Wednesday 28 March 2018

The Westminster Standards for Today: Recovering the Church and Worship for Everyday Christian Living

After about four years worth of work, Evangelical Press are about to publish the work we have done on the Westminster Standards. They are offering a wonderful pre-order price for the two editions. There is a hard back version which will be in what we call a British Racing Green colour with gold letters and the paper back will have the same colour features.

Hardback: This contains seven essays, along with the Westminster Standards and the contents of that are given below. It will be called “The Westminster Standards for Today: Recovering the Church and Worship for Everyday Christian Living”. The price is £11.00 or $15.00 per copy. These are compared with retail prices of a much higher price which equate to around half price.

Paperback version: This will contain the Westminster Standards (without essays) and it will be called “The Westminster Standards in Modern English”. The pre-order price is £4.99 per single copy or £2.99 for one hundred or more; in dollars it is $6.99 or for orders of 100 or more $3.50. If you would like to pre-order then please email me. If you know me personally you will have my email address. Ideally for hardback, a minimum of three copies would be best and you could buy an order to set up for a church book table or perhaps a book of the quarter for the church.

What is unique about this book with the Westminster Standards? There are three things. First, it is the original texts of the Confession and Catechisms with the proof texts unaltered; Second, the editing is very light which simply seeks to replace any antiquated language into modern English, without changing the substance of the text (for example Holy Ghost is changed to Holy Spirit); and Third, the publisher have formatted the Standards into a really attractive format. One which draws you to want to read its content, in my opinion.

Our aim is to spread the readability and usage of the text of the Westminster Confession and the two Catechisms as widely as possible. Joel Beeke has written a Preface and we have commendations from:

*Chad Van Dixhoorn
*O. Palmer Robertson
*David Hall
*Joel Beeke

I spoke to a professor of the African Bible University in Uganda where O. Palmer Robertson is based and they have requested 120 copies of the paperback for their students and 40 copies of the hardback to give as a gift to the students graduating in May 2018 and for each of the staff members. We will raise support for these to shipped out to Uganda with some additional copies for a nearby orphanage and Christian school. Do pray that this book will be a real blessing to the church at large.

I aim to speak with Graham Hind (managing director of EP) next week to submit pre-orders for the UK and the USA. If you would like to email me a pre-order amount then do email me back, if possible by next Tuesday 3rd April or let me know that you need more time to think. They will be shipped to your church address.

Your prayer is valued for this work,

Kevin Bidwell
Sheffield, England


Preface to The Westminster Standards in Modern English

Essays About the Westminster Standards


Extraordinary Providences of an Enduring Standard (Richard D.Phillips)

The Westminster Standards in the Making : Stanley Gower, a Westminster Divine (Kevin J.Bidwell)


The Westminster Standards and Public Worship (David E.Gilbert)

The Westminster Standards and the Christian Sabbath (George Swinnock, with an introduction by Kevin J.Bidwell)

The Westminster Standards and the Sacraments (Andy J.Young)

Family Worship and Church Government

The Westminster Standards and Family Worship: Maintaining True Religion in the Home (Chad T.Bailey)

The Westminster Standards and Church Government (Guy Prentiss Waters)

The Westminster Confession of Faith in Modern English

The Westminster Larger Catechism in Modern English

The Westminster Shorter Catechism In Modern English

Thursday 22 March 2018

Stanley Gower—A Presbyterian Minister and Westminster Divine

The Westminster divine Stanley Gower (bap. 1600?-1660) wrote an attestation for John Owen, for his essay The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. This fact alone should “whet our appetite” to know more of this presbyterian minister, one who was esteemed to be a “puritan divine of considerable eminence” by William H. Goold, the editor of The Works of John Owen. Gower’s life and ministry appears to have been one of growing stature and influence throughout what was a turbulent timeframe. This was seventeenth century England.

Early Days and Preparation (1600–1629)
His entering into University life as a scholar at Trinity College, Dublin in 1621 led him to graduating with a BA in 1625. His simultaneous association with the famed James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh was hardly insignificant. Ussher showed a keen interest in Gower’s progress and he oversaw his ordination in 1627 and installed him as his chaplain. Ussher’s anti-Arminian principles are well documented and upon his appointment as archbishop in 1626 he surrounded himself with advisors of a similar persuasion.
Ussher’s theological mentoring and role as a future sponsor clearly set Gower upon a puritan trajectory from which he never deviated. The seeds for Anglican ministry with presbyterian tendencies, Calvinistic convictions and simplicity in public worship were undoubtedly confirmed in Gower’s mind by Ussher. Prior to Gower’s encounter with Ussher, he had already written the Irish Articles of Religion (1615) when he was professor of divinity at Trinity College, Dublin. “It is widely recognised” according to Robert Letham that Ussher “had a strong influence on the Westminster assembly through the Irish Articles”.

Hill Top Chapel, Sheffield (1630-34/5)
The Hill Top Chapel still stands today in Attercliffe, Sheffield, with the inscription over one of the doors dating the completion at 1629. Joseph Hunter’s History of Hallamshire records that “in the yeare of our Lord God 1629 certaine of the chiefe of the inhabitants being by God’s providence mett togeather, they had a conference about building a chappell”. The opening sermon was the 10th October 1630, and “being the Sabbath-day, divine service was read and two godly sermons preached by the Revd Mr Thomas Toller, vicar of Sheffield” from Jeremiah 7:8-9. This was followed by a collection for the poor.
Stanley Gower was “elected an assistant minister in the church at Sheffield; and in 1630 he was nominated to the curacy of the newly-erected chapel at Attercliffe”. He served there from 1630–35 and therefore he was the founding minister of this new work. There would undoubtedly have been strong puritan sympathies in Sheffield for them to consider calling a disciple of Ussher and most likely he would have provided a prized reference for any new ordinand. However, in the providence of God we should summarise that this was a season of preparation for Gower; he was a Westminster theological divine “in the making”.

Brampton-Bryan and Herefordshire (1635-43)
Stanley and his wife Sarah must have found the Herefordshire countryside refreshing from the moment they arrived. It is apparent from historical records and letters that Gower demonstrated clear principles for public worship, Christian ministry and presbyterian church government at this time. The building blocks for these elements were firmly fixed before he became a member of the Westminster assembly; Robert and Brilliana Harley (his patrons) were just as arduous as Gower in working for church reform. Gower was a non-conformist who repudiated all of Archbishop Laud’s moves regarding episcopacy, worship and preaching.
The non-conformity of Gower was not hidden from the state authorities and in 1637 (maybe 1638) a range of charges were made against him. Eales comments of this document in the state papers which charged him with wide-ranging practices and that Gower’s actions were “long standing non-conformist practices”. Gower had been shaped, moulded, and strengthened under the patronage of the Harley’s and the exercise of his reformed ministry had flourished. He was chosen with John Green of Herefordshire as one of two representatives to the assembly of divines in London, and he moved there in autumn of 1643.

The Westminster Assembly (1643-48)
While Gower is not famous to us today, there is every indication that he was a very well respected and prominent minister at the time. During his time in London “he was appointed as preacher in the staunchly presbyterian parish of St Martin Ludgate and was invited to preach before the houses of parliament on several occasions”. The work of an Assembly member was to be extremely busy for Gower, as it was for many, combining parish ministry with long week days of theological debate and discussion. Chad Van Dixhoorn states: “Of the three main tasks of parliament’s assembly, the first two were revolutionary in nature: ‘setling ... the government and liturgy’ of the church ‘as shall be most agreeable to the Word of God’ ”. Van Dixhoorn clarifies that the “third task of the synod was stated with sharp difference in tone. The assembly was to ‘vindicate’ and ‘clear’ the church’s doctrine”. Gower’s work was set, along with 119 other divines.
Gower was specifically involved in the examination of ministerial candidates and he was an assembly member throughout the time that oversaw production of all the Westminster documents. He was actively involved in the Catechism committee: There were eleven sub-committees appointed to work on the Ten Commandments and Mr Profitt and Mr Gower laid out the general rules for expounding the 3rd Commandment.

Holy Trinity, Dorchester, Dorset (1649-60)

Gower had been called to a place, one which Underdown described as the “the most ‘puritan’ place in England”. In this season of ministry Gower enjoyed a measure of stability, as much as those times probably allowed, and he could lead the people of God to worship in an acceptable manner before God. In Dorchester, the “familiar liturgy had gone. Instead of Common Prayer, Gower ... used the presbyterian service book, the Directory”.
Additionally, the eleven years of stable ministry afforded Gower the opportunity to publish and three works are certainly worthy of mention. These are his preface to the posthumous publication of James Ussher’s Eighteen Sermons Preached in Oxford, 1640: Of Conversion unto God, Of Redemption and Justification by Christ (published in 1659): His preface to Davids Psalms in Metre: Agreeable to the Hebrew by Rev. John White (published in 1655): and last but no means least, his preface to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (published in 1650).

Monday 19 March 2018

The Portrait of Christian Love

I am currently preaching on 1 Corinthians in the evening services at Sheffield Presbyterian Church. We have now reached Chapter 13, the famous love chapter and we intend to linger on this important passage. Perhaps I will preach 2-3 sermons on this chapter, we will see! Why is it so important for us? This chapter is a magnificent description of the love that is expected to be manifest among Christians in the church. Does this chapter describe you and your love for fellow Christians?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

There are 16 qualities of true Christian love described in this passage.

I. Christian love has 2 primary qualities which are patience and kindness.
II. Love is not or does not = 8 things, for example love does not envy or boast
III. The all things love = 5 things beginning with love rejoices with the truth
IV. Conclusion: Love never fails or ends

These characteristics are found in a similar way with the ninefold fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter Five, but the two descriptions are not identical. Here it has do with practical Christianity and in the relationships with one another in the church.

Each of these are perfectly found in the life of Christ and they are produced in the church by the work of the Holy Spirit.

One book I recommend to unfold this subject further is "Christian Love" by Hugh Binning in the Banner of Truth Puritan Paperback series.

One question we should ask according to 1 Timothy 1;5 is this: Is our goal in teaching that of love? If not then we are missing the goal.

1 Timothy 1:5 “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (ESV). The New American Standard Bible translates this as "But the goal of our instruction is love".

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Rev John Cotton and the Purity of Public Worship

Rev John Cotton (1585-1652) was the minister of St Botolph's in Boston Lincolnshire. He was originally from Derby and he was educated at Cambridge University; he later exercised a powerful ministry in Boston, England. Thousands of people would come from afar to hear his preaching from the Bible, in the then, wealthy town and port of Boston, Lincolnshire. However, it was clearly a time of revival, one that was a work of the Holy Spirit. People hungered for the "milk of the Word" and sometimes the sermons would be five hours long. It would be a plain misunderstanding if people were to interpret this as people then, having nothing better to do with their time. They were hungry for the truth of the Word of God.

The minister Rev John Cotton and also the congregation members, they were firmly persuaded of Protestant principles, not only for doctrine, but also for public worship. Non-biblical practices and Anglo-Catholic traditions such as kneeling before images, making the sign of the cross, genuflections before the communion table and other such things were firmly rejected at St Botolph's in Boston. However, the senior Church of England officers and probably no doubt King Charles I, were not happy with this man's ministry. He came under increasing pressure to compromise.

In 1632 legal action was taken against him and this led him to make the bold step to escape to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633, where he became the teacher of the church there. This colony was eventually renamed Boston. It was not only John Cotton, but also a large percentage of that town which moved to the New World in the hope of Christian worship untainted by the world. Cotton became one of the most influential Christian leaders in the early development of worship and theology in New England and the roots of what became the United States. For some he is known for his congregational form of church government which he developed once he arrived in the New World. Though I do not hold to his congregational principles for independency, we must not overlook the principles for public worship which he and others held.

In our own day, many churches seem to think that worship practices are simply a matter of personal taste and preference. But is this the picture of the Bible? No! The Holy Scriptures teach us about the attitude of the church in worship, the content of public worship and the necessity for purity in public worship.

The attitude in worship should be that of simplicity, thankfulness, reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29). The high point of Christian worship should be the reading of Holy Scripture with reverence and the preaching of the Word of God by ordained and training teachers for the church. Novelties and the inventions of men are not to be practiced in public Christian worship. May we pray for a recovery of biblical, reverent and pure worship in our day.

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you". 1 Timothy 4:13-14. The gift Timothy had was to preach the gospel of God.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

A New Presbyterian Church Plant in Oxford, England

Earlier this year, the presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales voted for Rev Andy Young to be a church planting minister in Oxford, England. Andy is currently the minister of Naunton Lane Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Cheltenham. He continues there as minister until the Summer and his family will move to Oxford and regular church planting studies will move "up the gears" from late Summer. This potential work needs much prayer.

To my knowledge, confessional Presbyterianism has had little presence in the city of Oxford over the centuries. During the English Civil War, the Roman Catholic minded King Charles I, set up Oxford as his headquarters.

You will find an excellent YouTube link below, of a web=link video presentation of the church planting work in Oxford. Do forward this to others.

If you would like to contact Andy do so at:

Psalm 126:4-6

"Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him".