J. Newton Brown’s Contemporaries at the American Baptist Publication Society

Here are a few of John Newton Brown’s contemporaries at the American Baptist Publication Society. These men were officers or board members of the American Baptist Publication Society in 1856 along with Brown (who was the historical editor).

Mayson Brayman (1813-1895)

  • Born in Buffalo, NY
  • Became an editor and a lawyer in Illinois
  • In 1858, he campaigned for Abraham Lincoln’s Illinois Senate candidacy
  • Served as a major in the Civil War
  • Served the American Publication Society as president
  • Was a poet and also wrote a couple of hymns
  • Became the governor of Idaho in 1876, a period which was tumultuous, filled
    with scandals and controversies.

Wilson Jewell (1800-1867)

  • Was a medical doctor
  • Wrote “The baptism, or The little inquirer”

Joseph H. Kennard (1797-1866)

  • Frequent attender of the Philadelphia Baptist association
  • Served for nearly 30 years at Tenth Baptist Church
  • Died of heart clot

Samuel J. Cresswell (1802-1877)

  • Born in England
  • DD from Madison University
  • “a man of much mental activity and power”
  • “a lover of good books and good men”
  • Upon death, his children donated his library to the university in Lewisburg

John P. Crozer (1793-1866)

  • Crozer Theological Seminary was named after him
  • Well known business man and industrialist in Pennsylvania, especially Delaware
  • “model Christian gentleman and public benefactor”

James Wheaton Smith (1824-1900)

  • Born in Providence, Rhode Island
  • Graduated from Brown Universty, Newton Theological Seminary
  • DD from Lewisburg University
  • “a man of commanding presence…[and] rare pulpit talents”. Preached “without notes”.
  • Pastor of Spruce Street Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Established Beth Eden church
  • Corresponding Secretary of the Pennsylvania Baptist Convention
  • Wrote a biography of John P. Crozer and “The dramatic element of pulpit oratory”
  • Wrote a tract “Baptists not Exclusive” in response to Albert Barnes

William H. Shailer (1807-1881)

  • Born in Connecticut
  • Graduated from Madison University in 1835
  • Was president of Conecticut Literary Institution
  • Served as an evangelist and pastor in New England (Mass; Portland, Maine; etc.)
  • Proprietor and editor of Zion’s Advocate
  • Trustee of Newton Theological Institution and Colby University

William Shadrach (1804-1890)

  • Baptist Pastor throughout Pennsylvania, including Pittsburg, Altoona, and Dixonville
  • DD from Madison University
  • Helped raised the funds to endow and build University of Lewisburg
  • Became secretary of the Pennsylvania Baptist Convention and the American Bapitst Publication Society

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A Review of The Romantic Rationalist

full_the-romantic-rationalistC. S. Lewis looms large as a figure who has influenced Christians in our era and this book seeks to distill some of the “magic” of his thinking. The title captures the unique way in which Lewis blended passion for the life of the heart and the life of the mind. “Romanticism” here is taken to be what Lewis also called “joy”.

The book is a collection of essays from Randy Alcorn, John Piper, Philip Ryken, Kevin Vanhoozer, David Mathis, and Douglas Wilson. It is a conference book. These are all men who have been influenced profoundly by Lewis’ works. The influence shows. They speak with great passion about the legacy of the “master likener”.

I love how Mathis opens the introduction speaking of Lewis’ death, “He went very quietly. It was very British.” He contrasts how at the time when JFK’s death rocked the world, Lewis left this life quiet silently. And yet, he made a big impact on the way many Christians today think about the imagination, faith, literature, apologetics, and theology. There are a lot of other passages from the book that I want to quote, but I refrain so as not to make this review over long (the quotes certainly wouldn’t bore the reader, but alas, I suppose a review ought to have some sense of brevity).

I think the contributor succeed in passionately portraying the role of imagination and faith in Lewis’ legacy. It also sensitively deals with some deficiencies in Lewis’ theology and shows why his works, nonetheless, remain a great treasure with much to teach us today. Each of these essays bring a unique touch and each are unique, engaging, and helpful reflections on Lewis’ life and legacy. And there are two pretty substantial appendices. I most appreciated Appendix Two, which records a conversation among the contributors. I love especially where they suggest little-known works of Lewis which the reader might consider reading.

If there is a flaw in this book, it is that it is perhaps missing an essay or two. Piper’s concluding essay is good, but it still seems like an abrupt end (excellent appendices notwithstanding). I wanted to read more. I really feel there is some sort of gap in the coverage. I can’t quite put my finger on it. In the last essay, John Piper attempts to tie things together and wrap things up, and he does it well. However, something still seems missing–maybe it is just a prompt to dive into Lewis’ works. Nevertheless, this book is excellent, and I highly recommend it.

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Books Finished in February

(3 paper books, 2 e-books, and 6 audio books)

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A New Paper On Otis Robinson

My friend Ian Clary has recently uploaded a paper on Otis Robinson, an important early New England Baptist pastor.

The paper is fascinating and well-written. It’s also of particular note to me for these reasons:

  1. Robinson lived/pastored in Androscoggin/Oxford County, Maine, which is where my wife’s parents live. In fact, I’ve done some research on the Oxford County churches.
  2. Robinson worked in the Portsmouth Association together with John Newton Brown, and I’ve been very interested in John Newton Brown. In an as of yet unpublished paper on Brown, I mention that in the late 1820s, both Brown and Robinson participated in the founding proceedings of that association.

If you are interested in American Baptist history, Ian’s paper is certainly worth a read.

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What Do Terrorists Want?

The problem with the response of eager military “hawks” to terrorism is not that they punish terrorists too severely. It is that they give terrorists exactly what they want.

Some people like to imagine that ISIS or Al Qaeda cower in their dens hoping that the U.S. doesn’t bring out the full force of its fury. And then when some president doesn’t press forward with full-tilted abandon, they like to imagine that the terrorist masterminds are sitting back and laughing, totally delighted that nothing is happening.

However, if you look at their actions, groups like ISIS are actually acting precisely as if they WANT a response. Think about it. If ISIS wanted to avoid Western intervention, do you think they would circulate evidence of their atrocities to the media? Modern terrorism may be a lot of things, but it is nothing if it isn’t an attempt to goad the movers and shakers into military action through the vehicle of public opinion and perception.

Seriously, if ISIS just wanted to kill the maximum amount of “infidels” while going under the radar and avoiding any international response, they would not be doing what they are doing right now!

The Clash Of Civilizations That Isn’t by Robert Wright is worth reading. In it, Robert says:

ISIS is here. And it’s here, in part, because we got all freaked out about Al Qaeda and overreacted to it. And now we’re getting freaked out about ISIS. As freakouts go, this one is certainly understandable. ISIS wants to terrify us, and in the service of that mission has carried tactical atrocity to new heights of grotesqueness…And the process feeds on itself. The more scared we get, the more likely our government is to react with the kind of undiscerning ferocity that created ISIS as we know it—and the more likely Western extremists are to deface mosques, or worse. All of which will help ISIS recruit more Muslims, thus leading to more atrocities in the West, as well as in the Middle East, and making the whole thing seem even more like a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam. And so on.”

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A Review of The Happy Christian by David Murray

 The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World by David Murray

Is another book on happiness and positive thinking needed? Certainly this topic provokes cringes, cynicism, and discomfort—a knee-jerk reaction which is not without a basis. Perennially opportunistic “charlatans” and “hucksters” profess to have new techniques in this endeavour, There is a great deal of material that amounts to a rip-off, misleads people, gives false hope, evades reality (pretending there is no evil/sadness/pain/sin), ignores key dimensions of human experience and the human condition. Or all of the above! Some more noble material is descent but lacks a firm philosophical or theological foundation.

Christians have a further difficulty in this area of study. A fair amount of the popular material goes to one of two extremes: (a) it is steeped in unhelpful Happy-Christiannon-Christian ideology and presuppositions–such as the denial of the reality of pain and suffering or (b) the material comes from a Christian perspective, but is narrowly limited to religious dimensions–with little more than tepid commentary on a few Bible texts, sprinkled with painfully abstract platitudes, and generally ignorant of the world around it. These are generalizations—but it seems there isn’t much material that is both robust and theologically sound. It’s a shame!

David Murray handles the subject skilfully. With a healthy dose of realism, he provides Christians with strategies to live happier and more positive lives. He observes that the Bible is a realistically positive source. Not pessimistic, but not naively optimistic either. Murray doesn’t suggest we embrace “positive thinking” per say, but rather “realistic thinking” and a “positive faith”. He presses home that “optimism is not faith, but faith is optimistic”.

The approach taken is balanced. It is focused on biblical truth and the finished work of Christ. Nevertheless, Murray frequently appropriates “common grace” insights from scholars in positive psychology and various cognitive studies. Murray certainly has read the popular and academic literature—which is exciting to see. Clearly, he does not dismiss psychology outright as some well-intentioned Christians may do at times. He uses such data frequently in assisting the reader in gaining an understanding. He is relentless in harnessing these insights into a Bible-centered and Christ-centered perspective. Yet, Murray does not follow his academic and popular sources slavishly merely due to their “expertise”. At times he takes a different path and explains why he disagrees.

The book is refreshingly concrete and is rife with actionable lists. Murray’s six questions centering on our moods and “thoughts-facts-feelings” in the chapter “Happy Facts” were exceptionally helpful. He also helpfully shows how thought patterns distort reality. A serious Christian believer will no doubt be terrified to be found distorting God’s Word, but through our thought patterns we often distort the God’s WORLD. Murray shows the pervasive negativity in our culture, especially in regard to media and political discourse, and so we need to do extra work to be positive.

Murray’s chapter “Happy Work” shows the relation of work to happiness and shows that it is more than “a means to an end” (though it isn’t our ultimate end either). He provides an excellent theology of work’s importance and centrality to God’s plan for us. Another one of my favourite chapters is “Happy World”, which is an excellent and passionate exposition of the Christian doctrine of “common grace”. I was thrilled by the author’s approach and it helped me to rethink my perspective on the world (and people) around me and God’s “everywhere grace” (which is a moniker Murray uses for “common grace”). Murray doesn’t quote him, but surely he would agree with the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who wrote “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
Murray provides a healthy amount of personal examples, especially in the chapter “Happy Differences”, which describes his journey to embracing cultural diversity in his attitudes to immigrants. I was especially encouraged to see this since I’m troubled by how often Christians have negative attitudes towards immigrants and people that are different.  It’s great that Murray links differences and diversity into this discussion of happiness. Murray shows how embracing cultural diversity and interacting with people that are different than us helps us to be happier. There’s a great line in this chapter which says that “the gospel smashes superiority and inferiority complexes”.

Murray makes satisfyingly broad applications—taking the game far beyond the emotional or thought life, into an intersection with community, family, work, and other areas. I’m excited to see not only how this book can make individual Christians happier, but also at how it may positively influence the Christian communities which gather together corporately in worship. Sadly, we Christians have at times made our faith seem gloomy–we have often not exhibited the joy and love which Christ gives us. Murray forcefully shows how we should look forward to the future with bright, expectant hope—a hope which also transforms our present perspective!

I suppose I could come up with a few quibbles, there are some points which might have been expanded or clarified. However, they do not in any sense weigh down or dampen my enthusiasm for the book. There is precious little that I would change in this book. It’s a wonderful book, well worth reading for any Christian. There’s a lot of material to digest and I expect to return to it when I can.  It’s a challenging book, but also one that is full of inspiration and hope.

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Books Finished in January

(3 paper books, 1 e-book, and 4 audio books)

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Heaping Praise On The House Of Saud

Today the UK/US media, American President, and the Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper are gloating over one of the most despotic dictators in the world. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died and they are hailing him as “loyal ally”, “reformer”, “bold”, “courageous” and even “vocal advocate of peace in the Middle East”. Surely if he weren’t so “cooperative” on various military adventures, he would be denounced as a thug and despot. It almost reads as if it is coming straight out of The Onion. The next time our governments or media say we are going to war to fight for freedom or get rid of dictators or fight extremism–it should be noted that they have eagerly praised (and supported and protected) one of the worst totalitarian states in recent history.

I think talking to people from the area pretty quickly reveals the extent to which the kingdom has been characterized by corruption and extreme forms of totalitarianism.

For those interested to read, I recommend the Palestinian-Egyptian author Said Aburish’s book “Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House Saud”. Though it is dated, it does a good job of setting the historical context and also showing the depth to which the Saud family has been able to manage its reputation in the media and in Western governments–both through finesse and intimidation.

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