Friday, January 26, 2007

how to approach the Lord's Supper

Meditations on the Lord's Supper
John Willison
Reformation Press, Stornoway, 1990, £1.80,
ISBN 1 872556 00 0 Publisher website
How do you prepare for the Lord's Supper? Hopefully you examine yourself in relation to appropriately challenging passages of Scripture and seek to acknowledge your condition in prayer. Sometimes, however, if we are honest, we find it difficult to maintain the right frame of spiritually-mindedness. These meditations stir the soul and provide an example of those spiritual breathings that we long for. There are nine meditations for before going to the table and eight for afterwards.
John Willison, best known as the author of the Mother's Catechism, ministered in Dundee almost 300 years ago. The language is not particularly dated, however, and the booklet is at a price that anyone could afford. Although they are short, only about a page and a half, they are especially full of the spiritual power of Scripture imagery as the following quotation shows.

O if our Lord Jesus Christ's love and glory would come flowing like a full sea, or the rushing of a mighty wind, and fill all the corners of His house and of His table, that great grace might be on all His people. O to hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, a sign that God is gone forth before us to smite the hosts of our lusts, and triumph over our enemies. O that the kindly breathings and prosperous gales of God's Spirit would enliven all the drooping hearts, and fill all the empty sails of wind-bound communicants. O that the heavenly wind would blow from the right airth, that poor leaky vessels might come speed in their voyage, and sail straight forward to the shores of Emmanuel's land.

Click here for another excerpt.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Worldliness, John P Thackway, Bible League Quarterly, Words of Truth booklets No. 4, 2004. ISBN 1741-5969. £1.25, 48pp. available from 46 Bulbridge Road, Wilton, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP2 0LE Website of Bible League Trust

This is a vitally important and highly practical booklet. Mr Thackway laments that whereas historic evangelicalism asserted holy living together with doctrinal orthodoxy, modern evangelicals finds this concern embarassingly unfashionable. As Thackway expresses it: 'Fear of being judged “old fashioned” grips them much more than “the fear of the Lord” and how “to walk and to please God”. Engagement with the world in the name of relevance now means that any talk of separation from it is 'equated with seriously hindering meaningful witness'. The booklet begins by defining what the Bible means by the term 'the world' and proceeds to identify what it says about the Christian's pilgrim relationship to the world.

Application of these truths is followed through in terms of Scripture in the areas of speech, entertainments, the home and the church. Largely speaking principles are laid down as opposed to extensive practical application. While examples are used, perhaps it would not hurt to be even more specific. The benefit of the approach taken, however, is that it encourages the reader to think things through from a principled basis. We are too apt to see worldliness in things and practices rather than words and attitudes. The booklet concludes with sound principles for separation.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

family worship

Returning to the Family Altar: A Commentary and Study Guide on the
Directory for Family Worship, Douglas W. Comin, £3.00 (including postage within UK),ISBN 0-9539241-2-2, 64 pp., booklet, James Begg Society, 2005(order from Donald Morgan, 7 Cearn Sheileidh, STORNOWAY, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2YW.

In a generation which as witness unprecedented attacks upon the family, so that Christian parents are struggling to raise a godly seed in the fear and admonition of the Lord, every help possible must surely be welcome. The wellbeing and future prospects of society and the Church have a connection with the vitality of family religion. It is no surprise therefore that the devil seeks to attack the very keystone of family religion, which is family worship. As the author of this booklet puts it: “ A big part of the solution to the erosion of Biblical family life lies in a return to the sincere and consistent practice of family worship.”

This booklet is a commentary and study guide on the somewhat neglected Directory for Family Worship which was approved by the Church of Scotland in 1647. It was not part of the documents produced by the Westminster Assembly which perhaps accounts for some of its neglect. It is no coincidence, however, that the Directory was approved by the Church of Scotland in the same year that they ratified the Westminster Confession of Faith. It expands in a practical way upon the Westminster Confession's requirement of the worship of God “in private families daily” and the relevant parts of the Larger Catechism Q129-130.

Describing family worship as “a necessary duty”, the Directory gives especially practical help and guidance as to why, when, how and by whom it is to be conducted. With fifteen sections in total, other matters are also addressed such as the elements of family worship, its benefits and how it is to be maintained on the Lord's Day. The language of duty is in no way extreme as the American Presbyterian John Girardeau indicates: “the awful imprecation, 'Pour out Thy fury upon the heathen that know Thee not, and upon the families that call not on Thy name' (Jer. 10:25), while it furnishes support to the view just expressed, also enforces, under sanctions of the most dreadful character, the duty of family worship...They who neglect this obligation are classed with heathen, and are threatened with the fury of the Almighty poured upon them like a storm.”

Comin makes brief comments on each section, highlighting the spiritual wisdom of the Directory and seeks to apply it. He makes the telling point that churches have devised all kinds of meetings for all kinds of age groups yet often never emphasise and enforce family worship. It might have been better to give a fuller defence of the biblical requirement of family worship and deal with potential objections in view of the sad fact that it is so widely neglected. Others have undertaken this before, however, for instance the Covenanter John Brown of Wamphray gave twenty four proofs that family worship is required by God together with answers to seven objections. . More could be said on the subject, and there are other longer treatments such as J W Alexander's Thoughts on Family Worship. This is, however, a very helpful and inexpensive booklet on the subject which will be of great benefit to those that have been engaged in family worship over many years as well as those that need encouragement to begin by God's grace.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Lord's Day

O Day most calm, most bright,
The fruit of this, the next worlds bud,
Th’ indorsement of supreme delight,
Writ by a friend, and with his bloud;
The couch of time; cares balm and bay:
The week were dark, but for thy light:
Thy torch doth show the way.

The other dayes and thou
Make up one man; whose face thou art,
Knocking at heaven with thy brow:
The worky-daies are the back-part;
The burden of the week lies there,
Making the whole to stoup and bow,
Till thy release appeare.

Man had straight forward gone
To endlesse death: but thou dost pull
And turn us round to look on one,
Whom, if we were not very dull,
We could not choose but look on still;
Since there is no place so alone,
The which he doth not fill.

Sabbaths the pillars are,
On which heav’ns palace arched lies:
The other dayes fill up the spare
And hollow room with vanities.
They are the fruitfull beds and borders
In Gods rich garden: that is bare,
Which parts their ranks and orders.

The Sabbaths of mans life,
Thredded together on times string,
Make bracelets to adorn the wife
Of the eternall glorious King.
On Sabbath heavens gate stands ope:
Blessings are plentifull and rife,
More plentifull then hope.

This day my Saviour rose,
And did inclose this light for his:
That, as each beast his manger knows,
Man might not of his fodder misse.
Christ hath took in this piece of ground,
And made a garden there for those
Who want herbs for their wound.

The rest of our Creation
Our great Redeemer did remove
With the same shake, which at his passion
Did th’ earth and all things with it move.
As Sampson bore the doores away,
Christs hands, though nail’d, wrought our salvation,
And did unhinge that day.

The brightnesse of that day
We sullied by our foul offence:
Wherefore that robe we cast away,
Having a new at his expence,
Whose drops of bloud paid the full price,
That was requir’d to make us gay,
And fit for Paradise.

Thou art a day of mirth:
And where the Week-dayes trail on ground,
Thy flight is higher, as thy birth.
O let me take thee at the bound,
Leaping with thee from sev’n to sev’n,
Till that we both, being toss’d from earth,
Flie hand in hand to heav’n!

This is a poem written by the early 17th century Anglican minister and poet George Herbert(1593–1633). Herbert was a classical Calvinist episcopalian. Herbert is said to have described his book of poems as ‘a picture of the many spiritual Conflicts that have past betwixt God and my Soul, before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master’.

The original title of the poem above is "Sunday" and I have taken the liberty of amending Sunday to Sabbath in the poem. I appreciate that this detracts from the way that Herbert plays on the word sun but I still think it best to avoid the connection with the pagan name and give the day a biblical name where possible . Sometimes Herbert is obscure in his poetry but this poem is very clear and bright with the spirit of rejoicing in the day of resurrection, which inaugurated in a special way the New Creation that Christ's redemption opened up for His people. Herbert shows here how the Christian sabbath replaces the Old Testament sabbath which was connected with the broken Covenant of Works. He makes Samson a type of Christ in his physical removing of the gates of Gaza (Judges 16:3).