The Church in Scotland The Free Church The Record Theology

Is the Free Church Cessationist?

A few months ago one of the writers in The Record, Dayspring Macleod, mentioned that the Free Church was not cessationist. This raised a few eyebrows and prompted a couple of people to get in touch asking me to deal with her error. The trouble is that both those who got in touch, and Day were right. Cessationism is the view that the apostolic spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing have ceased after the passing of the apostles and the establishment of the New Testament. The Free Church, like most Reformed churches, does not believe that we still have apostles, prophets and healers in the church today – (at least in the sense of offices – indeed the Reformers also argued that the office of ‘evangelist’ no longer existed). However this does not mean that we believe that prophecy, healing and evangelism no longer exist.

In more recent years there has been a trend, especially in some American Reformed circles, (although not in others such as the Gospel Coalition where John Piper and Matt Chandler are not remotely cessationist!), to argue for a strict cessationism. John McArthur is the most well known exponent of this point of view. You can see an example of this in the 2018 West Coast Ligonier Conference when it was argued that dreams today are never of God (I wrote about this here).    Day was quite right to say that this extreme cessationism has never been part of the Free Church…that is until recently.

downloadDonald Macleod, former principal of the Free Church College was not happy and published this blog to deal with the heresy he perceived in The Record.  Someone asked if I was going to answer it, but I decided to let sleeping dogs lie. There was no point getting involved in another unseemly spat. However Donald’s article has recently resurfaced and is again doing the rounds. As it contains a number of allegations and errors about the Free Church I think as a Free Church minister its time to set the record straight – one minister even went so far as to accuse Free Church office bearers who do not agree with cessationism as being guilty of perjury!

As usual, being Donald, it is well written, there are many wise and insightful things said, the rhetorical flushes are great and he knows how to push all the buttons.   His article does however raise a number of questions.

1) Is the modern Free Church no longer a self-consciously Reformed Church?

All of our office bearers have a strict adherence to the WCF and our doctrine, church government, preaching and practice is self-consciously Reformed. So why does Donald make the claim that this is not the case? He was either just feeling a bit frustrated and grumpy or he’s using a rhetorical device that gets people who are self-consciously Reformed onside. Those from outside just accept what is said, even though Donald offers no evidence. I don’t doubt that any Church, including the Free Church, can move away from its core doctrines, but simply stating that is the case without providing any evidence is not really helpful. Besides which since when did being a strict cessationist become a mark of being Reformed? I would be quite reluctant to suggest that John Piper was not truly Reformed!  On the other hands there are concerns I would raise (the desire for women’s ordination, the acceptance of Bishop Curry’s sermon etc) but these are for another time!

The only evidence Donald provides is the claim that the discipleship of our young people now takes place in CU’s or other interdenominational bodies such as SU. I’m afraid that once again he is somewhat out of touch with what is happening in the Free Church. Simply making the assertion does not constitute evidence. Most Free Church young people (sadly) do not go to CU’s or SU. Our discipleship tends to take place in our own churches, youth groups, Sunday schools, camps, boot camp etc. Even as I write a group of young people from all over the Free Church are meeting at Base Camp to be taught more doctrine applied to contemporary life.

2) Is contemporary evangelicalism in Scotland primarily Baptist, Dispensational, individualistic and charismatic?

In some parts of the world this may indeed be the case – but there are many areas where it is not (GAFCON, the Gospel Coalition, IFES and many other growing groups demonstrate otherwise). But Donald is talking about Scotland because he claims that this is what Free Church people are drawn to.  Is this true of Scotland?   Again I think this is decades out of touch. Of course there are some dispensationalists, but they are few and far between – and I’ve yet to meet a Free Church person who has been drawn to this charismatic, Baptistic, dispensationalism. As for individualism – that is a plague of the whole West – including the Reformed.   I’m afraid that what Donald is doing here is classic ad hom – this is what non-cessationists are like…do you want to be associated with them?   If you don’t then you are a cessationist!

3) Is cessationism the traditional historical teaching of the Free Church?

DrJohnKennedyDonald claims that cessationism (which he defines as including the cessation of dreams, visions etc. as well as tongues and prophecy) has always been the position of the Free Church – and that non-cessationism is a relatively new phenomena. But he then goes on to critique Dr John Kennedy and the Highland ‘mysticism’ which was a major part of the Free Church in the 19th and 20th Centuries.  Kennedy’s ‘Days of the Fathers of Ross-shire’ is still one of my favourite books and it could hardly be described as cessationist!  Both statements cannot be correct.  The new position is the extreme cessationist position.

Scottish Church history does not support his position either that the Scottish church denied dreams and visions. There is much that could be written about this – for example in the Second Book of Discipline (1578) it is stated “There are three extraordinary functions: the office of the apostle, of the evangelist, and of the prophet, which are not perpetual, and now have ceased in the kirk of God, except when he pleased extraordinarily for a time to stir some of them up again.”   This is not a cessationist position.

download-1George Gillespie, one of the Scottish Westminster Commissioners was not a strict cessationist either. Given that he helped draw up the Westminster Confession I doubt that the 21st Century strict cessationist position can appeal to it for support! It’s never good to ignore the historical context.

for I dare not say that since the days of the apostles there has never been, or that to the end of the world there shall never be, any raised up by God with such gifts, and for such administrations, as I have now described to be proper to prophets and evangelists, i.e., the foretelling of things to come… (George Gillespie, Miscellany Questions , Chapter 5, section 7, p. 30).

I must say it, to the glory of God, there were in the church of Scotland, both in the time of our first reformation, and after the reformation, such extraordinary men as were more than ordinary pastors and teachers, even holy prophets receiving extraordinary revelations from God, and foretelling diverse strange and remarkable things, which did accordingly come to pass punctually, to the great admiration of all who knew the particulars. Such were Mr. Wishart the martyr, Mr. Knox the reformer, also Mr. John Welsh, Mr. John Davidson, Mr. Robert Bruce, Mr. Alexander Simpson, Mr. Fergusson, and others. It were too long to make a narrative here of all such particulars, and there are so many of them stupendous, that to give instance in some few, might seem to derogate from the rest, but if God give me opportunity, I shall think it worth the while to make a collection of these things (George Gillespie, Miscellany Questions, Vol. 2, Chapter 5, section 7, p. 30).

Gillespie was not claiming the type of prophecy that is Scripture. He was claiming extraordinary revelations from God.   This is not a new position in the church and was held and accepted by many others including Rutherford, Durham, Kennedy, the Covenanters and others.

It is also very much part of the tradition and teaching of the Free Church that many have grown up in. The time of the Lewis revival was a time of many ‘unusual’ happenings and people getting ‘words’.   I would not be as dismissive of Kennedy’s ‘secret of the Lord’ as Donald is – although I recognise that there are dangers and everything must be brought to the touchstone of Scripture.

4) Does the Westminster Confession teach cessationism?

 Yes – in the sense that it says ‘these former ways of God’s revealing his will to his people being now ceased’.   This is written in the context of Holy Scripture. We no longer have, or have need of, the OT prophets or the NT apostles to bring us the Word of God through dreams, visions, prophetic words etc. because we now have the Scriptures. But it is clear from Gillespie that this was understood of adding to the Scripture, not of God NEVER speaking to people through dreams etc.   In fact the extreme cessationist position is contradicted by the Confession itself because of its high view of the sovereignty of God. “God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of (ordinary) means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure” (Chapter 5.3).   God can work without, above and against ordinary means. The Holy Spirit is sovereign and he can reveal through dreams etc. as he pleases. Who are we to tell him what he can and cannot do?!

In Summary  There are some useful and wise things in Donald’s article and some helpful caveats and balances against the excesses of some charismatic ideas and practices; however overall the article is out of date in its assessment of the current Free Church, wrong in its evaluation of evangelicalism in Scotland, mistaken in its understanding of Scottish Church history, and confused in its theology.   Donald’s article fits more into the arguments within the American Reformed church between the Macarthurite strict cessationism and the more open position of the Gospel Coalition. It is neither accurate nor helpful in our context in Scotland today.   We should reject the excesses of much of charismatic theology and practice, but we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.  God is sovereign and he can do as he pleases – without being restricted by our theological understanding, or anything other than his nature and revealed will (which as far as I can see does not reveal that he will never use dreams or other forms of revelation again).

The Downgrading of the Free Church – A Response to Donald Macleod.



  1. Interesting blog post and very educational re the Free Church.

    Until I left the Church of Scotland almost 2 years ago to join an independent, evangelical, slightly charismatic church in Fife I’d never heard of the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues and healing and they’re all very much ‘alive’ in my church. The church I attend has been in Fife for 40 years next year.

    My only regret is that I was loyal to the Church of Scotland for 43 years until I realised how unhappy I’d become there.

  2. Helpful clarifications here – just to add though, from one’s experience in mission ministry dreams are common in the life stories of many Muslims coming to the Lord.

  3. Thanks for this, David. It is timely for me, as I was trying to explain missional continuationism to a new Christian the other day. It was at a wedding, so I wasn’t able to articulate it without disruptions. I can send this to the person.

  4. As an incomer to the Free Church I am surprised that this has surfaced . David , you have made a very convincing argument but what I read in Professor Donald MacLeod’s article ( and I stand to be corrected ) is for the church to proceed carefully .

    1. The Free Church never does anything but proceed carefully! The point is that Donald was raising a problem where there is not one…this is not a new teaching that has come into the church….

  5. Does God, hear extempore prayer, outwith the pages of scripture? Does He answer, prayer, and act, outwith the pages of scripture? Is He alive outside the pages of scripture? Even more so, outside the WCF, which isn’t inerrant, or inspired, unlike scripture?
    Of course discernment is needed.
    Has the gift of tongues ceased? The evidence is that it hasn’t. Are there counterfeit tongues? Yes, but the very idea of counterfeit, presupposes the genuine.
    Have words of knowledge ceased? Within the last few weeks a member of the church phoned me : they’d been praying, not about me, but considered that the Lord had drawn attention to a particular scripture for me and wanted to test it out with me. They did not know anything about what was happening in my life, but the scripture was spot -on, bringing to life that God is indeed alive and does indeeed know and care about the personal specifics, indeed confirming sripture.
    Do revivals take place outside the pages of scripture?
    Is God’s presence manifest outside scripture? Jonathan Edwards? Whitefield?
    Is God’s presence among His people, not a whole Bible theme?
    Was Billy Graham an evangelist? Yes, but a Baptist.
    Has the office of priest ceased as some CoE reformed BCP ministers contend that they are priests (withoutthe vicarious aspect, I think)?
    Do we need a fully orbed understanding of scripture, of theology, sytematic, biblical or otherwise for salvation.
    But I’m not a member of the Free Church so, perhaps, any or all of the above can be dismissed as interloping and maybe I’d not be welcome or accepted into membership.
    In any event, David R’s article is well written and modulated.
    I’ve read D McC’s blog and, as it was 2 months ago, wonder why it’s resurfacing now to an extent that requires a response, though within the last few days I’ve seen some criticism of Mat Chandler, not that he’s Free Church

  6. I started my Christian life in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches but find it difficult to reconcile the present Charismatic experience with the miracles in the New Testament. I would identify as a continuationalist but while rejecting contemporary tongue speaking as a delusion and linguistically redundant and many healing techniques as parlour tricks. I think that many Christians see the Spiritual Gifts very much through the lens of the Alpha Course. I find this an unhelpful and unnecessary conflation in which the Holy Spirit is reduced to a franchised commodity rather than the third person of the Trinity.
    I have been observing the Charismatic movement for over thirty years now and it still seems to have ‘one leg shorter than the other’ and needs more than a chair to fix that.

  7. David – I’m too unwell to read Dr McLeod’s blog but hope to get to in time in order to understand the full context of your blog post.
    I came to the Free Church of Scotland after a brief sojourn in a charismatic congregation after moving to the Highlands several years ago. I chose the Free Church because it’s the most biblical of the churches in my area and I needed a firm foundation! Around the same time , sorely bruised from my experience in the charismatic church, I took great comfort in and reassurance from John McArthur’s strict cessationist position.
    I often listened to people mumbling “in tongues“ under their breath. Never once did I hear any of this translated for the encouragement of the congregation, as described by Paul. It was always a private affair yet audible enough for everyone to know that this person had been gifted with tongues!
    You say, “We should reject the excesses of much of charismatic theology and practice, but we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.” My question is – where is the line to be drawn? Is it to be based on our own individual discernment? I am genuinely confused on the matter as some of these tongue speakers are, as well as I can discern, genuine Godly people, (though I can’t see any Godly purpose in their tongue speaking!).

    1. Alison,
      I can’t repond for David, but there is a lot that could be said about tongues and has been from cessationists and non cessationists. It has been and remains divisive and both will cite scriptural support. In fact on another blog site that David will know there is a two part article in the last few days considering/countering 11 points raised by cessationist Eric Davis recent article. But really I don’t want any of this to centre on tongues: it is, in some ways, a red herring to the main article.
      I’d not get hung up about it and stick with the ballast that has come McArthur’s teaching.
      After listening to many services recorded from St Peters Church, I’d be more than pleased to be part of their congregation, without any hint of tongues, other than from non Scottish nationals. It is years since I heard tongues in Church or quasi church.
      I think the main point of this is that you can feast on reformed teaching and sermons (eg Sinclair Ferguson) and not be a cessationist. Or as David argues, subsribe to WCF.
      But the other points about revival, God answering prayer, His presence, etc remain.
      Recently I’ve been to evening services at a different church, as ours doesn’t have any, and have been part of wonderful , cessationist, reformed worship.
      I could worship with Macleod an McArthur, but would it be reciprocated? But I may raise my hands in the air in praise and adoration and be evicted, (even though holy hand raising is not barred by scripture) and I’d only be seeking to hail and honour our Triune God not seeking to draw attention nor as learned behaviour, but as a self-forgetting response, almost reflexive, to the words of the psalms, hymns.
      Does cessationism also include the ceasing of raising hands as endorsed in the Old Testament and perish the thought that any in the congregation even being brought to their knees in humbling, heart and mind rending repentance under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
      But I’ve said far too much here,sSo I’ll leave it with this marvellous Revival sermon from McCheyne, thanksgiving prayer and paise. No anodyne discourse here:

      1. “But I’ve said far too much here”, Geoff , You can never say too much. Between , David , yourself and other contributers to this blog site I have been encouraged, and learned more about the church’s understanding of the Christian faith in two years than I have in the last forty !

      2. Thank you, Geoff, for your thoughtful reply. I will read the McCheyne sermon with interest when I’m able. I’m a bit averse to anodyne myself so I look forward to it! Do you have a link to the two part article you mention? I’d be interested to read that too.

        I personally can’t bring myself to raise my hands in worship (I know you’re not saying it’s obligatory!). Coming late to salvation at the age of 47, I was quite taken aback, after an upbringing in the CofS, to see this fashion had established itself in some quarters. I first saw it at a big Christian concert in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh in 2003 where, in addition, I could see the dangers in mirroring the pop music world in the excitement of the performance and the potential adoration of the performer. It was reassuring to see the choir master point to heaven during the rapturous applause. I witnessed much more (habitual, IMHO) lack of inhibition in the charismatic church but I much prefer my quiet, thoughtful, self-contained Free Church where I don’t feel I *should* be doing something extravagant! 😉

        I want to reassure you that I’m not hung up on the tongue speaking, though it is confusing that people I trust are seduced by it, and I do still steady myself with John MacArthur’s ballast! The clarity I get from him is similar to the clarity I got from the moment of my salvation when “life, the universe and everything” fell into place. I trust neither reflects a simpleness of mind on my part! 😉

        I really was hoping David would give some advice on where to draw the line, it was a genuine question, not just an excuse for a statement on my part. In hope, David.

    2. Hello Allison,
      Apologies for the delay, but as with a lot on the internet, it’s difficult to know how long items remain current as new posts are put up.
      You will find the two part piece here: The blog is Andrew Wilson’s (Dr.) from the New Frontiers group of churches and the writer of the two part piece is Andrew Blunt (who looks too young to me! – as was M’Cheyne and Spurgeon when he started out).
      Another non cessationist is Dr Sam Storms, who is reformed, and isn’t young, who, as recently as 17 Aug, has written a rebuttal to Dr Sinclair Ferguson article on the Ligonier site, on cessation of the gifts here:
      I’ve gained much from the theology, teaching and preaching of both men, but there seems to be something in the water that is bringing the whole subject to the surface at this present time. Storms on line resources combined with Grudem’s Systematic Theology, John Pipers writings, were hugely influential in my acceptance of the so called TULIP with much wrestling with the scripture texts, points and counterpoints, 10 or more years ago.
      Hope this doesn’t bring any separation or division between David Roberston and Sinclair Ferguson even by the mere fact of allowing this particular comment to be posted.
      I’ve come across a number of “testimonies” from people setting out their movement from arminianism and charismatics to Calvinism and cessationism, but can’t recall any in the other direction.
      On a slightly different but related subject – theological contention- there is a lengthy and robust critique/ review by Dr DA Carson, on the Gospel Coalition site, of Dr John Lennox most recent book which , from the review, is itself a prolonged argument against the the reformed view of the Sovereignty of God taking up, or at least giving support to the arminian view.
      Something is, indeed, in the water and it Jesus who is the bridge over trouble waters.

    3. PS Alison,
      I,too , was 47 when I came to faith in Christ in a CoE church and on the much maligned, in certain Christian circles, Alpha Course. As a then lawyer, I knew a little about evidence and witness testimony.
      I somtimes think that while sripture is cited as proof texts for a theological position it is often put forward from a position predetermined by the evidence of experience or the evidence of lack of experience, (of the gifts and manner of use/manefestation).
      Foundational to it all is, who or what is getting the glory?

  8. Back in my PB days in the early 70s, when there was a fair bit of charismatic activity in Scotland, one of the saints, in his late 70s by my estimation (I was younger then) said, “I do not discuss these matters with the other (cessationist) brothers. If I did I would cause them, for them to remain consistent, to attribute to Satan what may in fact be the work of the Holy Spirit”. I think he was a wise man as well as a godly one.

    Perhaps my namesake John, mentioned above as a “strict cessationit” makes the basic mistake of interpreting Scripture in the light of experience, rather than the other way round.

  9. Whilst I recognise that the issie of continuing charismatic gifts is one that people will have different views on, I think it is a pity where a belief in cessatiomism is inherently linked to being reformed. People like Terry Virgo in Newfrontiers would argue that having a high, reformed view of scripture is precisely what leads him to believe in continuing gifts.

  10. I am a Scotsman just returned from 37 years in England, having left Scotland as a young man and a non christian. I realise how fortunate I am that I did not carry the baggage of reformed church or Free church or know about being a cessationist or indeed any of this when I had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus at the age of 35.

    Having returned to Scotland, I could have ended up totally confused trying to understand the different streams that exist here, and perhaps got caught up in what seems to me very often ‘posturing’ amongst various voices in these streams.

    I am glad of excellent discipleship through many of my early years as a christian and indeed today. I do speak in tongues which God chose to give me without me asking. I have had visions which again I didn’t ask for but which have proved to predict what became fact, to the glory of God. I do have the gift of evangelism which I am grateful to God for because as a result many have come to know Christ, the latest yesterday. To the gentleman above who was “trying to explain missional continuationism to a new Christian” – mmmmm! I can’t even say it never mind understand it.

    Wonder what the Lord Jesus thinks of all of this as He looks down on His church, will He be blessed? Or is it the evil one who looks on and delights in our division?

    I ask God to fill me every day with His holy spirit cause boy do I struggle in my own strength. I also thank God for His word and in this case the
    Manifestational Gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, the Gifts that manifest through people. Also the Ministry Gifts: Ephesians 4:11 the Gifts we become as people and the Motivational Gifts: Romans 12: 6-8 the
    Gifts we have as people.,uuuuunless of course, someone knows different.
    God Bless
    Ken Buist.

    1. Stick around Ken, Maybe you have something to teach us , perhaps you may gain from us . Whatever brother , there is much for us to learn of Christ in what is a hostile and wicked world. Blessings in Jesus name.

    2. Ken Buist,
      Thanks for your contribution.
      Sometimes it seems to me that there is a difference between those who were raised in church and those who were converted at older ages, but not always. And I’m evermore appreciative of brothers and sisters in the Lord who have remained faithful, steadfast, even from childhood into their 80’s, through thick and thin.
      Not long after conversion at 47, I was part of a Through Faith Mission Evangelistic Team in Tunbridge Wells. I sat down on an outside bench seat beside an older man with a walking stick, and got talking to him. He’d already heard about the team (and we were wearing prominent team sweatshirts with the scripture “How beautiful on the mountains are the feat of those who bring good news..” ) The man asked in a Scottish accent, “What about Calvin?” I hadn’t even heard of Calvin and all I replied was, “we are here to talk to people about Jesus.” As a basis, we were using the well known “Agape, tract” combined with a “personal beliefs questionnaire “, testimony of conversion, with much prayer.
      Sometimes it seems that there is Pilgrims Regress in the church and we are living in relative prosperous ease and over complexity. There are more Phds in the church than in any other sphere of life I’ve been engaged in.
      On the other hand, there is much to contend against at a more basic , fundamental level, such as the teaching of Chalke, Bell and others which seems to need a depth of study and teaching to refute. But recently, other than through David Robertson, I see little engagement from the likes of prominent Reformed Teachers and preachers, who seem to be far keener to indulge in sparring against each other, than against those openly hostile even to any creedal belief, which, if I understand correctly, can be said and believed by catholics, charismatics, reformed, cessationists, credo and pedo baptists, Calvinists, Arminians, all together in Christ Jesus.

  11. ‘Outdated’ is the right word, David,
    for various reasons, not least that the incentive offered by would-be sheep stealers is no longer spiritual gifts in the main but prosperity, healing or even just ‘better’ music. Prof. McLeod uses the word ‘Cessationist’ defensively to mark out a comfort zone for the nominally reformed where ‘these things’ just don’t happen. I confess that when the charismatic tide was running high I’d have found it a good place to go; but all that was a long time ago.

    Are there three things that have ceased and will not come back again in this life? Well for a start, the apostles have all died so that peculiar knowledge that was theirs has gone. Rightly, what we want from the preachers of our time is prophetic preaching but what we never find is a group of prophets speaking as the Spirit moves with the others ‘judging’ what has been said. What we do find are people checking Scripture, even quoting it along with the pastor and affirming it so that the enquiring stranger, even today, is convinced by all. Prophecy as practiced by the NT Prophets has disappeared with them but we can still desire that we might prophesy. Tongues might seem the least likely candidate for cessation but most of what passes for the gift of tongues is merely glossolalia and anyone can do that. Since the other two ‘gifts’ ceased at the same time as the Canon of Scripture was completed, we should imagine that tongues was something to do with inspired translation. We do find in Reformed circles at least, a great emphasis on the study of the Biblical languages. What we don’t find is an extraordinaly gifted but uninstructed reader winging his or her way through an off-the-cuff translation on a Sunday morning.

    It seems to me that these two McLeods are arguing past each other.


  12. I’m not on twitter, but scrolling down David Roberston’s blog tweets, would you Adam and Eve (believe) it but I came across this from satire BabylonBee (BB):
    It’s dated 14 Aug, a day after I commented to Alison Orr on raising holy hands in church.
    Does BB read David’s blog. Even if they do, surely they don’t read any of the comments.
    Is it a God incident, outside of scripture? Or doesn’t God use people and satire, humour, to make a point? Or is it providence? Is it a mystery?
    And for the avoidance of doubt, these questions are asked in good faith.

  13. David R,
    Of course you will be aware of the new book “Reformation Worship -Liturgies from the Past for the Present”.
    It is commended by non – cessationist Andrew Wilson on his blog writing this:
    “Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey’s Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present is a remarkable collection. They have collated a huge range of resources—from Luther, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, Farel, Coverdale, Bucer, Calvin, Cranmer, Knox, and a number of others—which would make a great addition to any bookshelf, but they have also written three essays on worship to introduce the volume, drawing (as the subtitle suggests) from the past to help us worship in the present. They even have a website of resources.

    Early on, Jonathan has an intriguing liturgical analysis of Exodus 19-24 and 2 Chronicles 5-7. It is striking how much of the Church’s order of worship is already there at the inauguration of the tabernacle, and later the temple:

    Gathering (at Mt Sinai) (Ex 19:1-3a)
    Calling (by God’s Word) (19:3b-9)
    Cleansing (through sacrifice) (19:10-15)
    Mediated access (through an appointed prophet-priest) (19:16-25)
    Divine communication (Ten Commandments and Book of Covenant) (20:1-24:2)
    Consecration (promise of obedience) (24:3)
    Sacrifice (burnt offerings and peace offerings) (24:4-5)
    Divine communication (Book of Covenant) (24:7)
    Cleansing (blood of burnt offerings and peace offerings sprinkled) (24:6, 8)
    Mediated access to God’s presence (24:9-10)
    Fellowship meal (with God) (24:11)

    Remarkably similar to the shape of Anglican or Presbyterian worship, isn’t it? Almost every element on that list could be transposed into a new covenant key and preserved in the worshipping life of the Church. This is even more true for the dedication of the temple story:

    Gathering (at Mt Zion) (2 Chr 5:2-3)
    Cleansing (through sacrifice) (5:4-6)
    Mediated access (through priests) (5:7-10)
    Praise (with singing and music) (5:11-13)
    Glory of God fills the temple (5:14)
    Divine communication (Word of God through Solomon) (6:1-11)
    Prayer of intercession (by Solomon) (6:12-42)
    Fire and glory (from heaven) (7:1-2)
    Praise (bowing and thanking) (7:3)
    Cleansing/consecration (through sacrifice) (7:4-7)
    Meal (feast) (7:8-10)
    Blessing and dismissal (7:9-10)

    I’m seeing this kind of thing more and more as I read Scripture, no doubt partly through the lens of my whole Eucharismatic hobby horse: Revelation has a liturgical shape, 1 Corinthians provides us with a Christian liturgy, and so on. Now I have two more texts to add to my collection.

  14. I do not often look at blogs, but I was interested in this disagreement about ‘cessationism’. I am a cessationist, since I believe that the revelatory gifts such as prophecy ceased with the apostles and the closure of the canon of Scripture. I believe this accords with the teaching of Scripture and the Westminster Confession. Of course God still speaks to us by his Spirit as he applies his word. He is sovereign and may sometimes work in extraordinary ways, but there is no evidence in Scripture that he now communicates new revelations which are additional to Scripture and have the same authority. Individuals may have dreams, inner voices and extraordinary experiences, but these must be tested by Scripture and can never be held as inspired, infallible revelation that is binding on others.

    1. Thanks Donald – If you read the blog you will find that there is no disagreement about the cessation of Scripture being added to. The whole question is whether God can and does still at times work in extraordinary ways. I, like you, agree that he does. Extreme cessationists deny that that happens – which is what I was arguing against. Your last sentence is spot on…

  15. Good to find this here. I had read Donald Macleod’s blog recently and was inclined to raise many of the issues you raise.

    That there is a difference between adding to revelation about salvation, and telling someone a fact (for example) during prayer that they would not ‘naturally’ know. Also that supernatural gifts were recorded from St Columba, Aiden, Cuthbert etc and accepted among the Scottish reformers and Puritans. Before any pentacostals came along. Further that God’s actions are surely limited only by his character (perfect goodness) and by his self-imposed promises (eg no worldwide floods now) and it’s a bit arrogant for us to say ‘God doesn’ t do that now’ just because he didn’t do it while WE were watching.

    I’d even add one more possibility (not saying it’s any more than a possibility). And that is that, in reality, while we have the complete scriptures available much of the world does not. Some places are unreached, written scriptures rare or partial. Furthermore not everyone who is illiterate or blind (without braille etc) has a perfect memory. Even here many people have no knowledge of scripture. Does this mean God is ONLY allowed to reach them by directing to the nearest Gideon Bible or Bible gateway online? My sister works with adults with learning disabilities who cannot read and whose understanding is limited. Is God not allowed to speak to them?

    Perhaps these situations explain the comment about Muslims having dreams? I’ve heard of cult members converted by meeting Christ in a dream (and leaving the cult, in a powerful way).

    Charismatic excesses are a distraction from the gospel and any tongues I’ve heard of personally have been glossalalia. To me that is a valid form of emotional expression/spiritual groaning. When it happened in public someone ‘interpreted’. Giving what appeared to be a message of general encouragement from God. Based on scripture. Neither tongue nor reply appeared particularly relevant to me, but have been to others.

    I wonder what Donald Macleod’s understanding is of the instances of prophecy/words of knowledge which do occur in life? All offered by Satan? A human capacity (perhaps genetic) not yet understood by science? An infection like symptom which occurs with stress/low immunity? Extreme coincidence? I’ve heard all these suggested.

    Despite being brought up to believe a view not unlike David’s, that God works in many ways, but keep things in proportion/perspective, I had assumed the long silence story must be true.

    It was put about by basically trustworthy folk, such as Donald Macleod. I have gradually heard evidence to the contrary.

    In James Hogg’s ‘A Shepherd’ s Calendar’, which is a sort of oral archaeology, there is a story of a prophetic dream and it’s fulfillment. Being Hogg it could be fiction, fact, or a fictional example of a factual ‘type’ of event. I found it the most accurate account I’ve read of how a type of prophetic event occurs. Details about the immediate impact, the (counterintuitive) forgetting, the residual fact/reminder/trigger, and the accurate fulfillment could hardly be invented. (I find such facts as reliable as any ‘natural’ personal experience. True, but hearer can misinterpret or make mistakes.)

    He was writing from a 19th century Presbyterian perspective. The dream is explicitly ‘christian’ and not part of the folklore/magic aspect of his fiction. Evidently such events were not excluded from the outlook of Boston or his successors.

    If anyone can be bothered replying I’d be interested. Thanks.

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