God’s not deaf – don’t be so mournful! (Spurgeon)

“Prayer should be mingled with praise. I have heard that in New England after the Puritans had settled there a long while, they used to have very often a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, till they had so many days of fasting, humiliation and prayer, at last a good senator proposed that they should change it for once, and have a day of thanksgiving. It is of little use to be always fasting. We ought sometimes to give thanks for mercies received. Now, during this week, there are to be days of prayer. Take care that they are days of praise, too! Why should we go to God as mournful beings, who plead piteously with a hard Master who loves not to give? When you give a penny to a beggar in the street, you like to see him smile at you—do you not? Is he a crossing-sweeper and you have given him a trifle? He looks extremely grateful and happy and you think within yourself, “What a small expense has made that man happy! I think I will buy another pennyworth of joy the next time I pass by.” So you give him all the more because of his thankfulness to you. Now, go not before God with a rueful face, you people of God, as though He had never heard you before, and you were about to try a great experiment on One who was exceedingly deaf, and did not like to give you mercies!


God is as pleased to give you His blessing as ever you are to receive it; it is as much to His honour as it is to your comfort; He takes more pleasure in your prayers than you do in His answers! Come therefore, boldly. Come with thankfulness in your heart and upon your lips, and join the hymn of praise with the cry of prayer. Be thankful for what God has done. Look at the past year. I commend it to your consideration when you meet for prayer. Has there been for the last 20 years such a year as the last? If any man had said seven years ago there would be preaching in St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, we should never have believed him! But it is, has been, and it is to be again! If any friends had said that nearly all the theatres in London would be filled on the Sabbath, “Oh,” you would have said, “it is ridiculous, it is an absurd notion!” But it is done, Sirs; it is done. If any had said to you seven years ago there would have been a congregation of many thousands who, without any drawback in numbers, would always assemble every Sabbath to listen to one minister, you would have said, “Ridiculous! There is no precedent for it. It is impossible! It is not at all possible that the Spirit of God can incline a people’s heart so long to listen to one man.” It is done, Sirs; by God’s Grace it is done! And what are we to do but to give God thanks for it? When we come before Him to ask Him for fresh mercies, let us not be so foolish as to forget the past. “Sing unto Him, sing unto Him, sing Psalms unto Him! Come into His Presence with thanksgivings, and show yourself glad in Him with Psalms—for the Lord is God, and a great King above all gods.” So thank Him for the past, and pray to Him for the future. Thank Him, too, for the power to pray; thank Him for the privilege of taking the Church’s needs before Him. And do still better—thank Him for the mercy which is to come.”

Spurgeon sermon #354 on Col 4:2 (PDF)

Paul Tripp – New Morning Mercies (book review)

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional
Paul David Tripp
Crossway, 2014 (IVP in the UK)

fesko theology of the westminster standards

If you’re looking for a devotional book for the New Year, it’s worth checking out Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies.

These devotions started off as tweets from Tripp that others saw and encouraged him to do something with. Each day starts with a lightly edited tweet-length thought, and then a 2/3 of a page meditation based on it. The book is classic Tripp – focusing not on the surface problems of our lives, but the underlying thoughts and attitudes at the root of them. Each day’s devotion ends with a Bible reference the reader can look up for further study and encouragement. The majority of these are from the New Testament, though Isaiah, and especially the Psalms, feature heavily too.

The short length of each day’s reading makes this book an ideal pump-primer before coming to God’s Word. The book is published by IVP in the UK, whose blurb states: ‘Focused less on behaviour modification and more on helping people encounter the living God’. That dichotomy may not be the most helpful in light of the recent debates on sanctification and antinomianism (with the man at the heart of it, Tullian Tchividjian, providing an endorsement of the book), but given his counselling role, we can be sure that Tripp’s concern is that as people encounter the living God each day, it would lead to changed lives.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

The Theology of the Westminster Standards (book review)

The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights
J. V. Fesko
Crossway, 2014

fesko theology of the westminster standards

Those wanting to study the Westminster Standards in their historical context are living at an exciting time. The publication of Chad Van Dixhoorn’s monumental Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1652 has been accompanied by 3 new series of books from Reformation Heritage: The Westminster Assembly Principle Documents series, Studies on the Westminster Assembly Series (the initial publications of which are by Wayne Spear and John Bower of the RPCNA) and The Westminster Assembly Facsimile Series. Making use of those, along with many of the primary sources now so easily available online, comes John Valero Fesko’s The Theology of the Westminster Standards (released just a month or so before Van Dixhoorn’s own Confessing the Faith).

Fesko’s thesis is that while there is still a lot of use made of, and commentaries published on the Westminster Standards, much of this study is divorced from their seventeenth century historical context. Even having the minutes is not enough as ‘the Westminster Assembly was part of a broader ongoing conversation with Patristic, medieval, Reformation and contemporary’ theologians. Fesko contends that there is no way one book could properly contextualise every part of the confession, so he picks out ten key themes such as the Doctrine of Scripture, Justification and the Church – and aims to inspire others to do more. His thesis serves as an important reminder not just to read the Standards and assume that how we use certain terms, or understand certain concepts, is the same way the Divines used them and understood them. The negative side of this is that if certain statements are unpalatable to the modern reader, Fesko can just write them off as an inevitable result of the historical context. This doesn’t happen much, but repeatedly comes up in regard to the teaching that the Pope is the anti-Christ, and at the expense of Fesko discussing any of the exegesis that got them there.

Rather than being the straitjacket they are often portrayed as, Fesko also does a good job of showing how Confessions of faith were ‘typically written to define truth and fence of heterodoxy and heresy while allowing a degree of doctrinal latitude within the boundaries of the confession’. Some of these are so obvious that they don’t really need much context to explain, but it does helps to see not just what we do believe but what we don’t.

The chapter on ‘Worship’ contains a couple of disappointments. Firstly, while Fesko includes some quotes as to the divines’ belief that the Lord’s Day is permanent and moral, he doesn’t give any of their arguments and rather brushes over a topic sorely needing more attention in a book written primarily for a North American audience. His sections on Psalmody and Instruments are particularly poor. He seems to list Calvin as an advocate of uninspired songs (unsupported by the footnotes he provides). He also fails to provide much support for his contention that while ‘At first glance the Confession appears to support the views of exclusive psalmody’, it actually doesn’t. While quoting David Dickson arguing for exclusive psalmody, he doesn’t reference any divine who didn’t, and the only scholarship he can point to is Nick Needham’s attempt to prove the divines weren’t against hymns and instruments, which has been refuted by Matthew Winzer. When it comes to instruments, Fesko can only muster a paragraph, which claims that the issue of musical instruments was ‘apparently avoided’ by the Standards! Again the only ‘scholarship’ he can cite is Needham, and the only theologian he can list in favour of instruments is the Jesuit Robert Bellarmine. Finally, Fesko’s section on ‘two kingdoms’ in his section on ‘The Church’ should probably be read with caution, not just because he comes from Westminster Seminary California, but because of his reliance on the work of his colleague David VanDrunen.

For all the recent resources Fesko has utilised, he seem to be unaware of the newer Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), but relies on its predecessor which was published over a century earlier, leaving him unnecessarily scratching his head occasionally (eg p. 59, n. 73). While his annotated bibliography mentions the fact that PDFs of primary sources can be downloaded to your computer or tablet from the PRDL, he doesn’t mention that a number of works he lists can also be downloaded in a much more readable and searchable format from Logos Bible Software.

Those caveats aside, Fesko succeeds not just in providing an illuminating book for those with an interest in historical theology, but in showing that any serious study of these important documents must be done with the historical context in mind. Thanks to the resources that have become available over the last few years, it has never been easier to do so.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

Reformed Presbyterians in Logos

I’ll try and keep this maintained as an up-to-date list of all works by Reformed Presbyterian (or former RP) authors available from Logos Bible Software. I’ll do a later post on ‘Covenanters in Logos’ and include those before 1700.

19th Century

Binnie, William (Minister of Stirling RPCS and Professor of Systematic Theology & Homiletics)
The Psalms: Their History, Teachings, and Use
-‘The Church Discipline of the Scottish Reformation’ in J. A. Wylie (ed.), Ter-centenary of the Scottish Reformation*
– ‘Rev. William H. Goold, D. D., Martyrs’ Free Church, Edinburgh’ in J. A. Wylie (ed.), Disruption Worthies: A Memorial of 1843* (expanded 1881 edn)
– ‘Zinsendorf’ in The Evangelical Succession: A Course of Lectures, vol. 2

(a list of Binnie’s other works can be found in D. D. Ormond, A kirk and a college in the craigs of Stirling (Stirling, 1897), p. 114.

Denney, James
The Works of James Denney (15 vols)
On ‘Natural Law in the Spiritual World’ by a Brother of the Natural Man
– The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Romans
– The Expositor’s Bible: 2nd Corinthians, Thessalonians

Goold, W. H. (Minister of Edinburgh RPCS and Professor of Biblical Literature and Church History)
– ‘John Owen’ in The Evangelical Succession: A Course of Lectures, vol. 3
Goold also edited the 24 volume Works of John Owen which is available in Logos. However while Logos contain A. A. Hodge’s Outlines of Theology and Commentary on the Confession of Faith, neither of them appear to be the British editions which were edited by Goold (available on archive.org here and here)

Reid, James (minister of Wigtown and Kirkcudbright, went to America for a year to plant some churches then came back and established Stranraer and worked on Newton-Stewart, Whithorn and Castle Douglas)
Memoirs of the Lives and Writings of Those Eminent Divines Who Convened in the Famous Assembly at Westminster, vol. 1*
Memoirs of the Lives and Writings of Those Eminent Divines Who Convened in the Famous Assembly at Westminster, vol. 2*

Symington, William
On the Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ
Messiah the Prince: The Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ
Bicentenary of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster*
– ‘The Sabbath, the grounds of its obligation, and its proper place in relation to Christian life and duty’ in Divine Revelation Explained and Vindicated: A Course of Lectures for the Times*
– ‘The Necessity of Atonement’ and ‘The Nature, Extent and Results of the Atonement’ in A Series of Tracts on the Doctrines, Order, and Polity of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, vol. 2*

Symington, Alexander Macleod

-The life and ministry of John the Baptist

* Indicates that these books will only move into production once enough people indicate an interest in them via a Community Pricing bid. So if you haven’t yet bid, please do! (It doesn’t commit you to anything).

20th and 21st Centuries

Bower, John
The Larger Catechism: A Critical Text and Introduction

Keddie, Gordon
According to Promise: The Message of the Book of Numbers
Even in Darkness: Judges and Ruth Simply Explained
Dawn of a Kingdom: The Message of 1 Samuel
Triumph of the King: 2 Samuel
The Lord is His Name: The Message of Amos
Preacher on the Run: The Message of Jonah
You Are My Witnesses: The Message of the Acts of the Apostles
The Practical Christian: The Message of James

A Study Commentary on John (2 vols)

El cielo [Heaven]

McKay, David
The Bond of Love: God’s Covenantal Relationship with the Church
– ‘Covenant Community’ in Tabletalk Magazine, October 2006: Covenant Theology

Selvaggio, Anthony

What the Bible teaches about marriage

Spear, Wayne
Covenanted Uniformity in Religion

Stewart, Andrew
God’s Treasured Possession: Deuteronomy
A Family Tree: The message of 1 Chronicles
A House of Prayer: The Message of 2 Chronicles

Whitla edits new Reformation Heritage Owen book

Reformation Heritage Books have just published a modernised version of John Owen’s Rules for Walking in Fellowship, edited by our very own David Whitla. (The original title was: Eshcol; A Cluster of the Fruit of Canaan, brought to the borders for the encouragement of the saints traveling thitherward, with their faces towards Zion or Rules of Direction for the Walking of the Saints in Fellowship According to the Order of the Gospel and is found in volume 13 of Owen’s works).

As Whitla writes in the introduction (PDF):

“It takes no great insight to discern that the biblical doctrine of the church has fallen on hard times. Several contemporary trends illustrate this. The church of the living God is no longer respected as “the house of God…the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), but is instead redefined as an “emergent” phenomenon writing its own story. Many people exchange the ministerial authority of godly pastors and elders for the unaccountability of the home church or the well-meaning pursuit of an every-member ministry. They see making a commitment to a particular local congregation by vows of
church membership as an antiquated practice at best, and an infringement of Christian liberty at worst.

And yet, ironically, in this present atmosphere there is one aspect of the church that advocates of all these positions generally agree upon: that Christians ought to live in fellowship with one another. “Community” is a buzzword that finds ready expression in all parts of Western society, and yet the church is frequently assumed to be merely a voluntary society that one may drift in or out of, with no strings attached. How curious the assumption that the fellowship of the members of the body of Christ can take place in a dismembered body, eviscerated of the elemental structures of church government, church discipline, and church membership established by its glorious Head! It was not always so…”

Carl Trueman gives the following endorsement:

“Everything Owen wrote is worth reading, but some of his books are more accessible than others. This little practical treatise is a great way to meet a great Christian mind as it deals with the most basic elements of the Christian’s life in his church. I have loved reading Owen for nearly thirty years now and return to him again and again, never without profit. Enjoy this book. And learn from it.”

Carnage out the back of Renwick!

[Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen episode 5 of The Fall Season 2]

Ten years ago Elmwood Mews (as it’s officially called) was the scene of what this very website dubbed ‘the greatest car chase ever filmed’. The original post only had stills, but the whole original video is now posted below for context (start at 09:40 for the relevant part).

Yet even those scenes couldn’t compare to what residents of Renwick would have seen if they’d been looking out the back recently. Eagle-eyed viewers of The Fall (Season 2, Episode 5) might have noticed even from the iPlayer thumbnail that central character Paul Spector is pictured standing facing the back gate of Renwick!

Play episode

He got there by taking the following handy shortcut from College Gardens as he fled two pursuers:

shortcut onto elmwood mews

…only to come right up against the van of one of them (flashback anyone?):

car chase

After doing well in some hand-to-hand combat right outside the gate of Renwick’s car park…


…things quickly turned south for Spector as one of them pulled a gun (note the number 42 prominently displayed on the bin)

gun bin

gun bin 2

back to the wall

And suddenly the whole thing is a crime scene!


fun and games avenue
The actors emerge onto Elmwood Avenue for a bit of light relief

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Senior Camp is 10 years ahead of the game!

See also: Next Episode of ‘The Fall’ Set Entirely in Queue at Boojum