Archive for category Christianity
This year my wife and I and our sons spent ‘all hallows’ and ‘Reformation day’ in Oxford remembering the true meaning of the so-called ‘Halloweeen’. Visiting the ancient sites associated with historic Christians such as John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, Nicolas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer and Welsh Bible translator William Salesbury.
Oxford is one of those cities where history and the present meet together on every street. If one looks closely, stories and histories can be told on every street corner.
One of those stories which stood out to me on this trip was that of the trial of Hugh Latimer. A great reformer of the 16th century.
Latimer had studied at Cambridge and became a Bishop in the Church of England and for a time served as Chaplain to King Edward V1. However on the Coronation of bloody Mary to the throne, Latimer was brought to trial for his Biblical teachings and would eventually be condemned and burned at the stake with Nicolas Ridley, outside the city walls and Balliol College, on Broad Street where John Wycliffe had been Master.
During our time in Oxford we visited St Mary’s Church where the trial took place. As I stood in the centre of that room Latimer’s words echoed through my mind. Upon being questioned concerning his denial of Transubstantiation, Latimer declared that his memory had “plain gone” and that his teachings were true to Scripture and agreed with the Church fathers, when the Church fathers agreed with Scripture.
Concerning the Eucharist, Latimer was presented with a series of articles of which article 1 said “In the sacrament of the alter, by the virtue of God’s word pronounced by the priest, there is really present the natural body of Christ, conceived of the Virgin Mary, under the kinds of appearance of bread and wine; in like manner His blood.”
To this doctrine, Latimer replied;
“I answer that for the right celebration of the Lord’s Supper, there is none other presence of Christ required than a spiritual presence; and this presence is sufficient for a Christian man, as the presence by which we abide in Christ, and Christ abideth in us, to the obtaining of eternal life, if we persevere therein.”
Note that Latimer held to the very Biblical position that faith in Jesus Christ is ‘past, present, continuous‘ and ‘if’ we abide in Christ, Christ abides in us and by this abiding faith, we obtain eternal life, “if we persevere therein”.
For many Christians, these truth’s are nothing less than exactly what Scripture teaches. But concerning the case of Latimer, the enemies of Biblical truth were the Roman Catholic Priests and the Anabaptists. Of whom he goes on further to say; “And this I here rehearse lest some sycophant or scorner should suppose me, with the Anabaptists, to make nothing else of the sacrament but a bare and naked sign.”
As I stood in the exact location in the Chapel where Latimer stood and the location where Cranmer made his defence, I was reminded of the cost of following Christ and being true to His Word. I know that from my own trials over the years within the Christian Church, my loyalty to Scripture has cost me the pulpit more than once.
Being loyal to Scripture is a battle from start to finish, and the Church is often the one that prevents the Christian loyalty to the Biblical text. So often it is a historic fact that the so-called Christian Church has been one of the major opponents of true Christianity. But in all this I count it all as part of the cost of knowing Christ. We lose in this life, but Christ wins. Even amidst persecution, Christ wins. After all, was it not the so-called Christian Church which persecuted the reformers? Was it not the official legal priests who insulted and accused my Lord Jesus Christ? Was it not the priests who murdered the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament Apostles? How much more then will the hypocrites continue to accuse those who obey Scripture rather than the whims, fictions and fairy tales of men.
Christians, be encouraged, stand with Latimer in the Truth and know that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and abide in Him, you will never perish.
On that note Christians, I leave you with the echoing words and memory of Hugh Latimer, who, proceeding his trial, on his way to being burned at the stake, declared his salvation to men, saying thus;
“Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”.
Recently I acquired a 19th century scrapbook.
The scrapbook contains a lot of truly interesting things. Newspaper articles, letters, pictures, concert advertisements, and toward the front there is a poem. This poem is called “The Love of Money” and speaks against money preachers and ministers of the 19th century. It begins with a quote from 1 Timothy 6: 10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows”.
In that text, Paul was stating that many had been led away from Truth and walked away from Christ and lost what they had and in doing so fell into a life of misery.
The poem is an insightful warning and one that is even still so relevant to our day, where so many people fall away from Truth and into error out of their love of money, and the pursuit of acceptance. As Bob Dylan once wrote; “money doesn’t talk, it swears“.
The old poem reads like so;
“MONEY ! oh money ! thy praises I sing,
Thou art my Savior, my God, and my King;
Tis for thee that I preach, and for thee that I pray, And make a collection twice each sabbath day.
I have candles, and all sorts of dresses to buy,
For I wish you know that my church is called high-
I don’t mean in structure of steeple or wall,
But so high that the Lord cannot reach it at all.
I have poor in my parish who need some relief –
I preach to their poverty, pray for their grief;
I send my box round to them, morning and night,
And hope they’ll remember “the poor widow’s mite.”
I gather my knowledge from wisdom’s great tree,
And the whole of my Trinity is £,s, and d ;
Yes, pounds, shillings, and pence, are all that I crave.
From my first step on earth to the brink of the grave.
When I’m laid low, and my body at rest,
Place a box on my grave, – ’tis my latest request,
That friends may all see who come for reflection,
I can’t rest in peace without a collection.
Money’s my creed, I’ll not pray without it,
My heaven is closed ‘gainst all those who doubt it;
For this is the essence of parson’s religion-
Come regular to church and be plucked like a pigeon.
My pay may be hundreds or thousands a year-
Double it, treble it, still I’ll be here
With my box or my bags, collecting your brass,
For I can’t do as Jesus did -ride on an ass.
I’ll have carriage and horses, and servants, and hall, –
I am not going to foot it, like Peter and Paul;
Neither like John – live on locust and honey, –
So out with your purses, and down with your money.
Fools sometimes ask what I do with this money !
They might just as well ask what bees do with honey !
I answer them all with a wink or a nod;
I keep three-birds myself, and give praises to God.
In the cold silent earth I may soon be laid low,
And sleep with the blest that went long ago;
I shall slumber in peace till the great resurrection,
Then be first to my legs to make a collection.”
Earlier this year I found an old Welsh book in Wales on Christian martyrs dating to 1813. The book itself covers the lives of William Tyndale, Martin Luther, George Marsh, John Bradford, Nicolas Ridley, and so forth and the pages appear in good condition for the age. However, a page that stood out to me contained an image of William Tyndale. The 16th century martyr and translator of the New Testament into English. The reason the print stood out is because Tyndale’s image had been ripped out.
Tyndale was a good Christian man and dedicated his life to the delivering of the Word of God to all English speaking people. The Church of his day rejected him, but his translation work laid the foundations of the Coverdale Bible, Bishops Bible, Geneva Bible and the King James Bible of 1611 and all significant English translations from 1535 to this day. 80-90% of the New Testament in the King James Bible has been shown to be the translation work of Tyndale.
The torn image seems to be deliberate? I say this because the book appears to have no damage elsewhere. However, even if the tare is coincidental, it still begs me to think upon how torn apart true Christians can be at times. Men like Tyndale held fast to the Bible and would not deny the text even in the face of danger, excommunication, imprisonment and execution. And how often has it taken place since his day that men and women who stand firm upon the text of the Bible are either rejected by the Church or ridiculed, mocked, insulted, and maligned by the world.
How true is that of our day.
I have recently returned to England from my visit to the Greek island of Crete.
Travelling thousands of miles across Biblical landscape is always insightful and my primary goal on Crete was to seek out the historic locations written about in Acts 27 and Paul’s letter to Titus.
My desire was to gain a more historic understanding of Titus 3: 5
“for this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting”.
2000 years ago Paul gave commission to Titus to appoint elders in every city on Crete. My aim in visiting Crete was to discover those ancient cities and gain an historic understanding of the work Titus did on Crete. Along the way standing face to face with the ancient law code of Gortyna, the mysteries of the Phaistos disc, ancient Minoan culture, and in some cases frustration at the sheer amount of unexcavated sites, leading to a general lack of information.
However, travelling over 100 miles across the island, visiting the ancient cities of Heraklion, Gortyna, Lasea and the spectacular mountains to port of ‘Kalio Limenes’ (fair havens) proved insightful to the Biblical narrative yet left many unanswered questions.
Part of the reason for this is that much of the history of ancient Crete has little connection to the New Testament era. Ancient cities such as Knossos have connections but they were long gone by the 1st century AD. But Gortyna and Kalio Limenes are key locations.
On Crete I filmed around 5 hours worth of footage for a documentary on the subject, battling with strong winds. I hope to complete that task in the distant future but in the meantime, I will continue in researching Paul and Titus’ work on Crete.
Thursday 12th November 2015 saw the 400th anniversary of 17th century Puritan Theologian, hymn writer and minister Richard Baxter.
Richard Baxter was born on 12th November 1615 and died 8th December 1691. He is famed for being minister at Kidderminster. He was a towering figure in the nonconformist movement. He lived through the English Civil war.
He was a great Christian man and a true witness to the life of Christ. He wrote many books, which are still published even to this day and his work “the Saints everlasting rest” is one of my favoured works in all of Christianity.
Baxter interpreted Scripture that Christ died for ‘all mankind’ in the sense of Christ dying for sins, not only for the elect. The substitutionary atonement of Christ was available for all men in Adam, no one was excluded. The atonement was available for all who believe in Jesus Christ and that no man was excluded from believing in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
Baxter’s Theological position on the universal offering of salvation was not favoured by the majority Calvinists of his day and he ran into conflict with John Owen, the author of ‘the death of death in the death of Christ’. Owen believed that the sacrifice of Christ granted nothing for the none-elect and the doctrine of ‘double predestination’ was a logical conclusion to the doctrines of predestination, election and reprobation.
Baxter believed the doctrine of ‘limited atonement’ in the 5 point Calvinist sense, was inconsistent with the Bible and I agree with Baxter that Christ is available as Saviour for all mankind and I believe the Scriptures affirm this explicitly.
If I had only four books to choose from, my first would obviously be the King James Bible, then the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, the third would be the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and my final would be “Saints everlasting rest” by Richard Baxter. My reason for these choices is that the Bible is the absolute measuring line and rule of faith and practice for any Christian: the ‘Imitation of Christ’ helps me with humility and devotion: The ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ offers remembrance of our own Christian history, showing us where we have come from proceeding the Apostolic era to the Reformation and the ‘Saints everlasting rest” shows me quite clearly where Christians are going.
When I read ‘Saints everlasting rest’ I look forward to heaven.
I am truly thankful to men like Richard Baxter who stood up for Biblical truth and fell out of favour with many for doing so and I am thankful to God for His outpouring of love upon His people, showing us time and time again the treasures and glorious future He has stored up for those who love Him.
Tonight being November 5th I attended a bonfire.
For those not familiar with English traditions; Bonfire Night is a tradition in Britain and cultural event where people gather around a large fire, eat toffee apples and treacle toffee and enjoy a display of fireworks.
Tonight I participated in this tradition at an even on the outskirts of Manchester. Walking toward the area I looked down over the bridge and the fire was lit and the people were all gathered around. Walking toward them and the fire, I looked around at everybody. People smiling, talking, drinking, eating.
When I arrived at the fire I felt myself moving toward the heat. I stood looking at the fire and I thought about the Christian martyrs from the earliest days of the Church to the Protestant Reformation. Suddenly my youngest son asked me ‘dad, is that what the fire was like when the burned George Marsh’. ‘Yes’ I replied, ‘and John Bradford’ Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Tyndall. And people flocked to see them burn. To some it was entertainment, others watched in terror, some with Religious zeal, others believing they were doing the will of God via the Pope.
In ancient times the execution of a man could be local entertainment. In the 16th century people sold religious items and even prayers during executions. Even in the 19th century, an execution could prove commercial. One such example can be found in the history associated with Beaumaris Gaol in Wales. Here, people often rented out highly elevated rooms and put on entertainment when a convicted man was to be put to death. It shows that man is not good, his depravity can be switched around based upon the mainstream culture of the times.
Many people back in ancient times would not consider it immoral to watch an execution and even to make a bit of money off the event. Today, it is difficult to believe that any person could do such things and yet when it is all said and done, people and their outlooks are all too often the result of culture and influence.
Today in some circles, the word ‘martyr’ has merely took on another form. It communicates ‘death cults’. But in the ancient Christian history, the meaning of the word martyr has a whole different connotation. The early Christian and Reformation martyrs did not want to die, they were merely willing to die rather than deny what they believed to be true. There is a difference.
Tonight I looked around me and tried not to judge people, but I couldn’t help but reflect upon the sheer ignorance of a society that gathers around fires eating toffee apples and drinking drinks together without any discussion or meaningful understanding of what Bonfire Night means. For too many people, Bonfire Night has nothing whatsoever to do with Guy Fawkes and his failed attempt to undo the Protestant Reformation and return Britain once again to the religious bondages and totality of Roman Catholicism? On the contrary, it is merely a social event and just something people do to have a good time. Yet a sad reflection indeed is that November 5th was once a time of thanksgiving and prayer, where Christians thanked God for the deliverance of the Church and the nation from the bondage of Rome.
Britain has come a long way since the glorious days of the 16th century, and in many ways both England and Britain are founded upon the principles of the Protestant reformation. Many ideals such as democracy, tolerance and human rights are rooted in the principles of the reformation and the people of Britain should never forget that.
It is a true saying ‘remember, remember, the 5th of November’.