Results tagged “Archibald Alexander” from Reformation21 Blog

Trouble and rest

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I have a deep appreciation for the earliest Princeton men. Archibald Alexander, for example, mixes deep scriptural insight and wisdom, developed by assiduous study, with a rich and experimental piety, a happy blend too rare today. I have also been enjoying very much James Garretson's recent study of Archibald Alexander's esteemed colleague, Samuel Miller. It is entitled An Able and Faithful Ministry (Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk/Westminster), and manages to combine history and biography with instruction both incidental and intentional.

This is part of Miller's charge to Gardiner Spring on the occasion of his induction at Brick Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. The counsel still holds good:
In preaching the gospel, and in all your ministrations, whether public or private, set the Lord Jesus Christ himself before you, and next to him, his inspired apostles, as your models. Be not afraid to tell men, with all plainness, of their total depravity by nature, and of that state of condemnation and wrath under which they lie while strangers to the grace of Christ. Be not afraid to sound in their ears the thunders of Sinai, as well as the still small voice of Calvary. Be not backward to proclaim the humbling and self-denying, but most glorious, doctrines of free and sovereign grace, however unpalatable they may be to some, or whatever your fidelity may cost you. Warn men boldly of every danger. Strive to bring them off from every false foundation. Give them no rest till they are brought humbled and trembling to the foot of the Cross: and then, and not till then, pour into their bleeding wounds the oil of consolation, the balm of heavenly grace.

The nature of Christianity

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What follows is a tract of penetrating honesty written by Archibald Alexander, found in Practical Truths (32-34) (Amazon US/UK, or a lovely edition here). The tract is entitled "Christianity in its nature aggressive," and Alexander is blunt in addressing - way ahead of the game - the foibles and follies of Christianity struggling to get to grips with postmodernity and its dogmas of relativism and pluralism (ironic that so many should so dogmatically assert the absence of dogma and so dogmatically assault those who disagree). You do not have to agree with the particular emphases of his last paragraph to find it bracing stuff.
In the charter which Christ gave to his disciples, who formed the first church under the new dispensation, the first command is one which requires action. "Go," says he. Every Christian must be on the alert. He has marching orders from the Captain of his salvation. He cannot sit down in ease and idleness, and yet be a Christian. As the father said to his son in the parable, "Go, work in my vineyard," so Christ says to every disciple; and it will not answer to say, "I go, sir," and yet refuse obedience. We must be doers of the word, and not mere hearers. We must be doers of the word, and not mere professors [those making a profession]. The command given by the risen Saviour is still in force, and as it was obligatory on all who heard it at first, so it is binding on all who hear it now. "Go."

But what are we to do? "Proselyte." Make disciples. Convert to Christianity. The very word "proselyte" will frighten some people. No heresy in their view is so great as sectarism. But Christianity is so intolerant, that it will bear no other religion; it seeks to overthrow every other system. If it would have admitted the claims of other religions, it would have escaped persecution. But no; it denounced every other system and mode of worship as hateful to God, and destructive to the soul. And it made every disciple a proselyter. And every one now, whether male or female, bond or free, Jew or Greek, who professes Christianity, takes upon himself or herself the obligation to convert others to Christianity.

Consider the extent of the field in which we are called to labor. "Go into all the world." "Go, teach," make disciples of, "all nations." And when converted, let the new proselytes not be ashamed to avow their allegiance to the King of Zion, by assuming his badge. Let them be baptized into the name of the HOLY TRINITY. Now they are in the school of Christ, and must be carefully taught all his commandments.

Here is a great work, requiring the coöperation of all who are already initiated. The greatest charity in the world is the communication of divine truth to the ignorant. Must all preach the word? Yes, in a certain sense, and according to their ability, and in observance of due order. All may teach. All Christians are bound to teach - the parent his children, the master his servants, the schoolmaster his scholars, the citizen his more ignorant neighbours, the colporteur [carrier of books and other literature] the families he visits with books and tracts, the pastor his flock, and the missionary the unconverted Jew and heathen. Here is work enough for all, and all may labor in their appropriate sphere; but all must labor: the duty is incumbent on them, and the obligation cannot be evaded.

The time seems to be coming, predicted by Daniel, when "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." What a change within the last half century! Then there were no Bible societies, no tract societies, no Sunday-schools, no colporteurs, no Protestant missionaries. There is, indeed, another time predicted, when there shall be no need for one to say to his neighbour, "Know the Lord; for all shall know him from the least to the greatest." Then the work will be completed; but O, how much teaching must there be before the hundreds of millions of souls now ignorant, shall be so instructed as that none shall need further teaching. But perhaps the prophecy does not mean that none shall need farther instruction, but farther admonition - not that all shall have learned enough, but all will be fully disposed to learn. Blessed time! teaching will be then an easy as well as a delightful business.