Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grimshaw's remarkable conversion

Lying on a table in his friend’s room was a book which attracted his attention and finding it was a theological work, he picked it up with quickened interest and crossed the room with it. He stood facing a small shelf of pewter dishes and there examined the book, which he discovered to be written by the Puritan divine, John Owen. ‘Instantly’, a friend recalled in after years, ‘an uncommon heat flushed in his face.’ Puzzled, he turned towards the fire, wondering if the sudden wave of heat had come from a reflection of the flames radiated from the pewter dishes.

Turning again to the volume he now held, he opened it ant the title page and read, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith. As he pondered on the title another flash of heat suddenly passed over him. Astonished by a second occurrence of this phenomenon, he reasoned that this must be a divine indication that the volume would be of crucial relevance to his need and so requested a loan of the book. We can well imagine that he lost little time in finding opportunity to read a book so strangely brought to his attention.

(Faith Cook, William Grimshaw of Haworth, pp 26-27)

This event led shortly and directly to Grimshaw’s conversion, and the remarkable ministry he was to exercise in Haworth. So, what does a crusty old cessationist make of it?

Honestly – nothing at all. It gives me not a single thought that I ought to revise my convictions. Nor do my convictions make me doubt the history. Why should they? What happened, happened.

Proper cessationism – that is, mine (!) does not hold that God never does anything remarkable. It does not even argue that God cannot work miracles today. I simply believe that the ‘sign gifts’ were given for an age, and for a purpose, that has now been superseded.

A cessationist is not a deist – though some of us sometimes, I fear, sound like one. We do believe in God’s direct intervention. We do believe in spiritual experience. We do believe God answers prayer – providentially, remarkably, miraculously at times.

I will admit to this, though: sometimes we are so good at seeing the speck in the eyes of some of our wiser charismatic friends that we do not see the beam in our own.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Conrad Mbewe has a post on his blog today about a fellow pastor who committed suicide after a moral failure.  It is a stark, warm and salutary piece.  The pastor felt his shame so powerfully that he killed himself.

Moral failure.  The blog makes clear enough what that moral failure was.  In the UK, it's an epidemic.  I've grown oh-so-tired  - and, I confess, increasingly angry  -  over one story after another.  And what bothers me most is the inadequate sense of shame.

No, emphatically not; I'm not suggesting that pastors guilty of moral failure should commit suicide.  They need to trust in the mercy of Christ.  They need to work hard to rebuild their marriage (but not their ministries).  They need to do all they can to minimise the disgrace to Christ.

But shame would be a part of that.  An awful lot less of 'well, my marriage had been a sham for years.'  So what?  If it's true, it increases your disgrace: you should have dealt with it earlier.  With Christ and goodwill, miracles are possible.  And true or not, there is no situation to which adultery is the right, proper, godly, moral response.  No situation.  Not a difficult wife, or a cold bed, or rebellious children, or stressful ministries, or a combination of them all.

There should be less, too, of 'Well, these things happen.'  No, they don't.  Measles happen.  Road Traffic Accidents happen.  Storms and hurricanes happen.  Adultery is committed.  You can't catch it by being in the same room as somebody who is affected.  It doesn't come zooming round a stationary car when your visibility is impaired.  It doesn't blow in out of a clear blue sky.  Adultery is planned; it is committed; it is followed up. 

I don't know what the cause of this epidemic is.  I don't know what the solution is, or even if there is a solution.  But I do know that Christians, and pastors most of all, need to learn to take responsibility for the way they live, and stop seeing themselves and their behaviour as victims.

Friday, November 18, 2011


One of these is good looking, intelligent and by all accounts a capable speaker.  The other one is me.


One of these has a sponge for a head; the other is Dr Bunsen Honeydew.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Separated at birth?

The mischievous Fr Z has posted these two pics on his blog.

One of them is a muppet. The other appears to be some sort of scary, orange-haired toy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Has Peter Masters lost it?

My regular reader will know that I have, once or twice, blogged about Peter Masters.  This week, I was teaching my bi-annual session on 'Evangelistic Preaching' at the FIEC's PfS Course.  It's immensely popular - with me, anyway.

Each time, I recommend the evangelistic preaching of Peter Masters as a good example of how it should be - along with some resources from the Tab.  This year, I thought I'd better have a listen to a recent example.  After all, he is no longer a young man: has he lost it?

So, I went to the Tabernacle Website, found the video of last Sunday evening's sermon (November 6th, on Galatians 2:20) and settled down to listen.

Has he lost it? Er, no. To be honest.  He does look a little frailer than I remember - and he's far too much hair to be decent in a man that age... but his preaching was excellent.  Really very, very good - especially the introduction.  No hesitation in recommending the PfS students to go and have a listen.

I gave a different lecture on evangelistic preaching recently at WEST, to a very fine, friendly bunch of students.  Word came back to me that few - if any - agreed with me that it ought to be a regular, weekly, feature of a pastor's ministry.  It bothers me, that: what hope for the nation if good men stop preaching evangelistically?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A fine Brahms

Last night the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra  performed two works by Brahms - the Hungarian Dance number one, and the beautiful violin concerto; Andrew and I were there to hear them both.  The BSO seemed to have quite a few different players and, to be honest, I didn't think they were as good as usual.  But the soloist, Viviane Hagner, was excellent.  I confess I'd never heard of Miss Hagner; she's German-born, 34 years old, very slightly built, and played beautifully.  She'd stood in at short notice for the advertised soloist, Julian Rachlin, who is unwell.

How's that work, then?  A string of musicians waiting for the last-minute call?  At any rate, you would never have guessed that Hagner was a substitute; a great evening.