the reward and lays hold on eternal life, which is to know Christ (John 17:3; 1 Tim 6:12). It perseveres as seeing Him who is invisible and esteeming the reproach of Christ more worth than anything this world can offer (Heb 11:27-27). It sees death as gain not loss (Phil; 1:21-23; 1 Cor. 5:1-2).

How does the Christian fight against the world?
The world is a deadly enemy to whom no ground can be given without wounding the soul. The Christian therefore uses the weapon of all prayer to resist temptation or to seek cleansing when he falls (Eph. 6:18). He uses this world carefully as though he used it not and conscious of the account of stewardship that he must render (2 Tim. 2:4). He does not give his heart or thoughts predominantly to the things of this world to be conformed by it but seeks to have his heart in heaven and his mind renewed (Col. 3:1-2; Rom. 12:2; Rom. 8:6). He fears that which he loves most in this world as potential idols and he seeks submission to God's providence and contentment which is the antidote to covetousness and counts all things loss in comparison to Christ (Heb. 13:5; Phil. 3:8).

What promises are made to those that overcome the world?
Those that overcome the world are promised in this life the blessings of adoption and communion with Christ and ultimately entering into the everlasting joy of their Lord (Rev 2:7, 17; Rev. 35, 12, :21).

Glory of Christ

In the vision which we shall have above, the whole glory of Christ will be at once and always represented unto us; and we shall be enabled in one act of the light of glory to comprehend it. Here, indeed, we are at a loss; - our minds and understandings fail us in their contemplations. It will not yet enter into our hearts to conceive what is the beauty, what is the glory of this complete representation of Christ unto us. To have at once all the glory of what he is, what he was in his outward state and condition, what he did and suffered, what he is exalted unto, - his love and condescension, his mystical union with the church, and the communication of himself until it, with the recapitulation of all things in him, - and the glory of God, even the Father, in his wisdom, righteousness, grace, love, goodness, power, shining forth eternally in him, in what he is, hath done, and doth, - all presented to us in one view, all comprehended by us at once, is that which at present we cannot conceive. We can long for it, pant after it, and have some foretastes of it, - namely of that state and season wherein our whole souls, in all their powers and faculties, shall constantly, inseparably, eternally cleave by love unto whole Christ, in the sight of the glory of his person and grace, until they are watered, dissolved and inebriated in the waters of life and the rivers of pleasure that are above for evermore. So must speak of the things which we admire, which we adore, which we love, which we long for, which we have some foretastes of in sweetness ineffable, which yet we cannot comprehend.
Rev. John Owen (Puritan) Extracted from ‘The Works of Owen’, Vol. 1, p.410.

Spiritual Worship

A spiritual worshipper actually aspires in every duty to know God....To desire worship as an end, is carnal; to desire it as a means, and act desires in it for communion with God in it, is spiritual, and the fruit of a spiritual life...

Rev. Stephen Charnock (Puritan)

Hatred of Sin an Evidence of Love to Christ

1. His wrongs done to Christ will prick him most. If the wrongs be done by others, they affect him; if by himself, they some way faint him. Wholeness of heart, under wronging of Christ, is too great an evidence that there is little or no ground for application of his satisfaction; but it is kindly like, when wrongs done to Christ affect most.
2. When not only challenges for sin against the law, but for sins against Christ and grace offered in the gospel, do become a burden, and the greatest burden.
3. When the man is made to mind secret enmity at Christ, and is disposed to muster up aggravations of his sinfulness on that account, and cannot get himself made vile enough; when he has a holy indignation at himself, and with Paul counts himself the chief of sinners; even though the evil was done in ignorance, much more if it has been against knowledge. It is no evil token when souls are made to heap up aggravations of their guilt for wrongs done to Christ, and when they cannot get suitable expressions sufficiently to hold it out, as it is an evil token to be soon satisfied in this. There are many that will take with [admit to] no challenge for their wronging Christ; but behold here how the prophet insists, both in the words before, in these, and in the following words; and he can no more win off the thoughts of it, than he can win off the thoughts of Christ’s sufferings.
Rev. James Durham (Covenanter) Extracted from Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in Seventy-Two Sermons on the Fifty- Third Chapter of Isaiah

Meditating often on the Word

In the plainest text there is a world of holiness and spirituality; and if we in prayer and dependence upon God did sit down and study it, we should behold much more than appears to us. It may be, at one reading or looking, we see little or nothing; as Elijah's servant went once and saw nothing; therefore, he was commanded to look seven times. "What now?", says the prophet. "I see a cloud rising like a man's hand", and by and by the whole surface of the heavens was covered with clouds. So you may look lightly upon a scripture and see nothing; meditate often upon it, and there you shall see a light like the light of the sun.

Rev. Joseph Caryl (Member of Westminster Assembly)

Family Worship

Families have hereby their communion kept with God, & thus are kept in the suburbs of heaven; hereby they tell him all their wants, and make known to him all their desires, cast all their care and burdens on him, consult him in all difficult cases, & get their resolutions.
John Brown of Wamphray (Covenanter)

A Fountain Sealed

In Song of Solomon 4:12 the church is compared to a garden shut up, a fountain sealed, which is to be understood not only in respect of the defence and protection God vouchsafes to His church (that none can destroy her) but also, because strangers and wicked men are not able to drink of her delicacies, or smell of her sweetness.

A spiritual sermon is a fountain sealed up; the spiritual administration of a sacrament is a garden enclosed. Superficial Christians understand not nor perceive the full sweetness thereof. There were many people in a throng and crowd about our Saviour, but only the infirm woman felt the efficacy come from Him. Although many may attend the ordinances, frequent the assemblies, few find the inward power of Christ derived unto their souls.

As, therefore, Thomas, though spoken wrongly on a false ground, said he would not believe Christ to be risen unless he saw His wounds and put his fingers into them, so neither must you believe your estate to be good and sound, unless you may see and feel the efficacy of Christ in His ordinances upon thee.

Anthony Burgess

Burgess was a member of the Westminster Assembly and wrote at least a dozen books that were based largely on his sermons and lectures. This extract is from a sermon contained in his major work, Spiritual Refining, a massive, two-volume work of 1100 pages that has been called an “unequalled anatomy of experimental religion".

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

John Bois and the translation of the AV

The translators of the Authorised Version were certainly the most learned of their age (perhaps of any age) in the Biblical languages . John Bois (not to be confused with John Boys, Dean of Canterbury from 1619-1625) was one of the most distinguished scholars of all the eminent translators and revisers of the Authorised Version. He was a brilliant classics scholar, proficient in both Hebrew and Greek, Fellow at St. John's College, Cambridge and chaired the translation committee of six scholars who delivered the final copy of the Authorised Version in 1611.

A Godly Home
He was born in Nettlestead, Suffolk on 3 January, 1560. His father William Bois, had been taught by Martin Bucer when he was professor of divinity at Cambridge and had converted from Romanism. He went to live in Hadley, Suffolk which was at that time renowned for its godliness and as Foxe notes in his Book of Martyrs it was 'one of the first which received the purity of the gospel', 'the whole town seemed rather a university of the learned, than a town of cloth-making or labouring people'. William Bois married Mirable Poolye a godly woman who, according to one of her children, had read the Bible through over twelve times, the Book of Martyrs twice, besides many other books. She appears to have counselled her husband wisely while he wrestled over a call to the ministry, saying 'he was in the wrong way whilst he forbore'. He became curate and then rector at Elmesett near Hadley and later West Stow about four miles from Bury St Edmunds.

John was their only child that survived childhood, and he was carefully and thoroughly taught by his father in the truth as well as to a very high academic standard. At the age of only five years old, he had read the Bible in Hebrew. By the age of six, it seems that he could also write in Hebrew in such a legible and attractive script that would have been remarkable if he had 'been as old in the university as he was in nature'. (It should be noted that Hebrew is an exceptionally difficult language to write). He attended school at Hadley, where he was a fellow-student with John Overall later dean of St Paul's, Bishop of Norwich and translator of the Authorised Version who was well known for his skill in Latin and the biblical languages and his comprehensive knowledge of the Church Fathers. From this period in his life, John Bois was grounded in the practice of meditating in the Scripures in the morning and evening.

A Diligent Scholar
Bois went up to Cambridge University and was admitted to St. John’s College in 1575 at the age of fourteen, an amazing accomplishment in those days when students were considered precocious if they went to university before 21 or 22 years old. Dr. Andrew Downes, who was the king's professor of Greek and the chief university lecturer in that subject, paid particular attention to Bois, even in his first year, by giving him personal tuition. They read together twelve of the most difficult Classical Greek authors, in poetry verse and prose, 'the hardest that could be found, both for dialect and phrase'. Downes was later to be one of the most significant translators and revisers on the translation team that prepared the Authorised Version. He was professor of Greek in Cambridge from 1585 to 1625 and published lectures on classical authors throughout this time. He was spoken of as 'one composed of Greek and industry.'

Bois had been at the College for only half a year when he was writing letters in Greek to the Master and Senior Fellows. This is significant because scholars usually find it challenging enough to translate from Greek into English without actually composing freely in that language. Bois was so diligent in the language that during the summer he usually went to the University Library at four a.m. to read and study remaining without interruption until eight o'clock in the evening, a total of sixteen hours a day!

In 1580, Bois was elected Fellow of St John's College, and for ten years, he was Greek lecturer in his college and gave additional lectures in his own chamber at four o’clock in the morning, when most of the Fellows and lecturers also attended. One of the most famous pupils taught in this way was Thomas Gataker - an eminent Hebrew, Latin and Greek scholar and later to be a member of the Westminster Assembly. Gataker carefully preserved the notes that he had taken at these lectures, and years after when visited by Bois he showed them to him. Bois was overjoyed at the profit that had been derived from the lectures, saying that it made him feel many years younger.

It is clear that the period in which Bois was at his prime was marked by great scholarship and expertise in the biblical languages. Many scholarly editions of classical works, translations, lexicons, grammars and dictionaries were published by laymen and ministers during this period. Men such as Archbishop Ussher displayed expert knowledge of Greek geography, astronomy and Greek chronological material. Ussher wrote a treatise on the origin of the Greek Septuagint and edited two ancient Greek translations of the Book of Esther. Jeremiah Whitaker, of Oakham free school, read all the epistles in the Greek Testament twice every fortnight. John Conant, regius professor of divinity in Oxford, often debated publicly in Greek. The zenith of this scholarship was witnessed in the gathering of the translators of the Authorised Version. According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1907-21) Volume VII, the most eminent Greek scholars of the day were engaged in this project.

Calling to the ministry
Bois began to study medicine but was called to the holy ministry and was first of all ordained a deacon, on 21 June, 1583, and the very next day, by a dispensation, he was ordained minister. At the death of his father, Bois followed as rector of West Stowe, but shortly after resigned, and went back to St John's College, after which he was briefly chaplain to the Earl of Shrewsbury. His marriage was rather curiously contrived when Mr. Holt, Rector of Boxworth, died, 'leaving the advowson of that living in part of a portion to one of his daughters; requesting of some of his friends, that “if it might be by them procured, Mr. Bois, of St.John’s College, might become his successor by the marriage of his daughter.”' When Bois was told, he went to meet the lady in question, and it seems that they became genuinely attached to one another and he became rector of the Boxworth on October 13, 1596.

As a consequence of marrying, Bois had to resign the fellowship at St. John’s. Still, however, he rode from Boxworth over to Cambridge every week in order to hear some of the lectures of Andrew Downes together with those of the king's professor of Hebrew Edward Lively (later translator on the AV project, regarded as 'one of the best linguists in the world' and the author of a Latin exposition of five of the Minor Prophets), as well as the other divinity lectures. He lost none of the time that he spent in riding in that he meditated on certain theological questions that he could discuss with his friends at the college. Every Friday he met for dinner with a group of twelve neighboring ministers in order to relate the studies that they had been engaged in over the week and to discuss and resolve difficult questions for their mutual benefit. Bois also paid a young scholar to teach his own children and other children of the town, both poor and wealthy. The domestic affairs of the rectory were left to his wife who found great difficulty in her task and managed to incur such serious debts that he was forced to sell his library, 'which contained one of the most complete and costly collections of Greek literature that had ever been made'.

Translating and revising
When the translators for the Authorised Version were gathered together, Bois was enlisted along with Andrew Downes amongst the many scholars assembled. Both men were engaged in Company Six, the Cambridge group, which translated all the books of the Apocrypha. It should be noted that the Church of England and the translators were in no way giving any veneration to the Apocryphal books. The Thirty-Nine Articles reject the Roman Catholic position of adding them to the Old Testament as canonical. 'And the other books (as Jerome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine'. They are in no way the inspired Word of God: the only value of these books is in providing historical background to biblical times and history. None of the Apocryphal books are in Hebrew in contrast to all of the canonical Old Testament. None of the writers claim inspiration and it is clear that the spirit of prophecy was withdrawn in the period between the Old and New Testaments in any case. They were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, to whom were committed the oracles of God (Rom 3:2) and are not cited in the New Testament. Consequently, the Early Church gave them no place in the canon.

Some of their content is plainly legendary. There are also statements in these books which contradict not only the canonical Scripture but themselves: for instance in the two books of Maccabees Antiochus Epiphanes is made to die three different deaths in various places. Various unbiblical doctrines are taught such as prayers for the dead, salvation by works and sinless perfection, they also encourage lying, suicide and magic. The translators showed that they did not regard it as inspired Scripture in the time (a mere few months rather than years) that they took to complete the task. The translators also made a clear distinction between the Old Testament and 'the books called Apocrypha' (as they distinguished them on the contents page) by stating at the end of Malachi 'The end of the prophets'. The books that follow are clearly marked as the Apocrypha, indeed each page notes at the top that it is the Apocrypha rather than Scripture. These books conclude with the rubric 'The End Of The Apocrypha'.

The other Cambridge company, who were translating Chronicles to the Song of Solomon, earnestly desired the assistance of Bois in their translation from the Hebrew. Professor Lively, who had been overseeing the project, died not long after it had begun. During these four years Bois spent Monday to Saturday on translation work and returned to conduct the Sabbath services and to spend the day with his family. His dedication to the work of translation was evidenced in the fact that he received no financial remuneration for this work, except meals and accommodation in College.

After the first stage, he was one of the twelve delegates who were sent (two from each company), to make the final revision at the Stationers’ Hall, in London, which took nine months in all. Bois took notes of all the proceedings of this committee, they were discovered recently and have been reprinted. The notes run to thirty-nine pages and are the only record of some of the deliberations and preferences of the translators. It is a record of the sheer diligence of the translators, comparing, discussing and consulting authorities. The Preface to the Translation explains this work of revision. 'Neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see'.

Later life
Bois gave great help to his fellow-translator, Sir Henry Savile, in his publication of the complete works of the Early Church father,John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.), which extended to eight large folios. Sir Henry refers to Bois, in the Preface, as the 'most ingenious and most learned Mr. Bois'. Bois regarded Chrysostom as 'one of the sweetest preachers since the apostles' times'. Savile, who was Provost of Eton College, had been employed in the New Testament Oxford company of translators and was a brilliant Greek scholar from an early age, well known for his Greek and mathematical learning. He was so well known for his education and skill in languages, that he became Greek and mathematical tutor to Queen Elizabeth during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. He translated and published many learned works in English and Latin, and was referred to as 'that magazine of learning, whose memory shall be honorable among the learned and the righteous forever' and 'one of the most profound, exact, and critical scholars of his age'
Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Ely and fellow translator made Bois a Prebendary of Ely Cathedral, in 1615. He spent the last twenty-eight years of his life in this capacity, where he attended church twice or three times a day. At his death, Bois left as many pages of manuscript as he had lived days, having lived eighty-three years and eleven days this was a total of 30,306 days. Even in his old age, he spent eight hours in daily study and produced a large commentary in Latin on the Gospels and Acts (with the intention of covering the whole New Testament) which was published some twelve years after his death. Yet despite being so studious, he would not study between supper and bed-time; but preferred to spend the interval in conversation with friends. He had the entire Greek New Testament committed to memory and was so familiar with it that he could, at any time, turn to any word that it contained. He was a very careful linguist who had read no less than sixty grammars in the Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Syriac languages. It was also said of him that he was 'in highest esteem with studious foreigners, and second to none in solid attainments in the Greek tongue'. The Dictionary of National Biography notes that Bois was an able textual scholar, pointing out that one of Bois's works 'consists of brief critical notes on words and passages of the Greek text, in which the renderings of the Vulgate are in the main defended'. It is likely that these 'renderings' are the Received Text readings which are testified to by the Latin translations.

Despite his learning, when he was in the pulpit, Bois sought to be easily understood by the most uneducated of his hearers. He compared those of weak ability to the young and tender of the flock who should not be overdriven (Gen 33:13). He preached without notes, having well prepared himself with much prayer and study. His desire was that he might live no longer than he was able to preach or be a minister. He was also diligent in hearing sermons himself, always keeping a note of the preacher and his text. Frequently, he fasted twice in the week and was so generous to the poor that he often left himself with very little; he seldom went to church without giving something to the poor by his return. He was regular in family worship, always kneeling on the bare bricks. He made frequent approach to the throne of grace, often praying while he walked. He was a frequent walker in fact, and in his journeys he sought to enter into profitable conversation with those that he travelled with, but if the company was not desirable he preferred to take out a book and read while he walked. The Holy Scriptures were in such reverence with him that he would always uncover his head in hearing them read or in reading them himself. His dependence upon divine assistance in his labours was always acknowledged and he would often finish a hard piece of study with the Latin words of praise to God 'Deo Sit Laus'.

The end of a diligent life
In later days Bois often meditated solemnly upon Samuel's words 'I am this day fourscore years old, and can I discern between good and evil?' (2 Sam 19:35) as well as the wisdom of Moses in Psalm 90:10. At the end of his days he was in health like Moses whose 'eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated' (Deut 34:7). 'His brow was unwrinkled, his sight clear, his hearing sharp, his countenance fresh, with a full head of hair and a full set of teeth'.

Having witnessed three of his seven children die young, together with the death of his wife, he said solemnly, near the end of his life that 'There has not been a day for these many years, in which I have not meditated at least once upon my death'. In his last illness he was so concerned that he might express himself unwisely under affliction that he asked his children that they should tell him if at any time, he expressed any thing which seemed to express impatience with his condition. He desired much time for devotion in solitude, often painfully conscious of his remaining sin. Bois departed this life on the Lord’s Day, 14 January, 1643, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. 'He went unto his rest on the day of rest; a man of peace, to the God of peace'.

the worldly christian

A new type of professing Christian has emerged over recent decades; one whose lifestyle is in no way different from that of an unbeliever except that they make a profession. In many evangelical churches the worldly Christian is now the norm. "Try to fit it in with the world" says the worldly Christian, "it is wrong to put up barriers and not be accepted". They have been told that godly living is really a kind of legalism that makes God into a killjoy. They have been misled to believe that what the gospel does is to make lives that are only partially fulfilled by the world, to be completely fulfilled by Jesus who is a type of missing add-on extra. Worldly Christians are assured by the equally materialistic lifestyle of other professing Christians: they take their standard from each other primarily rather than the Word of God. What does the New Testament say, however? Can we simply live as pagans: going to the same places and enjoying the same pleasures?

These are days in which we need to hear the clear, uncompromising teaching of the apostles. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 13: 13-14: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof". That whole passage in Romans 13 is indeed powerful, especially beginning at verse 11. Paul is picking up a previous theme stated at the beginning of Romans 12 (one of the major turning points of the epistle to the Romans). In Romans 12:2 there is a clear command: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind".

No time for it

In the latter part of Romans 13 this command is given added urgency by the consideration that time is so short. We must have an eye on the clock, as it were, "knowing the time". There is significance in each moment, any life is so short that each moment is vitally important (Psalm 90:9-11). Eternity is always at hand. "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light". The apostle Paul is making it clear that time is shorter than we think. The present age is temporary like one single night (Psalm 90:4). The day of the appearing of our Lord and Saviour will soon come. We must live our lives in recognition of this fact rather than quibble or speculate about whether the second coming will take place before we die (John 21:22). We can be aware of the light of that "day" afar off just as Abraham saw Christ's day centuries before, and was glad (John 8:54).

Living honestly

It is a question of attitude and response to these facts - if we think it will always and forever be only dark and night then we will do the works of darkness. But if we know that a new era, a new world, a new heavens and new earth must come about as sure as day follows night, if there is a horizon as certain as every days dawn - we will prepare for that morning by dressing and acting appropriately. "Live as though the day has already dawned" he is saying, "let us walk honestly as in the day". The word "honestly" has the sense of properly or becomingly and therefore the type of behaviour that is suitable and respectable for the daytime.

Behind the apostle's imagery is the assumption that even pagans have a limited sense of decency and conscience. They would never engage in some of their shameful deeds except at night when they can have the cloak of darkness rather than do what they do in full view. Paul is implying that we ought to and must live open lives and do nothing, of which we might be ashamed, especially if the Second Coming of Christ interrupted it.

Giving an account of our stewardship

Perhaps the apostle Paul has in mind the picture of a large household, the management of which has been left to various servants by the rich home owner. Some of the servants take advantage of his goods and wine cellar and leave aside their duties and responsibility for a wild time. One servant, however, has kept his affairs in order, and rises early to go about his business, knowing that some day perhaps in the early morning (who knows?) his master will arrive. "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall being to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of. And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:44-51). "And that servant, which knew his lords will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:47-48).

What if having been given gifts, talents, and resources and having been instructed to trade with them to make them useful and profitable in extending our Masters estate ("occupy till I come" Luke 19:13) we should be asked suddenly to "give an account of stewardship"? (Luke 16:2) The call is to wake up and to get our house in order. It is "high time" - the crisis time of the crucial moments before the deadline of the judgement. The candle of night is burning very low, it is far-gone like a burning match that is very nearly spent, hardly anything is left. Paul is the watchman, calling out the last watch of the night. It is now the hour to be roused out of sleep.

The apostle Peter makes the same point about remaining time in one of this letters. "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead". I Peter 4:1-5

The reasons and arguments that Peter uses are exactly the same as Paul's: the (sinful) past and the future (God's judgement day) must dominate our view of the present. Our past is a goad behind us; the shame and pain of it prodding us forward, the future is bright but with a holy brightness that shines on all of our life, exposing every area however private and undisclosed. Our consciences are quickened as we realise that we have already filled up our lives with so much that will shame us profoundly on that Day. As the parables indicate, the day of judgement will be a time of reward, (Rev. 22:12) what can we expect?

Casting off the works of darkness

Wake up to these facts, says Paul, wake up to these towering shadows of past and future that influence the present so totally. Compare the present with the past and the future, see how short the present is, you don't in fact know how long it will be and that is why each moment of it is precious. Too much time has been lost already. "All the time we spend in a sinful state is all lost time. O look to this you young ones. All the time you spend in the vanity of your youth is lost time, and you who have lived until you are old and have been a long time in a sinful state, you have lost all your time. O the time upon which eternity depends is all lost for you have spent it in the ways of sin which has no good in it at all". (Jeremiah Burroughs)

"Are you living like a pagan?" asks Paul, "Are you doing the works of darkness, hoping to get away with it unnoticed because none has found out?" "Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame" (I Corinthians 15:34). Are you flirting with the gross sins that Peter lists? Surely you know that God sees and won't ignore it? (Psalm 90:8). Have you lost your spiritual and moral alertness, drowsing away in apathy? You need a sudden recollection of forgotten duty. The ultimate mark of our generation is of course apathy: the tuned out, dropped out careless sloth of many a young person: the sleep of unconcern about their destiny, their existence and their lifestyle. There is a deadly apathy that is ignorant of coming judgement and will not listen to any warnings. "Seek him that...turneth the shadow of death into the morning...The LORD is his name" (Amos 5:8). "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the masters use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart". (I Timothy 2:19-22).

Sinful practice and the works of darkness must be cast off and thrown away, these three vile pairs that Paul mentions in particular: rioting and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, strife and envying.

Night life

The word translated "rioting" is rendered "revellings" in I Pet. 4:3 and Gal. 5:21. It means boisterous merrymaking, we might call it partying or clubbing in our day. In some evangelical churches up and down the land the youth fellowship after church consists of heading to the pub. Many university Christian unions find that their meetings must not be organised at a time that would prevent members from going to pubs and clubs. Is it right for a Christian to do these things? Are we free to if we want to? Our age and many Christians sadly say, "Yes, it's not forbidden really" or "its up to you to decide". As though the Scriptures had not said 'be not among winebibbers'.

Neither Paul nor Peter, however, is not afraid to draw the line and be seen to dictate how Christians ought to live, they are not at all vague and non committal. The word connected with "rioting" "drunkenness" means excess or "drinking bouts" (having alcoholic drink after alcoholic drink) and is generally translated as 'drunkenness'. "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares" (Luke 21:34).

Lustful actions
"Chambering" might be translated as cohabitation, but probably has more a meaning of promiscuous sex (the word is related to conception in Rom. 9:10).
"Wantonness" is a word sometimes translated "lasciviousness" (Mark 7:22, 2 Cor 12:21, Gal. 5:19, Eph 4:19) or lustfulness (I Peter 4:3). Paul would have used the Greek word for fornication if he meant that alone, but this would repeat the sense of "chambering". Paul is surely covering all actions, attitudes, words, and motives. We would do well to return to the Westminster catechisms. The Larger Catechism teaches us that the duties required in the seventh commandment: "chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behaviour; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance; keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel...diligent labour in our callings, shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto". The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment "besides the neglect of the duties required, are "all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behaviour, immodest apparel...idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others". There are Scripture proofs for all these statements too.

All in all, it deals with lustfulness as the fuel and force of a wide range of sins, an excess of lust that totally dominates, possesses and controls. The way of guarding against this sin is to be strict in controlling what our eyes and ears take in.


Each pair of sins in Paul's list appears to deal firstly with shared sins and secondly with personal sins, he deals with the root as well as the outward manifestation. When he goes on to speak of strife and dissension, or fighting, he is dealing with the root of envy. Verbal strife comes from built up envy and frustrated selfishness (which is what envy is). The apostle James describes this sullen, selfish covetousness accurately. It is a spirit that seems to characterise the youth and youth culture of our day.
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" James 4:1-3.

However, fashionable all these pairs of sinful practices are (and they are supremely fashionable since selfishness and serving one's own lusts are the only thing that apathy does not touch) they are clothes that we cannot wear. Instead we should prove our identity as children of God by putting on the armour or weapons of light. We cannot put on night-clothes in preparation for a battle and self-defence. The flimsiness of night-clothes could not be more different from battle-wear: wearing night-clothes on military duty or in battle is about as absurd as wearing armour in bed. We must be prepared at all times therefore, ready for action, ready either to be on the defensive or the offensive.

Put on Christ

In the Bible the metaphor of clothing generally represents character, ability, and commitment. To put on Christ - is to put on the armour of light, to draw upon our resources in union with him, to live out the new man in Christ Jesus. Union with Christ is the crucial fact of the Christian life: think of how much the New Testament uses the words "in Christ". Paul urges us to be what we really are; to live properly dressed wearing the new garments of holiness that speak of our new status as sons of God. We are to enjoy and to display what is ours. "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breast plate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." (I Thess. 5:5-8). We are given the practical help of this last phrase "make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof". Paul is telling us how to avoid these sins of excess, these works of darkness. The crucial point concerns the mind, the command "make not provision" means "don't plan or think about such things beforehand", don't think about anything that would put you in a dangerous situation, and don't plan to put yourself there. Before you do things and enter into situations think about consequences and where it will lead. A thought sows an action. The answer is to make the things of God a conscious priority, to set your mind on things above and then there will not be room for sinfulness and even dubious things, we can only die more and more to sin as we live more and more to righteousness. This passage tells us that as Christians we can have no other lifestyle. "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will some forth and serve them. And if he come in the second watch, or come in the third watch and find them so, blessed are those servants." (Luke 12:35-37, read also Matt 25:1-13).

Monday, October 03, 2005

the side winds of christian experience

"tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience"

I have heard that a full wind behind the ship drives her not so fast forward as a side wind, that seems almost as much against her as with her; and the reason, they say, is because a full wind fills but some of her sails, which keep it from the rest, that they are empty; when a side wind fills all her sails, and sets her speedily forward. Whichever way we go in this world our affections are our sails; and according as they are spread and filled, so we pass on swifter or slower, whither we are steering. Now, if the Lord should give us a full wind and continued gale of mercies, it would fill but some of our sails - some of our affections - joy , delight and the like. But when he comes with a side-wind - a dispensation that seems almost as much against us as for us - then he fills our sails, takes up all our affections, making His works wide and broad enough to entertain every one, - then we are carried full and freely towards the haven where we would be"

John Owen

Friday, September 23, 2005

the Church visible and invisible

We may consider the Church, in two ways.
1. As visible, and visibly professing Christ, and worshipping Him in ordinances.
2. Consider her as invisible, having true faith in christ, real spiritual union with Him, and real exercise of graces

That distinction of the Church visible and invisible, is not a distribution of a whole into distinct parts, as, suppose one would divide a heap of chaff and corn, into corn and chaff. But this is a distinct uptaking of the same whole, (to wit, the Church) under two distinct considerations; as, suppose one would consider the foresaid heap, as it is a heap, comprehending both corn and chaff, or as it is only comprehensive of corn; so the Church thus distinguished, is but one, considered in whole, as having both renewed and unrenewed in it, and as having renewed only. Yet so, as the renewed are a part of the whole, under one consideration, to wit, as they are visible professors; and also, are the invisible Church, being distinctly considered, as they have more than a visible profession. Therefore, the likeness being so great and near, it is no marvel they be frequently conjoined, so as they must be distinguished in respect of these distinct considerations, seeing the visible Church in its consideration as such, comprehends the visible militant Church under it, but not contrarily.

It is ordinary upon this ground, thus to conjoin them in other Scriptures, as when an epistle is written to a Church, some things are said of it, and to it, as visible, some things again are peculiarly applicable to believers, who are members of the invisible Church in it; as by looking to these epistles, Rev. 2. and 3. is clear, all are comprehended in every epistle, yet is the matter diversely to be applied, and these who have ears to hear, (that is, are real members of the invisible Church also) are particularly spoken unto, although indefinitely.

If we consider either the visible, or invisible Church, as whole or Catholic, something is spoken to her under that consideration, namely as Catholic; so she is said to be one, Song. 6:9. made up of many, the Mother having many Daughters, a Vineyard intrusted to all the Keepers.

[We can also consider individual] members, either, 1. as professors of the visible Church, and one of them are distinct from another, or, 2. as members in particular of the invisible Church. Neither will this be thought strange, if we consider, that the Church however understood, and the particular and individual members thereof (especially of this invisible Church) are of an homogenous nature; so that what may be said of the whole, may be said of all its parts, and what may be predicated concerning the whole essentially, may be predicated of every part, etc.

James Durham from Commentary on Song of Solomon


  • An hypocrite always makes himself the end of all his service; but let such hypocrites know, that though their profession be never so glorious and their duties never so abundant, yet their ends being selfish and carnal, all their pretensions and performances are but beautiful abominations in the sight of God.God may possibly be at the higher end of his [the hypocrite] work, but self is at the further end; for he that was never truly cast out of himself, can have no higher end than himself.
  • He that commonly, habitually, in all his duties and services, proposes to himself no higher ends than the praises of men or rewards of men, or the stopping the mouth of natural conscience, or only to avoid a smarting rod, or merely to secure himself from the wrath to come, he is an hypocrite.
  • Non-submission to the righteousness of Christ keeps Christ and the hypocrite asunder. Christ will never love nor like to put the fine, clean, white linen of His own righteousness upon the old garment, the old rags of an hypocrite's duties (Rev. 19:7,8).
  • An hypocrite may be willing to embrace Christ as a priest to save him from wrath, from the curse, from hell, from everlasting burning, but he is never sincerely willing to embrace Christ as a prophet to teach and instruct him, and a king to rule and reign over him. Many hypocrites may be willing to receive Christ Jesus, [who] are not willing to receive a Lord Jesus. They may be willing to embrace a saving Christ, but they are not willing to embrace a ruling Christ, a commanding Christ.Hypocrites love to share with Christ in His happiness, but they don't love to share in His holiness. They are willing to be redeemed by Christ, by they are not cordially willing to submit to the laws and government of Christ. They are willing to be saved by His blood, but they are not willing to submit to His scepter. Hypocrites love the privileges of the gospel, but they don't love the services of the gospel, especially those that are most inward and spiritual. An hypocrite is all for a saving Christ, for a sin-pardoning Christ, for a soul-glorifying Christ, but regards not a ruling Christ, a reigning Christ, a commanding Christ, a sanctifying Christ; and this at last will prove his damning sin (John 3:19-20).
  • An hypocrite cannot mourn for sin as sin, nor grieve for sin as sin, nor hate sin as sin, nor make head against sin as sin . . . He that fears sin for hell, fears not to sin but to burn, but he hates sin indeed who hates sin as hell itself.An hypocrite may be troubled for sin as it blots his name, and wounds his conscience, and brings a scourge, and destroys his soul, and shuts him out of heaven, and throws him to hell. But he is never troubled for sin, he never mourns for sin, he never hates sin because it is contrary to the nature of God, the being of God, the Law of God, the glory of God, the design of God, or because of the evil that is in the nature of sin, or because of the defiling and polluting power of sin.
From sermon "Hypocrites and Christ" in vol. 3 Works (Banner of Truth Trust).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Can a Protestant attend a Mass?

In 1989 there was great media furore about the disciplining of Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the then Lord Chancellor, and elder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland for attending the requiem mass funeral service of a Roman Catholic colleague.

The Lord Mackay case showed alarmingly how far removed even so-called Reformed Christians may be from the Reformation itself. The Reformers would have recognised Lord Mackay's dissimulation at the requiem mass as Nicodemism. The term "Nicodemites" was applied to those who had claimed to be Protestants but hid their convictions by still attending the Mass and Roman Catholic ceremonies. Afraid of persecution, these Protestants kept their faith secret and pretended in everything outwardly to be Roman Catholics. The Reformers refuted the Nicodemites, showing that they could not be undefiled by continuing to attend the blasphemous and idolatrous Mass. Farel, Bullinger, Bucer, Viret and Peter Martyr Vermigli, all wrote against Mass attendance and argued that merely to share the same space with a Roman Catholic idol or to be an observer at Mass was to allow oneself to be polluted. Calvinists were forbidden from attending Roman Catholic marriages, baptisms and funerals. Italian Reformers such as Francesco Negri and Caelio Secondo Curione and Pier Paolo Vergerio all wrote on the subject. The Reformers fled into exile rather than be forced into conformity with popery. In the Second Reformation, the Covenanter James Wood maintained: "The Mass is even upon the matter one of the grossest idolatries that ever was in the world. And for a man to go to Mass, when he pretends to protest to go against it, is to add, to commission of idolatry, mocking of God and sinning against light professedly." Samuel Rutherford interpreted Paul's prohibition against attending idol feasts as forbidding Mass attendance: "Paul forbids communicating with unbelievers at idol feasts,as the place will command us to separate from the Mass Service" (The Due Right of Presbytery, 1644)

Calvin's response to Nicodemism
The Nicodemites argued that bodily worship in terms of presence and posture could be distinguished from spiritual. Although they bowed down before idols, their hearts were not involved or engaged. Calvin argued that corporal worship could not be separated from spiritual attitudes. God is the Lord of the body no less than of the soul of the elect. The believer must honour God outwardly and publicly whether in life or public worship, and this included refusing to conform to the idolatries of popery. God requires more than secret worship and allegiance. If we are ashamed of Christ or His Word, He will be ashamed of us when He comes in judgement. We must glorify God in our bodies as well as spirits which are not our own but Christ's. We are to abstain from all idolatry and (as Calvin put it) remain "pure and immaculate before God, in soul as well as in body." Anything less is hypocrisy.
Perez Zagorin comments that Calvin "rejected the distinction between inner intention and outward conformity, insisting that God must be worshipped purely in body as well as in spirit because both were God's and the body must not be polluted by worshiping idols" (Ways of Lying, pp. 72-73). For Calvin, compromise with Baal was impossible. The Nicodemites were re guilty of unfaithfulness to God, they "either pretend to deny him, or openly shew that they consent to errors" (Commentary on Jer. 10:11). Daniel's three friends could have claimed their hearts were not engaged in idolatry of bowing down to the image and so escaped the fiery furnace. Calvin says: "If a man secretly mocks the idol, while pretending to honour it, he is still guilty of having transferred the honour of God to the creature" (Come out from Among Them, p.56).

"The mockery which worships God with nought but external gestures and absurd human fictions, how could we, without sin, allow to pass unrebuked? We know how much he hates hypocrisy, and yet in that fictitious worship, which was everywhere in use, hypocrisy reigned. We hear how bitter the terms in which the prophets inveigh against all worship fabricated by human rashness."

For Calvin the struggle over worship was at the centre of the Reformation: "For it is not true that we dispute about a worthless shadow. The whole substance of the Christian religion is brought into question." All Christians must struggle for the maintenance of pure worship: "There is nothing to which all men should pay more attention, nothing in which God wishes us to exhibit a more intense eagerness than in endeavoring that the glory of his name may remain undiminished, his kingdom be advanced, and the pure doctrine, which alone can guide us to true worship, flourish in full strength." "If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity: that is, a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name of Christians, our profession is empty and vain".

Attendance at the Mass shows the link between doctrine and worship because it is a silent acquiescence in blasphemy that denies and subverts the very gospel itself. As Calvin says: "True piety begets true confession." Religion is not merely an intellectual commitment to a collection of doctrines, but a way of worshiping and living to the glory of God. Because the proper end of human existence is knowledge of God and of ourselves, worship is the reason for human existence, the fundamental principle that alone can bring true fulfillment.

John Knox against the idolatry of the Mass
John Knox also wrote several public epistles condemning Mass attendance. He called the mass "the devil's sacrament" and regarded it as "abominable idolatry". He said "One mass is more fearful to me than if ten thousand enemies were landed in any part of the realm of purpose to suppress the whole religion. For in our God there is strength to resist and confound multitudes if we unfeignedly depend upon him; whereof heretofore we have had experience; but when we join hand with idolatry, it is no doubt but that both God's amicable presence and comfortable defence leaves us, and what shall then become of us? Alas, I fear that experience shall teach us, to the grief of many".

Knox was unequivocal: "The Mass is Idolatry. The Mass is invented by the brain of man, without any commandment of God; therefore it is idolatry"
"All the glistering ceremonies of the Papists are very dung, and abomination before God."
"All honouring or service of God whereunto is added a wicked opinion is abomination. Unto the Mass is added a wicked opinion. Therefore it is abomination."
" the great blasphemy of Christ's death, and open denial of his passion, it has been affirmed, taught, and believed, that the Mass was a sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead: which opinion is most false, vain, and wicked. And so, I think, the Mass to be abominable and idolatry no man of indifferent judgment will deny."
"For so odious and abominable I know the Mass to be in God's presence, that unless you decline from the same, to life can you never attain. And therefore, brethren, flee from that idolatry, rather than from the present death." (A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Sacrifice of the Mass is Idolatry, 1550).

John Bradford and 'The Hurt of Hearing Mass'
The English Reformer and Martyr John Bradford wrote a book on the "Hurt of Hearing Mass" and like all the martyrs sealed his testimony against the blasphemous mass with his own blood. Bradford maintained that the "mass is a most subtle and pernicious enemy against Christ, and that double, namely, against his priesthood and against his sacrifice...Christ's sacrifice once made by himself on the tree, on the mount of Calvary, is the full and perfect propitiatory sacrifice to the sanctification of all them that are and shall be saved, never more to be reiterated and done again, for that signifieth an imperfection." Bradford argues against attending mass from the second commandment: "this precept forbiddeth all kind of outward idolatry, as the first doth all kind of inward idolatry, to this end that God's true worship inwardly and outwardly be observed. But now the mass is an outward idol, and the service of God there used is idolatry. Therefore they which are present at the mass, honoring it with their corporal presence (as they do which being there do not in open and exterior fact publicly disallow the same), they, I say are open and manifest idolaters, and incur the danger of idolatry, that is God's heavy wrath and eternal damnation: which thing I trow be no trifle, but to fools which make sin a thing of nothing." (Hurt Of Hearing Mass in The Writings of John Bradford, Vol. 2, p312).
In his Letters Bradford writes vehemently against the Mass and attending it. Of the Mass he writes that "of all idols that ever was, the most abominable and blasphemous to Christ and his priesthood, manhood, and sacrifice; for it makes the priest that says mass, God's fellow, and better than Christ; for the offerer is always better or equivalents to the thing offered. (Heb. 5) If, therefore, the priest takes upon him there to offer up Christ, as they boldly affirm they do, then he must needs be better or equal with Christ."

"Let us reprove the works of darkness. Let us flee from all idolatry. Let us abhor the antichristian and Romish rotten service, detest the popish mass, renounce their Romish god, prepare ourselves to the cross..." "If God be God, follow Him. If the mass be god, let them that will, see it, hear or be present at it, and go to the devil with it...There is a sacrifice, yea, a killing of Christ again as much as they may. There is idolatry in worshipping the outward sign of bread and wine."

Bradford sees the fear of man as at the root of attending the mass. He counsels those who are tempted to this to look at the rewards of obedience and the fear of God rather than the fear of man: "look on the joys incomprehensible, which God has prepared for all those, world without end, who lose either lands or goods for his name's sake. And then reason thus: If we go to mass, which is the greatest enemy that Christ has, though for a little time we shall live in quiet and leave to our children what they may live by hereafter, yet we shall displease God, fall into his hands, which is horrible to hypocrites, and be in hazard of fading from eternal joy into eternal misery, first of soul, and then of body, with the devil and all idolaters."

Bradford does not mince words about those who bowed to the fear of man and self-love by attending mass. "The more part divide stakes with the papists and protestants, so that they are become mangy mongrels, and infect all that company with them, to their no small peril. For they pretend outwardly popery, going to mass with the papists, and tarrying with them personally at their antichristian and idolatrous service, but with their hearts, say they, and with their spirits they serve the Lord". Like Calvin, Bradford will not have any of this distinction between the body and the spirit in worship: "alas! shall not he have the service of the body, but it must be given to serve the new found god of antichrist's invention? Did not Christ buy both our souls and bodies? And wherewith? With any less price than with his precious blood? Ah! wretches then that we are, if we defile either part with the rose coloured harlot of Babylon's filthy mass abomination! It had been better for us never to have been washed, than so to wallow ourselves in the filthy puddle of popery. It had been better never to have known the truth, than thus to betray it. (Rev 18; 2 Pet. 2; Heb. 6 and 10; Matt. 12; Luke 11) Surely, surely, let such men fear lest their latter end be worse than the beginning. Their own conscience now accuses them before God if they have any conscience, that they are but dissemblers and hypocrites to God and man. For all the cloaks they make, they cannot deny that their going to church and to mass is of self-love; that is, they go thither because they would avoid the cross; they go thither because they would be out of trouble. They seek neither the queen's highness nor her laws, which in this point cannot bind the conscience to obey, because they are contrary to God's laws, which bid us often to flee idolatry and worshipping him after men's devices. They seek neither (I say) the laws, if there were any, nor their brethren advantage, for none comes thereby, neither godliness nor good example, for there can be none found in going to mass, etc. but horrible offences, and "woe to them that give them" but they seek their own selves, their own ease, their escaping the cross, etc."

Attending Mass is being ashamed of Christ, according to Bradford:
"For he that is ashamed of me, says Christ, and of my gospel, in this faithless generation, I will be ashamed of him before the angels of God in heaven. Oh! how heavy a sentence is this to all such as know the mass to be an abominable idol, full of idolatry, blasphemy, and sacrilege, against God and his Christ, as undoubtedly it is, and yet for fear of men, for loss of life or goods, yea, some for advantage or gain, will honest (make it appear, editor) it with their presence, dissembling both with God and man, as their own heart and conscience accuses them! Better it were that such had never known the truth, than thus wittingly, and for fear or favour of man, whose breath is in his nostrils, dissemble it, or rather, as indeed it is, deny it. The end of such is like to be worse than their beginning. Such had need to take heed to the two terrible places to the Hebrews, in the 6th and 10th chapters, lest by so doing they fall therein. Let them beware they play not willy-beguile (do not deceive themselves, editor) with themselves, as some do, I fear me, which go to mass, and because they worship not, nor kneel, nor knock, as others do, but sit still in their pews, therefore they think they rather do good to others than hurt.

But, alas! if these men would look into their own consciences, there should they see they are very dissemblers, and in seeking to deceive others, for by this means the magistrates think them of their sort, they deceive themselves. They think at the elevation-time, all men's eyes are set upon them to mark how they do. They think others, hearing of such men going to mass, do see or inquire of their behaviour there. Oh! if there were in those men that are so present at the mass, either love to God or to their brethren, then would they, for the one or both, openly take God's part, and admonish the people of their idolatry. They fear man more than Him which has power to cast both soul and body into hell fire: they halt on both knees: they serve two masters. God have mercy upon such, and open their eyes with his eye-salve, that they may see that they which take no part with God are against God: and that they which gather not with Christ, do scatter abroad. Oh! that they would read what St. John says will be done to the fearful! The counsel given to the church at Laodicaea is good counsel for such (Rev. 3:21)."

Lastly, there is a serious danger in attending the mass: "The devil would gladly have you now overthrow that godliness which you have long professed. Oh! how would he triumph, if he could win his purpose! Oh! how would the papists triumph against God's gospel in you! Oh! how would you confirm them in their wicked popery! Oh! how would the poor children of God be discomforted, if you should now go to mass, and other idolatrous service, and do as the world does!"

The development of Nicodemism
The development of Nicodemism proved its dangers. It began to wear an open, ecumenical face. Caspar Schwenckfeld was one of the most notable Nicodemists, he was a noble who visited the courts of Catholic princes and conversed freely with them and appeared to conform religiously. (cf. George Hunston Williams, The Radical Reformation, Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1992, pp.904-12). Nicodemism also developed into a radically spiritualist movement in countries such as Holland where David Joris and Hendrick Niclaes promoted the heterodoxy of the Family of Love. This aimed at an exclusively Quaker-type personal inward religion for which all ceremonies and outward forms of worship were a matter of indifference. Attending Mass out of deference to man shows an indifference to the blasphemy and idolatry that it represents, this indifference to true doctrine and worship and to the glory of Christ can only have seriously damaging consequences when it is either tolerated or encouraged in the Church.

Further Reading
What a Faithful Man . . . Ought to Do Dwelling Amongst the Papists (1543); Excuse to the Nicodemites (1544); The Necessity of Reforming the Church (1543)
Come Out From Among Them: Anti-Nicodemite Writings of John Calvin, Protestant Heritage Press, 2001.
John Bradford, The Hurt of Hearing Mass, Focus Publications.
The War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship From Erasmus to Calvin, Carlos M. N. Eire, Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Ways of Lying: Dissimulation, Persecution, and Conformity in Early Modern Europe, Perez Zagorin, Harvard University Press, 1990.

Monday, August 29, 2005

the scholarship of the AV translators

Prof. Kenneth Grayston, one of the translators of the New English Bible once remarked that “the Authorised Version was a translation made by men who knew far less than we know”. Quantity of knowledge undoubtedly does not equal quality or depth of knowledge and the ability to use it. Grayston’s prejudice is highly questionable in fact, as Theodore Letis indicates: “ the seventeenth century, scholarship had reached no mean attainment. Lancelot Andrews, one of the translators (at home in fifteen modern languages, not to mention his command of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic), spent the greater part of five hours a day in prayer. John Bois, another on the translating committee, spent sixteen hours a day studying Greek...All spare time for these men was consumed with learning”.

Miles Smith, one of the translators and the probable author of the preface “the Translators to the Reader”, was especially expert in Hebrew. One day he was requested in promptu to read the Scriptures as part of evening prayer at Hereford Cathedral, “and having with him a little Hebrew Bible...of Plantin’s impression, sine punctis; [without vowel points] he delivered the chapter thence in the English tongue plainly, and fully”. This would certainly be one way of testing the “superiority” of modern scholars. We need to be a lot better informed before we begin to declaim confidently against the alleged inaccuracies and inconsistencies of the AV.
Theodore Letis relates an account from the life of one of the AV translators Dr Kilbye, that shows that the criticisms directed against the AV are nothing new. 'One Lord’s Day Dr Kilbye heard a young preacher spend most of his sermon criticising several words as they were translated in the then recent translation. The preacher painstakingly gave three reasons why the Greek word should not be translated as found in the AV. Later that evening both the preacher and Dr Kilbye were invited to a meal. Dr Kilbye began to explain that the translators were very much aware of the preacher’s three reasons and had given them careful consideration, but they had thirteen other reasons that were far more compelling for making the translation that they did.' While many assume that the AV translators were limited in their knowledge they should at least acquaint themselves with the reasons for the word choices of the AV before thinking that they can improve.

The translators of the Authorised Version were certainly the most learned of their age (perhaps of any age) in the Biblical languages . This was according to King James' desire: 'I wish some special pains were taken for an uniform translation, which should be done by the best learned men in both Universities'. Others equally learned elsewhere were also to be brought into the group so that the 'intended translation may have the help and furtherance of all our principal learned men within this our kingdom'. The result was to be 'as consonant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek'.

In their Preface to the translation, the translators themselves were modest about their abilities, considering themselves 'poor instruments to make God s holy truth to be yet more and more known unto the people' and felt that 'there were many chosen, that were greater in other men's eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise.'
They spoke of the Scriptures as 'that inestimable treasure which excelleth all the riches of the earth', 'a fountain of most pure water, springing up into everlasting life.' They believed that 'the original (Scriptures were) from heaven, not earth; the author being God, not men; the penmen, such as were sanctified from the womb and endued with a principal portion of God's Spirit.' They referred to the Bible as 'God's Word,' 'Gods Truth,' 'God's testimony,' 'the Word of salvation', 'so full and so perfect'.

How did they esteem the Scriptures? To study the Scriptures brought 'light of understanding, stableness of persuasion, repentance from dead works, newness of life, holiness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost, fellowship with the saints, participation of the heavenly nature, fruition of an inheritance immortal, undefiled, and that shall never fade away.' 'Among all our joys, there was not one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of Gods sacred Word among us.'

In their address to the reader the translators conclude: 'We commend thee to God, and to the Spirit of His grace. He removeth the scales from our eyes, the veil from our hearts, opening our wits that we may understand His Word, enlarging our hearts, yea correcting our affections, that we may love it above gold and silver, yea that we may love it to the end. Ye are brought unto fountains of living water which ye digged not. Others have labored, and you may enter into their labors; O receive not so great things in vain, O despise not so great salvation! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; but a blessed thing it is, and will bring us to everlasting blessedness in the end, when God speaketh unto us, to hearken; when He setteth His Word before us, to read it; when He stretcheth out His hand and calleth, to answer, Here am I, here we are to do thy will O God.'

One of the frequent charges against the AV is that is supposedly inconsistent in its choice of words, not translating the same Greek or Hebrew term always by the same word in English. It was in fact clear to the translators that this would be thrown back at them, that they might “be charged (by scoffers) with some unequal dealing towards a great number of good English words”. The translators freely admitted that “we have not tied ourselves to an uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe that some learned men somewhere have been as exact as they could that way”. They were not cavalier in their choice of words, however, but “especially careful, and made a conscience, according to our duty” to compare the ways that they rendered the terms in respective passages. Their varying choice of words was not carelessness or mistake, in fact they justified it by appeal to the way in which Scripture was written. They concluded that “we cannot follow a better pattern for elocution than God himself; therefore He using divers words in his holy writ, and indifferently for one thing in nature, we, if we will not be superstitious, may use that same liberty in our English versions out of Hebrew and Greek, for that copy or store that he hath given us”.

By virtue of their fluency in Hebrew, Greek and the other languages and close acquaintance with them almost as spoken languages, the translators were intimate with them as living and flexible. In spoken English for instance, we use many words without being in any sense aware of their etymology. Calvin insisted that “usage rather than etymology or intrinsic meaning” “distinguishes one word from another”. Modern translators with their “scientific” assumptions are tied pedantically to their lexicons. As Martin Buber comments it is “almost as if [the translator] had learned the supposed meanings of the word from a dictionary”. Gerald Hammond speaks of the “creative inferiority of the modern translators” in comparison with the old divines, they “do not see that the life of anything written lies in its words and syntax”.
We know that the translators of the AV were so aware of the concrete vitality of the original that instead of transferring their choices from dictionaries they preserved ambiguities where they discerned them in the text. John Bois, a translator of the AV recorded in his notes that he and his committee had been careful to preserve ambiguities in the original text. For modern translators ambiguity is unconscionable, it must be replaced even if it is in the Hebrew or Greek.
The translators in 1611 used the margin to include “diversity of signification and sense”. This provided possible alternatives or more woodenly literal phrasing in order to assist the reader, and of course all words that the translators added in order to enhance the meaning were italicised. It was assumed that part of the responsibility of exposition was to expand upon the meaning of the text, so that there was no need for the absurdity of an “Amplified Version”. The assumption also obtained that interpretation by the individual Christian would be in connection and harmony with preaching and other helps to understanding, this was what the Westminster divines later called “the ordinary means”. The translators of the AV put their scholarship into producing a translation which was as accurate as possible rather than interpreting the text for the reader. The “Authorised Version has the kind of transparency which makes it possible for the reader to see the original more clearly. It lacks the narrow interpretative bias of modern versions, and is the stronger for it”. The latter versions decide for the reader what a verse means and inscribe their own interpretation in the biblical text during the process of “translation” to the exclusion of all other available possibilities. In the modern versions the translator stands between the reader and the original, but “through its transparency the reader of the Authorised Version not only sees the original but learns how to read it” (Gerald Hammond).

Saturday, August 13, 2005

True self-knowledge

What is true self-knowledge?
Self-knowledge is discerning how things ought to be with us in true spiritual obedience to God and how they actually are.

Why is it so necessary to know ourselves?
If we are strangers to ourselves and our true condition, we will be strangers also to God and to what we ought to be before Him. We are therefore also strangers to true wisdom and happiness.

How does true self-knowledge help us to know God?
When we recognise our ignorance, vanity, weakness, depravity and corruption, we come to see that there is none good but God and that in the Lord, and none but He, dwells the true light of wisdom, holiness and goodness.

How can we seek true self-knowledge?
We must seek it in the Scriptures alone. The perfect law of liberty shows us how things ought to be with us spiritually and how far we fall short of that (James 1:22-25).

What examples are there of self-knowledge in Scripture?
Isaiah discovered this in crying out: "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5). Peter also discovered this knowledge when he had to say to Christ, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8). The apostle Paul, seeing the face of the holiness of God in the law as the transcript of God's character had to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24).

Which passages of Scripture are most helpful for self-examination?
The Ten Commandments (using the exposition in the Westminster Larger Catechism), the Sermon on the Mount, Rev. 2-3, 1 Cor. 13 and Gal. 5:13-26 are all especially helpful in discerning how things ought to be with us and how they really stand at present.

Why do so few seek true knowledge of themselves?
The world, the flesh and the devil present many pleasurable temptations and distractions in order to keep us from truly knowing ourselves. A heart immersed in sin and the world will have no desire for true self-knowledge.

What is the danger of avoiding true self-knowledge?
Our heart is deceitful above all things by nature. If we do not truly know ourselves we will be deceiving ourselves (Gal. 6:3; 1 Jn. 1:8).

What is the greatest hindrance to knowing ourselves?
Self-love keeps us back from knowing the truth about ourselves: "Who can understand his errors?" (Ps. 19:12) Our pride does not want a true sight of our sinfulness.

Why else do we shrink from true self-knowledge?
Because it is painful to learn the truth about our sinful state from a smiting conscience.

What encouragement can we have despite this painfulness?
True self-knowledge is the only way to repent of sin and to seek to put it to death in our hearts.
When our hearts find less pleasure in sin we will find more pleasure in a true knowledge of the state of our heart. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1, 7).

What else makes self-knowledge difficult?
It is difficult because we are so familiar with our dispositions and attitudes that we do not recognise them as sins of envy, resentment and discontent etc. but see them as natural reactions.

How can we solemnise ourselves so as to engage in this duty?
We should think of the full and open examination of our hearts and lives that will be conducted on the day of judgment and the eternal consequences of sin. In true self-examination 'we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world' ( 1 Cor. 11:32).

What is the diligence required of us in self-examination?
The natural proud tendency of our supremely deceitful heart will be to be overly lenient. We should seek therefore to be thorough and sincere in this duty.
It must be a daily and continual exercise to know how we have or have not obeyed God in thought, word and action during the course of a day. We are responsible for keeping our heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.

How can we avoid hypocrisy in this duty?
True self-knowledge should never lead us to pride but only to humility. We are taught by true self-knowledge that we are nothing but what we are in secret before God. It will never lead us to despise us others but provoke us to be more diligent in the knowledge of our own faults than those of others (Gal. 6:5-6).

What are the benefits of truly knowing ourselves?
True self-knowledge teaches us what is most important and that spiritual treasures are the most valuable and the most durable.

What are the practical outcomes of true self-knowledge?
When we know ourselves truly, we will be seeking to die more and more unto sin and to live unto righteousness. Our desire will be for a Christ-like character because we see him
as the altogether lovely One in contrast to our own vileness. True self-knowledge should turn our thoughts to rest in the contemplation of the glorious holiness and gracious majesty of God.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

catechism on godly sorrow

What is worldly sorrow?
No matter how great the grief and anxiety of conscience, worldly sorrow is of the flesh. It is counterfeit and only regrets the painful consequences of sin such as offending others or shaming oneself. The World sorrows “for failure, not for sin” (Bernard of Clairvaux). God is considered as judge only and sorrow arises from a legal fear of eternal punishment. It is external, not spiritually effectual (Is. 58:5, 1Kings21:27)

What does wordly sorrow lead to?
Worldly sorrow leads to false repentance which must be repented of. It is often temporary and if the pain is removed the sorrow disappears as though it has never been experienced.

What examples of worldly sorrow are found in Scripture?
Cain sorrowed because he saw his brother accepted of God and sorrowed in jealous pride and self-love. He cried out, not in true repentance, but in dread of his punishment "My punishment is greater than I can bear." Esau wept bitterly but only for a while and he went back to his old sins again (Gen. 27:34). We read likewise of Saul’s tears (1 Sam. 24:16), and the hypocrite’s tears (Mal. 2:13).

What is the danger of worldly sorrow?
Worldly sorrow may lead ultimately to despair, as with Judas, where there is no apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. Worldly sorrow is to the harm and not to the benefit of the sorrower because it changes nothing and only adds to the person's misery.

What is godly sorrow?
Godly sorrow is a saving grace of God and is true sorrow which grieves at offending against God in his infinite holiness and graciousness. It is literally "sorrow according to God". "Against thee, against thee only, have I sinned, and done evil in thy sight." It is a mourning for sin itself which reveals hatred against it as that which has pierced Christ (Zech. 12:10).

How does Scripture describe godly sorrow?
It is a rending (Joel 2:12, 13), breaking (Ps 51:17) and a melting (Jer. 23:9) of the heart. It is mourning for Christ as for a firstborn son and a constant sorrow while it lies as a heavy burden on the soul (Zech. 12:10; Ps. 38:17; Ps 13:2). It is a self-loathing (Ezek. 36:31, Job 42:6). It is to be covered in shame and reproach for our sin (Jer 3:25; Ezra 9:6; Ezek 16:63). These elements must be present but not in a particular degree.

What is the extent of godly sorrow?
Godly sorrow grieves over sin itself not just one or two troublesome sins, it casts all sin away as equally hateful (Ezek. 18:31; Ezek. 14:6).

What is the benefit of godly sorrow?
Godly sorrow leads to repentance and so to dealing with sin and guilt in the only way that it may be removed.

What does godly sorrow lead to?
Godly sorrow is not repentance in itself but is that penitent grief that leads to true repentance not to be repented of. Godly sorrow may be most intense for only a period of time but the tenderness, peace and hatred of sin which are its fruits still last. It is an enduring disposition in the soul.

Why will godly sorrowers never repent of their repentance?
True penitents will never repent of their repentance because it is to salvation ( 2 Cor 7:10) and unto eternal life (Acts 11:18).

What is promised to the godly sorrower?
Those that sorrow after a godly sort are blessed, 'Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted' (Matt 5:4).

What is the carefulness wrought in godly sorrow?
It means to have a concern rather than thoughtless pride and ignorance. It is a deep examination of our sin, asking: “What have I done?” (Jer. 8:6). It is a carefulness about our own souls in seeking to avoid sin and to please God. It is a fervent, earnest diligence and a holy concern in rectifying what is wrong.

What is the clearing of oneself wrought in godly sorrow?
The sinner recognises that sin is his own (Ps. 51:4; Hos 14:1). We are humbled under the mighty hand of God by a true sense not only of the danger but the guilt of our sin. There is a self-vindication or defence, a clearing of the guilt upon us by endeavours to put away the accursed thing and demonstrate that we do not approve it. We make open confession of our hatred of sin. Through godly sorrow we 'approve ourselves' and show the true marks of grace (Prov. 24:16).

What is the indignation wrought in godly sorrow?
It is indignation marked by self-abhorrence (Job 42:6), the hatred of sin itself and every false way (Ps. 119:104). We see this reproach and self-loathing in Jer. 31:19 and Ezek. 36:31.

What is the fear wrought in godly sorrow?
It is a reverential filial fear towards God (Gen.39:9), fearing to sin against Fatherly love. We fear his holiness and his goodness . We show this by a watchful distrust of ourselves and a fear of the power of sin.

What is the vehement desire wrought in godly sorrow?
It is a vehement desire that justice may be done and that God may be declared just in his holy law (Ps. 51:4; Rom. 7:12&14). It is also a vehement desire to do justice and to effect a thorough reformation (Is. 26:13; Ps. 101:3; Ps. 119:60).

What is the zeal wrought in godly sorrow?
This zeal is a mixture of love for Christ and righteous anger against sin. It is a zeal for duty and for acceptable service to Christ who has purified to himself a people zealous of good works. Zeal proves itself diligent in following its purpose against sin to the end, it is not half-hearted but manifests a universal sincerity to see all sin confessed and rooted out.

What is the revenge wrought in godly sorrow?
The soul seeks to be revenged against sin by putting sin to death (Rom 7:24; Rom 8:13).

What is the danger of overmuch sorrow?
If a person is sunk deep in sorrow for sin without grasping the mercy of God in Christ they may be overwhelmed by overmuch sorrow. The devil is able to gain a foothold in this and bring men to despair by keeping them away from the infinite mercy which is in Christ.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A secular Bible for a Secular Church – Bible versions in post-war Britain

It was shocking but not altogether surprising in 2004, when Archbishop Rowan Williams placed his seal on the new 'Bible version', ‘Good as New'. He welcomed what was a clear perversion of the truth and morality of the Scriptures, as a book of 'extraordinary power' which didn't use 'exclusive words'. He went on: 'Instead of being taken into a specialised religious frame of reference - as happens even with the most conscientious of formal modern translations - and being given a gospel addressed to specialised concerns … we have here a vehicle for thinking and worshiping that is fully earthed, recognizably about our humanity.' In other words the Scriptures have been rewritten by 'Good as New' to adapt to secular concerns and to become wholly secular themselves. It is significant that a church leader who has failed to approach and deal with the issue of homosexuality in a biblical way should be supporting a rewritten of the Scriptures which excludes any condemnation of homosexuality.

'Good as New' rewrites 'demon possession' as 'mental illness’, ‘Son of Man,' as 'the Complete Person', and salvation to become 'healing' or 'completeness'. Individuals in Scripture are renamed with modern nicknames: Peter becomes 'Rocky,' Mary Magdalene becomes 'Maggie,' Aaron becomes 'Ron,' etc. The secularism of this book is blasphemous in places, such as Mark 1:10-11 which is rendered: 'As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, 'That's my boy! You're doing fine!' It is a 'version' of the Bible which even changes the canon to include Gnostic pseudo-gospels in the attempt to appeal to contemporary fascination with the exotic. It is a secular 'Bible' with secular morality and ideas written not simply for a secular society but for a secular Church, thus Williams hoped that 'Good as New' will spread 'in epidemic profusion through religious and irreligious alike'.

Inevitable Secularisation?
To some onlookers, these developments reflect the inevitable decline of religion through secularisation. In the process of secularisation, religion is said to become increasingly less important in the society and its institutions, while the social standing of religious roles and institutions themselves decline. Above all it is thought to be a steady decline in the numbers of people engaging in religious practices and displayng religious beliefs. Traditionally, secularisation has been seen as the inevitable result of enlightenment thinking together with the fact of modern nations becoming industrialised and more concentrated in cities.

The Sixties
Historians have generally assumed that Britain became gradually secular during the twentieth century rather than overnight. Recently, historian Prof Callum Brown (The Death of Christian Britain: understanding secularisation 1800-2000, Callum G Brown, Routledge, 2001) has argued that there were three main periods of religious decline: the First World War, the Second World War and the period after 1963. In between the latter two periods of decline, however, the 1950s however represented a period of resurgence in religious adherence. Brown identifies the sixties as a period which introduced decline of a more permanent and more radical character. 'Britain in the 1960s experienced more secularisation than all the preceding four centuries put together. Never before had all of the numerical indicators of popular religiosity fallen simultaneously, and never before had their declension been so steep...What was different about the 1960s in the history of religion was not just the scale and suddenness of religious decline. The uniqueness of the sixties was that, firstly, for the first time, Christian religiosity underwent a common and virtually simultaneous change within nearly all countries in western Europe.' The period immediately before the sixties, i.e. between 1945 and 1958 reveals an upsurge of British church membership and Sunday school enrolment. The situation in the USA, Australia and the UK showed faster growth during this time than at any time since 1890. The Billy Graham crusades in the UK were highly attended, London 1954 was attended by 2 million (21.2 % of resident population) while 100, 000 packed Hampden Park in Glasgow 1955 (73.7% of the resident population).

Brown pinpoints the revolution in Britain's religious adherence. He believes that 'really quite suddenly in 1963, something very profound ruptured the character of the nation and its people, sending organised Christianity on a downward spiral to the margins of social significance.' It was something more fundamental that just falling church attendances. What happened in 1963? It was the year in which the book 'Honest to God' was published by the Bishop of Woolwich, JAT Robinson. This book amounted to a manifesto for the adoption of a secular theology and a secular morality within the Church and heralded a revolution in the moral identity of the nation. It was a significant moment, for while many resisted such an extreme position, the initiative to secularise had been grasped from within the Church .

Secular Theology
The book was promoted in advance by an article in The Observer headed ‘Our image of God must go’. Within three years the book had sold over 1 million copies and was to be translated into seventeen languages. Robinson's conviction was that the biblical imagery of God made him unreal to the modern secular scientific world and that the supernaturalism of Scripture was entirely mythological. The book opened up a Secular Theology which derived from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's idea of a 'religionless Christianity', the idea that the supernatural 'God is dead' and that God must instead be found in the here and now of secular societies. Later in the sixties, Harvey Cox published 'The Secular City' and in a similar vein Paul Van Buren also published 'The Secular Meaning of the Gospels'. Atheistic philosophers welcomed Robinson's ideas as identical to their own: Alasdair Maclntyre regarded Robinson as an atheist with a thin coating of religious verbiage and A. J. Ayer observed that Robinson 'is coming round to a position a number of us have held for some time.'

Secular Morality
Robinson had opened up the sixties with his advocation of the removal of censorship from the explicit novel by DH Lawrence 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' . He appeared in court in 1960 to defend the publication of the unexpurgated edition of the novel claiming that Lawrence ‘tried to portray this relationship as … an act of holy communion’. By the end of the decade censorship of the theatre had been opened up entirely. In 'Honest to God', Robinson championed the idea of permissive morality believing that 'the fact that the old landmarks are disappearing is not something simply to be deplored. If we have the courage it is something to be welcomed - as a challenge to Christian ethics to shake itself loose from the supports of supernatural legalism' (Honest to God, p.117). One of the book's chapters was entitled 'the new morality' while another was significantly headed 'worldly holiness'.

Secular Bible
A significant moment witnessed the outselling of the New English Bible (NEB) New Testament by Honest to God. Robinson had been on the New Testament panel of translators for the NEB, which had been published in 1961. It advanced a sea change in Bible translation by abandoning a conservative word-for-word approach to translation for a more loose thought-for-thought approach. The NEB was not simply a re-translation but a re-writing of the Scriptures through its free use of conjecture in reconstructing and rearranging the text. It trumpeted itself as a translation into 'the idiom of contemporary English', and liberally used crude colloquialisms and clichés such as 'money-grubbing', 'sponging', 'left in the lurch' 'feel the pinch' 'lazy rascal' - 'catch me out' 'gibberish' 'perfect pest'. JG Vos once spoke of ‘Secularism is like a chlorine bleach. It takes the real colour out of everything’ - this is clearly seen in the secularising of sacred Scripture.

In the NEB words such as sinners were frequently translated as simply 'bad characters'. The irony was that the translators mixed up together with the slang idiom many archaic and unfamiliar words such as 'bedizened', 'scion','inculcate', 'obdurate' and 'parricides'. This was intended to represent 'modern English' but whose modern English?

For the translators, the secularising impulse dovetailed perfectly with a bias towards liberal theology in seeking out new 'translations' of the Scriptures. Familiar renderings became almost unrecognisable such as Genesis 1:1 ' In the beginning of creation, when God made heaven and earth, the earth was without form and void, with darkness over the face of the abyss, and a mighty wind that swept over the surface of the waters.' Isaiah 9:6 'For a boy has been born for us, a son given to us to bear the symbol of dominion on his shoulder; and he shall be called in purpose wonderful, in battle God-like, Father for all time [margin, 'of a wide realm'], Prince of peace'. The rendering of Exodus 34:6, 7 referred to the LORD as 'a god'.

The NEB pioneered the idea that the Bible was intelligible to the man on the street. If Robinson spoke of the 'death of God' in terms of what the traditional notion meant to the modern man, the NEB took as its leading principle the idea that 'the Bible was dead', in terms of its meaning to modern man. The Bible had to become relevant, part of modern vocabulary and the categories of thought of modern man - in short, secular. It was not that the Bible had become obsolete through changes in the English language (after all it had been accessible enough to Billy Graham's crowded crusades) but rather that society, attitudes and ideas had changed in the revolutionary ferment and discontent of the 1960s.

The translation philosophy behind the NEB was essentially secularising. Robinson's agenda in 'Honest to God' was primarily linguistic in promoting an instrumentalist view of religious language. The fundamental assumption was that traditional religious language is misleading rather than meaningful. Robinson believed that this could be addressed by changing the vocabulary of traditional religious language in order to describe more accessibly the spiritual realities that these terms pointed to. The idea here is that the labels for these spiritual realities can be changed without any loss of meaning. It should be obvious, however, that to “translate meaning while ignoring the way that meaning has been articulated is no translation at all but merely replacement” (Gerald Hammond). Access to the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ or to anything else of which Scripture speaks is mediated by the Scriptures themselves.

Evangelical Change
While evangelicals resisted the secular theology and secular morality championed by liberal theologians, they were increasingly attracted, as the sixties wore into the seventies, by the idea of relevance. They took the initiative to secularise. The Jesus People mimicked the hippy culture, adopting it with a Christian veneer, experimenting with folk-style choruses. The momentum was towards a 'relevant' message with a relevant Bible and relevant worship in order to evangelise effectively. Addressing God as 'Thee' and 'Thou' was replaced by reference to God as 'You', which was more accessible for the modern man (though not biblically accurate). The Bible had to be re translated and made relevant by means of the thought for thought approach adopted in the NEB. Robert P Martin has commented appropriately on such secularised translations: 'Unlike the modern newspaper, the Bible was never meant to yield the fullness of its message to those who are only willing to expend the absolute minimum of effort necessary'.

One of the principal translators of the 'New English Bible', Prof. Kenneth Grayston eptomised this attitude when he said: ‘Modern English, it seems to me, is slack instead of taut, verbose and not concise, infested with this month’s cliché…it seems to me a repository for the bad habits of foreigners speaking English. This is how we must speak if people are to listen and grasp what we say’. Some evangelical authors, in similarly stressing the need to be more contemporary in the style and language of their worship, seem to want to appeal to the decline of religion and diminishing importance of the church. The church must move the Scriptures along with the times, even if that is a downward spiral. At the same time the influence of modern idiom is thought to be a Midas touch that will transform the Church entirely. The great variety of modern idiom versions in existence, however, tells us that even this idea is not that uncomplicated but rather that there is significant difference of opinion over what modern English idiom actually constitutes.

After the sixties, Evangelicals bought into the idea of a secular Bible and the secularising of religion - but they did not buy (wholesale at least) secular theology or morality. Arguably, evangelicals on each side of the Atlantic have adapted even more than liberals to techniques with which to expand the church and to improve self-esteem that borrow mainly from business management and psychology. Recent developments, however, have witnessed a 'megashift' in evangelical theology which uses emotive arguments in seeking to change such things as the traditional doctrine of God, the atonement, and eternal punishment. Professing 'evangelicals' are now no longer entirely united in opposition to homosexuality. In relation to Bible translation, evangelicals are divided on the issue of 'gender neutral' translations. The latter is a clear instance of rewriting Scripture to make it align with changing social values (namely the success of the women's rights movement of the sixties) rather than changing language, despite arguments for the latter.

Secularisation is not only a trend in society but also a conscious decision taken within the Church to respond to perceived trends in society by seeking to keep up with changing cultural values. The British experience since the sixties demonstrates something of this. This is not to argue against change because it is change but on the contrary, to argue against change for change's sake. There is no obligation upon the Church to secularise. Secularisation is not absolutely a force outside of our control, the church has chosen to secularise itself. This is exemplified in the area of Bible translation: why was change required during the mid-late twentieth century? Why did translation start afresh rather than seek conservative revision? The answer is that the movement was prompted by cultural change and popular prejudices rather than genuine linguistic requirements. The very real danger is that a secular Bible speaks more loudly about a secular Church than it does into the secular society to whom it has conceded so much.