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Capital for those who suffer Capital Punishment

I wish to propose a hypothetical situation, and I want you to react honestly as you read it. Do you agree that there is merit in what I say, or am I writing drivel?

My desire is to start a petition to lay before Her Majesty’s Government (which I will hope to gain a lot of support). It occurred to me that capital punishment is no longer used in the United Kingdom,but before it was abolished it was used dozens of times every year. Now, since we have different laws today it makes sense to go back through the records of history and make them conform with what we ourselves now know to be correct.

Death certificates which show the cause of death to be hanging should be amended to read “natural causes”. Their names should be removed from old court records and prison systems. Wikipedia articles should not be allowed to show their conviction details without mentioning the absurd and evil system that has now been replaced by an enlightened universe of equality and opportunity.

Then a committee of experts should be appointed to determine how long the person would have lived for. A teenager being put to death could still be alive today. If we are to assume that such a person would be retired today, we should give to them the full state pension and whatever loss of earnings a panel of economists will determine. Now, as these people are dead, it makes sense that this money be symbolically transferred to Her Majesty’s treasury as a legacy of the miscarriage of justice. This will allow the current government to put in numerical terms the problems caused by capital punishment. I call it “capital for capital punishment.”

After all, the Scottish parliament led by the SNP is happy to pardon people who refuse to pay their taxes because the tax in question no longer exists and the British government has decided to pardon anyone who has a conviction for sexual offences no longer regarded as such.

Naturally, people wish to impose the viewpoint of today on the past. But what does that mean? If people were not truly guilty of avoiding tax or of breaking the law with their personal conduct – does it not imply that the police officers and judges were upholding wickedness and impurity?

For myself, there is something fearful in amending history, and applying the law of the land today retrospectively. To pardon someone for an historical sexual offence because it is not unlawful today, is no different than billing the estate of John Logie Baird for him not having a TV licence.

Surely if we are going to begin to impose our morality upon the past, we ought to be certain that our morality is somehow superior to the morality of the past. What the Government, both Tory and SNP, are doing is digging up Oliver Cromwell and sentencing him to death.

It was absurd when Charles did that. It is equally absurd when the Government attempts a tame version of the same thing. Imposing today’s morality on the past.

No More Champagne: Churchill and his Money

While on holiday I picked up a book which is now available as a paperback a debut work by David Lough a competent manager of other people’s money who was, through connections with a client, able to gain access to the tangled web of Winston Churchill’s personal finances.

This is a wonderful read and benefits from chapter headings which give the exchange rates and inflation multiples for the time period discussed. So you know how big an overdraft from 1910 of £5,000 is today.

In Churchill we find a heavy smoker and drinker. A writer, novelist and historian. A Cabinet Minister. All sources of very good income. He was among the 10,000 highest earners in the United Kingdom and yet one of the most indebted. I learned a lot of historical facts but I hope I also learned some spiritual truths from this work. Here are some.

Family Sins are the Hardest to Tackle

All of the Churchill’s seemed to squander their wealth. They engaged in the same fault and folly of their parents. Taking a great deal of money and wasting it. Winston will get a rebuke from his father Randolph for how he spends too much, and years later be found writing a letter to Randolph his son…rebuking him for spending too much!

In the Bible we find that Cain had pride in his own offering, just as Adam too decided that God’s commands could be reversed. Solomon and David both fell into adultery. The Kings of the Northern Kingdom were all of them idolaters. The crime syndicates of America, Italy and Russia are very much family affairs. If we are brought up to think sin is righteousness then we may pursue that sin. Consider the wonder of the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect and sinless who despite having a sinful mother and step-father, was free from sin. While sin may surround us, we are accountable for it.

Pleasures are Never Fully Satisfying

Churchill’s clothing, tobacco, alcohol and sports budgets would make many Premiership footballers blush. He spent large amounts on cigars and alcohol, often many years in arrears for payments. He spent still more at the casino. In all this, in later life, he was not reflecting on the great cigars and bottles of his younger days – but in his achievements and family. How we ought to cultivate spiritual things, and lay up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust corrupt. Use pleasure, says Brooks, as you use medicine. Only occasionally as a help.

People Have Problems

A man born in a palace owing so much money, and losing so much money, while on the surface happily representing the needs of his constituents in parliament. Having legal wranglings with insurance companies for a very small sum of money (less than a weeks salary as a Crown Minister). All hidden from the public gaze.

Our Ministers labour in the word with diligence and a care for souls, but they often have problems too. Physical, family and perhaps even financial problems intrude upon the Manse and impact the Minister. We need to remember that Christians who maybe don’t shake our hand one Sabbath are not neccesarily being rude and indifferent, they are simply dealing with something of more pressing concern.

Churchill ended his life comfortably wealthy, how great it is to know that we who are in Christ will be able to walk into a house of many mansions, where gold is of so little value that it can be used to pave the streets. And why not, of what worth is anything compared with the worth of Christ?

270 to Win

A fun exercise for those who are interested in political matters is to play around with the electoral college vote of the United States for the Presidential election.

Many people are not aware that the popular vote is no more requires to win a US election than it is to win a British election. Rather, smaller areas are allocated a number of votes based on their population that they assign to the candidates. In most states the entire number is assigned to one candidate, but two states allow for a division of the electoral college vote.

The minimum number of electoral college votes is 3. One vote for each member of the Congress (House of Representatives + Senate). All states have 2 Senators, and each state then has at least 1 Congressman (member of the House of Representatives).

In 2012, Obama clearly won the Presidential election and it is unlikely therefore that Donald Trump will do worse than Mitt Romney, the Mormon who headed the Republican ticket last time, a play on the word Mormon with regards to Donald Trump tempts me but I feel obligated not to say it.

Even if Trump does pick up a few states, I suspect he will make progress in some areas, he has too far to come. His clashes with the Popular Republicanism of Jeb Bush will have weakened his ability to take Florida. He currently leads in opinion polls there by 3%. There will be a motivated population for the Democrats and a somewhat less enthused Republican voter.

If the election were held today, as a graduate of Social Sciences and a student of Politics who has had to play around with opinion polling data I believe the election would look something like this:



However, if you believe the BBC News the election will look something like this:


Taxi for Common Sense

Recently on a Wednesday night I got a taxi from the Free Presbyterian Church after picking up some books and hoping to avoid the rain. The cab driver was an Islamist and we had a very open conversation, or at least we did for a few minutes, at which point when he realised I was prepared to answer all his critiques and knew more than a little about Islam myself he proceeded to encourage me watch a youtube video of Dr Zakir Naik interacting with a Christian lady.

Several of the arguments that were made by the Islamic speaker were of little worth other than as soundbites for the Muslim community. He mentioned for example that the Revised Standard Version was translated by the greatest scholars and their choice to ditch the word begotten in John 3:16 was proof positive that Jesus Christ did not have a Divine nature. Now, those of us who hold to the Received Text would not entertain this notion for a second.

The other argument was that if Christian meant following the example of Jesus that the Islamist made a better Christian than the so-called Christian. After all the Muslim abstains from alcohol and pork and is circumcised and so on the argument went. What a great thing to throw out to the Muslim crowds and Muslim people.

Of course, Christ turned water into wine. Irrelevant, it could have been grape juice. Well he was present at the feast where there was wine and made no criticism. Both he and his disciples were accused of drinking alcohol in excess, not merely of drinking it.

The restriction on eating pork is no more relevant today than the sacrifice of livestock. Jesus Christ has freed us from the ceremonial law and we are not to seek to be in bondage again. But here the Muslim boasts that he continues to abstain from Pork – when he tramples under foot the blood of Christ. Caring more for his “lifestyle” than for the death of the lamb of God.

Baptism of course is the sign and seal of the covenant, the means of entrance into the visible Church for those who profess faith in, and obedience to Christ, and for the children of believers.

Of course, the Muslim crowd cheer the apologist who throws them this unthinking diatribe. Where he can decide that a group of 19th century translators are somehow better than 17th, 18th or 20th century equivalents.

Islam does not possess holiness, it possesses severity. They are severe. But the Christian religion is holy. Truly holy.

Dealing with Bible Difficulties: First Issue

Perhaps the greatest blessing of Atheist and Non-believing critique of the Holy Scriptures is that it stirs the Protestant Evangelical to go to the scriptures and to make a very powerful defence of God’s Word. The Roman Catholic need not run to the scriptures to answer atheist critique as he may rest on the authority of the Pope.

Christians though can find a great deal of blessing from dealing with “Bible Difficulties”, the Bible is to be read by individuals, families and congregations and it is a wonderful blessing to have it in our own language. I reccomend the use of the King James Version of the Bible for the beautiful prose and accuracy of language.

In the next series of Blog Posts I hope to deal with these Bible Difficulties that I have looked at and share the blessing that has come to me from studying them. Remember that God cannot lie and he has preserved his word. If we mock it or misunderstand it, further study will show us up – it will not show the Great God up. May the Lord Jesus have the Glory.

However, I will only “skim” the surface, I will not go into detail because the reader should be Blessed by looking into God’s word thesmelves. As a result I will pass over information and will offer only a partial analysis of certain problems.

We may therefore come and expect that God will honour his word.

God Unable to Overcome Iron Chariots?

In the Book of Judges and the very first chapter and the verse 19 we read

“And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”

The Difficulty: This verse would seem to indicate that the Chariots of Iron are a defence against God. Therefore, God either lacks the power to overcome man made technology or the Bible contains contradictions.

The Solution: The verse is not a critique of God. The chapter explains the failures of God’s people in their battles. All of their successes are because of God, as with the victory in the mountains, but the defeats and failures and misplaced confidence of the tribes of Israel are critcised.

The Benefits: 1) Thought of how Christ was able to overcome the cross, but was taunted as being unable to do so, just as God can drive out a chariot – so Christ did not have to be subject to a few metal nails pierced through his hands, but he was for his people’s sake.

2) The LORD (the God who keeps covenant) is mentioned here alongside his people and assosciated with them. God with us even when we stumble, not ashamed to be OUR God. Though we would provoke him to anger, yet he is longsuffering. Slow to wrath and in mercy plentious.

3) Teaches the need to read in context. Verses are best understood by the use of other verses.

Thomas Boston: On Fasting

Here is the picture I can find of the Reverend Thomas Boston, a great Pastor-Preacher-Scholar of the Presbyterian Church. Note that his face is not of a sad-countenance; nor disfigured – yet he is a man who knew something of the religious exercise of fasting.
“Fasting is not a natural abstinence, arising from sickness, nor medicinal, used to prevent or remove the same, nor civil, as in case of dearth or siege, nor yet moral, for the preservation of chastity, but religious, that is referred to religious ends, for the furtherance of the special practice of repentance, and the enforcing of our prayers.” – Archbishop Ussher
Having read very little of Thomas Boston, only briefly picking up his Fourfold state in order to answer a question that a young lady in my Church had about his book, it was important that I finally read a full piece of his work. He is a competent writer and one who I would like to become very familiar.
Of course his works would fill more than one shelf on my study and so it made sense to take up the works of the great Post-Glorious Revolution preacher with a tiny 104 (A6) pages book “A Memorial Concerning Personal and Family Fasting and Humiliation” this edition printed in 1841 (two years before the disruption.)
So what does this early 18th century (that’s 17XXs, not 18XXs) book have to teach us?
Some things!
1. It establishes the Biblical warrant for personal and family fasting.
Boston first looks at fasting as a general principle, but is quick to bring it to us personally. Not to leave it as a hypothetical situation in which congregations and nations are sometimes prone.
He grants the reader an appreciation for the serious nature of national sin and how times of public fasting are warranted. Next, he turns to church and congregational life – and finally to family and personal life.
2. He gives practical direction on how to prepare and conduct a fast.
That is, rather than leaving it for the novice to rush in and make up rules as he goes along this Pastor’s care for the souls of his flock shines through as he explains how to carry this out. His charity is evident from page to page. He frequently offers additional assistance. We are, he says, to pray – and if we are distracted – we are to speak our prayers out loud.
3. The Gospel is Offered!
Yes, here in this little booklet, about Christian piety and devotion. About obedience to God and wrestling with God. About the blessings of God to his obedient people – a work that is stirring us up to obedience and devotion – Boston presents the Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
4. Psalms are Shown to Be Useful for Practical Religion
Exclusive Psalmody is often criticised for producing to narrow a range of songs for the different circumstances of Worship. However, for the acts of religious duty described in Boston’s work the Psalter is more than sufficient. He suggests particular Psalms fit for the purpose.

I cannot sing, never-mind Precent, but I attempted to belt out a few of these Psalms myself as I read.
Psalms 80; Psalm 39:6 or Psalm 51. I could not think of any materials from my Church of Scotland days that I would gladly substitute.
Conclusion of the Whole Matter
Sadly 1841 prints of Boston are hard to come by, though you may find them in little highland charity bookshops. I believe my own copy was taken from a library clear-out of one of the Ministers of the Gospel within my sphere.
Thankfully, a little bit of research has led me to discover that the work is available in Volume 11 of the Complete Works of Thomas Boston. You may find it online.

Some Books

Some time ago I began to wind down from the blog and to concentrate on another writing project that I had going on but today I wish to update you on the reading which has been taking place.
Many books that are worth considering are discussed below and I gave them my hearty recommendation. I have provided links to kindle for the benefit of the modern 21st century, where this is not available I have provided a link to the place I would recommend you purchase the material.
Firstly, in a world where militant Islamic ideology exists alongside the tame version held by secular muslims in the United Kingdom it is profitable and useful for Christians to get a firm understanding of the Islamic holy book. After all, one man does great evil and defends it from the pages of the Qu’ran. An able work is provided by Dr James White, director of Alpha & Omega ministries, the leading reformed Christian apologist in the world.

Dr White makes no apologies that this a Christian book. Written for Christians to teach them how the Holy Scriptures compare with the Qu’ran and how the Christian is best to understand Qu’ranic messages particularly as they relate to Christianity.

It is available on Kindle for the price of £5.22 at the moment.

Secondly, we read an old Puritan classic. “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment”, we are not content enough! We are those who would gladly blame the LORD for every little matter. If we learn to be content we will find that we have learned something more than how to be happy.

This series of sermons by Jeremiah Burroughs show a level of competence and capability which belongs to the Puritan preachers of the 17th of century. There was a lot of happy thoughts. Of particular value is his teaching on “How Christ teaches contentment”. We do not want to focus on our learning but his teaching. The Saviour is the finest teacher and instructor. We would do well to meditate and to learn how he teaches contentment.

With my memory exercised there are a few points of particular note. One particular illustration is that a servant may be sent by his master to do a less honourable duty – but it serves him better. SO our Master may make us leave a great estate; or a mighty family or a fine occupation – to take up some other role but it is more needful and beneficial to our glorious Saviour, and that thought produces contentment! This strikes a note when I consider the great men.

We may be filled with admiration for the “contentment” of our Ministers who remained with the Continuing Free Church in 2000 and the Ministers of the Gospel who were our fathers at the Disruption of 1843. Both groups gave up a great deal of a more honourable position – but have done so for a better service to the Master.

Another point, if you are in a strange place, you do not mind that you lack the comforts of home. Home is not to be found on this earth! This is but a place of sojourning for the born again Christian.

The Banner of Truth, who are yet to cut out the AV from the Puritan reprints, is the best place to purchase this book here.

Thirdly, the biography of Frederick Douglas available for free on kindle is an interesting read and one I am thankful to have read. Despite his criticisms of the Free Church of Scotland, I warmed to Douglas as an African-American Christian and not merely a former slave. It is available for free on kindle.