Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Banner Ministers' Conference 2011 Episode III

History Men 

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Iain.
Happy birthday to you.

Quite what our exclusive psalmody brethren thought of it I don't know, but one of the items sung on Tuesday evening was a hearty rendition of Happy Birthday in honour of Iain Murray. He is now 80 years of age. Mr. Murray was also presented with a birthday cake replete with lit candles, which he blew out before the session began. Who says that Calvinists don't know how to have fun?

Enough of that hilarity. Among my personal conference highlights were two historical addresses, one on Archibald Brown by the grand old man of Banner, Iain Murray, and another on William Tyndale by Philip Arthur. Here are some bones to for you pick over as best you can. Oh, I'd better say that any inaccuracies in these reports is more likely due to my notes rather than what was actually said by the speakers. You try taking fullish notes on a mobile phone (albeit one with a tiny QWERTY keyboard).

Iain Murray on Archibald Brown

His dates are 1844-1922. Brown served four pastorates including the  Metropolitan Tabernacle. Around 5000 people were  added to church under his ministry. Brown's sermons were published worldwide. He engaged in mission work among destitute people in the east end of London.

Brown was an evangelist. His ministry touched all kinds of people. A photographic record of his converts includes prostitutes, thieves and other criminals.

Brown speaks to us on the issue of how should we live in a time of apostasy? He ministered in the late 19th and  early 20th centuries, days of general decline in the churches.


He was of Scottish ancestry. His father was involved in the  Clapham Sect. Brown was the eldest son, with  4 sisters and  2 brother. His father sat under Spurgeon's ministry. Archibald heard CHS preaching in Surrey Gardens Music Hall. He was sent to boarding school in Brighton, but left and returned home. His father then had him apprenticed to city tea firm. At 16 Brown was a careless young man, who often used bad language. Annie Bigg, a Sunday School friend who he quite fancied invited Archibald to an evangelistic meeting. The speaker, Arthur Blackwood asked if Brown were a Christian. When he replied, "no", the evangelist said, "how sad". This affected Brown deeply and for two days he was convicted of sin. Sitting under a tree, his burden lifted as Archibald saw meaning of salvation. Full of joy he threw his cap in the air, which then got stuck in the tree. His first act as a Christian was to retrieve his hat.

Brown soon started witnessing and preached his first sermon on Matthew 1:21. He entered Spurgeon's Pastors Collage aged 18, the rules being bent for his sake. 

The Pastors Collage aimed not at making preachers, but training men who were gifted and called to preach. The old divinity - Calvinism - was taught. Students carried on preaching while they studied. Brown was sent to a church in in Bromley. It was a small work.  Spurgeon urged him to hang on. CHS once took 1000 people to Bromley in support of Brown. He served there for four years.

Archibald married his beloved Annie Bigg in 1865, aged 21. At 22 he was called to Stepney Green Tabernacle. Spurgeon was no great fan of physical exercise, but he said that he would walk four miles to hear Brown preach.

One AB preached on Luke 7:11-17. He felt helped in preparation and delivery and expected conversions, but none came. Later when he preached on the same text, 70 were saved. It is not the means, but the Lord's blessing on the means that saves.

AB experienced revival under his ministry. The work impacted the local community. A revived church has magnetic power. Congregations numbered around 800. A new chapel, the East London Tabernacle was erected with room 3000 souls.

Emphases of Brown's Ministry

Preaching and conviction

He preached a living Christ, an ascended Christ, an active Christ.  His theme was the love of God. Truth was baptised into love. Brown loved and served the Lord.

Preaching and prayer

At Stepney extra prayer meetings were laid on, including a 7 am prayer meeting on Saturdays. At the East London Tabernacle there was a loving concern for the community. Workers regularly visited over 2000 families.

Brown was a tall man of military bearing, yet he was gracious and approachable.

What made him what he was?

Brown knew trials and suffering. His first wife died after 5 years of marriage. The Lord gave him peace in his sorrow. Brown remarried, but his wife died in giving birth. This prostrated him, leaving him a broken man. Hearing CHS preach on the saints in glory restored him.

He was touched by the plight of the poor people of the east end. He appointed 9 missionaries to reach into the community with gospel hope and practical help. Brown felt for people living in empty houses, without employment, healthcare, education and adequate food.  

Brown stood with CHS in the downgrade controversy of 1887. Evangelicals didn't discern liberalising trends in the church. Concessions were made. Brown left the Baptist Union. Shortly after CHS died.

Why is Brown so forgotten?

 He belonged to a minority, declining, Calvinist party.

Why did Brown still stand?

He had the assurance that the churches needed biblical Calvinism.

Brown's preaching

1. Scripture is God's vital, living Word.
2. The need of the Holy Spirit and the importance of prayer.
3. He did not preach from paper, an extemporary preacher.
4. He preached the second coming of Christ.

Brown speaks to us of the need for a revival bible of centred, convicting preaching.

Philip Arthur on William Tyndale

1. The making of an exile

Tyndale was born circa 1484. He received his Oxford BA in 1512 and MA in 1515. He hailed from Gloucestershire. 

At Oxford, the "new learning" or Lutheranism was beginning to gain influence. In 1522 Tyndale became family tutor to John Walsh in Little Sodbury. He was ordained to the priesthood and held to evangelical views.

The local clergy were blind guides. Tyndale saw the need for the Scriptures to be translated for ordinary people to read. One clergyman objected, "We had better be without God's laws than the Pope's." Tyndale responded, "I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!"
But at this time is was a crime punishable by being burnt at the stake to own a copy of the Bible in English. Tyndale, however sought a powerful patron for his translation project. He approached the Bishop of London, but received no reply.

In 1524 Tyndale moved to Hamburg where he could start translating the Bible into the language of his people.

2. The need for a vernacular bible

Tyndale's was not the first English translation of the Scriptures. In the  11th century king Athelstan had substantial portions of the Bible translated into the vernacular. The Lindisfarne Gospels included some English translation. Bede translated the Psalms. King Alfred also engaged in translation work. But this was Old Ango Saxon. Since then Norman French had impacted the language. To show how foreign Old Anglo Saxon sounds, Phil Arthur read a portion of Scriptures in the old tongue. It sounded amazing, but I couldn't make head nor tail of it. (The reading was from Matthew 7:24-28).

Lollard Scriptures were in Middle English.  250 Wickliffite Bibles are still extant. Tyndale did not use these earlier translations, which were from Latin into English. The language had changed so much by the sixteenth century that a completely new translation of the Bible was needed.

According to Catholic revisionist historians like Eamon Duffy,  Tyndale need not have bothered. The Church produced Books of Hours in English for the faithful to read. However, these devotional volumes contained little solid biblical content.

3. The 1526 Worms New Testament

Within a year of arriving on continent Tyndale's work was discovered. He fled from Hamburg, but much of the translation Matthew was published.

In Worms, Tyndale found a printer and in 1526 the first English New Testament was published. It was produced in small octavo volumes to keep the price down. Only three copies have survived.  Tyndale often used used words of 1 syllable, with words of more than one at end of the sentence.

His New Testament is the basis of 80% of the AV's translation. But Tyndale used the word "congregation", rather than "church", "overseer" rather than "bishop" and "love" rather than "charity".

His New Testament began to find its way  into England.

4. Persecutions and polemics

Tyndale published a sermon on justification based on Luke 16.

His NT's were burned, together with "heretics" who professed the Protestant faith.

Henry VIII liked Tyndale's The Obedience of a Christian Man, with its emphasis on submission to rulers.

Thomas Moore published an anti-Tyndale work, Dialogue Concerning Heresies. Tyndale wrote an answer to Dialogue. Moore responded with a half a million word rebuttal. His contribution to English literature was half a million words that no-one reads. Tyndale's was the English  Bible.

5. Hebrew

Hebrew was the eighth language Tyndale learned. By 1530 Genesis had been completed. The Matthew Bible, completed by John Rogers included Tyndale's work on  Joshua to 2 Chronicles. Tyndale used simple, homely English. "The Lord troounced sisera", "he clouted them", "tush ye shall not die".

He used a variety of English words to render original.

6. 40 Pieces  of silver

Henry Phillips  befriended Tyndale in Antwerp. But he betrayed him to the authorities in 1535. For a year and a half Tyndale was imprisoned. He wrote this famous letter to a local marquis,

I believe, most excellent Sir, that you are not unacquainted with the decision reached concerning me. On which account, I beseech your lordship, even by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to pass the winter here, to urge upon the lord commissary, if he will deign, to send me from my goods in his keeping a warmer cap, for I suffer greatly from cold in the head, being troubled with a continual catarrh, which is aggravated in this prison vault. A warmer coat also, for that which I have is very thin. Also cloth for repairing my leggings. My overcoat is worn out; the shirts also are worn out. He has a woolen shirt of mine, if he will please send it. I have also with him leggings of heavier cloth for overwear. He likewise has warmer nightcaps: I also ask for leave to use a lamp in the evening, for it is tiresome to sit alone in the dark.

But above all, I beg and entreat your clemency earnestly to intercede with the lord commissary, that he would deign to allow me the use of my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Grammar, and Hebrew Lexicon, and that I might employ my time with that study. Thus likewise may you obtain what you most desire, saving that it further the salvation of your soul. But if, before the end of winter, a different decision be reached concerning me, I shall be patient, and submit to the will of God to the glory of the grace of Jesus Christ my Lord, whose spirit may ever direct your heart. Amen.
In 1536 Tyndale was condemned as heretic and defrocked. The prison warden and daughter became believers through the translator's witness. He was strangled and then burned at the stake. Before dying Tyndale is reputed to have prayed, "Lord, open kings eyes". His ashes were thrown into the  River Zena.

What prompted Tyndale's labours, suffering and death? It was love for God, his Word, and the simple ploughboy.

A deeply moving and challenging paper.

No comments: