Reclaiming St. Patrick’s Day

Patrick Cover

New biography of Patrick by Michael Haykin

We are blessed in our society today to have holidays such as Easter, Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day which are filled with Christian significance. Unfortunately, almost all of the Christian meaning for these important markers on the Christian calendar has been forgotten. As much as we Christians like to blame the nebulous society around us, I don’t think it is the “world’s” fault that these holidays have not retained their Christian meaning. Instead, I fault Christians who are either unaware of their heritage or just plain derelict in their duty to educate their children. We shouldn’t expect unbelievers to celebrate Christianity, but we should expect Christians to seek to pass their heritage on to the next generation.

Hopefully you do use the holidays of Christmas and Easter as opportunities to talk to your children about the birth and resurrection of Christ respectively. However, days like St. Valentine’s Day and especially St. Patrick’s Day are often missed opportunities in evangelical homes. Perhaps we’re frightened away by the fact that these individuals are often associated with the Roman Catholic Church. But there is no need to fear Patrick for in him evangelicals have not a foe but a friend.

Patrick was a courageous Christian missionary to Ireland in the 5th century. His story of being kidnapped as a boy in Britain to become a slave in Ireland, his escape back to Britain, and his call as a missionary to return is a fascinating tale of God’s providence and grace. His dedication to the doctrine of the Trinity is both admirable and worthy of emulation. Talking to your children about how Patrick taught the Trinity to the pagans of his day provides a tremendous opportunity to explain this difficult biblical teaching to them. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. Likewise, Patrick’s commitment to take the gospel to unreached peoples (Ireland at the time would have been considered the “end of the world.”) is another important teachable aspect of this remarkable life for our children. Read, in Patrick’s own words, his commitment to take the gospel to Ireland:

I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel, and to suffer insult from the unbelievers, bearing the reproach of my going abroad and many persecutions even unto bonds, and to give my free birth for the benefit of others; and, should I be worthy, I am prepared to give even my life without hesitation and most gladly for his name, and it is there that I wish to spend it until I die, if the Lord would grant it to me. (Confession 37)

In short, St. Patrick should be introduced to our children as a courageous missionary hero who believed and taught the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

Many legends are attached to the story of Patrick and though I believe most are grounded in some true events, the discerning reader must be aware of the mixture of legend and history on this early Christian figure. However, we are not dependent merely on legends to know about the life of Patrick. His autobiographical Confession has survived the centuries and is a fascinating recounting of his life.

For those interested in learning more, there is a helpful modern biography of Patrick by Philip Freeman. For parents wanting a good introduction that can be ready by or to their children, I highly recommend Patrick: Saint of Ireland by Joyce Denham. In addition, a recent biography of Patrick has been penned by Michael Haykin Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact.

A few short, but very helpful articles about Patrick’s modern-day relevance are available online.

This post originally appeared on March 17, 2012. It has been lightly edited and reposted today in honor of St. Patrick’s Day 2015.

Ann Judson on the Purpose of Her Life

While on board ship on way to India in 1812, Ann Judson wrote a running letter to her mother that functioned as a sort of a diary over several days between March 1 and April 6. On this day (March 14), she wrote the following:

Have been reading the Lives of Sir William Jones, and Dr. Doddridge. What a striking difference between the two characters. The former distinguished for his erudition; the latter for his piety. The great object of the one, was evidently the attainment of literary fame, and the applause of man. The other sought chiefly the good of immortal souls, and the approbation of God. Enjoyed much this evening in conversation and prayer. Perhaps some of my friends at home were praying for me; and in answer to their prayers, the Holy Spirit came to animate and comfort my heart. feel thankful that God has given me an opportunity and inclined my heart, to leave all my friends for a heathen land. I desire no higher enjoyment in this life, than to be instrumental of leading some poor, ignorant heathen females, to the knowledge of the Saviour. To have a female praying society, consisting of those who were once in heathen darkness, is what my heart earnestly pants after, and makes a constant subject of prayer. Resolved to keep this in view, as one principal object of my life.

James D. Knowles, Memoir of Mrs. Ann H. Judson, Late Missionary to Burmah. Including a History of the American Baptist Mission in the Burman Empire, 2nd ed. (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1829), 49. Free Google book here.

An Unsung, but Influential Sermon in the Rise of the Modern Missionary Movement

On April 27, 1791, Andrew Fuller preached a message at a Minister’s Meeting at Clipstone. The title of the message was “Instances, Evil, and Tendency of Delay, in the Concerns of Religion.” The text was Haggai 1:2, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” In the sermon, Fuller pleaded with his fellow ministers not to delay in regard to the work of missions and to use means for the spread of the gospel among the nations. It was a bold sermon. Not only was William Carey in attendance, but so too were many of those, as Andrew Gunton Fuller tells us, “who had refused — some of them not in the kindest manner — to listen to his proposal.” [1] Fuller said in part,

Instead of waiting for the removal of difficulties, we ought, in many cases, to consider them as purposely laid in our way, in order to try the sincerity of our religion. He who had all power in heaven and earth could not only have sent forth his apostles into all the world, but have so ordered it that all the world should treat them with kindness, and aid them in their mission; but, instead of that, he told them to lay their accounts with persecution and the loss of all things. This was no doubt to try their sincerity; and the difficulties laid in our way are equally designed to try ours.

Let it be considered whether it is not owing to this principle that so few and so feeble efforts have been made for the propagation of the gospel in the world. When the Lord Jesus commissioned his apostles, he commanded them to go and teach “all nations,” to preach the gospel to “every creature;” and that notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions that would lie in the way. The apostles executed their commission with assiduity and fidelity; but, since their days, we seem to sit down half contented that the greater part of the world should still remain in ignorance and idolatry. Some noble efforts have indeed been made; but they are small in number, when compared with the magnitude of the object. And why is it so? Are the souls of men of less value than heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities for societies, or individuals, in Christian nations, to convey the gospel to the heathen? This cannot be pleaded so long as opportunities are found to trade with them, yea, and (what is a disgrace to the name of Christians) to buy them, and sell them, and treat them with worse than savage barbarity? We have opportunities in abundance the improvement of navigation, and the maritime and commercial turn of this country, furnish us with these; and it deserves to be considered whether this is not a circumstance that renders it a duty peculiarly binding on us.

The truth is, if I am not mistaken, we wait for we know not what; we seem to think “the time is not come, the time for the Spirit to be poured down from on high.” We pray for the conversion and salvation of the world, and yet neglect the ordinary means by which those ends have been used to be accomplished. It pleased God, heretofore, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believed; and there is reason to think it will still please God to work by that distinguished means. Ought we not then at least to try by some means to convey more of the good news of salvation to the world around us than has hitherto been conveyed? The encouragement to the heathen is still in force, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: but how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?” [2]

Fuller’s son records that the “impression produced by the sermon was most deep; it is said that the ministers were scarcely able to speak to each other at its close, and they so far committed themselves as to request Mr. Carey to publish his “thoughts.” [3] The next spring, Carey preached his famous sermon at Nottingham based on Isaiah 54:2-3 calling on ministers to “expect great things from God” and “attempt great things for God.” In 1792, he also published his “thoughts”—An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (PDF). On October 2, 1792, in the home of Mrs. Beeby Wallis, the Particular Baptist Society for Propogating the Gospel Among the Heathen was launched.


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 103.
[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 147–148.
[3] Fuller, Andrew Fuller, 104.

Charles Spurgeon Reflects on Andrew Fuller’s Baptism

On July 19, 1863, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching from Romans 10:10 on “Confession with the Mouth” at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. During the sermon he reflected on his reading “the life of good Andrew Fuller” the previous day.

I was noting when reading yesterday the life of good Andrew Fuller, after he had been baptized, some of the young men in the village were wont to mock him, asking him how he liked being dipped? and such like questions which are common enough now-a-days. I could but notice that the scoff of a hundred years ago is just the scoff of to-day. [1]

This is likely a reference to Fuller’s account in the memoir of his early life compiled from two series of letters written to friends. This memoir formed the basis of the nineteenth-century biographies of Fuller by his son Andrew Gunton Fuller, John Morris, and John Ryland, Jr. Fuller had written,

Within a day or two after I had been baptized, as I was riding through the fields, I met a company of young men. One of them especially, on my having passed them, called after me in very abusive language, and cursed me for having been ‘dipped.’ My heart instantly rose in a way of resentment; but though the fire burned, I held my peace; for before I uttered a word I was checked with this passage, which occurred to my mind, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation.’ I wept, and entreated the Lord to pardon me; feeling quite willing to bear the ridicule of the wicked, and to go even through great tribulation, if at last I might but enter the kingdom. [2]

Spurgeon’s familiarity with the life of Fuller and the popular stories about him that were circulating in the nineteenth century served him well for illustration purposes throughout his ministry.

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 9 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 401. This is likely a reference to Spurgeon described this reading in almost identical words in his autobiography.

I was noting, when reading the life of good Andrew Fuller, that, after he had been baptized, some of the young men in the village were wont to mock him, asking him how he liked being dipped, and such like questions which are common enough nowadays. I could but notice that the scoff of a hundred years ago is just the scoff of to-day.

Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:149–150.

[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845), 7. This was originally from a letter written by Fuller to a friend in Liverpool in January, 1815. See Michael A.G. Haykin, The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller (Dundas, ON: Joshua Press, 2001), 77–78.

Top Ten Favorite Reads in 2014

During 2014 I was blessed to read a number of great books. Here are ten of my favorites. These were not all written in 2014, I just read them this year. I list these books in no particular order, just ten of my favorite reads in 2014.

  1. Ardent Love for Jesus: English Baptists and the Experience of Revival in the Long Eighteenth Century by Michael A. G. Haykin
    This book focuses on an special area of interest of Michael Haykin, who is a respected Patristic and 17th-century English Baptist scholar. But as a former student and friend, I know that very near to his heart are the Baptist men and women of the 18th century. Haykin’s love for this period is infectious in this delightful volume that explores both the need for revival among 18th-century English Baptists, their reaction to the Evangelical Revival, and the fruit of the revival among Baptists in the modern missionary movement.
  2. George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd (Kindle)
    Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University, has quickly established himself as one of the foremost historians of religious life in colonial America. This book further cements this position. Kidd has successfully navigated the scholarly waters by offering an interpretation that is both true to his cultural context socially and Whitefield’s own self-understanding theologically.
  3. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Kindle)
    This New York Times bestseller has been made into a major motion picture. Hillenbrand expertly describes the trials and triumphs of Louis Zamperini, 1936 Olympian and World War II POW. The book is an inspiring story of perseverance and the grace of forgiveness.
  4. The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared C. Wilson (Kindle)
    Pastors are often depressed. This book provides the only lasting remedy–the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pastors need the gospel too and this book applies the gospel to the unique struggles which pastors face.
  5. Daniel (Concordia Commentary) by Andrew E. Steinmann
    I preached through the book of Daniel in 2014 and I really came to love this commentary. It is a comprehensive commentary that combines both the exegetical and theological.
  6. Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Tom Nettles (Kindle)
    Although there are a number of biographical studies of the Prince of Preachers, there was lacking a systematic survey of Spurgeon’s theology. Nettles has filled this lacuna admirably with this massive tome. If you want to learn what made Spurgeon tick, you will want to read this book.
  7. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman (Kindle)
    I love books on productivity and I love the gospel. This book combines both of these in a practical way. Perman not only provides a gospel-centered look at productivity, he provides a model for how the gospel should infiltrate and impact every aspect of our lives.
  8. The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More Than a Memory by Richard C. Barcellos (Kindle)
    Baptists are often thought to have only held to a memorial view of the Lord’s Supper. Barcellos provides the biblical and theological data to support a higher view of the Supper. This case is not only made biblically and theologically, but Barcellos also demonstrates that this was the view held by seventeenth-century English Particular Baptists.
  9. One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology by Jarvis Williams (Kindle)
    With all the racial tension in our world today, this is a great biblical treatment of racial reconciliation. Racial reconciliation is not primarily a political or social issue, it is a gospel issue. Williams skillfully demonstrates this from the Scriptures. This volume is timely appropriate, eminently readable, and expertly researched. Read this and be reminded that racial reconciliation must begin at the house of God.
  10. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism by Pascal Denault (Kindle)
    Many proponents of 1689 Confessionalism seem to view the Covenant theology contained in the 1689 London Confession as identical to its Westminster counterpart. Denault, however, shows that the seventeenth-century Baptists had a different starting place than their Reformed contemporaries. In short, they took the view of the new covenant espoused by the Congregationalist John Owen and took it to its logical ecclesiological conclusion. A very important work for understanding Baptist Covenant Theology.

“The Church of Christ, who upon Confession of Faith have bin Baptised”: Hercules Collins and Baptist Ecclesiology

This afternoon (November 19th) at 4:30 PM, I will present a paper titled: “The Church of Christ, who upon Confession of Faith have bin Baptised”: Hercules Collins and Baptist Ecclesiology (PDF) at the 66th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in San Diego, California. The paper is part of the Puritan Study Group which has an annual slot at ETS featuring paper on, you guessed it, Puritans and Puritanism. The theme of the annual meeting this year is Ecclesiology and the Puritan Study Group chose to focus on the topic: “A House Divided: Competing Views of Puritan Ecclesiology.” Below is the schedule for the session. I’m not sure if they saved the best ecclesiology for last or the worse paper. Either way, my paper wraps up the session beginning at 4:30 PM.

2:00 PM-5:10 PM
A House Divided: Competing
Views of Puritan Ecclesiology
Room: Towne
(Redeemer Seminary)

2:00 PM—2:40 PM
(The Davenant Trust)
What Makes a ‘Puritan’? Hooker,
Ussher, and English Reformed

2:50 PM—3:30 PM
(University of the Free State)
“The (True?) Gospel Coalition”:
English Presbyterianism in Puritan

3:40 PM—4:20 PM
(Redeemer Seminary)
The Primitive Institution of Christ’s
Church: Thomas Goodwin and
Congregational Polity

4:30 PM—5:10 PM
(Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies)
“The Church of Christ, who upon
Confession of Faith have bin
Baptised”: Hercules Collins and
Baptist Ecclesiology

You can download a copy of the paper I will present here (PDF) and you can order the audio here.

The 1689 Baptist Confession and Its Influence on Early American Missions and Church Planting [Updated]

20141114_101022Today I am in Indianapolis, Ind. where I am presenting a lecture at 1:30 pm today on “The 1689 Baptist Confession and Its Influence on Early American Missions and Church Planting” at the Baptist, Confessionalism and the Providence of God, 1689-2014 conference. Some have expressed interest in seeing the paper, so I have uploaded it here in PDF format [Updated].

Video and audio for the conference is available here. For audio of my talk, click here (MP3). Video below.