… I’ll only be at a computer irregularly, as there’s a big child-language conference on at the university until Friday. Today I accidentally spoke to a famous person, spotted my external examiner in the distance, and helped staff the aptly but ineptly named Mugs Desk. More here, if it interests you.
Here’s an article on Reformation 21 which gives reasons for singing psalms in worship (at the very least alongside hymns, but without disparaging exclusive psalmody), and which suggests that something of a resurgence in psalm-singing is underway at the moment in the church at large:
- Rediscovering the Psalms by Joe Holland.
As a taster of this fairly detailed and persuasive article:
When you sing the psalms you engage a collection of songs that address the full range of human emotions. Godly anger, heart-wrenching sorrow, dark depression, effulgent joy, honest questioning, and exuberant praise are just a sampling of the emotional range covered by the psalms. Most churches sense the burden of teaching their people how to think. Very few consider their responsibility to teach their people how to feel. Christians do not struggle with feeling. Feeling just happens. But our feelings must be trained by the gospel as much as our minds must. The psalms serve as the class room of our affections.
When you sing the psalms you praise the person and work of Jesus Christ. One of the most ignorant statements a Christian can make against psalm singing is, “I don’t sing psalms because they aren’t about Jesus.” Too many evangelicals — having unwittingly drunk deep of the Marcionite heresy — have ceased to see the Old Testament, and especially the psalms, as a masterpiece of redemptive history telling in types, shadows, and rituals the person and work of Jesus Christ. When the earliest Christians wanted to sing praise to God for the redemption wrought by Jesus’ atoning death they turned to the psalms. It is sheer biblical ignorance and chronological snobbery to assume we can write better songs about Jesus than are provided in the psalms through the lens of the New Testament. To sing the psalms is to sing of the person and work of Christ.
Right now I should be packing. Tomorrow I’m going north for a wedding and to spend the weekend in a location so remote I don’t even have mobile phone reception, far less the Internet.
For amusement in the meantime, try Wordle, which gave this output for this blog:
Here’s something I read recently – from a sermon by a minister called Alexander W Brown, who pastored in Free St Bernard’s, in Edinburgh, sometime in the nineteenth century.
The text was Luke 6, and included v19, which mentions the crowds which surrounded Jesus, consisting of many people with various diseases, who wanted to touch him in order to be cured, miraculously, of whatever their trouble was.
While accepting the scriptural accounts of the healing miracles which Jesus performed as being literal historical records, the preacher also makes use of the historical events to draw parallels with spiritual events. “Observe, my friends,” he says, “that, just as the diseased multitudes were healed by touching him, there must be contact, if we may so speak, between him and the soul, before the soul can be saved – there must be union to him by faith.” He continues:
“It is not being within the reach of Christ’s call merely – it is not seeing him through the medium of the ordinances – it is not a temporary devotional frame of spirit – it is not a mingling with his people – it is not a zeal, however ardent, for the prosperity of his cause. These things of themselves will not do. They may all exist in the man who is yet out of Christ, who has not yet been brought into spiritual contact with him, and in regard to whom no virtue has gone out of Christ for his healing.
“We believe that many pass from the world whose religion is without the one thing needful – who find, when they enter the next world, that the vital connexion between Christ and them has not been formed – that, while they were attentive in cultivating the outward marks of that connexion, they neglected the only thing that was worth the caring for, and that all their pains are unprofitable, that all their labour is lost.
“This certainly should serve to arouse one and all to reflection. There may be some present who have entered the sanctuary, labouring under the disease of sin, just as those who were gathered together in the plain before our Lord were afflicted with bodily distempers, and who are longing for deliverance just as that diseased multitude sought to touch Christ.
“Now, what have we to say to you but just this, that while you should labour to have right and impressive views of your condition and danger, and of the suitableness and all-sufficiency of Christ, you should beware of stopping short and of resting satisfied with these. Any distance between you and Christ, however narrow and imperceptible, is ruinous, fatal. You must not only come near to him, you must touch him, for where there is no contact, there can be no forthgoing of virtue; where there is no faith, there can be no salvation. We say no faith, for this is the bond of union, this is the hand that touches Christ. And however feeble that faith may be, though it be but as a grain of mustard seed, though it reach only to the hem of his garment, virtue will be felt, the cure will be effected, sin will be forgiven, the heart will be changed.”
There are actually a couple more excerpts from this sermon which are worth quoting, but for length’s sake not all in the same post. I can’t say I’d ever heard of Alexander Brown or even St Bernard’s in Edinburgh, but this is the first sermon in volume 3 of the Free Church Pulpit, alongside samples from George Smeaton, Horatius Bonar, Hugh Martin, and Andrew Bonar, and its themes and style and contents are still very familiar, presumably in the contemporary Free Church for all I know, and certainly in the preaching that I’m most used to. More to follow.
Short and sweet, full of things to ponder.
- “Christ himself is the way to heaven, as he is a slain Redeemer; and Christ himself is heaven itself, as he is a glorified, enjoyed Redeemer.”
- “You need no more to secure your right to eternal life, than to be possessed of Christ by faith; and you need no better eternal life, than to be ‘with Christ where he is’.”
From his series of sermons on John 17.
The other excerpts I’ve quoted from him (as I make my occasional way through his works) are here.
Also, just in case it matters, I’m expecting to be away from the computer tonight and will be travelling all day tomorrow if all goes to plan.