Archive for category Church of England

My Scottish ancestors and the Disruption of 1843

Over the years I have always known my surname ‘Sutherland’ has implications of Scottish ancestry. My father often told me that his grandfather was Scottish, but I never gave it any serious thought until recently. It was then when I discovered that my great-grandfather “Daniel Sutherland” had journeyed to Lancashire from Old Machar, Aberdeenshire in the late 1890’s. The Great Depression of 1873-1896 had effected many people, including the Sutherland’s of Scotland. This lineage led me to my 3rd great-grandfather John Sutherland (1803-1884) of Golspie, just north of the historic seat of the Earl of Sutherland, the chiefs of clan Sutherland.

My 3rd great-grandfather witnessed an event known as “The Disruption of 1843”. A schism or division between the established Church of Scotland and Scottish Protestants. Some 450 evangelical ministers walked out of the established church to form the Free Church of Scotland. After ten years of bitter conflict, Scotland would never be the same again.

The history shows that proceeding the days of the 16th century, and the Scottish reformation associated with John Knox, the majority of Scottish people were in support of the reformation. During Mary Tudor’s totalitarian persecution of Christians, Knox had left Scotland for Geneva where John Calvin had established a majority position. When Knox returned to Scotland he brought this reformation with him and this foundation remained in the Church of Scotland for centuries. However, between 1833 – 1843, Scottish evangelicals underwent ten years of conflict leading to a protest against state interference with the Church. Scotland saw a mass exodus of ministers and congregations leave their beloved churches to form their own. It was a bitter business that would cause mental stress, division and upset to families and entire congregations and would cause ministers to be without homes or financial support. Thus the proceeding years saw Scotland having two churches, the Church of Scotland and the newly formed Free Church of Scotland.

Division and disruption does not always break Christianity up, it often enhances and expands it. But this disruption should never have happened, even though it was a necessary response.

Nobody wants division like this. The majority of rational people all desire peace. But historic events such as these are a finger of warning to political activists and those who cause divisions by teaching and enforcing things they ought not. There is always a cost. History proves that.

My 3rd great-grandfather John Sutherland was 40 years old when he saw this disruption with his own eyes. Yet he went on to live until he was 81. He had two children with his wife Mary. Their son Daniel Sutherland, was my 2nd great-grandfather. Daniel was 15 years old when the disruption occurred.

Their ancestors are my bloodline and the name Sutherland goes all the way back to William Sutherland (William De Moravia), the son in law of King Robert the Bruce.

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Remember the Great Ejection

In 1662, the Church of England ejected thousands of ministers from their ministerial positions. At that point, the civil war was over and England had seen the restoration of Charles 11.

Back in those days the dispute was concerning the nature of the faith when contrasted with the new revisions of the Book of Common Prayer. Today these revisions would be seen as unimportant, but maybe they were.

Outstanding ministers, preachers, thinkers and writers such as Richard Baxter, John Flavel, Thomas Watson, Simeon Ashe, Thomas Brooks and thousands more were forced out of the Church by revisionists, who wanted to sway the church with the flow of the wind.

In Albert Square Manchester, a 19th century building called “Memorial Hall” stands to commemorate this important history.

This unnecessary historic division caused the C of E to lose the very people it needed to keep. Of which the Bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle, rightly commented that the great ejection was “an injury to the cause of true religion in England which will probably never be repaired.”

This Bishop of Liverpool was correct and I hope the present Church of England remembers this.

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Does the 1549 Book of Common Prayer teach ‘Limited Atonement’?

The original 1549 Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer is a wonderful and historically significant Christian book. In Rylands Library I have had the honour of reviewing and researching ancient original copies of this work, in the original prints and wording.

The original Book of Common Prayer supports the claim to universal redemption as a consistent Christian truth. The text of reads as follows;

Answere:

First, I Leanne to believe in God the father, who hathe made me and the worlde.

Secondly, in God the sonne, who hath redeemed me and all mankind.

Thirdly, I God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the electe people of God” (The Book of Common Prayer. 1549. A Cathechisme.)

The proposed questions which I set forth are these;

Q. does this article consider the possibility that the world does not mean ‘the entire world’? That is the entire human race?

A. No it does not. The text clearly states in clear basic terms for simple Christians in England during the 16th century, not to view the world as meaning only the elect or the people from within the world, but all the world. If God made all the world and this means ‘all’, then it follows that when the passage speaks of redeeming “all mankind”, that it means ‘all’ and not only some.

Q. Does this imply universalism? Or does this imply universal offering of redemption?

A. I think the word “redemption” states that the passage refers to universal redemption, that is in the sense of Christ regaining possession of mankind, in the context of a payment. It does not imply universalism. I think there is not even a hint of limited atonement within this article.

Q. But does not the text say “sanctifieth me, and all the elect”? Yes, it does. That those whom have the Holy Spirit are elect and are sanctified by Him and when the Holy Spirit is given, His work is effectual for those who believe. But that belief must be present, active and continuous. A person need not be understood as ‘elect’ because he or she has been determined by God to be elect in order to believe, but that he or she is elect because they believe.

Once again we see further proofs in favor of my claim that the Calvinistic doctrine of ‘Limited Atonement’ need not be understood as pure reformed teaching.

We must consider that if Christ has died for all, He must have made a way for all to receive Him, as communicated throughout the New Testament. But Calvinism cruelly offers salvation to people when in reality it knows all too well that unless a person is determined to believe, he or she cannot receive the grace of God unless that soul has been predestined and elected to salvation by the deterministic power of ‘God’. It offers a man bread only to give him a stone.

It is a very cruel doctrine that is somewhat deceptively diluted by many modern Calvinist preachers and presented as reformed. Yet the 39 Articles of Religion (1562) do not teach it. On the contrary, Article XXX1 (31) states the following;

The Offering of Christ once made it that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.

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Visiting Westminster Abbey

In 2019 I visited Westminster Abbey for the very first time. This was of course in our pre ‘Covid-19’ world which can at times seem a little difficult to conceive. It can almost appear a lifetime ago when people wandered around with hardly anybody wearing face masks, or socially distancing themselves.

To go back even further, I remember visiting Big Ben with my parents back in the 1980’s. However, since Lancashire is well north of London, many of my later visits had centralised themselves around the music scene. History had not yet taken it’s prominence with me.

Today, London has changed quite a lot. It is still however, one of those great places where all people can still find something to do. Whether you are a Christian or a history fanatic like me, a saint or a sinner, or someone who just likes to enjoy the moment, few can deny that visiting Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament rarely makes anyone feel out of place. Or at least it shouldn’t do.

Then comes matters of faith, where the soul of a Christian can often feel out of place in this ever changing world, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.” (Hebrews 13: 14) Then comes the material Ecclesiastical buildings known as Churches. They can without doubt help the tent of the soul to feel at home. I certainly did, especially when I reached Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is a beautiful place that was founded in 960 AD and although the present building dates to the 13th century, it is believed to be dedicated to St Peter.

Standing outside Westminster Abbey can leave a person in awe. While contemplating the many souls and pilgrims who have, for many centuries, been visiting and worshipping here, it is not difficult to reflect upon your own mortality.

It was here where, at the Abbey, where folklore claims the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” either originated or at least, took on a new meaning. The story goes that when Westminster was dissolved in 1550, some of the assets were sold to fund the repairs for the old St Pauls.

Curiously enough, St Pauls Cathedral sits 2 miles away from Westminster Abbey who’s architecture differs dramatically. The former has external similarities to St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican), whereas Westminster Abbey is distinctly gothic.

At times the Abbey can have the feeling of looking like a ghost or a spirit from the past. It is alive but not alive, like a soul who has long gone but who’s spirit lives on. I speak course of the building, and not of any humans. The Christian Church however is not a building, but a people. A congregation of human souls who are united in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today however, Christians are not always united. Doctrine divides. One person follows this teacher, another follows that. Yet all claiming to read the same Bible. Strange isn’t it that too many congregations have separated themselves and are all too quick to condemn others for holding opinions that differ to their own. Yet each one reading from the same Bible.

However, it was here, at Westminster Abbey, on Saturday 23rd February 2019 that I decided for certain that I am joining the Church of England and here I will stay. The Anglican communion is far from perfect, but at least here people can agree to disagree.

Since that time I have been drawn to prayer more than ever and the Book of Common Prayer has helped me enormously through the difficult seasons of lockdown.

Today, in September 2020, a person does not need to look very far to see that this world is a mess. England is no better. Such is always the case when nations abandon the principles of their Maker. But I have a hope within me that England and the Church will be great again, even if the Lord judges her before that time. Light After Darkness (Post Tenebras Lux) is written in creation. Of this I am sure.

I am also sure that although great buildings may not actually be the Church, they can certainly help believers congregate together, and hopefully, if right doctrine permits, dwell together in unity and in truth.

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Why I have returned to the Church of England

Church Steeple © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

© 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Over the last few years I had been attending a Baptist Church. However, due to a recent unnecessary, unorthodox, sectarian practice of ‘re-baptism‘ I have left the Baptist church and have returned to the Church of England. 

For some, this decision may seem unhealthy. Liberalism, it seems, has corrupted the Anglican communion. Such views would not be entirely wrong.

However, things are not as simple as that. The Anglican communion is a very complicated establishment, and is deeply divided. Liberalism and a false gospel has indeed corrupted the establishment but it has not corrupted the true conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England. This conservative evangelical branch, I argue, is the true Church of England. The liberal, revisionist branch is a false distortion. I believe it has forsaken the Bible.

Because of changing times, liberalism and church corruption, many churches are closing. Yet the many parishes that remain true to the Gospel, are in fact flourishing. It is to this conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England that I abide.

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© 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

In the 16th century, many reformed Christians died for the faith. Tyndale, Frith, Latimer, Cranmer, Ridley, Bradford and George Marsh, were all Church of England men. Yet it was a fight even back then. Today, over four hundred years later, there is still a continuous movement to reform the Church of England from within. Organisations such as Reform and Church Society all continue to abide in loyalty to the Bible and the principles of the doctrines of the reformation.

For me, the true Church of England is the way forward. As a churchwarden of Deane once said to me, ‘I truly believe the Church of England is “the best boat to fish from”. I believe this is true. For me, Cathedrals are some of the most inspiring monuments a person can ever visit and I am in the historic presence of some of the greatest men Christianity has ever known. Unlike many independent churches, which are often self governing and separatist, the Congregation Christ spoke of in Matthew 16: 18 was one. It was not divided into denominations. It was simply the Congregation of believers.

I have faith that Christ will continue to build His Congregation, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Being in the Baptist church, was not all bad. I still have many fond memories and those memories will remain. But the Lord would not leave me there. There is a path that I must take. For me, my Christian journey has simply reached a new era. It is simply unacceptable that the Church of England has been robbed of the Gospel. We ought not to forsake her. Something needs to be done. There must be reformation.

 

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