Susanna Wesley, the youngest of 25 children, was born in Spitalfields, London. She had 19 children, nine of whom died as infants. At her death eight were living.

John and Charles Wesley were her 15th and 18th children.

Some of her wisdom:

Sin is "Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself."

Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church... nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that every where I am in Thy Presence"

"When I had forgotten God, yet I then found He had not forgotten me. Even then He did by His Spirit apply the merits of the great atonement to my soul, by telling me that Christ died for me."
Lewis had the idea of The Screwtape Letters, Letters from a Senior to a Junior Devil on this day in 1940. It was originally published over six months in a British periodical, and he did not enjoy writing it. Later in The Great Divorce he would write 'Out Satan must go, every hair and feather', and in a 1963 interview he confessed to finding the process of writing Screwtape 'dry and gritty going. At the time, I was thinking of objections to the Christian life and decided to put them in the form That's what the devil would say. But making goods 'bad' and bads 'good' gets to be fatiguing.'

The model has, however, been uniquely suggestive to the imagination of all who have read it ever since.

Some choice quotes:

'A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all-and more amusing.'

'She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can tell the others by their hunted expression.'

'To be in time means to change.'

'Our research department has not yet discovered (though success is hourly expected) how to produce any virtue.'

'Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that 'suits' him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.'

'Pilate was merciful till it became risky.'

'Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (oh, that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!) you don't realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument, I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line, for when I said, "Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning," the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added "Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind," he was already halfway to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of "real life" (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all "that sort of thing" just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape, and in later years was fond of talking about "that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safe guard against the aberrations of mere logic." He is now safe in Our Father's house.'

Listen to Doug Wilson Undragoned: C.S. Lewis on the Gift of Salvation at the Desiring God C S Lewis Conference here
Broadcast Talks was originally delivered on BBC radio by C S Lewis as one of a series of talks on Christianity. In the 1940s it is said that after Churchill, Lewis was the most recognised voice in Britain.

Broadcast Talks was later republished as the first part of Mere Christianity.

Listen to Kevin Vanhoozer's lecture In Bright Shadow: C.S. Lewis on the Imagination for Theology and Discipleship on Lewis at the Desiring God C S Lewis conference here
"It has been a wonderful experience to compete in the Olympic Games and to bring home a gold medal. But since I have been a young lad, I have had my eyes on a different prize. You see, each one of us is in a greater race than any I have run in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out the medals."

Click here to watch the moment in Chariots of Fire
This is the great distinction between man and man! There are two races-he that fears God and he that fears Him not. The religion of this present age, such as it is, has a wrong direction in its course. It seeks after what is called "the enthusiasm of humanity," but what we need, far more, is enthusiasm for God! We shall never go right unless God is first, midst and last. I despair for benevolence when it is not based upon devotion. We shall not long have love to man if we do not first and chiefly cultivate love to God. What our boys need in starting in life is a God-if we have nothing else to give them, they have enough if they have God! What our girls need in quitting the nurture of home is God's love in their hearts-and whether they have fortunes or not, is a small matter! In fellowship with God lies the essence of true human life! Life in God, life by the knowledge of the Most High, life through the Redeeming Angel-this is life, indeed!

Read the full sermon, A Bit of History for Old and Young, preached 10 July 1887, here
Some quotes from this most influential of books:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to"

"The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God's love for us does not."

"If we ask: 'Why ought I to be unselfish?' and you reply 'Because it is good for society,' we may then ask, 'Why should I care what's good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?' and then you will have to say, 'Because you ought to be unselfish'-which simply brings us back to where we started."

"How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints."

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

"Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won't last forever. We must take it or leave it."

Listen to the Desiring God C S Lewis Conference here
The Reformation had brought the light of the gospel into sixteenth century England. Ridley, Latimer, Cranmer, Rogers and Bradford had preached its freedom for a generation.

And suddenly the king died.

With Edward VI gone, Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII's first wife Catherine of Aragon, whom Henry VIII had removed using the Reformation, came to the throne. She quickly sought to crush the Reformation.

In August 1554 at Paul's Cross outside St Paul's, Bishop Bourne, a Roman Catholic, preached a sermon to the assembled crowd - a crowd that had rejoiced in Reformation freedom for decades, and which had only recently had the scriptures in it's own tongue directly from the Greek for the first time ever. The message of old Roman Catholicism grated against the crowd which boiled over in rage. Bourne turned to Bradford, a Reformation preacher who was loved by the crowd, and Bradford quietened the mob; even guiding Bourne to safety under shelter of his own cloak.

Extraordinarily, Bradford was later summoned to the Tower and charged with provoking the riot, with none other than Bourne among the prosecutors.

On this day, 1 July, in 1555 he was taken to Smithfield to be executed. The 4am execution originally scheduled to avoid the huge crowds among whom he was held in great affection, and who were astonished at the injustice of the case, was delayed. Bradford was led in view of all with a young man called John Leaf.

Bradford's last recorded words were addressed to Leaf: 'Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!'

Read the full account in John Foxe's Book of Martyrs here
'In scriptures wherein the expression is anything more difficult, wits are most rank and luxuriant, every one taking a liberty to affix his own sense there, where the true and genuine sense is not so obvious and easily found out; and because two or three false interpretations may be asserted with equal probability, the scriptures have suffered as an uncertain rule, or nose of wax (it is the blasphemy of the Papists), which is ductile and pliable to every fancy and purpose.

The truth is, we are more happy in discovering falsehood than in clearing truth, and those which come after can more easily discern wherein others have halted and are defective, than reach the truth themselves.

I have always looked upon that as a grave observation, Facilius est aliorum convellere sententias quam stabilire propriam - men are always better at confuting than confirming; in which, though I am strengthened by the censure of Jerome on Lactantius, who observed that his arguments were more valid and strong which he brought against false worships, than those other by which he confirmed the true; and Tully wished he could as easily find out the true God as disprove the false. Whether it be through that natural desire that is in us to blemish others, or from the weakness and imperfection of our apprehensions, or from an obstinate prejudice against divine truths, or from God's hiding and reserving many things till the age next their accomplishment, I will not now dispute. I only hint it to show that therefore it is why men have disputed so unhappily, and with such variety, about some difficult places of scripture, always acquitting themselves with more honour, success, and satisfaction in disproving the opinion of others, than in vindicating and clearing their own.'

Read the full sermon here
June 29, 1757,
Dear fellow pastor,
I would earnestly press both of us-to follow the Lord fully; to aim at a life of self-denial; to renounce self-will; and to guard against self-wisdom. The less we have to do with the world-the better! Unless we watch and pray-we shall often be ensnared!

Time is precious, and opportunities once gone are gone forever! Even by reading, and what we call studying-we may be comparatively losers. The best way to study-is to be closely waiting upon God in humble, secret, fervent prayer. The treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in His hands-and He gives bountifully, without upbraiding!

Whatever we may undertake with a sincere desire to promote His glory-we may comfortably pursue. Nothing is trivial-which is done for Him.

Pray for me, that I may be enabled to break through the snares of vanity which lie in my way; that I may be crucified with Christ-and live a hidden life of faith in Him who loved me, and gave Himself for me!

Adieu,
John Newton
John Wesley was born on this day, 28 June, 1703.

Having come to understand the gospel of salvation by grace through faith he devoted his life to its service, preaching around 40,000 times, travelling an average of 5,000 times per year and starting over 300 churches.

Secular historians credit his influence in saving Britain from revolution, as many to whom he brought hope were the poorest; and the revolution which tore through France at the end of the 18th century was activated among the poorest.

He consistently gave of his own wealth, and it has been said that 'when John Wesley was carried to his grave, he left behind him a good library of books, a well-worn clergyman's gown and the Methodist Church.'
George Whitefield had been brought through The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal to see that it is Christ's dying and not our doing that gives a sinner acceptance with God. This gospel of grace through faith became the cry of his heart and life and the core of the message that he would preach around 18,000 times, seeing thousands of souls brought to a saving knowledge of Christ.

On this day, 27 June, 1736, a week after his ordination he preached his first sermon. The report that fifteen people were driven mad was made as a complaint. J C Ryle has written that 'The Church was too much asleep to understand him, and was vexed at a man who would not keep still and let the devil alone.'

Listen to John Piper's biography here
'I am a sinner, therefore, I need a Saviour, one who is able and willing to save to the uttermost; such a one is Jesus; He is all that I want- wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. But will He receive me? Can I answer a previous question? Am I willing to receive Him? If so, and if His word may be taken, if He meant what He said, and promised no more than He can perform, I may be sure of a welcome: He knew, long before, the doubts, fears, and suspicions, which would arise in my mind when I should come to know what I am, what I have done, and what I have deserved; and, therefore, He declared, before He left the earth, "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out." I have no money or price in my hand, no worthiness to recommend me and I need none, for He saveth freely for His own name name's sake. I have only to be thankful for what He has already shown me, and to wait upon Him for more. It is my part to commit myself to Him as the physician of sin-sick souls, not to prescribe to Him how He shall treat me. To begin, carry on, and perfect the cure, is His part.'

Read the full letter here
The Weight of Glory was one of the most influential sermons of the 20th Century. It was preached by C S Lewis on this day, 8 June, in 1942.

'Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find. No doubt there is one point in which my analogy of the schoolboy breaks down. The English poetry which he reads when he ought to be doing Greek exercises may be just as good as the Greek poetry to which the exercises are leading him, so that in fixing on Milton instead of journeying on to Aeschylus his desire is not embracing a false object. But our case is very different. If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.

'In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you-the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth's expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing...'

Read the full sermon here
"About loving one's country, you raise two different questions. About one, about there seeming to be (now) no reason for loving it, I'm not at all bothered. As Macdonald says 'No one loves because he sees reason, but because he loves.'

Or say there are two kinds of love: we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine, because that is how God loves us: not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give.

But the other question (what one is loving in loving a country) I do find very difficult. What I feel sure of is that the personifications used by journalists and politicians have very little reality. A treaty between the Govts. of two countries is not at all like a friendship between two people: more like a transaction between two people's lawyers.

I think love for one's country means chiefly love for people who have a good deal in common with oneself (language, clothes, institutions) and is in that way like love of one's family or school: or like love (in a strange place) for anyone who once lived in one's home town. The familiar is in itself a ground for affection. And it is good: because any natural help towards our spiritual duty of loving is good and God seems to build our higher loves round our merely natural impulses - sex, maternity, kinship, old acquaintance, etc. And in a less degree there are similar grounds for loving other nations - historical links and debts for literature etc. (hence we all reverence the ancient Greeks). But I would distinguish this from the talk in the papers. Mind you, I'm in considerable doubt about the whole thing. My mind tends to move in a world of individuals not of societies."
William Tyndale, the shining light among England's Reformers, had his last day of freedom interrupted on, or around, this day, 1535. Among those he had led to Christ was John Rogers, the first English martyr among Mary's purge of the Reformation to burn at Smithfield. Tyndale was active at the fountainhead of the Reformation and he thrilled at the gospel, but having found that people would respond with joy at its electrifying truth he 'perceived how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth except the Scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue.'

He devoted himself to producing a translation from Greek into English. But not any English; not the language of the elite - the pungent, lively language of the people. Read his translation of the first few verses of Hebrews and see how well the language stands up:
God in tyme past diversly and many wayes spake vnto the fathers by Prophetes: but in these last dayes he hath spoken vnto vs by his sonne whom he hath made heyre of all thinges: by who also he made the worlde. Which sonne beynge the brightnes of his glory and very ymage of his substance bearinge vp all thinges with the worde of his power hath in his awne person pourged oure synnes and is sitten on the right honde of the maiestie an hye and is more excellent then the angels in as moche as he hath by inheritaunce obteyned an excellenter name then have they.
Apart from the spelling, little improvement has been made in translations since 1526.

Tyndale would spend the next 17 months in custody before his death by strangling and burning, uttering his final recorded words there:
'Lord, open the king of England's eyes.'

Click here to hear and / or read John Piper's excellent biography of Tyndale

William Tyndale A Biography by David Daniell is a highly recommended biography
My dear child,

If you drop a tear or two when you are informed that your aunt C ___ is removed from this world of sin and sorrow-I have no objection; but I do not wish you to shed many, nor is there just cause for it. If we could see her now, she would surely say, "Weep not for me-I am fully happy!" Yes, she knew and loved the Lord; she lived in his faith and godly fear, and died in his peace and favor; and now she is before the glorious throne! She had her share of trials in this life-but they are all over now-she fought the good fight-and the Lord made her more than conqueror. Now she has received the conqueror's crown, and is singing the conqueror's song.

Methinks, as dearly as I love you, I could bear to part with you likewise-if I was sure that the Lord had set his seal of love upon your heart, and thereby marked you for his own. If he has not done this already, I hope he will. If he has not yet taken full possession of your heart, I hope you are sensible that he is standing, as it were, at the door, and knocking, waiting to be gracious to you. The door of the heart is not easily opened. The love of sin, of self, and the world, are so many bolts, which are too strong for us to remove by our own power. Yet he can open it easily, (because all things are easy to him,) and, by a sweet constraint of love, force himself an entrance...

Read the full letter here
"[I]f God would make you greatly useful, He must teach you how to pray! The man who is a great preacher and yet cannot pray, will come to a bad end. A woman who cannot pray and yet is noted for the conducting of Bible classes, has already come to a bad end. If you can be great without prayer, your greatness will be your ruin! If God means to bless you greatly, He will make you pray greatly, as He does David who says in this part of his preparation for coming to his throne, 'I cried unto the Lord with my voice: with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.'

"If you want men to help you, you may make a very decent follower; but if you want no man, and can stand alone, God being your Helper, you shall be helped to be a leader."

Read full sermon, David's Prayer in the Cave, here
"The fact that our Lord, at His coming, will seek for faith should cause us to think very highly of faith. It is no mere act of the intellect, it is a grace of the Holy Spirit which brings glory to God and produces obedience in the heart. Jesus looks for it because He is the proper object of it...

"He also as the Son of man displayed faith in God.

"I thank God that the prayer meetings of this church are well sustained by praying men and women, but where are the Jacob like wrestlers? I am afraid it cannot even be said of many churches that their prayer meetings are at all what they should be, for among many the gathering for prayer is despised and men say, "It is only a prayer meeting!" As if that were not the very crown and queen of all the assemblies of the church, with the sole exception of that for the breaking of bread. Brethren, I will not judge with severity, but where are those who offer effectual, fervent, much-prevailing prayer? I know that there are many here who do not neglect private and family devotion, and who pray constantly for the prosperity of the Church of Jesus Christ, and for the salvation of souls. But even to you I put the question: If the Son of man were now to come, how many would He find among us that pray with a distinct, vehement, irresistible importunity of faith? In the olden days, there was a John Knox, whose prayers were more terrible to the adversary than whole armies, because he pleaded in faith, but where shall we find a Knox at this hour? Every age of revival has had its men mighty in prayer--where are ours? Where is the Elijah on the top of Carmel who will bring down the rain upon these parched fields? Where is the church that will pray down a Pentecost? I will not decry my brethren in the ministry, nor speak little of deacons and elders, and other distinguished servants of my Lord, but still, my brothers and sisters, taking us all round, how few of us know what it is to pray the heaven-overcoming prayer which is needful for this crisis! How few of us go again, and again, and again to God, with tears, and cries, and heartbreak, pleading as for our own lives for the increase of Zion, and the saving of the ungodly! If the Son of man comes, will He find much of such praying faith among our own churches? Ah me! That I should have to ask such a question, but I do ask it, hanging my head for shame."

Read full sermon here
Wilberforce's life was turned around in his early twenties reading The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul by Philip Doddridge with his recently converted friend Isaac Milner. Wilberforce recognised that his new found joy in Christ could not be a simple add-on to a standard political career. He agonised over what he might do in service of Christ: should he leave politics and enter the ministry..?

He resolved to visit a man who had a reputation for graciousness and truth: John Newton, the former slave trader and now rector of St Mary Woolnoth (pictured above, right). Young Wilberforce poured out his heart to old Newton, who listened, and whose heart warmed to the sincere, articulate and troubled young man. He advised Wilberforce to stay in politics and to use his platform there.

William Wilberforce went on the devote his life to the service of God in Parliament, making eleven attempts at an abolition of slavery. He won his final battle, the abolition of slavery, in July 1833, in the last week of his life.
This first treatise of William Tyndale to be published was one of the first Reformation texts to come out in English. It was written within ten years of Luther's tower experience, when that Reformer said that he

"...began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open."

...and it is alive with the great exchange at the heart of the Reformation: the free gift of the righteousness of Christ given to sinners who put their faith in a Saviour who, in love, has given himself for their offensive sins.

A conspicuous theme is Tyndale's strong Pauline and Luther-ly insistence that the Law, rather than being a help, brings condemnation:

"For in the faith which we have in Christ and in God's promises find we mercy, life, favor, and peace. In the law we find death, damnation, and wrath; moreover, the curse and vengeance of God upon us. And it (that is to say, the law) is called of Paul 'the ministration of death and damnation.' In the law we are proved to be the enemies of God, and that we hate him."

Again and again the radical difference with the intuitive religion that the Reformers were combatting is seen in this contradistinction, and the explosive moment of the sixteenth century, whose reverberations echo into our own, are seen with clarity.

Faith comes before works, or as he says, "the fruit maketh not the tree good, but the tree the fruit":

"If thou wilt therefore be at peace with God, and love him, thou must turn to the promises of God, and to the gospel, which is called of Paul, in the place before rehearsed to the Corinthians, the ministration of righteousness, and of the Spirit. For faith bringeth pardon and forgiveness freely purchased by Christ's blood, and bringeth also the Spirit; the Spirit looseth the bonds of the devil, and setteth us at liberty. For 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,' saith Paul in the same place to the Corinthians: that is to say, there the heart is free, and hath power to love the will of God; and there the heart mourneth that he cannot love enough."

...And that faith is not some consolation prize, for it has as its subject the blood of the Son of God:

"Also remember, that his Son's blood is stronger than all the sins and wickedness of the whole world; and therewith quiet thyself, and thereunto commit thyself, and bless thyself in all temptation"

Subsequently the believer is changed, becoming fruitful:

"Whosoever heareth the word and believeth it, the same is thereby righteous; and thereby is given him the Spirit of God, which leadeth him unto all that is the will of God; and is loosed from the captivity and bondage of the devil; and his heart is free to love God, and hath lust to do the will of God."

Nor is this because the believing man is immediately fully sanctified, but

"The Spirit of God accompanieth faith, and bringeth with her light, wherewith a man beholdeth himself in the law of God, and seeth his miserable bondage and captivity, and humbleth himself, and abhorreth himself: she bringeth God's promises of all good things in Christ. God worketh with his word, and in his word: and when his word is preached, faith rooteth herself in the hearts of the elect; and as faith entereth, and the word of God is believed, the power of God looseth the heart from the captivity and bondage under sin, and knitteth and coupleth him to God and to the will of God; altereth him, changeth him clean, fashioneth, and forgeth him anew; giveth him power to love, and to do that which before was impossible for him either to love or do; and turneth him unto a new nature, so that he loveth that which he before hated, and hateth that which he before loved; and is clean altered, and changed, and contrary disposed; and is knit and coupled fast to God's will, and naturally bringeth forth good works, that is to say, that which God commandeth to do, and not things of his own imagination."

This is a rich, important text that powerfully illuminates the variables and the excitement at the heart of the Reformation. The key elements are seen to be the very emphases in which the church has rejoiced ever since. In this 500th anniversary when we are being told that the Reformation was a contentious political movement between irrelevant ecclesiastics, read a text by a multilingual, articulate thinker whose contribution to the movement changed the world, and who, within ten years would pay for it with his own life.

Read the full text here


"'I go willingly; I must be bound, for sin has bound you; sin has bound your hands, sin has hampered and crippled you, and made you prisoners. You are the bond-slaves of Satan, and I must be bound to set you free.' O beloved, learn the lesson well. Sin always enslaves you. Free thought, free love, free living, in the highest sense, are to be found alone in the service of God; sin brings no freedom, it binds."

Read the full sermon here
On May 3, Spurgeon was baptized in the River Lark not far from Isleham in Cambridgeshire.

Spurgeon said that after he had taken a few steps into the river and "noted the people on the ferry-boat, and in boats, and on either shore, I felt as if Heaven, and earth, and hell, might all gaze upon me, for I was not ashamed, there and then, to own myself a follower of the Lamb."
Like so many of the heroes of London's church history, Lord Shaftesbury wasn't just a public figure who went to church on Sundays. He believed that "Social reforms, so necessary, so indispensable, require as much of God's grace as a change of heart."

On John Bunyan's tomb at Bunhill Fields, a short walk from our Visitor Centre at Christian Heritage London, is written:
"Restored by public subscription under the presidency of the right honourable the Earl of Shaftesbury, May 1862"
It's a striking illustration of the change that the free gospel of God's grace has brought about in London: neither man is famous for the way that he changed the gospel. Each is famous for having been changed by the gospel.

"[I]t is the Judge himself who in holy love assumed the role of innocent victim, for in and through the person of his Son he himself bore the penalty that he himself inflicted. As Dale put it, "The mysterious unity of the Father and the Son rendered it possible for God at once to endure and to inflict penal suffering." There is neither harsh injustice nor unprincipled love nor Christological heresy in that; there is only unfathomable mercy. For in order to save us in such a way as to satisfy himself, God through Christ substituted himself for us. Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice. The cross was an act simultaneously of punishment and amnesty, severity and grace, justice and mercy...

"We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ that does not have at its center the principle of "satisfaction through substitution," indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one that tricked and trapped him; nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honor or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father, nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator. Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. The theological words satisfaction and substitution need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstance be given up. The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us."

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, IVP, p.159.
...and so begins the Heidelberg Disputation, held in 1518 on this day: that most explosively Luther-ly list of gospel doctrines and implications! You can tell just from reading these short sentences how the massive offence of the gospel as rediscovered in the Reformation truly turned the world upside down!

Each electrifying sentence is backed up with scripture, truly illustrating the radically dynamic potency of a movement which had moved authority back from men and their traditions to the word of God.

The Heidelberg Disputation
Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside, and Brother Leonhard Beyer, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place, on April 26th 1518.

Theological Theses
Distrusting completely our own wisdom, according to that counsel of the Holy Spirit, "Do not rely on your own insight" (Prov. 3:5), we humbly present to the judgment of all those who wish to be here these theological paradoxes, so that it may become clear whether they have been deduced well or poorly from St. Paul, the especially chosen vessel and instrument of Christ, and also from St. Augustine, his most trustworthy interpreter.

1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.
2. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.
3. Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.
4. Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.
5. The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.
6. The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.
7. The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.
8. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.
9. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.
10. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.
11. Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.
12. In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.
13. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.
14. Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can always do evil in an active capacity.
15. Nor could free will remain in a state of innocence, much less do good, in an active capacity, but only in its passive capacity.
16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.
17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.
18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the "invisible" things of God as though they were clearly "perceptible in those things which have actually happened" (Rom. 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25),
20. he deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
21. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.
23. The "law brings the wrath" of God (Rom. 4:15), kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ.
24. Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.
25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.
26. The law says, "do this", and it is never done. Grace says, "believe in this", and everything is already done.
27. Actually one should call the work of Christ an acting work (operans) and our work an accomplished work (operatum), and thus an accomplished work pleasing to God by the grace of the acting work.
28. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

Click here to see the full text including scriptural defences.