Thursday, January 31, 2008

Baptist Ways: more opinion

A few days ago, I posted a "review" of Baptist Ways. I have a few more thoughts I just couldn't keep to myself. ;-)

Your bias is showing. Regarding the inerrancy controversy in the mid 20th century Southern Baptist Convention, Leonard evidently lets down his guard (pp. 414-416). He notes that the fundamentalists preferred to be called conservatives and that the liberals preferred to be called moderates. Then he goes on calling the conservatives fundamentalists (which they do not prefer) and the liberals moderates (which they do prefer)? Why give one group their preferred name and deny it to the other? Historical accuracy? I think not.

Unindexed. One of my interests, washing of [saints'] feet, received only 1 listing in the index (p. 478). There are two problems -- one, that this was incorrect and it is actually mentioned on 5 different pages; and two, even 5 mentions is too few in a book covering 400 years of history. The index has several such problems (e.g. Cf. zenana in the index vs. zenana in the text).

Disrespecting T. P. Crawford. According to Leonard, missionary
Tarleton Perry Crawford "was a genuine eccentric who took on Chinese dress and made a fortune in real estate speculation." (p. 202) Baptist eccentricity is no surprise. They go together like baseball and hot dogs. But to reference Crawford "making a fortune" in real estate without either showing that he was an unscrupulous American cheating the Chinese or that he was a wise bivocational minister who supported the Gospel Mission with his business acumen is a little below the belt, in my opinion. Tell us what you really mean.

Baptist history vindicated. According to Bill Leonard
William H. Whitsitt's "...views were ultimately vindicated." What views? That Baptists did not institute immersion until 1641 (p. 216). Whitsitt's views have only been vindicated in the minds of those agree with him. Nevertheless, research of early 17th century Baptists has not ground to a halt due to Whitsitt "solving" the problem, nor does majority agreement with him in the 20th century prove his theory any more than majority agreement with successionism proved that in the 19th.

Oops. Apparently going from memory, Leonard states there were three Baptist U.S. Presidents in the 20th century -- Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Actually there were four. Warren G. Harding was the first.

My mistake. In the review, I mentioned that Baptist Ways is the most up-to-date single volume history of the Baptists. Actually since then
Contending for the Faith: an Updated History Of The Baptists (Robert Ashcraft, editor. Texarkana: Baptist Sunday School Committee, 2006) has been published. Baptist Ways was conceived as an update/replacement for Robert Baker's history of the Baptists. Contending for the Faith was conceived as an update/replacement for John T. Christian's history of the Baptists. I haven't seen this book, so can't comment further on it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Dissing" Natalee

The "Reverend Doctor" Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, has recently made the news with 2-1/2 year old comments* he made about Natalee Holloway. Wright believes that the U.S. media is biased, preferring to cover white victims of crime over black victims. I suspect this is "news" only because he is Senator Barack Obama's pastor. Politicians are always looking to see what they can dredge up on their opponents, and pundits are always looking for something new to talk about.

This morning, a
local radio station cited Jeremiah Wright's comments and asked for callers to discuss whether they thought black leaders might get by with racist comments that would get white leaders in trouble for being racists. Here are the statements by Wright which they referenced: "Black women are being raped daily in Darfur, Sudan, in the Congo and in Sub-Saharan Africa. That doesn't make news. One 18-year-old white girl from Alabama gets drunk on a graduation trip to Aruba, goes off and 'gives it up' while in a foreign country, and that stays in the news for months!"

Here are several thoughts that come to my mind:

Why did Wright only mention black women that are being raped in Darfur, Sudan, the Congo and Sub-Saharan Africa? What about black women being raped right here in the United States? (Maybe he did and we just don't have the whole quote). Is he biased against American black women? I do not condone an Alabama teen getting drunk on a graduation trip to Aruba and 'giving it up' (which some reports seem to indicate happened), but that nevertheless gives no one the right to rape or murder her.

But Wright does have a point. What is it about this one case that has captured the fancy of the news media while hundreds of others never receive the first mention? Our family's experience with the disappearance of
my mother-in-law makes us acutely aware that some stories are just "more important" than others. Despite repeated attempts to grasp someone's attention, her story has gone mostly unreported and underreported by all except local media. Perhaps media also has a bias against elderly white Alzheimer's patients.

Now, I may not be too up-to-date, but I don't altogether have my head in the sand either. I realize the news is about what grasps folks’ attention. But perhaps it is more about what grasps the attention of the media than what grasps the attention of "real people".

Ultimately, I don't know why some stories get the attention of the media and others do not. There may be a racial element to it. Since I am aware of numerous stories of whites that also didn't make the media grade, I have trouble believing that is the main element. There also may be a young element to it. There may be a pretty element to it. There may be a “scandal” element to it. Even Ellen DeGeneres' dog was a bigger story than black women being raped in Darfur, Sudan, the Congo and Sub-Saharan Africa; women being raped right here in the U.S.; or the tens of thousands of missing persons in the United States. What is reported and what is not reveals something about the media's biases more than about the average person. Most of the "real people" with whom I rub shoulders day to day have the capacity to follow a story about a missing and presumed murdered 18 year old, whether she be black, white, Hispanic or otherwise -- as well as to sympathize with the family in their loss.

We are glad for the family of Natalee Holloway that their plight can be known. We also wish the same for others.

* From the August 2005 edition of Trumpet Magazine, a publication of his Trinity United Church of Christ. This recent information appears to emanate from Obama's pastor disses Natalee Holloway, on World Net Daily, January 27, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Feet washing in Kentucky

“THE WASHING OF FEET was a very common ceremony among the early churches of Kentucky. It prevailed to some extent among the Regular Baptists, especially those of them who had been brought up among the Separate Baptists, as was the case with many of the Regular Baptists in Kentucky. The Elkhorn Association decided, as early as 1788, that: ‘As to feet washing, the Association is not unanimous, but agrees that the using or not using that practice shall not affect our fellowship.’ Among the Regular Baptists, it was practiced partially a few years, and then went entirely out of use. It was strenuously insisted on among the Separate Baptists, and has continued to be practiced among them to the present time. The following resolution, passed by the South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists, in 1873, shows the position of the Separate Baptists on the question of feet washing: ‘10. That Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Washing of the saints’ feet, are ordinances of the gospel, to be kept up until the coming of our Lord and Master.’ Some of the Anti-missionary Baptists also keep up the practice of feet washing to the present time. The ordinance is deduced from the example of our Savior, as recorded in the 13th chapter of John, and is there sufficiently described.” -- p. 486, A History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. I, By J. H. Spencer (Ch. 25)

Much Kentucky Baptist history can be found online HERE.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What say ye?

Yesterday I heard a preacher on the radio talking about enjoying church. He talked about how church ought to be fun, but often it is not; that we should enjoy going to church, but often we do not. I agree that church should be an enjoyable experience for the child of God.

But after that point of agreement (which most would probably agree to in one sense or another), churches and preachers diverge widely on what is the problem and what is the solution. If you think the problem is the church service itself, then you will look at something TO DO to make the service more exciting, more entertaining, more enlightening, more enterprising, more exhilarating, and a hundred other "ings". What if the problem is in the heart? If you think the problem is in the people who are attending the church service, you know there's nothing you can do about the heart. Only God changes hearts. Perhaps that's why multitudes of churches retreat from a problem they can do nothing about and start changing things about the church service -- something they can address.

Now, I won't argue that there is nothing about any church services that needs to be changed. BUT when people who claim to have found hope in Christ as their Lord and Saviour do not enjoy singing His praises, praying to Him, studying His word, hearing His Word expounded, and such like, doesn't that indicate a heart problem that new programs and new ideas just won't address?

What say ye?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shall we sin?

“Shall we sin because we are not under the Law”? Rom. 6:15

What, then! Shall Christians sin,
Because freed from the law?
Shall sinners, saved by grace divine,
From holiness withdraw?

Shall grace seduce the mind,
And lead the soul astray?
And souls who under grace are found,
Delight to disobey?

Great God, forbid the thought!
Preserve thy saints in love,
While Pharisees set grace at nought,
Saints shall thy ways approve.

William Gadsby, from the Gadsby Hymnal # 601

Friday, January 25, 2008

Give Me That Old-Time Singing

Give Me That Old-Time Singing

" get us thinking yet again about what our music is and isn't..."

"For those with heartfelt desire to preserve the tradition of Sacred Harp singing, regardless of whether they are motivated by religious or secular considerations, it is important to recognize the central message contained in most of the music. Contrary to the primary themes of the Time article, the music was not written and sung to create a trendy art form, generate a place for 'hip advocates' to gather, or necessarily even do it merely for 'the sound'. Many - I would hope most - of the early singer/composers were writing and singing as a form of worship of our Savior, Jesus Christ the Son of God. Whether a portion of the singers, even a majority of the singers, now sing the music for other reasons (such as is their right), we must faithfully recognize the centrality of the spiritual roots of Sacred Harp. To do otherwise is to risk that Sacred Harp singing will go the way of all trends and fads; a flash in the pan rather than a continuing tradition."
-- Tom Mitchell, Posted 20 Jan 2008 on the Fasola Singings list

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Baptist Ways: an opinion

Baptist Ways: a History. Bill J. Leonard, Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2003. $30.00, paper, 480 pages. ISBN 0-8170-1231-1 Bill J. Leonard is dean and professor of church history at Wake Forest University Divinity School, Winston-Salem, NC. He is the editor or author of fifteen books, including A Dictionary of Baptists in America; Christianity in Appalachia: Profiles in Regional Pluralism; God's Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptist Convention; and most recently, Baptists in America.

Edwin Gaustad's foreword explains that Baptist Ways was conceived as a follow-up to and replacement of Robert G. Torbet's A History of the Baptists. Gaustad believes the result is "a fresh and exciting new interpretation and presentation of Baptists worldwide." (p. XII)

In his introduction, Mr. Leonard discusses the problem of defining a people as diverse as the Baptists. His approach views Baptist history through "eight dialectics", seeing "classic distinctives as dynamics moving in tandem across a wide spectrum of belief and practice." (p. 16) He briefly recites various views of Baptist origins. Since Leonard believes the Baptist denomination is an outgrowth of English Puritanism, he begins in the 17th century and brings Baptists forward chronologically to the present. The book consists of 16 chapters, for the most part moving back and forth between British and American Baptists, introducing other areas at appropriate times.

My brief comments draw headings from the old spaghetti western -- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, Il cattivo, Il brutto) -- rather than a standard book review format.

The Good/Il buono
Up-to-date. Leonard's book was published in 2003, making it the most up-to-date single volume Baptist history available. It provides certain recent information not available in older works.
International. Widens the scope far beyond British and American Baptists to take a closer look at other Baptists around the globe. While Leonard is an American Baptist most familiar with the American Baptist experience, he warms to the task of presenting the international scene.
Well-written. The colossal task of a single volume Baptist history requires not only archival acumen and relentless research, but also a well-written story that engages the reader. I believe Leonard accomplishes the latter. Despite the problems inherent in telling a story over several centuries and across several continents, I found the story of Baptist Ways to be skillfully interwoven. For example, Elon Galusha -- a member of the first Baptist church in Vermont and a son of the governor -- is mentioned in passing in chapter 6 (p. 125). Chapter 8 returns to Galusha, a Triennial Convention member who was an active abolitionist (pp. 187-88). Not forgotten, Galusha reappears in chapter 9 with his defection to and return from the Millerite movement (p. 213).
Hymnody. Gives us information about an important part of Baptist life that is often ignored or only superficially mentioned in Baptist histories -- their hymnody.
Women's Work. Emphasizes Baptist women, their work, societies and other auxiliaries. This information is often not available in such a work. In addition to providing historical information and recognizing the work of Baptist women, it also provides a background for current controversies over the ordination of women. Baptists did not suddenly wake up and decide to start ordaining women.
Cost. Can usually be found four or five dollars cheaper than its list price, and even as much as ten dollars less.

The Bad/Il cattivo

Hymnody. Does not follow through with this all the way through the book. Hymnody is not mentioned as much in the end as at the beginning.
Women's Work. Receives too large a focus in relation to the whole. This stress is probably intended to make up for largely ignoring Baptist women in the past -- which certainly has been done. But it may give a skewed view. Painting an object too far in front of the forest may make the object seem too large and the forest too small. Risking being called a Neanderthal (in opposing ordination of women) and a Hardshell (in opposing missionary societies*), I would have nevertheless enjoyed reading a little less of this and a little more of some things and groups not mentioned at all by Leonard. On the other hand, despite laying the groundwork for telling the modern women's ordination controversy, Leonard fails to follow up on that sufficiently. But, I suppose it is as Leonard foretold, "...some readers will be distressed that particular stories are not told."
The inexplicable. For examples: After noting the formation of the Six-Principle Calvinistic Baptist Association in New England in the 1750s, Leonard reports that the Warren Association (founded in 1767) was the first Baptist association in New England (p. 123). After setting forth the founding of the National Missionary Baptist Convention (p. 276), Leonard lists "eight specific African American denominations evident in the United States" -- a list that does not include the National MBC (p. 282).

Lack of clarity. For examples: Noting "Primitive Baptists also have a presence in Canada" (p. 244), Leonard does not clarify for the uninitiated whether these are the Arminian Primitive Baptists or the Predestinarian Primitive Baptists. Discussing Primitive Baptists in the context of Appalachian sub-denominations, he claims "Primitive Baptists have spread to the Midwest and Southwest." (p. 207) The novice might misjudge that Primitive Baptists in the Midwest and Southwest are transplants from Appalachia rather than locals who took one side of a missionary controversy. The teeming sea of Baptist sub-denominations is overwhelming, and it is not surprising that Mr. Leonard would fail to clarify them all and/or make a few hard to explain statements.
Cost. $30.00

The Ugly/Il brutto
Printing errors. It is surprising that such an important work by major denominational publishing house has quite a few typographical/printing errors. Most are of the non-invasive type -- a word left out here or there, misplaced capitalization or the lack thereof, etc. The really ugly ones are three paragraphs on page 244 and two on pages 251-2 that were damaged by a "computer glitch". These sections are not unreadable, but nearly so. My edition contained a small errata sheet stuck into the pages. I don't know if I were you, but since I'm me I'd not order online. I got my copy that way. But knowing what I know now, I'd go to a bookstore and look to see whether these pages have been corrected. Hopefully these errors, as well as issues of lack of clarity, will be addressed in future editions.

As someone said in another book review, "One could quibble about what is not included." I did. "Or one could criticize certain inclusions." I’ve done that, too. In fact, one could even question the advisability of attempting a single volume history of Baptists. It seems to be one of those things you can't live with or without. Everything about Baptists could not be told in 4250 pages, much less 425. But someone must try, because that's as far as some will ever explore the landscape of Baptist history. Better that they get an overview than nothing at well. In addition to what Leonard reveals about Baptists in the book, the book reveals something about his passions (missions and education), his priorities (ecumenism) and his prejudices (separatism, landmarkism). Despite a few reservations, I recommend that the lover of Baptist history add this book to his or her library. Students, teachers, and pastors will find Baptist Ways to be a useful tool. In the end we may all learn with Edwin Gaustad that "It is true that Baptists embrace religious liberty -- in their best days for all of humankind. It is also true that Baptists embody religious liberty -- in their worst days in the unending multiplicity of denominational tags and labels and nicknames." (p. XII)

Online reviews of Baptist Ways

Walter B. Shurden
The Baptist Studies Bulletin "A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today", September 2003 Vol. 2 No. 9

* in this I equally oppose men's and women's missionary societies
* Note added 22 Sept 2016: Bill J. Leonard is now the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and Professor of Church History at Wake Forest University Divinity School.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fort Worth Sacred Harp

The 24th Annual William J Reynolds Singing will be held (d.v.) Saturday, January 26, 2008 at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (Time: 9:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. 1991 Revision). Y'all come.

For more info: Timothy Studstill

The Box and the Button

From the far side, one "classic" show I remember from years past from The Twilight Zone:

A stranger shows up at the door and delivers a box to couple. It is a simple box with a button on top. The stranger tells the couple that if they push the button, he will return and give them a large sum of money. BUT "someone YOU DO NOT KNOW will die."

Much of the show is consumed with the couple's agony over whether or not they should push the button -- the rights and wrongs, goods and bads, pluses and minuses. They check the box carefully and find it to be completely empty, with nothing except a button on top. Should they push it? Should they not? Why not?

Finally, they push the button. The next day the stranger returns. He takes back the box and gives them the money. They ask, "What are you going to do with the box?" The stranger calmly replies that it will be given to someone else -- "someone YOU DO NOT KNOW."

At least that's how I remember it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Canadian Baptist history

There has been very little material online concerning the history of the Covenanted Baptist Church of Canada. The Primitive Baptist Library of Carthage Illinois has started a page (see below) with some information about their history.

The Particular Covenanted Baptist Church of Ontario and Manitoba, Canada

Monday, January 21, 2008

Diverse thoughts on a holiday

Today is
Martin Luther King day, a United States holiday set aside to honor the American civil rights advocate by the same name. According to Wikipedia, King's birthday was actually January the 15th. But here in the U.S. we have a penchant for moving holidays to Monday so we can have a long weekend. I don't know what that shows -- that we are smart? lazy? not real particular about when we celebrate something as long as it's convenient?

Speaking of that -- our local libraries have a penchant for closing on the Saturday before a Monday holiday. Is that common in other parts of the United States? I can understand the desire to have a long weekend, but closing on Saturday cuts off the use of the library to many who, because of work schedules, are unable to visit the library during the workweek. Librarians, give us your side of this.

After a win over San Diego yesterday, the New England Patriots remain

Word of the day
Undecheated. adjective, remaining victorious in spite of being cheaters. Etymology {from un- "not" + defeated [Failure to win] (n.) + cheated [To violate rules deliberately, as in a game] (v.) - f = remaining victorious in spite of being cheaters (or something like that)}

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Lord's day

How welcome to the saints, when pressed
With six days noise, and care, and toil,
Is the returning day of rest,
Which hides them from the world awhile.

Now, from the throng withdrawn away,
They seem to breathe a different air;
Composed and softened by the day,
All things another aspect wear.

How happy if their lot is cast,
Where statedly the gospel sounds
The word is honey to their taste,
Renews their strength, and heals their wounds!

Though pinched with poverty at home,
With sharp afflictions daily fed;
It makes amends, if they can come
To God's own house for heav'nly bread!

With joy they hasten to the place,
Where they their Savior oft have met;
And while they feast upon his grace,
Their burdens and their griefs forget.

We thank thee for thy day, O Lord,
Here we thy promised presence seek;
Open thine hand, with blessings stored,
And give us Manna for the week.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Extremities and peace

"The divine providence that is sufficient to deliver us in our utmost extremity is equally necessary in the most peaceful situation." -- John Newton

Friday, January 18, 2008

Also amazing

In Tuesday's post about the hymn 'Amazing Grace', I wrote, "William Cowper was struggling with depression...[and] sank into a suicidal melancholy which lasted several months. He recovered to a large degree. But afterward, he no longer attended the church at Olney. He never wrote another hymn. He did not loose his faith in God, but evidently lost all in himself."

Many people are familiar with Cowper's unstable state of mind -- something he apparently struggled with throughout most of his life. Other's may have no knowledge of it. Such knowledge is unnecessary to understand the meaning of Cowper's hymns. But knowing the trouble he suffered makes all the more amazing to me hymns such as "Walking with GOD" and "Light shining out of darkness".

Hymn 3, Walking with GOD. Gen 5:24
O! for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heav'nly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!

Hymn 15, Light shining out of darkness.
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Perhaps it is easier for us to sing "O! for a closer walk with God, A calm and heav'nly frame" when the world inside our minds is mostly calm. Or to sing "Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face" when we have seen much more of the smiling face than the frowning providence. Regardless of the storm, may we be blessed to know HIM who rides upon it. May we learn that "The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow'r."

* Wm. Cowper wrote "Walking with GOD" in 1769 when his adoptive mother, Mrs. Mary Unwin, was seriously ill and believed to be at the point of death. Various stories surround his "Light shining out of darkness" and when it was written, some of which may be apocryphal.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

“Not to Sinai, but to Zion”

Not to Sinai’s dreadful blaze,
But to Zion’s throne of grace,
By a way marked out with blood,
Sinners now approach to God.

Not to hear the fiery law,
but with humble joy to draw
Water by that well supplied,
Jesus opened when He died.

Lord, there are no streams but thine
can assuage a thirst like mine!
Tis a thirst Thyself didst give;
Let me, therefore, drink and live.

-- Gadsby Hymnal #973, John Newton

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Free and Voluntary

Suretyship imports that the obligation be free and voluntary, for the Law forces none to be a Surety, or to engage for others. My brethren, though God did choose Jesus Christ to be the Surety of this Covenant for us, yet Christ, as a most free and voluntary act on His part, undertook that office. For that Law we had broken, laid no obligation on him, nor was He under any necessity of Nature to undertake herein, because He was the Son of God, but this choice is ascribed wholly to His infinite love and goodness. It is a Sovereign act of His own free grace to undertake for man, and not for angels, and also only for some of the lost Sons of Adam, and not for all. “No man takes my life from me, but I lay it down freely; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again,” John 10:18. “Lo, I come in the volume of the Book, it is written of me to do thy will, O God,” Hebrews 10:5, 7.

Benjamin Keach, 1689 (as posted on Shreveport Grace Church bulletin - 29 October 2007)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Amazing Grace, according to Jonathan Aitken, is "the most sung, most recorded and most loved hymn in the world." This hymn, titled 'Faith's Review and Expectation', was prepared by John Newton for a New Year's sermon on January 1, 1773. Newton was preaching at a church in Olney, England. His friend William Cowper had moved to Olney in 1767, and together they conceived an idea to collaborate on a hymn book. According to Steve Turner, "the day Newton presented the hymn for the first time was also the day Cowper attended the church for the last time."

William Cowper was struggling with depression. Perhaps John Newton hoped these lines of grace and assurance would help his friend. Rather, Cowper sank into a suicidal melancholy which lasted several months. He recovered to a large degree. But afterward, he no longer attended the church at Olney. He never wrote another hymn. He did not loose his faith in God, but evidently lost all in himself.

For many months after Jan. 1, 1773, Newton didn't write hymns either. But he would later crank up his production and finish
Olney Hymns on his own. Olney Hymns was a success, going through over 40 editions and half a million copies. Despite the popularity of Olney Hymns, No. 41, 'Faith's Review and Expectation', passed on relatively unnoticed in its homeland. It was reprinted in the Select Collection of Hymns by the Countess of Huntingdon in 1780. It appeared in not one single hymnal published by the Church of England before 1900. In fact, in 1892 hymnologist John Julian wrote, "In Great Britain it is unknown to modern collections, but in America its use is extensive. It is far from being a good example of Newton's work." It first appeared in America in 1789 in a hymnal of the Dutch Reformed Church.

It was connected with various tunes until William Walker paired it with the tune New Britain in his 1835
Southern Harmony. There are various debates and theories about the origins of this tune. Regardless of the mysteries surrounding its origin, or what possessed William Walker to wed the hymn and tune, most would agree with Jonathan Aitken that "it was a marriage made in heaven."

Perhaps Newton hoped the hymn would comfort and reassure his friend William Cowper. He could not know that what passed unsuccessfully in 1773 would touch the hearts of countless millions in ages to come.

Faith's review and expectation. 1 Chron 17:16-17

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, hut now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The LORD has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But GOD, who called me here below,
Will be for ever mine.

* William Cowper is the author of the hymn that appeared on yesterday's blog.
** Much of the historical information is based on facts presented in John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, by Jonathan Aitken. It's a very good read. I highly recommend it.
*** Also referenced: Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song, New York, NY: Ecco, 2002. A Dictionary of Hymnology: Origin and history of Christian hymns and hymnwriters of all ages and nations, John Julian, 1892. According to The Cowper and Newton [Museum] Bulletin, Vol 2 No 1, 67 of the Olney hymns were written by Cowper, and 281 written by Newton -- the disparity reflecting Cowper's abstinence from hymn writing after 1773.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The sacred page...

"The Word of God is solid; it will stand a thousand readings, and he who has gone over it the most frequently is the surest of finding new wonders there." -- J. Hamilton, in A Homiletic Encyclopaedia of Illustrations in Theology, Robert Aitkin Bertram, 1885

A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun;
It gives a light to every age;
It gives, but borrows none.

The Spirit breathes upon the Word
And brings the truth to sight;
Precepts and promises afford
A sanctifying light.

The hand that gave it still supplies
The gracious light and heat;
His truths upon the nations rise;
They rise, but never set.

Let everlasting thanks be Thine
For such a bright display.
As makes a world of darkness shine
With beams of heavenly day.

My soul rejoices to pursue
The steps of Him I love,
Till glory breaks upon my view
In brighter worlds above.

William Cowper (1731-1800), 1770
Copied from Song To The Lamb, Tue 13 Nov 2007

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Using titles

There is really no comparison between calling another believer with whom we associate brother or sister, and singling out a few to be called “elder”. In the case of addressing one another as brother we are not so much offering a “title” as we are describing a relationship of endearment. The term elder is never used as a title such as Elder Paul or Elder John in the scripture whereas there is scriptural example for addressing a fellow believer as brother as we see in Acts, “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Act 9:17) It is totally against the tenor of scripture and the scriptural understanding of the office of elder to assign a designation (whether elder, reverend, or bishop, etc) to someone to make a distinction between them and any other brother in CHRIST based on a gift or calling which is given to them. This practice is passed down from Rome and cannot be discovered in the pages of the Bible. It seems preposterous to contend that any one (regardless of age) should ever be addressed as Elder (since the literal meaning of the term means “older” and is even applied to women in I Tim 5:2,) simply because they are recognized to be in possession of a gift or calling. It would perhaps be (at least somewhat) acceptable to use this term as a means of showing respect to those who are aged and have demonstrated faithfulness in the discharge of their calling (whatever that may be) over a long period of time, but even then to do so is to do so without scriptural example, but does at least recognize that the term “elder” is to be associated with age and not gifts. We can call one another brother or sister scripturally since to do so is to recognize that we are all alike in the same relationship to one another and the LORD. The common use of the term “elder” as a title demonstrates the penchant men have for esteeming some above others because of a gift or calling and is of the same spirit as those in the nation of Israel who delighted to have a king. I fear that the clergy/laity distinctions of Rome are not too far removed from those who persist in this practice. Let me add that my comments here are not meant to be “critical” of those who have most likely never seriously considered this matter at any length but merely carry on traditions that they were raised with. In some ways this is an insignificant issue when merely considering this as a title of respect but is a more serious one when it reveals that there is in the minds of GOD’s people that HE has set up a ruling class of men which are set apart from the rest of the brethren. Let all be done with simplicity. -- Mike McInnis, the predestinarian listserve, 18 August 2007

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Reflections on...Dinner on the Ground

Another book on Sacred Harp will soon be available, this one with a little different twist. The University of Nebraska Press is publishing A Sacred Feast: Reflections on All-Day Singing and Dinner on the Ground by Kathryn Eastburn. It will be available in March (you can order it now). According to Kathryn, "It's a beautifully produced, colorful book about the vitality of Sacred Harp singing communities around the country and about being a stranger entering that community and the hollow square." Each chapter features a different singing and ends with recipes.

From the University of Nebraska Press web site:
"With curiosity and humanity, she tells the story of a community of people held together by the most powerful of bonds—tradition, song, and food. She writes in elegant, crystal-clear prose, and it is a pleasure to be transported by her all across America to gathering after gathering, learning and celebrating as we go.” — Richard Goodman, author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

Friday, January 11, 2008

The heart taken

The heart taken.
Lk 11:21,22

The castle of the human heart
Strong in its native sin;
Is guarded well, in every part,
By him who dwells within.

For Satan there, in arms, resides,
And calls the place his own;
With care against assaults provides,
And rules, as on a throne.

Each traitor thought on him, as chief,
In blind obedience waits;
And pride, self-will, and unbelief,
Are posted at the gates.

Thus Satan for a season reigns,
And keeps his goods in peace;
The soul is pleased to wear his chains,
Nor wishes a release.

But Jesus, stronger far than he,
In his appointed hour
Appears, to set his people free
From the usurper's pow'r.

"This heart I bought with blood, he says,
And now it shall be mine;"
His voice the strong one armed dismays,
He knows he must resign.

In spite of unbelief and pride,
And self, and Satan's art;
The gates of brass fly open wide,
And Jesus wins the heart.

The rebel soul that once withstood
The Savior's kindest call;
Rejoices now, by grace subdued,
To serve him with her all.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779.
Copied from Song to the Lamb 29 Nov 2007

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I have added two new links to my sidebar -- and Praisegod Barebones. The first is a blog my wife started for her mother, who is missing. It has links, newspaper articles, etc. The second is Bart Barber's blog. He blogs on Southern Baptist issues, but also on Baptist history. Besides, anybody with a name like -- Praisegod Barebones, not Bart Barber -- ought to have a link!

While doing so, I have also alphabetized the sidebar links.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lon Smith's reminiscences

Lon A. Smith (1869 - 1947) was raised in the New Prospect community of Rusk County, Texas. New Prospect was an old Sacred Harp stronghold. Smith served as clerk of the Mt. Zion Baptist Association for several years (1894-1900). He became Railroad Commissioner of the state of Texas and was so in 1931 when in the Sacred Harp Journal Smith reveled in his memories of the way things were.

I see a picture, vivid, abiding as it hangs in the choicest nook of memory's cloister...Another picture in kaleidoscope procession comes to enchant. The people have come from a dozen different counties for a three days convention of singers - Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The leader stands before his class, tuning fork in hand. He strikes a table, pulpit, or post with this simple instrument, places it to his ear, and calls to his class to "sound your parts." Proper volume is given to the three major parts; bass, treble, tenor, according to the Sacred Harp, and the class of singers proceed. Methinks I hear the reviberations of these soul inspiring songs floating among the top-most boughs of the tall pines as notes of harmony play in the breezes. The notes fa, me, sol, la are sung first and then the "poetry". The very quintessence of the gospel of the Son of Peace reposes in these songs of assurance, comfort, atonement, faith, consecration, confession, grace, love and repentance; Antioch; Broad is the Road, Midleton, David's Lamentation, Murello's Lesson, Prospect, Coronation, Portuguese Hymn, Holy Manna, Pisgah, Happy Day, Zion, Windham, Pleyel's Hymn. I pen them from memory. The leader holds the class for a half dozen selections, perhaps, when the class follows for thirty minutes a new leader. For three days, the Convention lasts. Voices never grow hoarse; provisions never give out. Church[es], as a rule in East Texas, were located near a gurgling spring of crystal clear water where man and horse could drink. The culinary art reached its highest perfection in the countryside. No recipe, formula, cook book or demonstrators were ever referred to by an East Texas housewife, and no dietition was consulted by those who ate the wholesome food. Spoonfuls, cupfuls, handfuls, were the measure for sugar, lard, flour, butter, eggs and other ingredients that went most unstintingly into the viands spread for these ‘dinner on the ground’ occasions. -- Smith, Lon A. “From Lon Smith, Railroad Commissioner of Texas”, Sacred Harp Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, August 1931, reprinted in the National Sacred Harp Newsletter, October 1987, p. 2
This interesting writing reveals several things. The memories seem to go back to the early 20th century or late 19th, when most of The Sacred Harp songs did not have alto. Select leaders were given ample time to give their lesson to the class. They might discover the pitch with a tuning fork, and called on all the parts to sound their pitch before beginning. His list indicates some songs that were popular in East Texas in that period. He also shines the light on old East Texas cooks, who prepared in large quantities, consulting only tradition and skill rather than a cookbook.

Some things about Lon A. Smith: School teacher in Rusk County circa 1886-1902; County Clerk, Rusk County 1902-1914; Texas State Senator 1914-1920; Comptroller 1920-1924; Railroad Commissioner 1924-1940; Baptist Deacon 1900-1947; he married Kate Montgomery (1876 - 1962)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Age of Sacred Harp Conventions

The first decade of the 21st century sees three Sacred Harp Conventions turning 150 years old. First, in 2002, was the birthday of the Chattahoochee Musical Convention in Georgia. Then in 2005 the East Texas Convention in Texas. This year will be the Southeast Convention in Alabama. The Southeast Convention (org. ca 1858) is "the oldest Alabama singing assembly still in existence." (The Sacred Harp, Cobb, p. 139)

The following 33 conventions are over 100 years old. I have listed them as to their last meeting location, but a few of them are "traveling conventions" that move from place to place by invitation. These ages I have based on reports in minute books, without bothering to try and confirm all of them (I don't have time to do that right now) -- so I'm putting circa in front of them. On some of them I know the year, but it is easier to put "ca" in front of all of them some they'll line up! :-) Most of these dates have probably not been addressed in scholarly research. That doesn't mean they're inaccurate. The main point is not to give the exact date of the organization of these conventions, but rather to illustrate the age of the Sacred Harp movement and demonstrate the tenacity of these old conventions hanging on.

1852 Chattahoochee Musical Convention - GA
1855 East Texas Convention - TX
1858 Southeast Convention - AL

ca. 1866 Boiling Springs Convention - AL
ca. 1867 West Florida Convention - FL
ca. 1868 Union Musical Convention - GA
ca. 1868 Alpharetta Singing - GA
ca. 1872 Hillabee Convention - AL
ca. 1872 Chafin-Harbinson-Hollis Memorial - AL
ca. 1873 Holmes Valley Convention - FL
ca. 1877 Calhoun County Musical Association - MS
ca. 1880 Henry County Convention - AL
ca. 1881 Chickasaw County Convention - MS
ca. 1888 Central Music Convention - AL
ca. 1888 Cotaco Convention - AL
ca. 1889 Cleburne County Convention - AL
ca. 1890 Covington County Convention - AL
ca. 1892 Mount Zion Memorial - GA
ca. 1893 Spring Hill Convention - FL
ca. 1899 Alabama State Convention - AL
ca. 1899 Fayette County Convention - AL
ca. 1900 Dale County Convention - AL
ca. 1900 Middle Creek Convention - AL
ca. 1900 Southwest Texas Convention - TX
ca. 1903 Bulger and Cockcroft Memorial - AL
ca. 1903 Lookout Mountain Convention - AL
ca. 1903 Mt. Pisgah Singing Society - AL
ca. 1904 United Sacred Harp Musical Association - GA/AL
ca. 1905 Mount Ebron Memorial Singing - AL
ca. 1905 Mulberry River Convention - AL
ca. 1906 Nix-Keeton-McGough Memorial - AL

Two others that need explanation.
Elmore Center Singing - AL
B. F. White Interstate Convention - GA

The Elmore Center singing is somewhat of an anomaly, listed as starting around 1844. This listing has continued with little notice or mention within a community that consistently recognizes that the Southern Musical Convention (organized in 1845) was the first Sacred Harp convention, and that the Chattahoochee Musical Convention (organized in 1852) is the oldest surveying Sacred Harp singing convention. I am not sure on what the Elmore Center singing date is based.

The B. F. White Interstate Convention (or B. F. White Memorial Convention) in Decatur GA, though not mentioned thusly in recent minutes, in the past listed its sessions according to an 1845 organization date -- claiming itself as the successor to the Southern Musical Convention. The White family connection lends credibility to this claim, but the convention itself is a different organization than the Southern Musical Convention.

Often there is inconsistency and/or complexity in reporting the age/sessions of a convention. I can't speak for other conventions, but I'll use the East Texas Convention as an example. This year's East Texas Convention is the 151st Annual, 140th consecutive, but our 153rd anniversary -- OR something like that!

The Convention was organized in 1855, hence the 153rd anniversary. There have been approximately 151 annual sessions (based on missing 3 or 4 sessions during the War), but this is the 140th (so labeled, but actually 141st) consecutive session -- assuming 1868, the first year with a record, was the first year they started back after the War. And assuming that they did meet on the few years for which there is record in the succeeding years after 1868.

Despite the need to clarify some things about the ages of these Sacred Harp conventions, the thing to notice is the number of conventions with a history that extends over 100 years. Sacred Harp has long-standing traditions and a very interesting history.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The falling window washer who didn't die

Our journey here will ebb and flow
'Til our GOD summons us to go;
Then we will here no longer stay
But to our place then flee away.

There is a time to be born, and a time to die.

On the morning of Dec. 7, brothers Edgar and Alcides Moreno fell from the roof of a 47-story apartment building in New York. A swing scaffold collapsed and the brothers plunged down at a speed of up to 124 miles per hour. Edgar was killed, but Alcides survived. "Stefan Bright, safety director for the International Window Cleaners Association, never heard of a case like Alcides'," saying, "Window washers have fallen six feet and died." Dr. Sheldon Teperman at Jacobi Medical Center said, "This guy absolutely should have died."

But he didn't die. Everyone thinks they know the reason: "the aluminum platform added air resistance that slowed his descent," "Maybe...a random air current rising between the Upper East Side buildings...slowed him the extra bit that spared his life," "a tangle of cables and bent railings...may have broken his 500-foot fall or absorbed some of the shock," "His landing position also could have made a huge difference," and/or "extreme luck." All of these and more (except the "luck") may have conspired to break his fall. But there is The Cause behind the causes -- "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death..." Ecclesiastes 8:8. God is in charge of the day we die.

On 5 Jan 2008, the National Post reported that doctors say Alcides Moreno "is now awake, talking to his family and expected to walk again."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Latin word of the day

missio dei -- a Latin theological term that can be translated as the "sending of God." "When kept in the context of the Scriptures, missio Dei correctly emphasizes that God is the initiator of His mission to redeem through the Church a special people for Himself from all of the peoples (ta ethne) of the world." (Wikipedia)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Comfort my people

"Comfort, comfort my people," says your God. Isaiah 40:1

"To seek comfort from priests or parsons is the very perfection of religious folly, yet the world is full of it. Look at them as described in Isaiah 56:10,12: they are blind, ignorant, speechless, lazy, greedy, grasping, besotted. Painful descriptions are given of the incompetency of the prophets and pastors of Israel in Jer. 23, and Ezek. 34. The priest and the Levite had no cordial nor consolation for the Zionite who fell among thieves. But where His own ministers fail, God's will is not frustrated nor His purpose of grace defeated, "His compassions fail not," for where men and means fail in comforting His people, He will comfort them Himself, and thus prove the stability of His appointments, the sovereignty of His will, the immutability of His counsel, the power of His hand, and the love of His heart."
-- Excerpted from the sermon "Comfort My People" By Thomas Bradbury, Preached in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Evening, November 7th, 1897. (Sent by Jerry Mourer, 17 Dec 2007)

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Holy Scriptures, by Wimer

"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." -- 2 Timothy 3:15

Timothy ' s mother, being a Jewess, would have trained him up early in the knowledge of the scriptures. By the revelation of God’s Spirit, he was enabled by God’s grace, to not only understand them, but see in them the very person and glory of Christ, and was drawn to Him in submission to that righteous obedience that Christ worked out at the cross on his behalf. From there, God continued to bless and teach him that the Scripture is ALL about Him as God’s Son, the Savior, and Sinless Substitute. But, why does Paul refer to God’s Word as ‘holy scriptures?’

First, it is to distinguish them from all other men’s writings and commentaries. Only the writings (scriptures) in their original form are without error, pure, unblemished, and therefore HOLY- Psalm 119:140 (pure as gold that has been refined and found pure).

Second, because the author of them is the HOLY Spirit of God designed to reveal the HOLY character of God and how He is the just justifier of those that Christ has redeemed. Christ died, the JUST for the unjust. Beware of any doctrine that makes Christ sinful, with a corrupt nature, in the name of Substitution. It is contrary to the very nature of holiness, as is any doctrine that makes the sinner holy by any other way than that imputed by God in Christ’s obedience unto death, Galatians 2:16-18.

Third, the subject of the scriptures is HOLY, both in the Law and the Gospel. That is why they condemn sin and self-righteousness in any shape, form or manner (the Law), but also reveal the HOLY and just way that God has dealt with sin, and declared sinners righteous exclusively in the death of His Son- (the Gospel)! Romans 3:19-25.

Fourth, they command obedience and submission to God’s righteousness imputed in Christ, whereby all whom He saved by His obedience unto death at the cross have been once for all declared HOLY, and therefore saints, not in themselves, but Him! Romans 10:3, 4, 1 Corinthians 1:2.

Bless the holy God for the Holy Scriptures that He has inspired, kept, and continues to reveal, by His Holy Spirit, to His elect whom He has declared holy by the imputed righteousness of His Son. It’s ALL about His holiness!
-- Ken Wimer, Shreveport Grace Church bulletin, August 19, 2007

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Word for today

Cloy: to become uninteresting or distasteful through overabundance; to cause distaste or disgust by supplying with too much of something originally pleasant; sate, satiate, surfeit.

"The Christians of old...
However employed their joy was the same;
They never were cloyed in hymning the Lamb;
Their sole recreation - to sing of His praise,
And publish salvation by Jesus' grace." -- # 206, From The Primitive Hymns, Spiritual Songs and Sacred Poems, by Benjamin Lloyd, 1841/ The Primitive Hymn Corp., 1999

Martha Henderson wrote of a service (not Sacred Harp) in which she encountered songs that "were so saccharine and so relentlessly cheerful that they were cloying." -- as quoted by Kiri Miller in A Long Time Traveling

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Keeping up with the Joneses

"Quit trying to keep up with the Joneses -- most likely they're headed to divorce or bankruptcy!" [perhaps not an exact quote; made by someone on the radio named Dave Ramsey]

I hope your New Year's Resolution isn't to keep up with the Joneses!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Home in view.

As when the weary travell'r gains
The height of some o'er-looking hill;
His heart revives, if cross the plains
He eyes his home, though distant still.

While he surveys the much-loved spot,
He slights the space that lies between;
His past fatigues are now forgot,
Because his journey's end is seen.

Thus, when the christian pilgrim views
By faith, his mansion in the skies;
The sight his fainting strength renews,
And wings his speed to reach the prize.

The thought of home his spirit cheers,
No more he grieves for troubles past;
Nor any future trial fears,
Acts 20:24
So he may safe arrive at last.

'Tis there, he says, I am to dwell
With JESUS, in the realms of day;
Then I shall bid my cares farewell,
And he will wipe my tears away.

Jesus, on thee our hope depends,
To lead us on to thine abode;
Assured our home will make amends
For all our toil while on the road.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779.
-- as posted on Song to the Lamb 8 Dec 2007