Saturday, January 23, 2021

Saturday Synaxis

Thou great, all-knowing, present God,
Where'er I stay or rove,
I am surrounded still by Thee,
Encircled with Thy love.
Thy guardian hand my life defends,
That life I owe to Thee;
Thy mercy all my way attends;
Thy love abounds to me.

- from a hymn by Joseph Proud

Friday, January 22, 2021

Wellspring (A Classic Christian Service of Worship)

One of the projects I completed this year was the compilation of a standard Christian liturgy service that could be used in evangelical Protestant churches. I've often toyed with the idea of offering it in my own church, but never actually have. But even in denominational traditions that are unfamiliar with classic liturgy, there is a growing movement to recover the historic roots of our worship and a yearning for a sense of connection with the generations of Christians who have gone before. So here's my offering toward that end: a service based on classic liturgies and adapted to fit the orthodox doctrines of evangelical churches. Almost all of it is drawn from worship texts used by the ancient, medieval, and Reformation churches. Here's a link to the PDF document; feel free to reproduce it and use it as you wish:

Wellspring (A Classic Christian Service of Worship)

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Heroes of the Faith: Duncan McColl

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God… For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  - 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!  - Acts 20:28-31

Duncan McColl: Basic Facts

- Duncan McColl (1754-1830) was among the earliest settlers of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, and for most of his life he singlehandedly evangelized and provided pastoral care for many communities in eastern Maine and western New Brunswick.

- Among his many other notable accomplishments, he famously succeeded in preventing the violence of the War of 1812 from affecting the close-knit communities of Calais and St. Stephen, despite the presence of American and British army units in both towns.

- “Rev. Duncan McColl was one of the most remarkable and influential men that ever dwelt in the St. Croix Valley. Hardy, resolute, intelligent and pious, his name is interwoven with all the early life of St. Stephen and Calais; and the impression he made in both towns is too deep ever to be effaced.” – [from Rev. I. C. Knowlton’s 1875 history of the St. Croix Valley]

Events of McColl's Life and Ministry:

- In 1777, McColl enlisted in the British army and was sent to North America to fight against the American Revolution, participating in a battle at Castine, Maine.

- While a soldier, he began to explore questions of religion, and gave his life to Christ in 1781. He met his wife, the Methodist daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family, while stormbound on Bermuda, and they move together to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then to St. Stephen, New Brunswick, in 1785.

- McColl noticed that there were no pastors and no churches in the whole vast area around him. So he and his wife started a Bible study in their home. Word got around that there was a Christian meeting available there, and soon McColl found himself leading a church service every Sunday within his own house. Though unordained, he took it upon himself to do what no one else was doing, and he made the rounds of the communities all around the St. Croix River and Passamaquoddy Bay, riding and walking to proclaim the Gospel throughout the whole area between St. John and Machias. He was instrumental in introducing the Methodist movement in St. John and Fredericton, as well as in many other places. He was unpaid throughout all this, existing entirely on the hospitality of those he served. Although he himself favored the Methodists (Baptists and Quakers also rated highly with him), he never placed himself under the jurisdiction of any denominational structure, and instead ministered to all believers of any denomination, wherever they had need of him (including a group of Scottish Presbyterian immigrants near St. Stephen, to whom he preached in Scotch Gaelic). He was an outspoken defender of traditional biblical Christianity, and was often the sole religious leader in the area who could hold the line against new and heretical opinions that were infiltrating the region, like antinomianism and unitarian-universalism.

- After a decade of this ministry, McColl undertook a preaching tour in 1795 along with the famous missionary Jesse Lee (“the Apostle to New England”). The goal was to make it all the way down Connecticut, where he would be officially ordained by Francis Asbury himself, the leader of all Methodists in North America, and to plant new churches everywhere they went along the way. McColl preached in Machias, Steuben, Blue Hill, Portland, Portsmouth, and Boston, all to great effect. Despite his popularity, he turned down multiple invitations to pastorates in major New England cities, preferring to return to the sparsely-settled region of the St. Croix Valley because he felt called to labor there, where there was a desperate need for sustained Christian ministry.

- At the outbreak of the War of 1812, which pitted the British against the Americans and turned the St. Stephen-Calais boundary into a potential war zone between two hostile powers, McColl took it upon himself to make sure that the war did not enter his home area. He convinced all local leaders to refuse to enter into hostilities against each other, and even convinced the army commanders of both the American and British sides to conduct their war elsewhere and leave it to the local leaders to maintain order in the St. Croix Valley. This was a remarkable success, and peace was kept throughout the duration of the war.

- In 1814, as the war was winding down, a revival broke out in the Christian communities where McColl ministered, adding many new believers to the faith in Calais and St. Stephen. Though there would be other challenges later on, McColl persisted diligently in his habit of preaching all throughout Charlotte and Washington counties, right up until his passing in 1830.


On the Gospel and the Christian Life:

“O come all ye weary struggling souls and abandon yourselves as you are into the hands of the living God, and you will find him to be all love.”

“Oh, who would not be a Christian? It is the only happy life on earth!”

“I love to hear awakened sinners confessing their sins, and enjoying peace through faith in Jesus. However good and happy ‘frames of mind’ may be, I prefer faith, love, and obedience to any frame.”

On Denominationalism:

“I consider myself a member of the mystical Church of Christ, and connected with the whole Church, and I intend to encourage the faith wherever I find it. I have nothing to do in this world but […] to promote the welfare of men and the glory of God on earth. Such has been and such is now my situation. In the Christian religion I firmly believe, and intend to follow it. I feel love and goodwill to all the faithful in Christ, for I consider them as a family which ought not to be divided, and I long for that day when there will be but one fold and one shepherd.”

“I am fully determined, as I have hitherto been, never to be the slave of any party as to doctrine or practice; but to consult God and his Word, and so make truth my standard, whatever men may say or think of me; for I see that a party spirit has almost ruined the Christian world.”

“I have made a point to examine the Word of God for myself, and never to embrace anything from other men; making the Scriptures my only book, my creed, and catechism.”

On War and Patriotism:

“I thank God whatever goodwill I possess to my own Government; I feel no enmity to the United States, nor to any other nation in the world, […] for my kingdom is not of this world, and my wish is to do good to all men and […] to support the lawful authority wherever I go.”

“The news of peace came to us [at the end of the War of 1812]; and now what cause of happiness, of thankfulness, and of praise to God for our preservation. Not one dollar’s worth of property was taken by violence from any man on the lines; neither was there any killed, wounded, or taken prisoner amongst us; but in room of judgments we had wonderful works of grace, such as we never saw in this country before.”

On Ministry:

“I am resolved to face the storm, and to stand by the faithful little flock whom the Lord has preserved in the midst of these fiery trials, not doubting but what we shall see better days yet, even in this land of sorrow.”

“My constant object is to preach […] practical Christianity to a people destitute of the Word.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Evangeliad (19:24-27)

Section 19:24-27 (corresponding to John 6:30-33)

Still more they asked: "But what sign have you done,
That we may see and believe you're the one?
You spoke of bread that was multiplied,
Yet Moses gave bread from the very skies!

Manna in the desert our fathers ate,
As it was written in ancient days:
'The bread of heaven he gave them to eat.'
So answer us then, what will your sign be?"

"No," said Christ, "it wasn't Moses who gave;
It was God's bread that fed the ransomed slaves!
And now the Father has given true bread,
Heavenly bread for your souls to be fed!

And what is the bread God gives unto you?
You will know His bread by what it will do--
It comes down from heaven, in your very midst,
And life, endless life, to the world it gives!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Photo of the Week


Lord of beauty, thine the splendor,
Shown in earth and sky and sea,
Burning sun and moonlight tender,
Hill and river, flower and tree;
Lest we fail our praise to render,
Touch our eyes that they may see!

- from a hymn by Cyril Alington

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday Synaxis

Give harmony and peace to us and to all who dwell on the earth,
Just as you did to our fathers
When they reverently called upon you in faith and trust,
That we may be saved,
While we render obedience to your almighty and excellent name;
And give harmony and peace to our rulers and governors on earth.

- Clement of Rome

Friday, January 15, 2021

Social Media Connections

Tuning in to the echo chamber

With the upcoming publication of not one but two books this year, I'm trying to be a bit more active on social media. I'm not really wild about social media platforms in general, but publishers tend to want their authors to be available to interact with readers as widely as possible. In this age of digital connections, the social media world has become the most effective marketplace. So to my readers here on the blog, I wanted to let you know where you can find me out there in the wastelands of inch-deep interactions:

Instagram - You can find me at matthewburden05. I try to post something daily, often a bit of my own photography, and I'll also periodically show updates on my writing and academic work. Feel free to follow my account.

Twitter - I'm really not sure how active I'll be on Twitter, but I'm giving it a shot. If nothing else, it's a fairly easy way for me to pass along quotes and thoughts of substance from some great Christian thinkers. Once my books come out, I'm sure I'll do some promotional work there. So if you're on Twitter, give me a follow: @matthewburden05.

Facebook - I only tend to "friend" people I know directly, but most of my posts are public, so if you have a Facebook account, you should be able to check in on my content there from time to time as you like: This feed tends to include more personal updates than do Twitter or Instagram. Even if you don't have an account, you can still access a lot of the videos I do for the church: daily calls to prayer, Bible studies, and worship services. These are on the church's public page,

Goodreads - You can check out my author page here (just search for my name, and click on it under any of my book titles). I'll likely be doing more interaction on this site once my books start coming out this year.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Heroes of the Faith: John Newton

Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  - Ephesians 2:3b-9

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.  - 1 Timothy 1:15-16

John Newton: Basic Facts

- John Newton (1725-1807) was a slave trafficker from England who converted to Christianity and became one of the most prominent pastors of his day.

- He is most famous today for being the hymn-writer of perhaps the most well-known hymn of all, “Amazing Grace.” He wrote several hundred other hymns as well, including old classics like “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.” In his own day, he was better known for his autobiography, An Authentic Narrative, than he was for his hymns.

- He was a central figure in the early development of the evangelical movement, and was a close associate of several towering figures of Christian history, including George Whitefield (evangelist), William Cowper (poet), Hannah More (writer and social reformer), and William Wilberforce (politician who abolished slavery).

Timeline of Newton's Life and Ministry:

1725-41 – Newton spent his first seven years under the care of his mother, a devout Christian who brought him along to their Congregationalist church, where he learned valuable disciplines of prayer and Bible reading. But his mother died in 1732, and throughout his teenage years he accompanied his sea-captain father on five long voyages, during which time he stopped practicing the pious habits he had learned from his mother.

1742-43 – John’s father arranged for him to take a lucrative post on a Jamaican slave-plantation, but John missed his ship and his father consigned him over the life of an ordinary seaman in the hope it would teach him discipline. It only made John slip further into a worldly lifestyle.

1744-46 – John’s lot worsened when he missed a second assignment on a ship that would have made him an officer, and instead was seized and press-ganged into the royal navy. He attempted to desert, but was caught and flogged. He nearly settled on a plan to murder his captain and commit suicide, but instead was sent into servitude at a slaving outpost on the African coast, where he was mistreated, abused, and became “a servant to the slaves.”

1747-49 – Newton was rescued by a friend of his father’s and took service on a new ship, the Greyhound. There he found a copy of the classic Christian book The Imitation of Christ, and was deeply affected by it. When the Greyhound got caught in a dangerous storm and he thought he would perish, he committed his life to Christ. Though he would go on to backslide and doubt his salvation over the coming months, he always looked back at this desperate moment as “the hour he first believed.” A year later he was struck with a fever and nearly died, and it was at this time that he fully gave himself over to living as a Christian.

1750-56 – Now married and the captain of his own slave-ship, Newton continued to grow in his faith, though the brutal reality of the slave trade was beginning to trouble him. During this time, he heard that an old associate, whom as a young man he had dragged down from a life of piety into dissolution, had died unrepentant and miserable. Stricken by this event, he pledged to devote his life to pulling as many sinners toward grace as he possibly could.

1757-63 – With maritime trade dropping off during the French and Indian War, Newton had the freedom to pursue a different career. He became a disciple of the famous evangelist George Whitefield, studied for the ministry, and applied to pastoral positions throughout England.

1764-79 – Newton became an ordained Anglican rector and pastored a church in the little town of Olney. He became known as a passionate preacher and a great hymn-writer, often writing a new hymn each week to accompany his sermons. During his Olney years he met and influenced one of the great English poets, William Cowper, with whom he published a hymn-book that would go on to make a deep impact in worldwide Christianity.

1780-1807 – John took up a pastoral position in London, and he served the rest of his life there. He began a meeting of Christian leaders, the Eclectic Society, which shaped the emergence of the evangelical movement. He was a powerful influence in the lives of great writers and reformers like William Wilberforce and Hannah More. In his final years, he was an outspoken advocate for the abolition of slavery, and lived to see the end of the British slave trade.


“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” 

“Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” 

Though afflicted, tempest-toss’d,
Comfortless a while thou art,
Do not think thou canst be lost,
Thou art graven on my heart:
All thy wastes I will repair,
Thou shalt be rebuilt anew;
And in thee it shall appear
What a God of love can do.

     - from Newton's hymn “To the Afflicted”

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Evangeliad (19:20-23)

Section 19:20-23 (corresponding to John 6:26-29)

"Truly I say to you," Jesus replied,
"You seek me not for miraculous signs,
Which you saw me do on the hillside--no,
But because you ate your fill of the loaves.

Don't strive for perishable food such as this,
But for food that endures, food that I give:
This food is eternal life from the Son,
On whom is God's seal, his chosen one."

They answered, "We want to do the works of God!
But how do we do them? Where do we start?"
"This is the work of God," Jesus said,
"To put your faith in the one he has sent."

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Photo of the Week

 Now may the Lord of peace himself
Give you peace
At all times
And in every way.

- 2 Thess. 3:16

Monday, January 11, 2021

Quote of the Week

'Disappointment -- His appointment'
   Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
   Is God's better choice for me.

- Edith Lillian Young

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Saturday Synaxis

For Thy mercy and Thy grace, constant through another year,
Hear our song of thankful praise; Father and Redeemer, hear.
In our weakness and distress, Rock of strength, be Thou our stay;
In the pathless wilderness, be our true and living way.

- #537 in The Augustine Hymn Book, 19th century

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Heroes of the Faith: Zinzendorf & the Moravians

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

Count Zinzendorf & the Moravians: Basic Facts

- Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) was a German nobleman who gave refuge to a group of Moravian refugees. Together, they formed the community of Herrnhut (“the Lord’s Watch”), which launched the first great modern missions movement.

- His family and early schooling brought him under the influence of the Pietist movement, which emphasized a more heartfelt, emotive spirituality rather than the intellectual, dogma-driven faith of Lutheranism at the time.

- The early years at Herrnhut were marked by conflict and division, but under Zinzendorf’s leadership, the community came together to form a committed fellowship marked by love, constant prayer, and a passion for missions.

- Moravian missionaries were the first great Protestant missionary force, taking the Gospel to the West Indies, Greenland, the Native Americans, eastern Europe, and Africa.

Central Themes of Moravian Piety

Love for Christ
 - Zinzendorf’s spirituality was entirely Christ-centered. As a young boy, he wrote love-letters to Jesus and flew them out the tower windows of his family castle. 

Love for One Another - The Herrnhut community developed a system of small-group “families” within its church. In the Moravian settlements in North America, they included Native Americans and black slaves as equals.

Prayer - The Moravians launched a 24-7 prayer watch in their community which lasted for more than a hundred years.

Missions - Early Moravian missionaries went out with no resources, willing to sell themselves into slavery for the chance to bring the Gospel to the slaves of the West Indies.


“I have but one passion: it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.”

“I have loved Him for a long time, but I have never actually done anything for Him. From now on I will do whatever He leads me to do.”

“Our method of proclaiming salvation is this: to point out to every heart the loving Lamb, who died for us, and although He was the Son of God, offered Himself for our sins... by the preaching of His blood, and of His love unto death, even the death of the cross, never, either in discourse or in argument, to digress even for a quarter of an hour from the loving Lamb: to name no virtue except in Him, and from Him and on His account, to preach no commandment except faith in Him; no other justification but that He atoned for us; no other happiness but to be near Him, to think of Him and do His pleasure; no other calamity but to displease Him; no other life but in Him.”

Moravian missionaries, on leaving Denmark to sail to the West Indies: “May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering!”

A Moravian Assessment of the Missions Movement 60 Years after Its Beginning:

“The simple motive of the brethren for sending missionaries to distant nations was and is an ardent desire to promote the salvation of their fellow men, by making known to them the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ. It grieved them to hear of so many thousands and millions of the human race sitting in darkness and groaning beneath the yoke of sin and the tyranny of Satan; and remembering the glorious promises given in the Word of God, that the heathen also should be the reward of the sufferings and death of Jesus; and considering His commandment to His followers, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, they were filled with confident hopes that if they went forth in obedience unto, and believing in His word, their labor would not be in vain in the Lord. They were not dismayed in reflecting on the smallness of their means and abilities, and that they hardly knew their way to the heathen whose salvation they so ardently longed for, nor by the prospect of enduring hardships of every kind and even perhaps the loss of their lives in the attempt. Yet their love to their Savior and their fellow sinners for whom He shed His blood, far outweighed all these considerations. They went forth in the strength of their God and He has wrought wonders in their behalf.”

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Evangeliad (19:14-19)


Section 19:14-19 (corresponding to Mark 6:54-56; John 6:22-25)

When the region's people heard Jesus was there,
They came out in droves, from far and from near;
They brought out the sick to line Jesus' way,
Carried on pallets and beds where they lay.

All through the markets, alongside the streets,
They waited in each place Jesus would be,
Hoping to touch just the edge of his cloak--
And touching, were healed, and went to their homes.

Now the multitude present there at the spot
Where the feeding with loaves and fishes was wrought
Had learned that Christ was not there anymore,
Despite having sent his disciples before.

So getting in boats, they sailed to the north,
To Capernaum-town, near Bethsaida's shore.
And finding Jesus, they all crowded close,
Saying, "How did you get here? When did you go?"

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Photo of the Week


When sins and fears prevailing rise,
And fainting hope almost expires;
Jesus, to thee I lift my eyes,
To thee I breathe my soul's desires.
Art thou not mine, my living Lord?
And can my hope, my comfort die,
Fixed on thy everlasting word,
That word which built the earth and sky?

- from a hymn by Anne Steele

Monday, January 04, 2021

Quote of the Week

An encouragement from a famous presidential quote, to dare mighty things in the coming year:

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

- Teddy Roosevelt