This is for those of you who know of and appreciate Iain Murray from Scotland; if you do not know him as an author, please get acquainted; his numerous books published by Banner of Truth Trust are available widely, even at a discount; one of the best authors of the 20th and 21st century;
Some of the things he mentions in his letter here will not be familiar to you but it is still good reading to hear the thoughts and comments of one of the finest Christian leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries.
A good place to begin reading Iain Murray would be these books:
– Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
– A New Biography on Jonathan Edwards
– Life of A. W. Pink
– Pentecost Today? Understanding Revival
here is his letter from Australia this week:
Sydney, as from 1 Carnethy Avenue, Edinburgh EH13 ODL
9 March 2010
Some of you were remembering in prayer our conference here of last week. I am thankful to say that prayer was indeed heard. We had two and a half very good days – better numbers (116), more young men, and all the speakers helped. But the friendships formed or maintained at these gatherings are no small part of their importance. The venue has been described as the best conference centre in Australia, and I can well believe it. It overlooks about 180 degrees of ocean and the rising sun to the east was a sight not to be forgotten in the mornings (you see what Australia does to one to be a witness of the sunrise!). Three missionaries and a Sudanese Christian, previously unknown to us, were also at the conference and their presence contributed much. Our main speaker, David Jones, had to withdraw shortly before the event, an accident having injured his leg which required surgery. It is now healing but requires him to keep off his feet for a few weeks. Thankfully, John McCallum, of St George’s, Sydney, was able to take the three addresses needed, which he did on our Lord’s Temptation. This proved a most appropriate and helpful subject for us all. Surely we too commonly survey current problems as though there were no invisible powers at work! Other speakers included Allan Blanch on the life of Marcus Loane and Leo de Vos preaching. All the conference addresses will be available on one MP3 CD at $20 (Australian) including postage, from firstname.lastname@example.org. Fax 03 9898 9872. Orders from overseas would need to use credit cards.
Autumn was supposed to have started here on March 1 but today is about as hot as any day since we came; yet there has also been highly valued rain. We have never seen the inland so green as we saw it a few weeks ago when we drove out to see family at Dubbo – a day’s drive from Sydney.
We have been enjoying seeing a number of old friends and I valued being back in my old pulpit at Hurstville Presbyterian one Sunday. We are to have a ‘book launch’ of Graham Miller’s autobiography, A Day’s March Nearer Home next week. There is a lot of interest in the book here and I believe there will be elsewhere. I believe it is not dissimilar in value to Andrew Bonar’s Diary; such books are a rarity. Our office staff were all at their best in producing a volume which has to be among the top in appearance!
The spiritual problems here are much the same as in other parts of the English-speaking world. What I wrote about ‘expository’ preaching in the February Banner of Truth describes much that happens here in the way of preaching. Save at last week’s conference, we have not heard a sermon from a text since we came early last month. This is not to say we have not heard good sermons on passages of Scripture, but, as I said in that article, it is the near eclipse of announcing a text and preaching it that is so regrettable. Those who think that orthodox preaching means addressing passages of Scripture in serial form from Sunday to Sunday need to read again the words of the Westminster divines ‘Of Preaching the Word’ in that too-little- read document, The Directory for the Public Worship of God (usually attached to most copies of the Westminster Confession): ‘Ordinarily, the subject of his sermon is to be some text of scripture, holding forth some principle or head of religion, or suitable to some special occasion emergent; or he may go on in some chapter, psalm, or book of the holy scripture as he sees fit.’ Note the order in which these alternatives are put. If I remember rightly, W.G. Blaikie in his Scottish Preachers (a valuable Banner book) had good comments on this subject, and on the ‘sermon’ and the ‘lecture’. On the same subject, have you noticed that Banner has reprinted in attractive and cheap form, Ryle’s Simplicity in Preaching? Let us trust it will have wide circulation. The reviving of the church does not depend on any of the latest contemporary modes of building churches but on the instrument that God has used since Pentecost (with praying churches supporting the preacher).
Some of you will have noticed a subject still more controversial in the March Banner of Truth magazine, namely, my review of the book on J.I. Packer and the Evangelical Future (Baker Academic). My main criticism was of Carl Trueman’s chapter where, on the testimony of an alleged friend of Lloyd-Jones, he connects the parting of Lloyd-Jones and Jim Packer to the charge that ‘Lloyd-Jones could not stand competition and could not bear not to be in overall control … Packer was the only man within Lloyd-Jones’s orbit who could pose a serious challenge to his leadership’ (p.123) I called this allegation a ‘slander’, which I believe it is. Dr Trueman, ignoring the book which brought the break in 1970, disagrees, and you may read him on the web site Reformation 21. This issue has to be set in context, and the conclusions people reach are commonly determined by what they think the real issue was. Those who present the issue as ‘Church-based Christianity v. Separatism’ see Dr Lloyd-Jones as wrong. While those who believe the issue was, ‘Historic Protestant Evangelicalism v. the Ecumenical Objective’, believe his understanding of the situation was right. This is no small issue and one hopes it will receive much fuller examination.
I have been doing some reading in Calvin’s magnificent commentary on the Book of Acts, and been regretting not reading him more (try him on Acts 20:28-32 if you can). I have also been stimulated by two Roman Catholic books, The Knox Brothers, Penelope Fitzgerald (Anchor Press, 1977), and The Wine of Certitude: A Literary Biography of Ronald Knox (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2009). These books show why and how the son of an evangelical bishop in the Church of England became a Roman Catholic. Before I close I must explain that there is no real sense to who receives this irregular letter and who does not. The truth is my list of e mail addresses is out of hand, and I am not helped by the fact that too many addresses do not identify their owner! If you are wearied with too much mail you have my sincere sympathy and, letting me know, I should be able to remove you from the list!
We hope to be back in Scotland by the beginning of April, and look forward to the Youth Conference, April 16-18, to be followed by the Leicester Ministers’ Conference. Faith in the promises of God will assure is all that the work of Christ is going forward in all the world. Even now it is true,
‘From earth’s wide bounds, from oceans’ furthest coasts,
Through gates of pearl stream in the countless hosts…’
With our warm greetings,
Iain and Jean Murray
PS. Jean adds, I have been reading Calvin on 1 Corinthians and am amazed at his simplicity and clarity.