Review – The New Seminary Journal

Journal of the Seminary of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), Volume 1 (2015), Edited by M J Roberts, pbk, 92 pp., £5.59 from lulu.com.

 

This little journal is a new venture of our Seminary, bringing together papers on a variety of subjects by current and former faculty members, under the capable editorial guidance of Maurice Roberts. The publication is plain and unadorned, but adequate for purpose, and is available cheaply through online self-publisher Lulu, both as a paperback and as an ebook. It will be valued by those who love the truths for which our Seminary stands, and desire to study these things more deeply.

A short introduction by Mr Roberts urges the present need of the Church for an outpouring of God’s Spirit, and for believers to be faithful in seeking that. The brief initial chapter by William Macleod warns of the danger of ministerial pride, exposes the ugliness of this sin, and proposes several practical ways to address this temptation.

The five main papers, by the current lecturers, cover a wide field. James Clark addresses ‘Worship’ in a concise, cogent paper, summarizing the key arguments for a strict application of the Regulative Principle. This chapter is especially valuable in showing how psalm-singing in worship was the practice of Jesus and His disciples, and has been inherited from Calvin himself, via the Westminster Confession, and so must be understood not as an extreme position, but rather as mainstream Biblical and Reformed worship.

‘The Nature of Christ’s Mediation’ is John Morrison’s subject, with a principal focus on Christ’s ‘personality’ – that is, His pre-existence as the Divine Son, His union of two natures in one person, and His real emotional life as One Who was truly man as well as truly God. This is a profound paper, drawing on extensive reading in the classics of Reformed systematic theology, and challenging heretical distortion of these precious truths. Mr Morrison is especially clear in showing the roots of modern heresy in the debates faced by the Early Church, reminding that false teaching is nothing new.

John Keddie addresses the decline of the Free Church in the late 19th century, and the eventual union of the great majority with a doctrinally inferior church in 1900. His footnotes show the breadth of his research into this period, and there are some very striking quotes included, for example showing the effect of critical teaching in undermining the Biblical faith of Free Church divinity students. We should be thankful for the courage of the men of 1900 in taking a separate stance at great cost, helping to preserve a regard for the truth in successive generations.

Harry Woods has a very fresh subject, discussing the present-day phenomenon of ‘New Calvinism’ in an admirably balanced paper. Mr Woods accepts the many areas in which modern church developments are defective, especially in the US, and gives careful and appropriate warnings. But equally, he is thankful for a notable recovery of appreciation for the Puritans and for Reformed doctrine over the last couple of decades. He encourages ‘Old Calvinists’ not to disparage the whole movement because of fringe extremes, and to remember the basically flawed nature of many of the old writers (Luther, Baxter, Chalmers) to whom we now look with such appreciation.

In the final paper, on ‘Preaching from Lamentations’, Gavin Beers challenges ministers not to neglect this little book, and draws out some of the most important lessons that can be gleaned from it. His paper is especially helpful in showing the many routes to legitimately preach Christ from such passages. He urges the present day church to remember the place for appropriate sorrow and grieving in our corporate worship, especially given present circumstances, and shows that a book like Lamentations will bring us to mourn, but also, and more hopefully, to repent.

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