what’s next

I assume everyone here is cool with John Murray. I mean, he’s not the type anyone could accuse of sentimentalism, liturgical carelessness, lack of sound doctrine, or taking every possible chance to emote.

So here’s what he says about doctrine, piety, and worship.

“…there is a direct connection between the most sacred truths of our faith and the most elementary duties of our Christian calling. The great truth of the atonement, than which nothing is more central, is the incentive to humble, devoted, self-sacrificing service in the kingdom of God. These texts [Mark 10, 2 Cor 8, Phil 2, 1 Pet 2] are sufficient to show that doctrine and practice are integrally related, and that practice exemplifying our faith is drawn from the spring of doctrine. … there is a straight line of connection between the death of Christ and elementary virtues of the Christian life. … The recognition of that truth, of that relationship to the death of Christ, is necessary to the proper effect in our lives.”
“We must now pass on to other aspects of doctrine. The Christian life is one of godliness; it is a living godly in Christ Jesus. It is a life conducted in the fear of God, and fear understood in the sense of reverential awe. What is the practical effect? It is the sense of God’s all-pervasive presence and of our dependence on him.”
(Collected Writings, Vol I, chapter 23, p170-171)

“What is piety? It is godliness. Godliness is God-consciousness, an all-pervasive sense of God’s presence. It will mean that never do we think, or speak, or act, without the undergirding sense of God’s presence, of his judgment, of our relation to him and his relation to us, of our responsibility to him and dependence upon him. This God-consciousness is spoken of as the fear of God, the profound reverence for his majesty and the dread of his judgments. The fear of God is not something abstract – it is filial reverence springing from a relation that has been constituted by redemption in Christ, justification and forgiveness by his grace, adoption in his love. There is faith, love, gratitude, confidence. In a word, this God-consciousness is conditioned by all the provisions of saving grace as brought to bear upon us in Christ Jesus, and by the distinct relations that we sustain by God’s grace to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
(Collected Writings, Vol I, chapter 25, p183)

“God alone is to be worshipped. … When we come together it is to worship God. Everything else really rests upon this. Whatever we may do, in worship, if it is not directed to the worship of God, no matter how decorous and embellished our exercises may be, then it is not worship. If we go to the house of God simply because it is custom or to fill up a quota of exercises, then we are not worshipping God. There are numberless ways in which in the exercise of instituted worship we may desecrate worship. All exercises must be directed by, and contribute to, the worship of God.”
(Collected Writings, Vol I, chapter 22, p166)

1) When doctrine is assimilated, it has effects – internal as well as external – and the connection between doctrine believed and internal effects is so strong that you can’t really call it belief unless these effects attend it. The best doctrinalists are simultaneously the deepest experientialists.

2) Although godliness has external implications, it is itself something internal. In fact, it’s internal and it absorbs the whole soul in dedication and devotion to the Saviour. Godliness is not synonymous with using the means of grace. A godly person uses the means of grace, but nobody can use the means rightly until they are godly, and their use of the means of grace is only as good as their godliness.

3) Being committed to having and using the right forms of worship includes the concern that we have more than the forms (just as being committed to true doctrine includes a concern that faith involves personal trust as well as mental assent). A worshipping heart is under obligation to express its worship in the right forms, but using the right forms is no guarantee of, and no substitute for, a worshipping heart. The best liturgicalists are simultaneously the deepest experientialists.

4) Even if you avoid unseemly displays of personal experience, there is still plenty to be said, consistent with scripture and the confessions, on the matter of piety, godliness, practical religion, and heart worship.

Aye, John Murray. Our loss was WTS’s gain.

18 thoughts on “what’s next

  1. Yes, “temporary” turned out to be 36 years. He was Professor of Systematic Theology from 1930 to his retirement in 1966. He retired to his native Scotland and died in 1975.

    The most frustrating thing about those quotes is that we, as believers, won’t be completely spiritually integrated (interior and exterior matching and informing each other) until we get to heaven. Only then will we experience the perfection of worship.


  2. Think that’s true, although I’m hazy on the details. There was some dispute about whether paying to take public transport to church on the Lord’s Day was consistent with the 4th commandment – JM didn’t think so, but didn’t think action should be taken against people who did, unlike the home church at large. Not exactly sure on what happened when, but at some point he ceased to be a student for the ministry with the FPs (which was his status when he left for Princeton) and eventually ended up in (i think?) the OPC. My impression is that the parting of ways was regretted on both sides and as amicable as it could be in the circs, but it was a long time ago.

    I did at one point read his biography written by Iain Murray (no relation), but memory for details hopeless as ever.

    Richard might know more – or indeed John MacLeod, last seen round these parts disappearing in a strop, but an impressive fount of knowledge of all things FP.


  3. Richard, I know. It’s the kind of thing you can’t really talk about without condemning yourself with every word out of your own mouth. What’s known doctrinally is only faintly aspired to, and what’s actually practiced is even more faintly related to the aspiration.


  4. Cath

    As far as I know he was still officially a divinity student of the FP until 1930 when he took up the post in the new Westminster Seminary.

    The two problems were as noted the Sabbath conveyance issue and something about his taking a post in Princeton Seminary without Synodical approval (or some approval from the FPC at least).


  5. My understanding was that the teaching opportunities didn’t come up until after it emerged that he couldn’t continue with the FPs, but have no way of checking as the bio was only borrowed.

    Random clicking around brought me to the Presbyterian Reformed site, where they say:

    “Murray went to Princeton Seminary in 1924 to study theology. In preaching visits to Canada during his student days the friendship with Matheson continued to grow. Both men were eventually caught up in a controversy within the Free Presbyterian Church, when its Synod determined that use of public transport on the Lord’s Day for the purpose of attending worship services was grounds for debarring church members from the sacraments. The result was that by 1931 the Synod had broken its ties with Matheson and the Free Presbyterian Church of Ontario. And when Murray completed his studies at Princeton and returned to Scotland, he found that the door to ordination in the Free Presbyterian Church was closed to him, because his views coincided with Matheson’s. In these circumstances Murray accepted a call to teach at Princeton, soon became an instructor at Westminster Theological Seminary, and in 1937 was ordained to the gospel ministry in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.”

    I had no idea that the PRC was so closely connected to the FPs. Most intriguing.

    And since we’re so wildly off topic already, can I just ponder aloud how Mr Murray could ordain people to new denominations when he was already a minister with the OPC? New to me, and puzzling.


  6. “A worshipping heart is under obligation to express its worship in the right forms, but using the right forms is no guarantee of, and no substitute for, a worshipping heart.The best liturgicalists are simultaneously the deepest experientialists.”

    I don’t think the point of liturgicalism is to suggest that the forms guarantee anything, nor that the forms are a substitute for a heart of flesh. Rather, it’s to say they are organically linked.

    But what happens when the heart isn’t particularly worshipful or fleshy? What’s the substitute then, or is there no substitute for that? But I would hope that we could agree that no matter what one accents, whether it’s right doctrine/worship or right experience, sinners will never live up to it. And Christ is the substitute for falling short. Or, as Horton puts it, “We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone–not by our doctrine.” I trust you’d say the same about experience.


  7. I think I accept that about liturgicalism, but with the caveat that there’s only an organic link if the heart is indeed a heart of flesh (there’s no organic link between the form and an unregenerate heart).

    So an unregenerate heart is unworshipful in an absolute sense. A regenerate heart has a sort of constant baseline of being by status and in principle a worshipper, but at the same time even a regenerate heart is always more or less unworshipful.

    When unworshipful – almost anybody could speak to this better than me. Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day, and what can I say. All I know is, keep to the Word, plead the promises, remember the Advocate with the Father, … Saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, absolutely. Not by doctrine, and not by experience.


    • AA Bonar –

      “Therein may be seen the whole Person of the Saviour presented to the soul as the object to be embraced, and that person associated with the merit of all he has done and suffered. Nay more; every act and suffering of that glorious Person confronts the case of every sinner. Not only does he remedy the case of every individual sinner of all that multitude which no man can number, but besides he meets every individual sin, and applies out-poured life to each stain, to blot it out. …

      I confess the sin of my duties; for example, the sin of my careless worship in the sanctuary. But I find my glorious Substitute worshipping for me in the synagogue, Luke 4:16. I find him vindicating the honour of his Father in the temple service, John 2:17. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. His songs of praise, his deep attention to the written Word there read, his joining in the public prayers, all this he puts to my account, as if I had done it acceptably and done so always – while in the same moment, by his shed blood, he blots out every accusation against me for omissions and guilty acts.

      I confess my prayerlessness in secret. It has grieved the Lord to the heart. But I find my Surety ‘rising a great while before day, and departing to a solitary place to pray,’ Mark 1:35; or, ‘continuing all night in prayer to God,’ Luke 6:12. This he will impute to me, as if I had so prayed every day and night, at the same time plunging my sins of omission into the depths of the sea.

      I confess and deplore heart-sins of various kinds. I lament instability of soul; my goodness is like the early dew. But he was ‘the same yesterday, today, and for ever,’ both God-ward and man-ward. I feel hardness of heart. But he imputes to me his own tenderness, and reckons to my account his own yearnings of soul for the glory of his Father. I am stubborn, but he can say, ‘The Lord God opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away backwards.’ In me is guile, but in his mouth was no guile found. And thus there is ready not only the warp of satisfaction for transgression, but also the woof of rendered obedience.

      … Oh, inconceivable fullness for us in him! whatever be the special sin which our conscience at any moment is feeling. Only let us ever keep Christ himself in view, Christ clothed to the foot in that garment of active and passive righteousness.”


  8. Cath

    The Presbyterian Reformed Church is a pretty minute denomination, I think. We know it from Stockton (England) while others, in the FPs, have come across it in Chesley, Ontario. I believe the FP Ontario congregations that have existed in recent decades were started by people previously in the Presbyterian Reformed Church. My impression is that the origins of most congregations suggest rather a “friends of John Murray” denomination.

    In any case not to be confused with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, which is the NA offshoot of the Scots-Irish Reformed Presbyterians (covenanters), nor with the Protestant Reformed Church whose initials it shares, which is an offshoot of the Dutch church associated with Abraham Kuyper (but that belongs in a different post of yours :D ).

    Curiously, I met Professor Murray’s son this past Lord’s Day for the first time in about 35 years. He is a paediatrician in Maine and belongs to the OPC.


    • That means you have a Murray number of at least 2!

      Yes, we’re very fond of the Stockton branch.

      Apparently the Reformed Presbyterians are a different denomination in each country where they exist – can you confirm?

      If the Protestant Reformed are who I think they are, they’ve featured un-named in a couple of posts now, under a cloud of some disapproval!


      • 1) I might have a Murray number of 1 as I believe I may well have once been introduced to Professor Murray. When I was a little boy I was visiting Roderick Mackenzie’s children at Hilton of Cadboll Farm and was introduced to an elderly Mr Murray and a Mr Cameron who were visiting Mr Mackenzie. My parents speculated at the time that these were most likely John Murray and Hector Cameron, as Roderick was the treasurer or secretary or something of the Christian School which Messrs Murray and Cameron had started.

        But maybe meeting someone without knowing who they were doesn’t count. Certainly I do know lots of people who knew Mr Murray, as probably do most people in the Reformed churches in the Highlands, including, I’m sure, yourself, Cath.

        2) Yes so far as I’m aware the RPs are several separate denominations, but obviously with close links. Presumably if the FPs ever got big enough abroad the same would happen there too.

        3) Yes you’re right that I’m talking about the same Protestant Reformed Churches as you had previously referred to. The UK congregation whose newsletter you quoted (I Googled) is a sister church, presumably therefore in a similar position in regard to the PRC as the various RP denominations are in relation to each other. I believe they use the Scottish Psalter, whereas in the US denomination the use of a different psalter to what the rest of the churches use is not allowed. And as Dutch Reformed they’re supposed to have a less authoritarian structure than Presbyterianism (hence “Churches”)!


        • Yes, I suspected you might have actually been a 1! I’m a 2, several times over, as you say!

          Re 2), that’s interesting. There are various places where there are 3 or more FP congregations abroad (which is more than the RPs have say in Scotland) and yet they’re still the same denomination, with no signs of branching off to be separate-tho-linked bodies. Not sure which is the better practice, or even what principles would come to bear on it. I suppose the single denom approach reflects the oneness of the Church as far as it can in one denom among many, but maybe there’s something in the question of Church-State relations which makes it better for congregations to be more tightly linked within than across national boundaries? not at all sure.

          3 – not sure what to make of them – they hotly resist the accusation of hypercalvinism and yet from all you read of their own publications the charge seems perfectly justifiable. A big “hmmm!” to the alleged authoritarianism of presbyterianism meanwhile – p’ism is in principle the least authoritarian structure available.


  9. Well I don’t know what word I was looking for but I’m pretty sure we were told that as they were in the Dutch tradition they didn’t have so much control from above as in the Scottish system, but the episode over Ken Hanko and his Psalter (the Psalter the PRC use is very much a paraphrase) made me question that! And the funny thing was that the NI people were OK to use a different psalter, but presumably that was because they were *not* actually part of the US PRC.

    Re FPs – why in principle would churches in other countries be “of Scotland” in the long term? No doubt there are special reasons in each case, but if they really are all equal within the one denomination then on the face of it it does seem odd, for instance, that the country with the numerically largest part of the FP denomination seems to get so much less coverage in the FP magazine than the Scottish part. Maybe the ministers over there don’t have time to write (inside pages), maybe the arrangements for timing of church services are more informal and unpredictable (back cover) – I don’t know. But I do know that every tiny hamlet where a prayer meeting occurs in Scotland is listed, whereas this is not the case over there – communions are listed inside the front cover for places that are not even mentioned on the back cover.


  10. You mean Zimbabwe? I know what you mean about magazine coverage, but in terms of the actual church courts they’re completely on a par. Which is what i was thinking of when I said there’s no signs of any inclination to let there be a “… of Zim” body. Need to dash right now but will come back to this later!


  11. The only other thing I was going to say was: I’m not sure how much the specific name matters anyway, in the sense that in theory, it just labels THE Reformation church in Scotland (…in theory!), which is a testimony or a set of principles which could in principle be shared by anyone regardless of geographical location. In the same way that the remit of a Presbytery doesn’t pay very much attention to civil regional boundaries (think of eg the Southern Presb), why should the remit of any other church court be restricted to civil national boundaries? I don’t know (the answer to that).


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