Friday, November 28, 2014

November 28: The Battle of Rullion Green

by archivist
The Time Was Not Ripe
This mysterious phrase is found on a stone memorial on the grounds of the Battle of Rullion Green which is located eight miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland. It tells the tragic story of defeat in the first battle of the Scot Covenanters—Presbyterians all—against the English government of Charles II.
This battle was part of the Killing Times era of Scottish Covenanters. In essence, the Anglican government had declared war against the Presbyterians of Scotland, asking for unconditional surrender on their part. Their pastors—some 400 of them—had been ejected from their pulpits, their manses, and their parishes. When some of them began to preach to their people in the fields and moors, that whole scene became a dangerous practice, with fines leveled against the attenders, and imprisonment and death as well. All that was needed was a spark to ignite the smoldering indignation of the Scottish people of God.
That spark occurred on November 13, 1666 when an old man by the name of John Grier was accosted by the soldiers of the English government. Unable to pay a fine for his absence from his church with its Anglican curate in the pulpit, he was beaten severely that day. Four local Covenanters  happened upon the scene, and tried first to reason with the soldiers. When that failed, words turned to actions, and one of the soldiers was shot. Other villagers joined in the fray and took the solders prisoners. At this point, the Covenanters numbered ninety people.
Aware of the danger posed by their actions, they marched to Dunfries, Scotland, where they attacked other soldiers, killing one in the process. By this time, their numbers had reached two hundred and fifty. On the way, they captured Sir James Turner, the overall military commander in the area. Continuing further, they encountered a soldier friend by the name of James Wallace, who had experience in warfare. He and his military subordinates joined the Covenanter crowd. They then headed to Edinburgh, the capital city, to find more support for their actions to stop "the killing times," though to their surprise, the weapons of the citizens were turned against them. The time was not ripe for a rebellion against English rule, evidently, despite their numbers having reached some three thousand or more by this time.
The English government dispatched General Thomas Daiziel against them, who with an army of 3000 (some sources say 5000 soldiers), marched after them. The Covenanter force, with their inadequate weapons and supplies, began to fail, with many deserting the force, leaving some 900 left to do battle. On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 28, 1666, on a long slope in the country side south of Edinburgh, three thrusts by the government forces eventually brought a crushing of the valiant forces of the Covenanters. Some fifty were killed, including two Presbyterian ministers from Ulster. But that was only the beginning of the killing done that day. A bloody retribution was exacted upon the prisoners, including starvation, death by handing, and sending many on prison ships to the American colonies and the West Indies.
Words to Life By:
On the monument which marks the battlefield, there is carved a biblical text from Revelation 12:11, which reads, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death."  Another inscription reads,
"A cloud of witnesses lyes here,
who for Christ's interest did not appear,
For to restore true Liberty
Overturned then by Tyrany
and by Proud Prelates who did rage
Against the Lord's own heritage.
Their sacrifices were for the Laws
of Christ their king,  his noble cause,
These heroes fought with great renown,
By falling got the Martyr' Crown."

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26: John Knox is Buried (1572)


by archivist
Parking Space Number 23
You might wonder what in the world is a post about a parking space doing in This Day in Presbyterian History?  Well, if this author tells you that it is the final resting place of Scot Reformer John Knox, as seen in the photo of this post, you will understand.  And yet we don't really understand or comprehend it.  All right, every church needs a parking lot. Every church needs space for its worshiper's automobiles. But to pave over a portion of the church graveyard without moving the graves there, especially the grave of a former pastor of the church and Reformation leaders, namely John Knox, that is really crass, in this author's opinion. But that is exactly what happened sometime in the 1970's of the last century.
knoxJohn_parkingLot23
His funeral had taken place on this day, November 26, 1572, two days after  he died. Read the words of Thomas M'Cree from the "Life of John Knox" (p. 277):
"On Wednesday, the 26th of November, he (knox) was interred in the church-yard of St. Giles.  His funeral was attended by the newly-elected regent, Morton, by all the nobility who were in the city, and a great concourse of people."
  1. M. Hetherington in his History of the Church of Scotland on pg 77 continues the story of his burial when he wrote:
"When his (Knox) was lowered into the grave, and gazing thoughtfully into the open sepulcher, the regent emphatically pronounced his eulogium in these words, 'There lies he who never feared the face of man.'"
Regent Morton knew himself the truthfulness of these final words as John Knox had reproved him to his face, with Hetherington calling the regent later on in his history "that bold bad man." (p. 77)
It is interesting to this author that, despite searching, he has not found anything of the burial service itself other than these brief remarks around the grave. We in these United States usually have a funeral message, with Scripture being read, and other remarks of comfort and promises  regarding the bodily resurrection of the Christian being buried.
What we do know is that in St. Giles Cathedral parking lot is a parking space with number 23 painted on it, with a blank yellow stone at  its head. Below that yellow stone that can be found written  in a circle of colored bricks the following message, "The above stone marks the approximate site of the burial in St. Giles graveyard of John Knox the great Scottish divine who died on 24 November 1572."
Words to Live By:
There are several monuments to John Knox in Edinburgh, one inside St. Giles Cathedral itself. Another one is standing in Geneva, Switzerland. In one sense, all of Scotland is a memorial to this great Reformer. whether they acknowledge it or not. We who are the spiritual Presbyterian heritage of John Knox, have the hope and confidence that one day Parking Space number 23 will be emptied of its remains and John Knox will be reunited with his spirit already up in heaven. Come, Lord Jesus.
Please Note: We are informed earlier today that The Banner of Truth Trust has pending the republication of The Works of John Knox, a six-volume hardback set, published with typical Banner quality. To learn more about this reprint, click here.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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November 25: Parliament Orders Printing of Shorter Catechism (1647)


by davidtmyers
“The ripest fruit of the Assembly’s thought and experience.”
It was on this day, November 25th, a Thursday in 1647, that the British House of Commons ordered the printing of the Shorter Catechism, composed by the Westminster Assembly.
WSC_order_to_printThe Westminster Assembly of Divines had first met on July 1, 1643, having been summoned by the two Houses of the British Parliament to advise as to a further and more perfect reformation in the liturgy, discipline, and government of the Church of England. They immediately set about working on a revision of the Thirty-nine Articles. When the Commissioners sent by the Church of Scotland arrived to be seated as part of the Assembly, the work then began to take on a wider scope. The Assembly was now required to prepare creeds and directories, not for the Church of England alone, but for the Churches of Christ in the three kingdoms, so as to bring all of them into the nearest possible uniformity in doctrine and practice.
The documents which are today the authoritative secondary standards of so many Presbyterian Churches throughout the world (and not just English-speaking churches), were prepared by an Assembly of English Divines, men who were episcopally ordained clergymen of the Church of England. That Church was as yet undivided at that time. The members of the Assembly represented the different views of doctrine and order that were entertained within it. Many of the prelatic party who were nominated by Parliament declined to attend the Assembly, but others of them took the required oath, and assisted in the deliberations of the Assembly, at least for a time. The Independents [or Congregationalists, by another term] were represented by seven men who came to be known as the “dissenting brethren” in the Assembly.
The great majority of the members of this Assembly held Presbyterian views of Church polity, and were the successors of the Puritans, who formed a considerable body in the Church of England from the time of the Reformation. They had all along been working for a more primitive organization of the Church, and a freedom from the practices and priestly robes borrowed from the corrupt Roman Church. In the days of Elizabeth they had instituted a voluntary Presbyterian organization of the Church, and they had often suffered in her days, and during the reigns of James and Charles, for refusing to carry out the practices or wear the robes enjoined by the prelates [or high-Church Anglicans].
To this Assembly were added three ministers of the Reformed Church of France, and four learned divines of the Church of Scotland, who were seated as non-voting members, but whose voice carried great weight in the deliberations of the Assembly.
WSC_coverThe committee first charged with the work of preparing a Catechism never managed to complete its work. Some time later, the Assembly directed that both larger and a briefer catechisms should be produced, both works keeping an eye to the content of the Confession of Faith. Work then proceeded, first on the Larger Catechism, and only as that work was nearing completion did the Assembly turn its attention again to a Shorter Catechism. A new committee was named and by most accounts, the successful completion of the work is due to the efforts of just four men, and in particular the work of Antony Tuckney, Minister of St. Michael’s, London, and Master of Emanuel College, Cambridge.
Completing their work, the committee presented its report to the Assembly. After some revision of the Catechism, the addition of the Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed were considered. A vocal minority opposed the addition of the Apostles’ Creed, and to settle the matter, the Assembly determined that an explanation of the words “he descended into hell” would be added as a marginal notation. That postscript is typically not found in the American editions.
The work now finished, a message was prepared by a committee to be addressed to the Houses of Parliament when the Catechism was carried up. On Thursday, 25th of November, 1647, the House of Commons was informed that divers divines of the Assembly were at the door. They were called in, and the Prolocutor [moderator of the Assembly] delivered the Catechism and addressed the House. On the following day (November 26th) the Catechism was carried to the Lords. Each House thanked the Assembly for its care and pains in this matter. It was ordered that 600 copies be printed under the care of Mr. Byfield, for the use of the Members of Parliament and of Assembly, and that Scripture proofs be affixed in the margin of the Catechism.
Words to Live By:
One characteristic of the Shorter Catechism has not been sufficiently recognized in the past. It is a statement of personal religion. It appeals to the individual sinner, and helps the individual believer.
One anecdote serves to illustrate:
The Rev. Thomas Doolittle, a famous catechist, took great delight in catechizing and urged ministers to that work, as an effective way of establishing young people in the truth, and preparing them to read and hear sermons with advantage. Accordingly, every Lord’s day, he catechized the youth and adults of his congregation, and this part of his work bore great fruit. Once, when he had come to the question “What is effectual calling,” after some explanation, Rev. Doolittle proposed that the question should be answered by changing the words us and ourto me and my. The congregation, hearing this suggestion, a long and solemn silence followed. Many felt the weight of the idea, but none had the courage to answer. At length, one young man stood up, and with every mark of a broken and contrite heart, was able to say, “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing me of my sin and misery, enlightening my mind to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to me in the Gospel.”
The scene was truly affecting. The proposal of the question had commanded unusual solemnity. The rising up of the young man had created high expectations; and, the answer being accompanied with proofs of sincere piety and modesty, the congregation was bathed in tears. This young man had been converted by being catechized, and, to his honor, Rev. Doolittle says, “Of an ignorant and wicked youth, he had become a knowing and serious believer to God’s glory and my much comfort.”
There was an old expression, particularly among the Scottish Presbyterians, who would say, “I own the Confession.” By that, they meant that they had made its doctrine their own; they had taken the content to heart, and saw that indeed it was an accurate reflection of the teaching of Scripture. So too the Catechism, though briefer.
Reader, do you own the Catechism? Have you made it your own? Clearly it is not Scripture; no such claim is made, and that is why we speak of it as part of thesecondary standards of the Church. But it is worthwhile reading, and a great help in understanding what the Bible teaches.
[The bulk of the above was based on and freely edited from an historical account written by William Carruthers [1830-1922], which is found bound with a facsimile reproduction of an original printing of the Shorter Catechism. A digital edition of that work is available here.
WSC_order_to_print
davidtmyers | November 25, 2014 at

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Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24: Death of John Knox (1572)

by davidtmyers
On November 24, 1572, Scottish clergyman and reformer John Knox died in Edinburgh.
God's Firebrand Finally Extinguished
knoxJohnThe nickname for John Knox, as used in our title above, was bestowed on him by no less a fellow Reformer than John Calvin. It correctly characterized his life and ministry from the time he strapped on a literal sword to defend the life and ministry of George Wishart to the times of the Scottish Reformation to the very day he went home to receive his eternal rewards. That time came on November 24, 1572 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Oppressed with the infirmities of old age, Knox recognized that in God's providence his time had come to depart this old earth. Sensing that, he prevailed upon the elders of that church to call as the new pastor the Rev. James Lawson as his successor. Lawson was at that time the professor of philosophy in the college of Aberdeen. Not satisfied with a "mere" letter from the Session, Knox followed up their letter with one of his own, urging Lawson to receive the call and come quickly, stressing that if he delayed too long in answering, he might find Knox dead! When Dr. Lawson arrived, he promptly preached two sermons to the congregation. On November 9, the call was placed in his hands. As the successor to John Knox answered in the affirmative, Knox then preached his last sermon to the congregation, exhorting them to stand fast in the faith, and with that, his farewell was given to the congregation.
On the 17th of  November, the Session of St. Giles was called to his bedside. The parting words of the Reformer are too important to be absent here, so here they are:
"The time is approaching, for which I have long thirsted, wherein I shall be relieved and be free from all cares, and be with my Savior forever; and now, God is my witness, whom I have served with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that I have taught  nothing but the true and solid doctrines of the gospel, and that end which I purposed in all my doctrine, was to instruct the ignorant, to confirm the weak, to comfort the consciences of those that were humbled under the sense of their sins, and to denounce the threatening of God's Word against such as were rebellious. I am not ignorant, that, in my heart, I never hated the persons of those against whom I thundered God's judgments; I did only hate their sins, and labored, according to my power, to gain them to Christ; that I did forbear none of whatsoever condition, I did it out of fear to my God, who placed me in this function of the ministry, and I know will bring me to an account." After some words to the new pastor, he commended the whole Session to the grace of God.
From that day until the day of his death, there was read daily to him by his wife a chapter from the Epistle to the Ephesians, the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, 1 Corinthians chapter 15, and John 17, from where, he said to his wife, he had first cast his anchor.  Sermons from John Calvin in French were read to him by his assistant, John Bannatyne.
A difficult life of ministry brought to a close, John Knox departed this world in peace and honor.
Words to Live By:
How a person dies is noteworthy to the overall testimony of his life. Once, when a religious lady of his acquaintance entered his sick room, she began to commend him for the work of the Protestant Reformation. He protested her words, saying that he "wholly relied on the free mercy of God, manifesting to mankind through his dear Son, Jesus Christ, whom alone [he] embrace[d] for wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." That should be every reader's hope and assurance. Is it yours, reader?

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Nigeria update

The vigilantes and hunters that claimed back Chibok have been strengthened by the Mobile Police and army to hold on to Chibok. Let’s pray for success in repeating that in Mubi, Gwoza and other north eastern towns of Borno and Adamawa.  Holding on to these gains will be really difficult in present circumstances.  Several hundred thousands of displaced people need to be able to return to their towns and villages even though many homes have been destroyed.

Nov 12 a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the Federal College of Education, Kontagoro.  She was the only casualty. 
Nov 14 many displaced people in Cameroon were forced out of their camps so returned to Yola but many are homeless.
Nov 12 and 14 Fulani militants attacked Oga village in Wamba LGA & Fadaman Bauna of Nasarawa State.  With little of no support from army or police people are forced to take the law into their own hands to defend themselves.
Nov 14 a bomb blast rocked Kano at the NNPC Petrol Station along the Maiduguri road during rush hour.  There are no details of casualties.
Nov 15 and Sunday 16 Fulani and other muslim jihadists attacked Alakio in Nasarawa State, killing non- muslims.
Nov 16 another female suicide bomber blew herself up at Azare, Bauchi State, killing around 25 people and injuring 60 others.  A similar bomber killed many on the 7th in Azare.
Nov 17 a Special Task Force soldier shot and killed an Operation Rainbow security man in Barakin Ladi in Plateau which sparked a protest from a crowd of women blocking the main highway for many hours.  No explanation for the shooting was given.
Also Nov 17 a gunman attacked Liawa primary and secondary school in Minna town of Niger State.

The BBC have carried the report that the Emir of Kano at Friday prayers encouraged people to defend themselves against the jihadist, virtually encouraging the population to arm themselves - which is understandable but terrifying.

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Films watched in November 2014

1. War Horse


Beautifully filmed. Utterly unrealistic and totally sentimental.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15: Rev. John Witherspoon


by archivist
The Preacher and Politician Meets His Savior
These days, we don’t meet many preachers or politicians who have accomplished as much in the realms of both church and state as the Rev. John Witherspoon did in his seventy-one years of life—and those accomplishments spanned two nations, as well! And that is the reason why we have dealt with this man and his ministry on five separate dates, this one included. (From earlier year's here on TDPH, see also February 5May 17,August 7, and October 20).  He had a well-deserved reputation as one who was faithful to his Savior, to the saints of God, and to the average citizens of this great republic. He would go to be with his Lord and King on November 15, 1794.
Born in Scotland and raised to an effective ministry for the kingdom of God there in that “mother country,” Witherspoon answered the call to come to the American colonies. John and Elizabeth Witherspoon, along with their five children, traveled here by ship in 1768. Taking the presidency of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), he brought stability to that educational facility in their instruction, library, and financial matters. In the twenty-six years in which he was president, preaching in the nearby Princeton Presbyterian Church known as Nassau Presbyterian, which he founded, and teaching six courses of college level instruction, he taught a president of the United States (James Madison), a Vice-president, nine cabinet members, twenty-one senators, thirty-nine congressmen, three justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, twelve state governors, five members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and fifty-two delegates out of one hundred and eighty-eight teaching and ruling elders of the first General Assembly in 1789 of the Presbyterian Church in America. Talk about a vital presence in both the church and the state!
We have all heard of John Witherspoon being the only clergyman who signed the Declaration of Independence, present on that occasion as one of four delegates from the State of New Jersey. But how many of us are aware of the fact that he was to serve on one hundred of the committees working to set up the new nation? He helped draft the Acts of Confederation and supported the adoption of the United States Constitution.
Despite the importance of this civil side of John Witherspoon, he never forgot that first and foremost, he was a herald of the gospel. Consider his words in a sermon he preached in 1758:
“I shall now conclude my discourse by preaching this Savior to all who hear me, and entreating you to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other. If you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness, you must forever perish.”
Witherspoon understood that, as his precious Savior put it in the gospels, you could possess the whole world but lose your own soul outside of Jesus Christ. There was and is no profit in that sad situation.
John Witherspoon would become blind two years before his death at seventy-one years of age. He is buried in the Princeton Cemetery with an inscription on his tombstone of 239 words, all in Latin!
Words to live by:  It is rare to find someone in history who accomplished so much for church and state.  Usually, when we find someone who has been known for his work in government, it is at the impoverishment of his Christian testimony. But in John Witherspoon’s faith and life, he simply believed strongly that his faith should impact every area of life, including that of the national affairs of his new country.  This culture mandate is no different from what is demanded of all believers today.  We must enter into every sphere of life with the changeless message of the gospel, seeking to influence those spheres in which God has placed us for His glory and the good of the people found there.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nigeria update

Two bombings in the last few days, both by suicide bombers.  The first was last Friday at Azare in Bauchi State (that’s where the Jos/Maiduguri and Kano/Maiduguri main roads meet).  It was State pay day so many people were queing to use the ATM to draw cash when, it’s thought a girl detonated the bomb killing many people.  Then yesterday 10th a suicide bomber joined the students as they paraded at the beginning of the day at  a Compresensive Secondary school Potiskum in Yobe State.  The bomber was dressed in school uniform (according to the BBC) and detonated a bomb he held in a bag.  BBC said 50 were killed, many quite young, and many were seriously injured.

On Sunday it is reported that a group of farmers from several villages in Nasarawa Eggon LGA of Nasarawa State were ambushed by Fulani and other mercenaries killing 32.  Their motor cycles were then stolen.

Mubi city is a ghost town occupied by BH jihadists.  An eye witness said many bodies are still in the road, many wearing army uniform.

Today 11th it is reported that Rim in Riyom LGA in Pleateau was under attack. Injured were already on their way to Vom Hospital.

Someone alerted us to two articles in the New York Times on the BH and the Potiskum bombings and the Vigilantes that have sprung up in Maiduguri especially.  You can see these at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/magazine/inside-the-vigilante-fight-against-boko-haram.html?smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/11/world/africa/nigeria-suicide-bomber-boko-haram.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI%3A12%22%7D  These do make chilling reading but give a picture of life in these parts of Nigeria familiar to many of us.

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Latest from Nigeria

The situation in Mubi, the second town of Adamawa State has been over run my Boko Haram, as have most of the villages in that whole area of north Adamawa.  Lassa where the population is 95% Christian and the large Lassa hospital, formerly C’ian Brethren Mission CBM was targeted.  We haven’t heard the current situation, but we understand all the people have fled.  Cars have been stopped and the occupants either forced into Islam or killed with the women getting 40 lashes.  The brutality is horrendous.  BH have now declared their Caliphate extends to near Yola, and even threaten the capital city.
On the 31st Oct Fulani and some mercenaries attacked areas in Bokkos Plateau State destroying a number of villages.  Reports say over 100 have been killed with even towns destroyed and thousands displaced.  Further attacks were reported in Nasarawa State, burning houses of all non-Muslims.

Also on the 31st a bomb went off in Gombe lorry/bus park when 8 were killed and others injured and taken to Gombe Gen Hospital.
BH have said they have no intention of keeping a cease fire and that the 200 Chibok girls will not be released and in fact have all been married off (no surprise there) .
On 3rd Nov another bomb went off in Potiskum, Yobe State with 10 confirmed dead.

News came through of around 2000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, all from the Gwoza area, have been forced to run by the local Cameroonians.  Many have no food and no-where to go.

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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Books read in November 2014

1. The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens

Peter Hitchins writes well with logic and grace. His logic is turned to the folly of those who seek after utopia, his grace extended towards his atheist brother who has been a life long antagonist. Hitchins starts with autobiography, his journey from compulsory chapel at public school to avowed atheism, Trotskyite politics, success in journalism then a gradual coming to faith motivated by retiring to ponder the fear of God. He examines reasons for loss of Christian faith in Britain and the horrible effects of atheism in the USSR. I would differ from his placing the two world wars as the major cause of decline of Christianity in Britain. For me the cause and blame are at the door of those who, while professing Christianity, lost faith in the veracity of Scripture and the reality of the supernatural. He then addresses three failed arguments of atheism. First conflicts fought in the name of religion are not about religion. Religion has not been the cause of recent conflicts. They  are about power and control. Is it possible to determine what is right and wrong without God?
Are atheist states actually atheist or are their leaders self-proclaimed false gods? Finally he looks at militant atheism He describes the folly of Leftists in the west who admired the pre-war Soviet regime. He tells of the Soviets systematic campaign against Christianity. He shows how today's new atheists, like the old USSR, would prohibit parents teaching the faith to their children. Finally he concludes by telling us why he will no longer engage in pub;ic debate with his brother. The book was published before his brother's death. This is an excellent critique of atheism old and new, of all utopianism, secularism and socialism. It is a book which can encourage believers despite Hitchen's pessimism concerning the prospect of a godless future.

2.The Cameron Delusion by Peter Hitchens 

A revised edition of his earlier book, The Broken Compass, this was published in early 2009 with Brown as Premier and before the full effects of the banking crisis were known. The first part on how Britain is governed tells how the major parties are now so alike fighting for the centre ground with a consensus on many issues. It is most informative on how politics is reported, the cosy alliance between journalists and politicians, well fed at expensive restaurants. He shows how previous fans of Blair would be happy to see Brown go for Cameron would mean little change, an astute prescience. The next part details how the left in the West failed to properly critique the evil Soviet empire, witness the TUC's failure to back Solidarity. He then examines how racialism, an irrational evil creed, became racism, a convenient slur on anyone defending our monocultural heritage. He criticises feminism for when liberating women from the kitchen it has enslaved them to the workplace. Happy with the original decriminalisation of homosexual acts he critiques subsequent campaigning for homosexual equality, e.g. civil partnerships. This was written before Cameron redefined marriage. He shows how those wanting equality turn into being intolerant of dissent labelling others as homophobic. Sometimes one may be surprised by the position he takes, like his criticism of Thatchers sale of Council houses. He is scathing on egalitarian comprehensive education, the loss of grammar schools, the best ladder of social mobility. He shows that in recent years the value of exam grades has been devalued as most of us have suspected. His chapter lamenting the loss of railways and the effect of road building is a thought provoking surprise. He ends with critiquing the support for Blairs war on Iraq which came from both right and left. This is a pessimistic volume. I looked to see if he has published more of late, but only The Rage Against God.

3. Roy of the Rovers: The Official Autobiography of Roy of the Rovers by Roy Race

Roy I had heard of but not read before. A football loving friend loaned this to me and it was a fun read if more in the realm of fantasy than football. How else could someone lead a side overseas only to be repeatedly kidnapped with the price a freedom, a football game against their captors. Similarly some incredibly huge crowds, endless last minute goals and generally goals galore. The book does accurately chronicle developments in the game e.g. going from no substitutes through one for injury and up to the present bench.  Apart from kidnappings, two murder attempts and a terrorist bomb it is all good clean fun. Particularly clean is the personal sexual morality of the hero. One might think he is for his era an unusual footballer morally, no drink, drugs or cigarettes. A book that is clean and funny, suitable for adults and children and all who love the fantasy that is football.

4. The Brentford Triangle (Brentford Trilogy) by Robert Rankin

I read this out of local interest. I do not usually read fantasy but this is as much comedy as fantasy with Brentford in danger of attack from aliens. It has the cast first met in The Antipope. I do not know if the genre is growing on me but I enjoyed this more than the earlier novel. However I am still resistant to the genre so am not likely to read more in the series. But if this is your cup of tea, a very good cup it is.

5. At the Cutting Edge: A Lifetime of Politics, Industry and Faith by Sir Fred Catherwood 

Published in 1996, I wish there was an updated edition as the work stops before New Labour and I would like to fead Sir Fred's views on more recent developments and his retirement activities. This is a fascinating account of a strong Christian faith motivating a man at the top in industry, domestic and European politics. He is a passionate European and most critical of many aspects of the Thatcher government when he was a Conservative MEP. Before that he was seconded from industrial senior management to be a senior government advisor under Labour. I found his disclosure that before the UK entered the then Common Market, senior politicians, in private were saying that entry was about more than economics. Sir Fred's case for the EU is definitely economic. I found his criticism of the British parliamentary system refreshing and his desire for a written constitution a surprise. His analysis of the moral decline of our society is spot on and the trends he highlights have only continued since 1996. The family is the backbone of this story. He moved from the pietism of his Brethren upbringing to really apply his faith in all of life. I do wonder if he thought his late father in law, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was more in the pietist tradition? One very regrettable development after this was published was Roy Clements leaving the pastorate of the church where the Catherwoods were members. I enjoyed this book and it leaves me wondering  what if some of the economic policies he advocated had been followed.

6. Seeing Through Cynicism by Dick Keyes 

The first thing of note about this fine book is the witty title. The cynic claims to see past the outer veneer, the pretence and through his suspicion unmask the reality. He is the critic par excellence. Here this critic gets his come uppance on the basis of the astute argument from Dick Keyes' Christian faith. The author sees through the cynic to man the glorious ruin, a phrase from Francis Schaeffer to whom the author owes a lot, especially in his critique of postmodernism. We cannot know exhaustively but we can know truly. Modern cynical thought is thoroughly exposed in its multiple manifestations. I was particularly taken with the refutation of evolutionary psychology. There are many profound insights, some notably from Scripture passages. His treatment of providence in the light of Job is superb as are his insights into marriage. I found the idea that the best wine coming last at the marriage at Cana being a picture of how marriage itself develops to be a beautiful picture. Well written, erudite and well argued. First class and suitable for a non-christian friend.

7. The Muslim World A Presbyterian Mandate by Greg Livingstone

This fine book is by a veteran missionary to Muslims, a man with over 50 years of service with The Evangelical Presbyterian Church who published the book in USA.  My copy came from the author who lives in England so I am sure you can contact him greg.livingstone@epc.org if you seek a copy. My only criticism of this book is that it is not more widely available for though it is primarily written to further awaken the author's own denomination to Muslim evangelism and church planting, its message is not only suitable for those of the Reformed tradition but a message that all Evangelicals need to hear. This is a resounding call to plant gospel churches among Muslim communities. The question is posed as to why there are so few churches of former Muslims. The obstacles are delineated. The history is related of Presbyterian and Reformed missions to the Muslim world. The calling is given with practical instructions as to what is needed to form and send church planting teams. This is no call for hit and run evangelism but for real church planting.

8. The Invisible Arab by Marwan Bishara 

Marwan Bishara says of himself "Growing up in Nazareth, an Arab in a Jewish state, a secular Christian in a traditional Muslim society," He writes as a senior political analyst and presenter for Al Jazeera. The book was written in late 2011 so is sadly already dated. Events have moved on in Egypt, Syria and Iraq so his optimistic view of the promise of Arab revolution seems dated. Bur this remains a most informative volume from an Arab perspective. The recent history of the Middle East is delineated from colonialism to repressive dictatorships and monarchies, supported in their corruption by Western powers and businesses. Then came 'the miracle generation', youth informed by the internet and satellite TV, who were able to unite and bring down regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. I found the most informative chapter to be on Islamism and democracy where the prospects for democracy, secularism and Islam are discussed. I do have some quibbles. on p23 he writes, 'the Islamic world accounts for some of the world's economically successful and democratic nations,'. Rule out the oil and where is economic success? His book describes some democratic initiatives which are no longer exactly flourishing.  p.34 - Tunisia. Gender equality was established in the mid-1950s, long before other Arab and European women enjoyed the same rights and privileges' I do wonder how UK women lagged behind Tunisians! p71 'violence prior to September 11, 2011.' A mistake for 2001. As one might expect the author is highly critical of the West in general, the US and Israel in particular. He is therefore an answer to Burns' prayer, 'O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!'  But he is similarly critical of Arab states and rulers.

9.  Upon this Rock - A history of Welwyn Evangelical Church to 1928 by Raymond Belton

Having been married at Welwyn where my wife was a church member I read this with interest and it is a fascinating account of a non-conformist church in a rural Hertfordshire village from the late 18th century. The church has maintained a consistent Calvinistic witness down the years. This book was published in 1928 and reprinted in 2014. I am left wondering why it was not updated for one is left with unanswered questions. When did the church move to its present building? When and why the change of name ? When and why the move to baprtstic practice.?

10. And So to Bed...: A Biblical View of Sleep by Adrian Reynolds 

One may think this is a strange subject for a Christian author but he teaches us that sleep is part of our created humanity, a good gift to be treasured and enjoyed and an earthly picture of a spiritual reality. He concludes with answers to a good night's sleep. I am impressed by the author's holistic approach. He describes how physical and mental factors may affect sleep as well as spiritual ones. Here is sound teaching and advice given in a pleasing way, not without humour. The one omission I think is there is no treatment of soul sleep. Asleep in Jesus is quoted from Victorian tombstones but what of the idea that the dead in Christ are asleep, not sentient until the resurrection? This is I believe an error that the author should have addressed.

11. The Long Haul (Diary of a Wimpy Kid book 9) by Jeff Kinney

I was asked to buy the Wimpy Kid series of books for a 10 year old granddaughter so thought I would have a look at her choice of reading. The author is a very popular American but the bok has been 'translated' into British English - except for the odd word, check for cheque. The setting though is 100% an American holiday journey. I found it an engrossing tale, inventive and with laugh out loud humour. My only criticism, Me and Rodrick. Rodrick and I please.

12.  C.S. Lewis: His Life & Thought by Terry Glaspey 


First the author gives us a brief life of Lewis. It lacks the detail or depth of McGrath's later work but it is a concise biography. Then we have thirty brief chapters on Lewis's thought followed by a concluding section on the influence of Lewis. The thought of Lewis is lucidly explained but I wonder if the author has sanitised Lewis in areas where others have thought him somewhat heterodox e.g. his doctrine of Scripture. Finally I was puzzled by Glaspey calling the Guardian a conservative paper. American ignorance? Then there were two references to Lewis drinking dark English beer. Does he mean bitter or stout? Lastly he uses the word homely several times and I could not work out if this was the American sense of plain or the English one of warm and welcoming.

13.  Richard Baxter and the Millennium : Protestant Imperialism and the English Revolution by William M. Lamont

A scholarly work which could be improved by latin being translated. Baxter was a giant among puritans, if at times less than orthodox for his time. His most basic point of departure was following Davenant on the atonement, denying particular redemption. But when imprisoned for 18 months late in his life his study of the apocalyptic books led him to assert that the papacy is but an antichrist, not the antichrist, once again he parted company with the Westminster Divines. Baxter was no separatist. He wants an established national church in a holy commonwealth. He worked to unite Independents, Presbyterians and Episcopalians. Regarding Oliver Cromwell as a usurping regicide he had great hopes for this vision under Richard Cromwell and was not happy with John Owen's part in the deposing of Richard. Baxter never met Richard but dedicating a book to him meant trouble at the Restoration. Equally dedicating a later volume to Lauderdale did not endear him to fellow dissenters. After the Restoration Baxter was offered and declined bishoprics in both England and Scotland. His refusal was not because of antipathy to mild non-prelatical episcopacy, but because he would not be free to ecxert godly disciple in the church. He was scathing of academics with no experience of pastoral care as he was of young writers on the civil war with no experience of the conflict.
   The second chapter examines his views on the origins of the war. He believed the cause was Charles encouraging the Catholic rebels in Ireland in the expectation that he would have their aid then in England. Baxter believed the war did not start from a religious cause but developed into one. He was no republican though a chaplain in the Parliamentary army. He strongly advocated submission to all rulers, even the ungodly, as persecution from an evil ruler is not as bad as persecution from the anarchic mob. His reason for rebellion against Charles was his belief that he was allied to Rome and that when Rome had no more use for him the papists conspired for his execution. I found this astonishing but the book shows clearly the anti-catholic spirit of the age. Popish plots abounded. Early Quakers and many sectarians were viewed by Baxter as masked Jesuits. He did though on a personal level treat Catholics with kindness. They were though not to be trusted with government so after the Restoration he viewed with alarm anything in the Established Church which might savour of rapprochement with Catholicism.
    Mention is made of baxter's outstanding pastoral work, catachising all of Kidiminster, labouring to unite the clergy in his Worcestershire Association as well as personal counselling especially for the melancholic. But the big surprise was his book, The Poor Husbandman's Advocate not published until 1926, perhaps because of its social radicalism. He said landlords should reduce rents and make sure the poor were not so exhausted by their labours as to have no time for Bible reading and family devotions. Private property was a stewardship. The rich should not complain about taxation as they were the ones with money which could be used for others. All in all a very informative work about a great man.

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