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Over the past few months I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer: first Anglican Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’ for a violent era

Percy Dearmer on the effect of Edward VI’s reign on the Church of England

Chapter 7 of Dearmer’s book states that the Second Prayer Book, which came into effect on November 1, 1552, was influenced by Calvinistic and Zwinglian attitudes which prevailed among the powerful clergy and politicians of the day (emphases mine below):

In 1552 Parliament passed the Act above mentioned, which stated that the First Prayer Book was agreeable to the Word of God, but that doubts had arisen (through curiosity rather than any worthy cause), and it would therefore be explained and made perfect. The “explanation” turned out to be the Second Prayer Book, which neither explained nor perfected the First Book, but very seriously altered it.

Oddly, the Church of England never approved the 1552 edition:

This book was therefore thrust upon England under false pretences; nor had it received any sanction from the Church of England.

Dearmer states that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had lost any influence he had had on the Prayer Book to the zealous John Knox, whose star was rising at the time.

In support of that claim, Dearmer points out that the hated, later removed, Black Rubric was hastily pasted into all copies of the Second Prayer Book before it appeared in churches around the nation. The Black Rubric:

denied any real presence of Christ in the Sacrament. Cranmer could control the party in power no longer. The man who had triumphed at the end was John Knox.

There were other changes that came about in the prayers and various rites, which showed the influence that Knox and his followers had:

Exorcism was omitted from the Baptismal Service but most unreasonably the Scriptural practice of anointing the sick, and the primitive practice of reserving the Sacrament for them at the open Communion, were omitted from the Visitation; and the provision of a special Celebration was omitted from the Burial Service, while the prayers for the departed were made vaguer, largely in the interests of Calvinism.

These men were particularly interested in removing any aspects they considered ‘Romish’ or ‘Mass’-like:

the outward character of the services, in the churches which the Commissioners were fleecing, was most affected by the disappearance of the former rubrics and notes ordering the historic vestments, and by a new rubric stating that neither albe, vestment, nor cope should be worn, but that the bishop should wear a rochet and the priest a surplice only — the innocuous hood and scarf thus sharing the fate of the other vestments.

A rochet — see here and here — is a simple linen outer garment which might or might not have sleeves.

Dearmer says:

Really, the despots of the Anarchy seem to have gone a little mad.

Along with this went another change, an increase in the number of Articles of Religion, done dishonestly:

Already, in May, 1552, the Privy Council had published Forty-two Articles which endeavoured to enforce Zwinglian doctrines upon the English Church. As in the case of the Second Prayer Book, the English Church was not invited to sanction these Articles; but the Council had the effrontery to state on the title-page that they had been agreed upon by the bishops in Convocation.

That number was later reduced to the current Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

The following year, the Queen Mary began her reign and, as Dearmer explains in Chapter 8:

The Latin services had of course been used in Mary’s reign. She had restored the Sarum rites: the Roman ritual was not introduced among the English Papists till early in the 17th century.

Her half-sister Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, when Protestantism was restored and, soon afterwards, a Third Prayer Book introduced, more about which in the next instalment.

The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 8:4-8

Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city[a] of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

—————————————————————————————–

My previous entry discussed the first three verses of Acts 8.

In summary, Stephen’s brutal martyrdom — aided and abetted by Paul (verses 1 and 3) — caused the disciples to scatter. The Apostles remained in Jerusalem to minister to the converts there.

Despite Stephen’s martyrdom in Jerusalem, which everyone would have been aware of, those who scattered continued to preach the word (verse 4).

Matthew Henry makes this point about the persecutors (emphases mine below):

The persecution that was designed to extirpate the church was by the overruling providence of God made an occasion of the enlargement of it. Christ had said, I am come to send fire on the earth; and they thought, by scattering those who were kindled with that fire, to have put it out, but instead of this they did but help to spread it.

As for the disciples:

They did not go to hide themselves for fear of suffering, no, nor to show themselves as proud of their sufferings; but they went up and down to scatter the knowledge of Christ in every place where they were scattered. They went every where, into the way of the Gentiles, and the cities of the Samaritans, which before they were forbidden to go into, Matthew 10:5. They did not keep together in a body, though this might have been a strength to them; but they scattered into all parts, not to take their ease, but to find out work. They went evangelizing the world, preaching the word of the gospel; it was this which filled them, and which they endeavoured to fill the country with, those of them that were preachers in their preaching, and others in their common converse.

They knew Samaria and the Samaritans knew about Christ:

They were now in a country where they were no strangers, for Christ and his disciples had conversed much in the regions of Judea; so that they had a foundation laid there for them to build upon; and it would be requisite to let the people there know what that doctrine which Jesus had preached there some time ago was come to, and that it was not lost and forgotten, as perhaps they were made to believe.

This was thanks to the exchange Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

John MacArthur picks up on the words ‘went about’ in verse 4:

It literally means, “They went through countries and districts.” And it’s used of missionary extensions, and here you have the first missionary effort of the church.

Verse 5 brings us to Philip, the subject of much of Acts 8. Like Stephen, he was one of the first deacons, as Acts 6:5 tells us:

And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.

He, again like Stephen, was a Hellenic (Greek) Jew who converted to Christianity.

The Apostles instituted the office of deacon to ensure that food and charity were fairly distributed in the Church in Jerusalem. Acts 6:1 says:

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[a] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

Incidentally, Philip the Deacon — or Evangelist — is different to Philip the Apostle. Philip the Evangelist might have been the founder of the church in Tralles in Anatolia. He also had four daughters who followed him into prophesying (Acts 21:9).

In a third similarity to Stephen, God gave Philip remarkable powers. Acts 6:8 states:

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 8:6-8 describes Philip as being able to accomplish God-given signs and the ability to drive out demons as well as restore the paralysed and lame to full health, all of which brought much happiness to the people of Samaria.

MacArthur describes the history of the uneasy relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. First, there is the statement in verse 5 that Philip ‘went down’ to Samaria:

Now when it says he went down to Samaria, everybody always thinks, “Well, my map, Samaria is up.” But if you were in Jerusalem, everything is down because Jerusalem is way up on a high plateau and you go down to go to Samaria, down to go to Jericho, down to go to anywhere. And so he went down and north to Samaria. Samaria was an area, and it was also the name of the city, the ancient capital of that whole area, the Northern Kingdom, was Samaria. And so he went to this place.

Now into the history:

In the 8th Century B.C., you remember before that had been split into the Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom of Israel. After Solomon, Solomon messed everything up so much that Solomon had brought about a fracture in the kingdom and, of course, following Solomon, the kingdom was split: Jeroboam and Rehoboam in the north and the south. Ten tribes went north, two tribes went south: Judah and Benjamin. The Northern Kingdom, by the 8th Century, was carried off into captivity by the Assyrians. And at that time, there were some Jews left in the lands. Most of them were carried off; some were left. They then moved strangers into the land, and the Jews, not being really committed to their Judaism, intermarried with the strangers that the Assyrians put in the land. Consequently, it became a mongrel race.

In the 5th Century B.C., the Jews who had been carried into Babylonian captivity, the South Kingdom, was Judah, Benjamin. They’d been carried off. After 70 years, Cyrus gave a decree they could come back. Now remember they came back under Ezra and Nehemiah to build the temple again, and the walls. So they all marched back and started their building. Well, all the guys in the North who were now half-breeds came down and said, “We want to help.” They were contemptuously rejected. Remember the story? They didn’t want a thing from those half-breeds who had desecrated their Judaism by intermarrying with Gentiles. And that began the rift, and it’s continued even until the book of Acts, and often times even until today.

MacArthur says that Philip was the first to bridge the gap between evangelist and teaching pastor. Verse 5 tells us that Philip ‘proclaimed’ Christ to the people. In some translations, the word is ‘preached’:

Now this is an interesting thing because the word “preached” in 5 is different than the word “preaching.” One is euaggelizo, one is kerusso. Philip – kerusso; that means he “proclaimed”. He was a public herald. There is a difference between an individual presenting the gospel, and somebody who is a preacher, a herald, a public speaker. Philip was a public speaker and he presented, in preaching – look at it – Christ, unto them.

The people of Samaria understood and appreciated Philip’s public proclamations because they already knew something about Christ:

So, when Philip went there, he presented to them that Christ is Messiah. It was a simple message, and they were ready for it. Now, hang on to this point. You see, they had the background to understand that announcement.

Because of this, they ‘paid attention’ to what he said and did (verse 6):

In verse 6, bang, they responded right off. And these people, the word is “multitudes,” with one accord, they had a wholesale spiritual awakening; gave heed unto those things which Philip spoke.

Furthermore, the miracles proved the truth of Philip’s words:

God confirmed the preaching with miracles, so they would know it was from God.

MacArthur points out that these abilities ended with the Apostolic Age:

We don’t have that power today. Jesus had the power to cast them out with a word. His apostles and these two [Stephen and Philip], whom He gave the gift of miracles, had the power to do it. But today, we are the same level as we are when we come to the sick. We have to pray for their healing. And so with demon possessed people. We can’t walk around saying “Alright all you demons. In the name of Christ, get out.” And I think a lot of people today are frustrated because they try it and it doesn’t work. You know, people say to me “Well, I tired to cast these demons out. It didn’t go.” Well, I’ve done the same thing and I’ve tried and it didn’t go either.

There’s a question of the ability to do miracles here that does not belong to us and we have to pray for these people even as we do sick people, because we can’t just walk up and say, “Be healed.” That gift belonged to this age.

He says that there was only one time when he was sure he had met someone — a woman — possessed by two demons, who came out only when she confessed serious sins from her past to him and another minister with him at the time:

we found that we had to pray, and it all boiled down to her confession of sin before those demons ever left. Because I had worked for two hours and so had Jerry, trying to get rid of this one demon, called Decito. And nothing ever happened until she finally was willing to confess some really filthy things in her life for which she needed relief, the relief that comes in confession, and the cleansing. And then it was gone, no problem.

So again, we cannot go about casting out demons, but we can certainly pray for people. And we can certainly confront them with the need for confession and cleansing that there might be no place for demons to occupy.

Next week’s post will feature more about Philip’s ministry.

Next time: Acts 8:9-13

Holy Communion stained glassCorpus Christi Sunday is celebrated this year on June 18.

It is most widely known in the Catholic Church, but some traditionalist Anglicans and Lutherans also celebrate this important feast day, which may include a procession of the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance (pictured at right).Monstrance stisidore-yubacityorg

Corpus Christi means ‘Body of Christ’ in Latin. The feast dates back to the Middle Ages and became a mandatory feast in 1312. It parallels the Last Supper on Maundy (Holy) Thursday, but is a more joyous celebration and one of thanksgiving, as Christ’s prophecies of His death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven have been fulfilled. He also sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples and the Holy Trinity was revealed to mankind — all as He promised.

You can read more about the feast of Corpus Christi in my 2010 post, which also includes the Scripture reference from St John’s Gospel.

Forbidden Bible Verses will return next week.

Over the past few months I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer: first Anglican Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’ for a violent era

The last entry described the martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer. All three — the Oxford Martyrs — were burned at the stake in that city during the reign of Mary I.

Mary I succeeded Edward VI after nine days of Lady Jane Grey, deemed to be an unsuitable successor to her cousin Edward.

However, there is more to say about Edward VI’s reign. As we know by now, Edward was only 15 when he died, having ascended to the throne at the age of nine in 1547. As such, he had several powerful adult advisers to guide him. These men were driven by their own agendas and the opportunity to exercise power not only in the civil sphere but also in the religious one.

Although most of us, even Britons, think that Henry VIII was the principal ruler who ransacked the monasteries and churches, Edward VI’s advisers went even further.

Percy Dearmer gives us the highlights in Chapter 7 of his book.

Excerpts and a summary follow. Emphases mine below.

Of this vandalism under Edward VI, Dearmer wrote:

All this is still but little known, but we cannot appreciate the liturgical changes of Edward VI’s reign unless we know it.

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour was Edward VI’s first Lord Protector (image courtesy of Wikipedia).

At the time, a Lord Protector exercised an individual regency over a monarch who was too young to rule independently.

The context and role of Lord Protector changed with Oliver Cromwell during the Interregnum (years between the rule of Charles I and Charles II) in the 17th century.

Seymour’s sister was Jane, Henry VIII’s third wife and Edward’s mother. Although Henry VIII did not specify a Lord Protector, but rather 16 executors who were to serve as Edward’s Regency Council, somehow Seymour managed to get himself at the top of that group. It is likely that he made deals (e.g. land) with the other members of the Council to allow him this power in 1547, the first year of Edward’s reign.

As Lord Protector, he then had the arrogance to create a title for himself, Duke of Somerset. Even today, that is the only dukedom not to have been created by a monarch.

Somerset, as he is known in historical parlance, had grand ambitions and wanted his own palatial home in London: Somerset House.

Dearmer describes the egregious method of how Somerset went about having it built beginning in 1549. There is a sense of divine justice that he never lived to see its completion:

The first Protector, Somerset, had endeavoured, with Cranmer and Latimer, to redeem the miseries of the poor; but even Somerset was a great robber, as the name of Somerset House should remind us. To build this palace (which he did not live to enjoy) he destroyed three bishops’ houses and one parish church, as if they had been so much slum property; and he pulled down the cloister of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Clerkenwell Priory for further building materials. He had actually intended to build his palace on the site of Westminster Abbey; and the Dean only averted the destruction of the Abbey by bribing him with the gift of more than half its estates. Somerset was sent to the Tower in the year of the First Prayer Book, to be beheaded two years afterwards.

Wikipedia says that Somerset also had an old Inn of Chancery and adjacent houses pulled down for his palatial project.

Although it remained unfinished for many years, it was still habitable. The future Elizabeth I lived there during her half-sister Mary I’s reign.

Somerset House was not completed until the 18th and 19th centuries. Several government offices were based there, but by the 20th century most had moved out and various art collections moved in.

Now onto Somerset’s fall from grace. As mentioned in the previous two posts, the Prayer Book Rebellion took place in 1549, and armed mercenaries had to quell it. There were also a variety of important property disputes between landlords and farmers taking place at that time.

On October 1, 1549, word reached Somerset that his time was up. Somerset responded by abducting Edward VI and taking him to Windsor Castle. Meanwhile, the members of the Regency Council got together and made public Somerset’s failures, emphasising that his power came from them. On October 11, the Council had Somerset arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Edward VI was taken to Richmond temporarily.

In 1550, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, was appointed head of the Council. Somerset was released and restored to the Council soon afterwards. However, in 1552, Somerset was beheaded for plotting against the Earl of Warwick.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

John Dudley (Knole, Kent).jpgIn 1551, John Dudley became the Duke of Northumberland (image courtesy of Wikipedia).

Dearmer describes him as follows:

Northumberland, was a villain unmitigated. The misery of the poor increased, the character of the clergy declined, because the cures [curate positions] were filled with “assheads” and “lack-Latins,” as the immortal sermons of Latimer bear witness.

Northumberland did not take the title of Lord Protector but that of Grand Master of the Household. Through it he controlled the other men around Edward VI as well as the surroundings of the young king.

Northumberland did his best to ensure that, as Edward VI matured, he received more complete briefs on what the government was doing. By the time Edward turned 14, the Council no longer had to co-sign on government documents.

After Edward VI died, Northumberland was unprepared for the Council supporting Mary I’s ascending the throne. He was executed in August 1553, during the first few weeks of her reign.

Interestingly, he recanted his Protestant religion around that time. Dearmer mentions:

the brigandage of men like Northumberland, who had no zeal for Protestantism — indeed, Northumberland professed himself a Papist on the scaffold.

Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London

Although Nicholas Ridley was one of the Oxford Martyrs and is remembered in the Anglican Communion on October 16, his behaviour was not always saintly.

Ridley was responsible for the ransacking of a number of churches in London. Ridley was worried that elaborate altarpieces and chalices were too reminiscent of the Catholic Church and would hamper the Reformation in England.

As Dearmer says:

it was illegal, as well as barbarous and unreasonable (the Lutherans were sensible enough to spare the beautiful altars of Germany and Scandinavia, and their Protestantism did not suffer thereby) …

Unconscionable, wanton destruction

This is what happened on a grand scale in England:

But now Commissioners were sent all over England to make inventories, “forasmuch as the King’s Majesty had need presently of a mass of money”; and before the end of poor little King Edward’s reign there had been a clean sweep of all that was worth stealing: the churches, their chests, their treasuries had been ransacked, and nothing but the bare walls remained of the ancient beauty which Englishmen had so loved — which the poor had looked upon as part of their birthright. Even the walls were suffered to decay.

Also:

all over the country the churches were looted simply for the sake of plunderthe organs were sold for the price of their pipes, even the melting of the bells was begun ; the priceless church plate, which had been the treasure of the people for centuries, was pillaged, so that, a generation later, there were still some churches with nothing but a single chalice. The parish churches, as well as the benefit clubs and guilds (which were the trade unions of the time), had belonged to the people, had been enriched by the people, and managed by them.

Now the people had nothing. The churches fell into disrepair:

In the Second Book of Homilies, issued nine years after King Edward’s death, we read — ” It is a sin and shame to see so many churches so ruinous and so foully decayed, almost in every corner. . . . Suffer them not to be defiled with rain and weather, with dung of doves and owls, stares and choughs, and other filthiness, and as it is foul and lamentable to behold in many places of this country.”

The churches were not the only structures being ransacked:

The hospitals and almshouses were destroyed ; the universities only just escaped. “To the Universities,” says that staunchest upholder of the Reformation, J. A. Froude, “the Reformation brought with it desolation. . . They were called Stables of Asses. . . . The Government cancelled the exhibitions which had been granted for the support of poor scholars. They suppressed the Professorships and Lectureships. . . . College Libraries were plundered and burnt. The Divinity Schools at Oxford were planted with cabbages, and the laundresses dried clothes in the School of Arts.”

It’s truly unbelievable.

Dearmer concludes:

It was not the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry that created English pauperism, but the Disendowment of the Parishes under his son.

Furthermore:

The bulk of the money went to enrich the gang of ruffians who tyrannized over England; while thirty “King Edward VI Schools” were set up here and there, to hoodwink the public of that and succeeding generations.

On the subject of King Edward VI Schools, they are very prestigious for those who choose not to enrol in well known ‘public’ [private] schools. Many offer day and boarding options. I worked with someone who graduated from one. He was very pleased to have gone there.

Oddly enough, there is no one page with a history of how all of these schools developed. Hmm.

Ultimately:

The old parish community was destroyed; “an atmosphere of meanness and squalor,” says Dr. Jessop, still pervades “the shrivelled assemblies” of the 17th and 18th centuries ; and the Parish Councils Act has not yet succeeded in restoring its ancient spirit.

Another period of wanton destruction took place under Cromwell. With those two periods in history in mind:

We have done our best, not often wisely, to restore them but we can never bring back the priceless works of art which were scrapped for a few shillings and melted down for the value of their metal.

Very true. I suspect this will come as news to many of my English readers, just as it would have with Dearmer’s readership.

Next time we will look at Dearmer’s explanation of why the Second Prayer Book did not succeed.

In 2017, Trinity Sunday is June 11.

As I explained in 2010, also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, it falls on the Sunday after Pentecost.

Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans and many Presbyterians celebrate this important feast day honouring the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The celebrant wears white vestments.

That post has more information on the history of Trinity Sunday, one of the major feast days in the Church calendar.

These posts might also be of interest:

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday — an Anglican analysis of its importance

Trinity Sunday 2016: May 22 (John 16:12-15, three-year Lectionary Year C)

Now is a good time to explain the Holy Trinity to children. The concept of Three-in-One can be difficult to grasp, but one Lutheran pastor came up with an ingenious way of explaining it with an egg. This is foolproof:

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

I hope that all my readers have a blessed day rejoicing in the Triune God.

(Comments temporarily off.)

Over the past few months I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

The last entry explained the political and ecclesiastical turmoil going on during Edward VI’s reign. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s first Prayer Book, which was approved for lawful use in the Church of England in January 1549, pleased neither some congregants nor some clergy, especially Reformers from the Continent who had settled in England. Among the Reformers were Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr.

As Dearmer noted of June 1549 (emphases mine below):

June 10th. Armed rebellions against the Act begin, especially in the West of England. The insurgents demand the old ceremonies— Holy water, Images, Ashes, Palms, etc., and the service in Latin. They are suppressed by foreign mercenaries.

Churchgoers thought the Prayer Book too Protestant. Continental Reformers thought it was too Catholic.

Another aspect which made the Church of England’s foray into Protestantism contentious was the fact that Edward VI was a boy king. He died at the age of 15. That meant there were powerful men behind him trying to further their own agendas.

First Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’

In Chapter 6 of his book, Dearmer wrote that Cranmer’s First Prayer Book was ‘too fair-minded’ for such a violent era. Interestingly, subsequent revisions after the Second Prayer Book of 1552 incorporated more of the First Prayer Book of 1549 (pictured at left, courtesy of Wikipedia).

Dearmer describes what made the First Prayer Book so exceptional for public worship and administration of the sacraments. Indeed, it exemplifies the best characteristics of the English people:

It is indeed throughout an examplar of what we proudly claim as one of the best elements in the English character: alike in ritual, that is, in the wording of the services, and in ceremonial, it endeavours to avoid the extremes of bigots and fanatics, seeking to establish what is true and right without regard to prejudices, reactions, and the cruel generalizations so characteristic of the period. Catholic conservatism there is, but it is the conservatism which is not afraid of new ideas ; Protestantism there is, but it is the Protestantism that will not throw away the gold with the dross compromise there is, but it is the compromise which honestly accepts truth from both sides. It is positive, constructive, practical ;

The Second Prayer Book was nothing like it, which later generations of clergy recognised, as they returned to the First for subsequent revisions:

and we may safely say that, ever since it was so roughly altered at the end of Edward VI’s reign, the opinion of the whole Anglican Communion has been steadily coming back to the principles of the First Prayer Book, and that every subsequent revision has restored something which the Second Book took away. In fact, as is stated in the very Act which substituted the Second Book for it, the First Prayer Book was “a very godly order for common prayer and administration of the sacraments, . . . agreeable to the word of God and the primitive Church”; but there had “arisen in the use and exercise . . . divers doubts for the fashion and manner of the ministration of same, rather by curiosity of the minister, and mistakers, than of any other worthy cause.”

Ultimately:

The First Prayer Book was indeed too fair-minded for the violent and bitter spirit of the age.

Wikipedia explains that the tumult surrounding the First Prayer Book and the call for a Second Prayer Book were influenced by Reformers, both Continental and British, who wanted no semblance of Catholicism in the services, particularly that for Holy Communion:

The new changes were also a response to criticism from such reformers as John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and the Scot John Knox, who was employed as a minister in Newcastle upon Tyne under the Duke of Northumberland and whose preaching at court prompted the king to oppose kneeling at communion.[132] Cranmer was also influenced by the views of the continental reformer Martin Bucer, who died in England in 1551, by Peter Martyr, who was teaching at Oxford, and by other foreign theologians.[133] The progress of the Reformation was further speeded by the consecration of more reformers as bishops.[134] In the winter of 1551–52, Cranmer rewrote the Book of Common Prayer in less ambiguous reformist terms, revised canon law, and prepared a doctrinal statement, the Forty-two Articles, to clarify the practice of the reformed religion, particularly in the divisive matter of the communion service.[135] Cranmer’s formulation of the reformed religion, finally divesting the communion service of any notion of the real presence of God in the bread and the wine, effectively abolished the mass.[136] According to Elton, the publication of Cranmer’s revised prayer book in 1552, supported by a second Act of Uniformity, “marked the arrival of the English Church at protestantism”.[137] The prayer book of 1552 remains the foundation of the Church of England’s services.[138] However, Cranmer was unable to implement all these reforms once it became clear in spring 1553 that King Edward, upon whom the whole Reformation in England depended, was dying.[139]

I disagree that the Prayer Book of 1552 remains the foundation of Church of England services, as Dearmer, closer to the matter, says there was a return to the First Prayer Book. Furthermore, we have only Thirty-Nine, not Forty-Two, Articles of Religion. We also kneel for Communion and many parts of the later 1662 service, still in occasional use today. Therefore, the 1552 Second Prayer Book did not have much staying power.

Note that Edward VI was dying in 1553. Succession was controversial. Edward was firmly committed to the Protestant religion. He did not want his Catholic half-sister Mary to succeed him. Nor did his advisers want that.

Edward considered Mary and his other half-sister Elizabeth to be illegitimate daughters of their father Henry VIII, and as Edward had no children of his own, he designated that his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, succeed him.

Edward was very ill for the first six months of 1553. He had a severe fever in January and, as the months progressed, coughed up blood and sputum. By the end, his legs had swollen to such an extent that he could only feel comfortable lying down. Even today, no one is sure exactly what ailed Edward, as his symptoms were so diverse. He died on July 6 but was not buried until August 8. Archbishop Cranmer performed the burial rite.

At the time, conspiracy theories abounded as to the real cause of his death. Some people thought the unpopular Duke of Northumberland had the young king poisoned. Others suspected Mary had him poisoned so that she could restore the Catholic religion to England.

Lady Jane Grey became Queen of England on July 10, 1553. She, too, was only an adolescent, two or three years Edward’s senior. Her last day as queen was July 19. She was executed in the Tower of London on February 12, 1554, on charges of treason for usurping the throne.

During Jane’s brief reign, Mary started her trip from Hunsdon in Hertfordshire and travelled to East Anglia where she gathered her supporters as reinforcements in case of battle. The Duke of Northumberland set out from London with troops for the same reason. In Northumberland’s absence, the privy council shifted their allegiance from Jane to Mary.

The privy council proclaimed Mary queen on July 19, but she did not make a public appearance in London until August 3. She had the Duke of Northumberland executed on August 22, 1553.

Of course, a Catholic queen was bad news for the Reformers — and for Archbishop Cranmer (pictured at left, courtesy of Wikipedia). On the day of Edward VI’s funeral, he told his friends from the Continent, including Peter Martyr, to return home. A few weeks later, on September 14, 1553, he was sent to the Tower of London along with his fellow English theologians, Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley on charges of treason. Martyr was still in England. Cranmer and he bade each other farewell that day. Martyr left for Strasbourg.

On March 8, 1554, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were also charged with heresy. They were sent to Bocardo Prison in Oxford to await trial. Latimer and Ridley were burnt at the stake on October 15, 1555. Cranmer was forced to watch from a nearby tower.

In December 1555, Cranmer was transferred out of prison to the house of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. There, a Dominican friar, Juan de Villagarcia, and perhaps other clergy persuaded Cranmer to recant the Protestant religion. By February 1556, he had done so, but it meant being defrocked and returned to Bocardo Prison to await execution.

According to Canon Law, Cranmer should have been spared execution because he recanted. However, Queen Mary wanted to make ‘an example’ out of him.

Cranmer was buried at the stake on March 21, 1556, in the same spot as Latimer and Ridley met their deaths. Interestingly, he was given the final opportunity to make a further public recantation of the Protestant religion. He did no such thing. In the end, he recanted his recantations and declared the pope to be ‘Christ’s enemy and Antichrist‘.

John Foxe wrote about the three in his 1563 volume Book of Martyrs. Since then, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley have been known as the Oxford Martyrs.

I got ahead of myself here, however, this is to further illustrate what a tumultuous and violent period in history this was.

Next time, with the aid of Percy Dearmer’s text, I would like to return to Edward VI’s reign and demonstrate that, possibly without his knowledge, it was even more destructive than his father Henry VIII’s ransacking of the monasteries.

Pentecost2June 4, 2017 is Pentecost Sunday.

This important feast, where the Holy Spirit descended on the 70 disciples, is the Church’s birthday.

The Book of Acts describes how dramatic and pure the early Church was. The more it was purified, the stronger and larger it became.

Earlier this year, I wrote about two of the passages from Acts which are related to the first Pentecost but were excluded from the three-year Lectionary:

Acts 2:12-13 – Pentecost, the Apostles, disciples, speaking in tongues, accusations of drunkenness, accusations like those of hierarchy for Jesus

The first Pentecost was ordained by God to fit into the Jewish festival of the first fruits. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the 70 with tongues of fire, He enabled them to speak in foreign languages. This signified that the Church was not the sole inheritance of the Jews of the Old Covenant. Rather, it would be open to them and to people of all nations. Therefore, the Holy Spirit enabled the 70 to speak in known foreign languages. The Jews assembled for the Feast of the First Fruits could not understand what was being said and accused the 70 anointed of drunkenness.

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Acts 2:33-35 – Peter, Pentecost, Peter’s first sermon, Jesus the Messiah and Lord

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost, stood up to refute charges of drunkenness and preached his first sermon. He concluded by saying the 70 anointed had received the divine gift Jesus had promised them through God the Father and that David, too, prophesied Christ (Psalm 110:1).

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I have other past posts which discuss the significance of this important feast day:

Pentecost — the Church’s birthday, with gifts from the Holy Spirit

Lutheran reflections on Pentecost

Thoughts on Pentecost: the power of the Holy Spirit

Reflections for Pentecost — a Reformed view

Pentecost Sunday — May 15, 2016 (John MacArthur explains adoption in the ancient world)

I hope that all my readers have a blessed, happy and contemplative Pentecost Sunday. This is a day on which to give thanks for the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ’s Bride, the Church.

(Comments temporarily off.)

Over the past few weeks I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

In Chapter 5 of his book, Dearmer outlines the importance of the Reformation and royalty on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (BCP), which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was instrumental in writing.

He tells us that the BCP developed over a century, from 1544 in the time of Henry VIII and concluding with Charles II in 1662. The 1662 BCP is still in use today, although, sadly, much less so than in previous decades.

The introduction of the printing press led to availability of a Bible in English. If you visit an Anglican or Episcopal church, you will see that a Bible is always open on a lectern outside of times of public worship. Dearmer explains:

The Bible was in 1536 ordered to be set up in every church, so that it might be read aloud out of service time … Thus the Lectern may remind us of the first stage in reform.

Several years later, another new item at the altar was installed, a litany-desk, equipped with a kneeler:

The Litany-desk tells of the second stage; for, though the Litany was not sung kneeling till three years after, that beautiful service itself was produced by the genius of Cranmer, and ordered to be used in 1544.

Dearmer lists the main events in the development of the BCP. Below are the major highlights (emphases and explanatory notes mine below):

1534 (Henry VIII). Convocation petitions the King for an authorized English Version of the Bible.

1535. Coverdale’s Bible.

1536. The Bible ordered to be set up in every church. New edition of the Sarum Breviary, in Latin, but with the name of the Roman Pontiff and other things omitted.

1543. The Lessons in English. A chapter of the Bible to be read after Te Deum and Magnificat.

1544. The English Litany.

1544-7. Experiments. The Rationale, or explanation of the Ceremonies to be used in the Church of England. First and Second Drafts of reformed services in Latin. Cranmer attempts a translation of the Processional.

1547 (Edward VI). August. Beginning of more radical changes by means of the Injunctions (without the authority of Convocation or Parliament) :— Book of Homilies to be read; At High Mass, Epistle and Gospel to be read in English; New form of Bidding Prayer ; and some changes in Breviary services.

November. Convocation meets (at the opening Mass, Gloria in Excelsis, Creed, and Agnus sung in English), and approves Communion in both kinds.

1548 March. The Order of the Communion, drawn up by sundry “grave and well-learned prelates,” provides for Communion in both kinds, and is to come into use at Easter by Royal proclamation. This Order consists of the following, inserted before the Communion in the Latin Service :— First Exhortation, Second Exhortation, “Ye that do truly,” the Confession, the Absolution and Comfortable Words, “We do not presume,” [which is the Prayer of Humble Access,] the Words of Administration in both kinds (first part), “The Peace of God ” (without the Blessing) [at the end], a Note that the bread is to be as heretofore (round wafers) and each wafer is to be broken for Communion, and a Note that if the Chalice is exhausted the priest is to consecrate afresh, beginning Simili modo postquam coenatum est, “Likewise after Supper,” “without any elevation or lifting up.”

Dearmer notes that congregants were so upset about these changes that preaching was forbidden in April and September 1548.

Also in that year:

May. St. Paul’s and other churches “sung all the service in English, both Mattins, Mass, and Evensong”: it therefore appears that these services of the First Prayer Book were already drafted, at least in some experimental form, the choir services being reduced to two, Mattins and Evensong.

Those who do not know much about English history will be surprised to know that Edward VI ascended to the throne in 1547, at the age of nine. He died when he was only 15.

This was a tumultuous period, given his tender age. Dearmer explains:

At the accession of the boy-King, it is clear that the whole atmosphere was changed: the power passed into the hands of the knot of men — and history shows them to have been despotic and evil menwho ruled in King Edward’s name. From this gang of robbers — who were five years later to ransack the property of the people in the guilds and parish churches, robbing the poor for the sake of the rich — Archbishop Cranmer stands apart, trying to steer his own uncertain course.

Although Cranmer did not work in isolation and had pious Anglican clergymen known as ‘divines’ helping him with the Prayer Book, he spearheaded its creation. He was also Edward VI’s foremost spiritual adviser.

In 1549, the first Prayer Book was passed into law and published for church use:

1549. January 21st. First Act of Uniformity. The First Prayer Book becomes law.

March 7. First Prayer Book printed and published.

June 9th. Date fixed by the Act for the Book to be everywhere used.

June 10th. Armed rebellions against the Act begin, especially in the West of England. The insurgents demand the old ceremonies— Holy water, Images, Ashes, Palms, etc., and the service in Latin. They are suppressed by foreign mercenaries.

Yes, people were that upset!

The following year, the liturgy was set to music — ‘noted’:

1550. The Book of Common Prayer Noted, by John Merbecke, published. This is Merbecke’s famous musical setting, which is still so largely sung.

March. The English Ordinal issued, containing the Ordering of Deacons, the Ordering of Priests, and the Consecration of Bishops. The essential parts of the Latin rite were carefully retained, but the ceremonial rather ruthlessly cut down.

1549 – 1551. The Foreign Reformers (Bucer, Peter Martyr, etc.) criticize the First Prayer Book.

1551. Third Edition of Old Version of metrical psalms, seven psalms by Hopkins being added to Sternhold’s.

Dearmer does not say why the Reformers on the Continent disliked the First Prayer Book. However, one thing can be said: the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is like no other in its beauty and biblical faithfulness. It is an enduring pleasure from which to pray in church and to read privately at home.

Next time: the unique character of the first Prayer Book

Sunday, May 28, 2017 is Exaudi Sunday, which comes between Ascension Day and Pentecost.

My post from 2013 explains more about this particular Sunday, considered to be a very sad one by Jesus’s disciples because He had returned to His Father in heaven.

These days, as far as I know, only traditional Lutherans refer to this day as Exaudi Sunday. However, it was once a widespread term in the Church.

Exaudi is Latin, from the verb exaudire (modern day equivalents are the French exaucer and the Italian esaudire). It has several meanings, among them: hear, understand and discern, as well as heed, obey and, where the Lord is concerned, grant. The French version of the Catholic Mass uses exaucer a lot, as do hymns: ‘grant us, Lord’.

Exaudi Sunday is so called because of the traditional Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’.

The New Testament readings for Year A in the three-year Lectionary are Acts 1:6-14, 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 1 Peter 5:6-11. The Gospel reading is John 17:1-11.

Commentary follows, emphases mine.

Acts 1:6-14

1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

1:7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.

1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

1:11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

1:12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.

1:13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

1:14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

It is important to know that St Luke wrote the Book of Acts — Acts of the Apostles. John MacArthur explains:

And Luke was closely associated with the Apostles from about the time of Jesus’ death, around 30 A.D., to about 60 or 63 A.D. where evidently he penned this book. And in those intervening 30‑plus years, as Luke travelled in the companionship of the Apostles, he penned what was going on. And the story of the book of Acts is the beginning of the church at Jerusalem and its explosion until it reaches the capital of the world, one of those uttermost parts of the earth, the city of Rome.

Note that the disciples still believed that Jesus was a temporal ruler of sorts (verse 6). Jesus responded, saying that only God the Father knows when that time will come (verse 7). Furthermore, they did not realise the full import of the power of the Holy Spirit that would soon descend on them days later at that first Pentecost (verse 8).

Suddenly, Jesus ascended to heaven (verse 9). Two angels appeared to explain what just happened (verse 10), saying that He will return again in the same way. They were talking of the Second Coming.

MacArthur states the importance of the Ascension:

That means that right now in this month in this year … the same Jesus Christ in the same glorified body that was touched by those disciples is sitting at the right hand of the Father, no different than He was when He left.

You say, “You mean He’s up there in that same body that walked on the earth, that same body that the disciples felt and touched and ate with and talked with, that same Jesus Christ in that same form is sitting at the right hand of the Father?” That’s exactly what I mean. He was taken up. And the proof of the pudding comes in verse 11 when it says this same Jesus who was taken up shall what? Shall so come in like manner as you see Him go. When He comes back He’ll be the very same that He was when He left.

Jesus’s friends and family returned from Mount Olivet to Jerusalem to pray (verses 12-14).

As I explained in 2013, Jesus had told them this would happen. All of His words on this subject are in the Gospels. My post has an exposition of the related verses as well as a warning about putting them into a postmodern context.

Believe what the New Testament says. Christ will come again in glory. Make no mistake. Unbelievers will be shaking in their boots on that fateful day wishing they had never been born.

1 Peter 4:12-14

4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

4:13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.

4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

These verses have historical as well as contemporary significance. Peter wrote this letter some time in 64 AD, John MacArthur says. He explains that was the year when Nero fiddled and Rome burned:

The fire spread fast, and although it began on that day it lasted three days and nights, and it broke out again and again even though they tried to check it.  The Romans actually believed that Nero was responsible for burning their great city and their homes.  Why?  Because Nero had this strange fixation with building, and he wanted to build a new city and so they believed that he burned down the old one.

To divert blame away from himself, Nero accused the Christians, which worked in his favour:

Publicly he blamed the Christians for burning Rome.  It was an ingenious choice, frankly, on his part because the Christians were already the victims of hatred and already the victims of slander.  They were connected with Jews in the minds of most people who had been dispersed in the diaspora.  And since there was a rather growing anti-Semitism, it was easy to have an anti-Christian attitude as well …

Christians perished in a delirium of savagery at that time, and even lynching became very common.  Within a few years Christians were imprisoned, racked, seared, broiled, burned, scourged, stoned and hanged.  Some were lacerated with hot knives and others thrown on the horns of wild bulls.

This is the ‘fiery ordeal’ to which Peter refers in verse 12. Peter then tells his flock to rejoice in the face of brutal persecution, because believers will rejoice when they finally see Christ’s glory revealed.

Going further, Peter says that the Spirit of God, that of glory, rests upon the persecuted (verse 14).

MacArthur offers this analysis:

The point here is to expect suffering, expect it, don’t be surprised at it, don’t think it’s some strange thing, expect it.  Peter has consistently through this epistle said that persecution for the Christian in various forms is inevitable.  It is inevitable.  In fact, the surprise would be if it didn’t come … Godly lives lived in an ungodly world confront that world, and we become a kind of unwelcome conscience that is distasteful.  And, if we name the name of Christ loudly enough, we become offensive.  The goodness alone of a Christian can be an offense to a wicked world.  And when you add to that the proclamation of the name of Christ, we become particularly offensive.  It’s as if Peter is saying suffering is the price of discipleship. 

Also:

In view of our precious salvation, he said early in the epistle, suffering is nothing.  In view of our present situation, suffering is very important because how we react to it determines how effective our evangelistic testimony is.  And in view of Christ’s personal Second Coming and our ultimate salvation, it isn’t even worthy to be compared, said Paul, with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  So, are we are understanding already this far in the epistle that Peter is concerned that we see suffering in a right perspective.

Now for the meaning of suffering for Christ:

Suffering for the sake of Christ reveals who’s genuine, right?  The phonies aren’t going to hang around.  That’s why through the years we have always said the persecuted church is the pure church …

Readers who have been following my posts on the Book of Acts know about the purification of the church through suffering and persecution, from Stephen the first martyr to Paul the Apostle. Peter himself was martyred.

MacArthur explains persecution from Peter’s words:

if you can expect it, you can waylay its initial impact.  It’s part of God’s design.  It’s the way He proves the genuineness of your faith and it’s the way He purges your life.  It takes out all the pride and all of the sort of self, the illusion of self-control, the illusion that you can control your world and all of its responses.  It strips you and makes you totally dependent on Him, and that’s a good process.

The second thing that Peter wants to say to us is to rejoice in it.  Not only are we to expect it, but when it comes we’re to rejoice in it.  Notice verse 13 and 14.  “But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exaltation.  If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you’re blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”  Now, just take that little phrase in verse 13 “keep on rejoicing,” present tense, keep on rejoicing.  This is the right attitude in the midst of persecution.  This is the right attitude in the midst of affliction, rejection, anything the world brings against you for the sake of righteousness and for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ.  Any of that which comes against you should be cause for rejoicing.  Remember the words of our Lord?  Listen to this, Matthew 5:10 through 12: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  If you’re being persecuted for righteousness, it’s evidence that you belong to the kingdom of heaven.  “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Me.  Rejoice and be glad.”  That is a strange one, isn’t it?  “Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great and that’s the way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  You’re in good company.

Regarding the Spirit of God:

What it says is that when you suffer, God’s presence rests on you.  And God’s presence comes in the form of His Spirit, the Spirit who is glory in His essential attribute, even the Spirit who is God.  My, what a tremendous, tremendous truth.  The Spirit of glory, yea, the Spirit of God.  As the Shekinah rested in the tabernacle and the temple long ago, so the Shekinah glory of God, the Holy Spirit in glorious splendor and power rests upon suffering Christians. 

Now, what does the word “rest” mean?  What is that talking about?  Well, simply to refresh by taking over for you.  Rest, in the sense of refreshing by taking over, by becoming the dominant power in the midst of your suffering …

In the midst of the severest persecution and suffering, God grants a special dispensation of the presence of His Holy Spirit, and He rests on the believer, which means He takes over.  And the mind transcends.

MacArthur points to Stephen the first martyr as being a perfect example. I wrote about Stephen’s apologetic and his stoning in my concluding discourse on Acts 7.

1 Peter 5:6-11

5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.

5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

5:8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.

5:9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.

5:10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

5:11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Peter exhorts his converts to humble themselves before God so that He may raise them up when the time comes (verse 6).

We are to cast our anxiety before God, the only One who cares for us (verse 7).

In the meantime, we are to increase our self-discipline, keeping ourselves on the watch for temptation and worldliness (verse 8). Satan never sleeps.

Therefore, we must resist Satan and remain strong in the faith, just like our fellow Christians (verse 9).

God is always aware of those who suffer in His name. He is the God of all grace and will restore those suffering temptation and persecution (verse 10). May we glorify God and His almighty, everlasting power over sin and suffering (verse 11).

John MacArthur analyses Peter’s letter as follows (emphases mine):

So Peter says then that the building blocks of spiritual attitudes include submission, humility and trust.  Now let’s move on tonight to the things that are ahead of us.  Starting in verse 8 we find the fourth necessary attitude for spiritual maturity, an attitude of self-control, an attitude of self- control … 

It means to be in control of the issues of life, having the priorities of life in the proper order and the proper balance.  It requires a discipline of mind and a discipline of body that avoids the very intoxicating allurements of the world … 

Abraham, through the eye of faith, understood spiritual priorities and didn’t get himself tangled up with earthly enterprises

Look at verse 8.  The reason we have to have our priorities right, the reason we need to trust God, the reason we need to humble ourselves under His almighty hand, and the reason we need to submit to those in authority over us and to God Himself is because our adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.  Peter says be on the alert, be on the alert.  Not only sober minded, not only having your priorities right, but watchful.  It’s an aorist imperative, stay awake, be ready, be alert, watch out.  Now strong trust in God’s mighty hand, strong trust in God’s care, strong confidence that we can cast all of our anxiety on Him does not mean carelessness and it doesn’t mean indulgence.  It doesn’t mean that because we trust God and because we throw all our care on Him that we become indolent and lazy and let down our guard or we will become victims of the enemy.  The outside forces that come against us demand us to be alert, vigilance.  The enemy, by the way, is very subtle.  According to 2 Corinthians chapter 11 he disguises himself as an angel of light and his ministers as angels of light.  He very rarely shows himself for who he isHe almost always masks himself as a religious personality, almost always endeavoring somehow in some way to be able to approach you subtly so that you can’t recognize the reality of who he is

He’s always active and he’s always looking for an opportunity to overwhelm us.  His aim is to sow discord, to break fellowship, to accuse God to men, to accuse men to God, to accuse men to each other, to undermine confidence, to silence confession, to get us to stop serving God.  He’s always after us.  He is called in John’s gospel three times the prince of this world.  He commands the human system …

In another sermon, MacArthur explains that Peter says not to attack Satan but to remain firm on the side of godly faith and truth.

Furthermore, we endure this battle together as believers, trusting God:

Suffering is a way of life as God is accomplishing His holy perfecting work in you.  Just look at the goal, he says, and realize everybody’s in it …

Wherever he comes from and in whatever form and manner, the solution is the same, spiritual weapons, stand in the truth, trust God.  And in my trust in God I go to prayer and I let the commander fight the battleIf I know the truth and obey the truth and commit my life to God, I stand strong.

MacArthur points out that Peter is not talking about daily grace from God but the grace He gives us to resist temptation:

while you are being personally attacked by the enemy, you are being personally perfected by God.  It’s personal. Himself[,] He’s doing it.  Marvelous thought.  He is intimately involved in the suffering of our lives.

God Himself is there battling and through the battle you become perfect, confirmed, strong and established.  Submission, humility, trust, self-control, vigilant defense, and hope. 

John 17:1-11

17:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,

17:2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

17:4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.

17:5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

17:8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

17:9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.

17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

17:11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

The first ten verses are the initial part of what is known as the High Priestly Prayer. I wrote about them in 2014 for a Maundy Thursday post, as Jesus spoke the words in John 17 at the Last Supper. You can also read parts 2 and 3.

As we approach Pentecost Sunday, we should find today’s Exaudi Sunday readings encouraging and uplifting, in spite of the worldly and vicious clamour around us.

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomThis year Ascension Day falls on May 25.

The feast of the Ascension is always on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter.

Here are past posts about Christ’s return to His Heavenly Father:

Acts 1:9-11 on the Ascension

A Reformed view of the Ascension (Christ as prophet, priest and king)

Ascension Day 2016 (John MacArthur on Acts 1:11)

I feel bad when I read of people who think this was a made-up event. In fact, I read a post on it just a few weeks ago by someone claiming to be ‘spiritual’.

I hope the aforementioned posts will convince those who are doubters that Christ had to ascend to heaven in order for the Holy Spirit to be present at the first Pentecost.

Incidentally, this coming Sunday is known in the Lutheran church as Exaudi Sunday. You can find out more in the post below:

Exaudi Sunday: between the Ascension and Pentecost

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