The Christian’s Hope at Death

By Patrick Ramsey

Richard Baxter felt the unwanted invasion of deep heartache that only death can deliver when his beloved wife Margaret passed away.  He described his experience as being “under the power of melting grief.”  J.I. Packer noted in his book A Grief Sanctified that Baxter’s use of the word “melting” perfectly captures the effect of being grief-stricken. Packer explained, “The capacity for initiative and enterprise melts-dissolves- away, and so does the power of empathy with and response to others.  A half-numb apathy, frequently alternating with bouts of tears, sets in.”
 
Grief, even the power of melting grief, afflicts Christians when their loved ones fall asleep in Jesus. But we do not, as Paul says, grieve as other people do because we are able to grieve as those who have hope.
 
Hope. Hope in the midst of death. The Christian’s hope. That will be the subject of this article, and, Lord willing, that of the next two articles. This article will look at what some puritans had to say about the Christian’s hope at death and the next two will cover the hope we have after death and for all eternity.  
 
Hope in the biblical sense is different from how we typically use the word today. We often use the word in reference to something that we want but may never experience. Hope in this sense is equivalent to wishful thinking. I hope that my favorite sports team wins the game means that I want them to win or expect them to win but it doesn’t mean that they will definitely win. Biblical hope is different. It is used with reference to what will definitely happen because God has told us that it will definitely happen.
 
So then, what biblical hope do Christians have for themselves and their loved ones in the Lord at death? Our hope is that we will not be alone when we die. Thomas Brooks, in a funeral sermon entitled “A Believer’s Last Day is his Best Day,” urged his audience to consider “that the Lord will not leave thee but be with thee in that hour.”
 
One of the most common exhortations that God gives to us in the Scriptures is “Do not fear.” Over and over again we are told to not be afraid. One contemporary author has said that this is by far God’s most frequent command. The reason we don’t have to be afraid is because God promises to be with us always. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Brooks notes that there are in five negatives in the Greek text of Hebrews 13:5 “to assure God’s people that he will never forsake them,” and that Scripture renews this promise five times so “that we may press it till we have pressed the sweetness out of it.” 
 
God will always be with us. The moment we die is, of course, no exception. It is not as if Christ by his Spirit is with us in life but then forsakes us when it comes our turn to die. No! Not at all. Brooks pointed to Psalm 23:4, which says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Our good Shepherd will be with us and he will hold our hand when we take our last breath. There is, therefore, no need for us to fear death. As Brooks rightly asked, “Why should that man be afraid of death, that may be always confident of the presence of the Lord of life?”
 
Christ is more than able to help and guide us in and through death because he tasted death in its fullness. He knows experientially what it is like to die. He took a last breath  His body stopped working. His human soul departed from his body and went to heaven. Jesus walked through the door of death. Richard Baxter wrote, “Christ leads me through no darker rooms Than he went through before.” Christ, therefore, is able to walk you through the same door.
 
In fact, simply knowing that Christ has experienced death brings us “strong consolation.” In the middle of his own personal grief, Thomas Case, a Westminster divine, wrote:
Another word of comfort is, that our gracious relations are not alone in their death.  The captain of their salvation marched before them through those black regions of death and the grave, Jesus died; this is implied in the following words, “If we believe that Jesus died.” This is an argument that carrieth in it strong consolation. Our christian relations in dying run no greater hazard than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did; no greater hazard than all the patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles did, for they all in their generations died. Yea, what shall I say? They run no other hazard than the Lord of all the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles did, for Jesus died; this is wonderful indeed; the Lord of life yielded up the ghost; the eternal Son of God was laid in the grave!
Christ has gone through the black regions of death and the grave. He leads his people through those same black regions every step of the way. But that is not all, according to Thomas Manton. He argued, on the basis of Luke 16:22, that angels are present with the saints at death in order to carry them straightaway to heaven. Christians are truly never alone at death. That is the certain hope we have. Thomas H. Ramsey (1905-1997) captured this wonderful and comforting truth in his hymn “I Won’t Have to Cross Jordan Alone.”
When I come to the river at the ending of day
When the last winds of sorrow have blown
There’ll be somebody waiting to show me the way
I won’t have to cross Jordan alone
 
I won’t have to cross Jordan alone
Jesus died all my sins to atone
In the darkness I see
He’ll be waiting for me
I won’t have to cross Jordan alone
 
 


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Meet the Puritans is the Alliance’s voice of Puritan and Reformed Theology. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Meet the Puritans and the mission of the Alliance.

“Puritan” Movie Trailer

By Danny Hyde

The first trailer for the upcoming movie Puritan is now online here.



The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.


Meet the Puritans is the Alliance’s voice of Puritan and Reformed Theology. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Meet the Puritans and the mission of the Alliance.

Neonomianism

By Patrick Ramsey

The counterpart to (English) Antinomianism, which I considered last time, is Neonomianism. People today typically use the term “Neonomian” to depict views that they consider to be legalistic or moralistic. Historically, however, it was coined and employed by English Congregationalists at the end of the 17th century to label the perceived Arminian views of the moderate English Presbyterians.
 
The Congregationalist Isaac Chauncy was the first one to use the term. Shortly after Tobias Crisp’s sermons were reprinted, the Presbyterian Daniel Williams published a book excoriating Crisp for his antinomianism. His book was really a thinly veiled critique of many Congregationalists. Chauncy was more than a little offended, and wrote voluminously against Williams and charged him with what he called Neonomianism. Over against the charge of Antinomianism, the retort of “Neonomianism” is, one must say, a stroke of linguistic and rhetorical genius. Certainly, it is better than the riposte of Arminianism, which Robert Traill had done in a published letter.
 
What did Chauncy mean by his term “Neonomianism”? Essentially, Chauncy believed that Williams taught that Christ’s death satisfied the old law, namely the Covenant of Works, and procured a new law of repentance, faith and sincere obedience. By keeping the new law, the sinner becomes inherently righteous, which in turn becomes the ground for his justification. The sinner therefore is not justified by Christ’s righteousness but by his own righteousness. Christ’s righteousness, or rather the effects of his righteousness, must be received in order to avoid being judged by the old law and be eligible to be saved by the new law. But the righteousness of Christ does not play a direct role in justification. The sinner’s own righteousness, according to the new law, comes to the fore in justification as a sinner is pardoned on the grounds of his faith and repentance. In short, when the sinner believes, the effects of Christ’s righteousness—not Christ’s righteousness itself—are imputed to him to free him from the Covenant of Works (legal righteousness), he becomes truly righteous on the basis of the new law (gospel righteousness), and so is justified. Such a scheme, argued Chauncy, is intrinsically meritorious. Moreover, it is both antinomian and neonomian or legalistic. There is first the “Abrogation of the Old Law,” which is the epitome of antinomianism; and secondly, there is the “Erection of a new Law of Works for our justification, which is Neonomianism.”
 
This “Neonomian” role of faith in justification is akin to the Arminian view. The problem, however, was that moderate Presbyterians like Williams weren’t Arminians, or Neonomians, as defined by Chauncy. This is not to say that they didn’t have their own unique formulation of justification and related doctrines. The issue was that their formulations were easily misunderstood and confused with Arminianism/Neonomianism, especially by people who were seated across the aisle. Although they unequivocally rejected the term, the name has stuck as a label for their views, at least in the academic world. David P. Field has identified the following as Neonomians to one degree or another: John Howe, William Bates, Daniel Williams, Richard Baxter, Joseph Alleine, and Matthew Henry. Consequently, it is necessary, as it is with Antinomianism, to distinguish between types of Neonomianism.  
 
If you are interested in learning more about Neonomianism from a historical standpoint, then you may want to consider reading the article I co-authored in this forthcoming volume, A New Divinity: Transatlantic Reformed Evangelical Debates during the Long Eighteenth Century.


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Review of Beeke’s Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith

By Ryan McGraw

Joel R. Beeke, Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2017). 202pp. Paperback.
 
Being assured that we belong to God in Christ and that his Spirit dwells in our hearts is vitally important. Assurance that we are true Christians is a biblical duty (2 Peter 1:10), it is the lifeblood of holiness and perseverance (1 Jn. 3:1-3), and at least one epistle in the New Testament is devoted almost entirely to the subject (1 Jn. 5:13). 
 
Yet assurance of faith is also a long-standing problem in the church. Part of the problem is that many today do not recognize that it is a problem. One the one hand, not all who profess faith in Christ possess faith in Christ and “many” will be surprised at the Last Day to hear Christ say that he never knew them (Matt. 7:23). On the other hand, in some circles, Christians believe that living in perpetual uncertainty regarding their eternal welfare is a mark of genuine faith and humility. Joel Beeke leads people of various spiritual conditions by the hand through what the Bible teaches about this important topic, employing the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Puritans to help him do so. The result is a solid book on assurance that is marked by biblical fidelity and pastoral sensitivity that will like finding rich treasure for everyone who reads it.
 
The author is particularly suited to write this book. Having wrestled with the question of assurance from his teenage conversion, through his doctoral studies, and with roughly fifty years of experience, he treats the subject with gentleness and care. He begins by treating what assurance is and why many people lack it, showing why assurance should be the normal experience of believers (chapters 1-3). Taking the lead of Westminster Confession chapter 18, he then argues that God assures believers through his promises, from the evidences of grace in them, and by the Spirit’s testimony and witness (chapters 4-6). He argues that the promises of God are the primary ground of our assurance of salvation, since the promises bring us directly to Christ, who is the ground of all assurance. Seeing evidences of the Spirit’s work in us as well as the Spirit special testimony, by which he brings Scripture truths home to some occasionally with extraordinary power, are secondary to and flow from being assured by resting on Christ through divine promises. He next expands the issues of cultivating assurance and addressing fluctuations in our assurance (chapters 7-8). An exposition the Spirit’s role in assurance in light of Romans 8 comes next (chapter 9), followed by his resolution of five common questions about assurance (chapter 10) and his experimental and evangelistic conclusion of the whole (chapter 11). This approach is well-ordered and easy to follow. It is also theologically balanced in that every problem related to assurance is resolved in the work of the triune God, particularly directing readers to seek all that they lack from Christ. 
 
This is the book that this reviewer has been looking for since he became a Christian. Many modern treatments of assurance tend to mute the evidences of the Spirit’s work in believers in favor of the promises of God. Some older treatments of assurance unintentionally make our evidences the object of faith rather than Christ himself. Beeke revives the use of such evidences by attaching them to God’s promises to us in Christ and the Spirit’s work in us. This means that Beeke’s book recognizes that not all professing Christians are genuine Christians without falling into the pitfall of a kind of introspection that moves us further from the Savior rather than towards him. This volume provides the kind of pastoral realism and theological balance that is so desperately needed in treating a topic in which the personal stakes are so high. Read this book for yourself, regardless of where you are in your Christian walk. Give it to those struggling with assurance who should not as well as those who never struggle with it yet should. Lend it to those who don’t believe in Christ so that they can learn what they are missing. Above all, don’t pass it by and digest it prayerfully.


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The Life and Works of John Geree

By Danny Hyde

The Life of John Geree

John Geree is thought to have been born in 1601 in Yorkshire County in the north of England. He entered Magdalen Hall, Oxford University in 1615 and graduated B.A. in 1619 and M.A. in 1621. While it may seem extraordinary to us to have a Master’s degree by age 20, this was par for the course in seventeenth century England.[1]

Geree was then ordained to the ministry of the Church of England and ministered in the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire County, on the western border of England and Wales. Because of his “Puritan” sympathies in not conforming to all the ceremonies of the Book of Common Prayer, he was silenced sometime after 1624 by the bishop of Gloucester, Godfrey Goodman (1582/83–1656). As an aside, I should mention that “Puritan” is not a theological term in opposition to “Anglican,” for example. Those who were considered “Puritans” were English Reformed pastors and theologians who desired the wellbeing and continual reformation of the English Church, but differed with non-“Puritan” colleagues on what that continual reformation looked like.[2]

Geree was not restored to the ministry until 1641 at the beginning of the English Civil War between Parliament and King Charles I (1600–1649). Parliament has establish a “Committee for Plundered Ministers,” initially tasked with restoring pastors to their congregations. Then in 1646 he was appointed to serve in the city of St. Albans in Hertfordshire County. This was roughly 19 miles/31 kilometers north of London. His final ministry began in 1647 with his appointment to the unusual London parish of St. Faith under St. Paul’s. It was there that he was supposed to have died and been buried.

The Writings of John Geree

A survey of Geree’s major writings reveal that while he was a “Puritan” in the sense that I described above, he was conservative and moderate. He defended the standard Protestant and Reformed doctrine of infant baptism against John Tombes (1603–1676), a Baptist and former fellow-student, in Vindiciae Paedo-baptismi: or a vindication of Infant Baptism, in a full answer to Mr Tombs his Twelve Arguments alleged against it in his Exercitation and whatsoever is rational, or material in his answer to Mr Marshals Sermon(J. Field for Christopher Meredith: London, 1646). Tombes would respond to Geree’s treatise, to which Geree re-responded with Vindiciaw Vindiciarum: or a vindication of his Vindication of Infant-baptisme: from the exceptions of M. Harrison, in his Paedo-Baptisme Oppugned, and from the exceptions of M. Tombes, in his chief Digressions of his late Apology(A.M. for Christopher Meredith, London 1647).

While he wrote against the English Church’s traditional episcopal government (rule by a hierarchy of ordained ministers), he did so as a royalist, whom Richard Baxter said, “died at the news of the king’s death.” In this vein he wrote, A Case of Conscience Resolved. Wherein it is cleared that the king may without impeachment to his oath touching the clergy at coronation consent to the abrogation of Episcopacy. And the objections against it in two learned treatises, printed at Oxford, fully answered (M. Simmons for J. Bartlet: London 1646). In this treatisehe soughtto make a way for the king to abolish episcopacy without breaking his coronation oath. He then wrote a follow-up entitled, Σινιοῥῥαγία. The Sifter’s Sieve Broken, or a reply to Doctor Boughen’s sifting my Case of Conscience touching the king’s coronation oath: wherein in cleared that bishops are not jure divino(London: printed for Christopher Meredith, 1648).

He wrote against the Roman Catholic Church in The Down-Fall of Anti-Christ: or, the power of preaching to pull down Popery. In a briefe treatise on 2 Thessal.ii.8(R. Oulton for J. Bartlet; London 1641). In contrast to Rome, he wrote in defense of the English Church, its further reformation, but not separating from it: Vindiciae Ecclesiae Anglicanae: or, ten cases resolved, which discover, that though there bee need of reformation in, yet not of Separation from the Churches of Christ in England, etc (R. Cotes for Ralph Smith: London 1644).

About the Modern Edition

In the edition available on ReformedResources.org,  I have done several things to help modern readers. I have modernized spelling, adding footnotes with the original wording where needed. Since in the original there are over one hundred marginal notes to Scripture passages being alluded to, I have added these to the footnotes as well. One should not skip over this impressive feature to see how Geree utilized Scripture in his arguments. Finally, I have also added headings to divide up the treatise for ease of reading, seeing the flow of Geree’s argument.

Tolle lege. Take up and read!

 


[1]The History of the University of Oxford, Volume IV: Seventeenth-Century Oxford, ed. Nicholas Tyacke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).

[2]For an accessible survey of the massive academic debate about the use of the term “Puritan,” see Ian Hugh Clary, “‘Hot Protestants’: A Taxonomy of English Puritanism.” Puritan Reformed Journal 2:1 (January 2010): 41–66.

 

 



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The 39: The Sacraments (5)

By Henry Jansma

The exposition on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper concludes three final articles that address Lutheran consubstantiation and the blasphemy of the Roman Mass. The doctrine that was fully explained in article 25, ‘in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation,’ and article 28 ‘the Body of Christ is… eaten… only after an heavenly and spiritual manner,’ is made still more explicit in article 29: Anglicans do not hold to the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence.
 
XXIX—Of the Wicked Which Eat Not the Body of Christ in the Use of the Lord’s Supper

The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.
 
Article 29 was a new article in 1563. It was written by Archbishop Parker and approved by the Convocations of Canterbury and York, but removed by the direction of Queen Elizabeth I. Article 29, therefore, has the distinction of being the only article approved by the elders of the church but eliminated by the government. As we saw last time in article 28, Archbishop Parker thought that article 28’s 1563 revision lacked precision. An additional article was required that set out a further clarification of biblically faithful doctrine of the Supper that protected the integrity of the two natures of Christ.
 
The political climate of the next eight years left the Reformed Protestant Church of England with an unfinished confession. Historians think that Elizabeth spent the 1560s hoping for an alliance with the Lutheran princes, but by 1571 was prepared to choose doctrinal clarity over political pragmatism. Undaunted, Archbishop Parker reinserted the Crown promulgated the article in 1571 and with the other 38. Even the Bishop of Rochester who was sympathetic to the Lutheran view became resigned to the fact that there is a fundamental difference in the Anglican and Lutheran doctrines of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Supper. In 1577 the Lutheran Formula of Concord responded in kind to anathematize anyone who believed the doctrine of article 29, although not naming it explicitly.
 
Article 29 is one of only two articles that refer to an ancient church father (Jerome is alluded to in article 6 on the status of the Apocrypha). It has a direct quotation from Augustine’s Homilies on the Gospel of John, Tractate 26.18 on John 6:41-59. Augustine, in his sermon on John 6, points us to the examples of Israel’s manna in the desert and Judas in the Upper Room in 26.11-12 to prove his point that pressing with your teeth only does harm. Augustine asserts that the two examples are severe warnings, alluding to 1 Corinthians 11:29 in 26.11 and 26.18.
 
Anglicans are indeed not somewhere halfway between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. In fact, Anglicans are not even somewhere halfway between Luther and Calvin. Article 29 unambiguously commits Anglicans to the Reformed understanding when it comes to the sacraments, and unequivocally denies the Lutheran belief. Article 29 is for the serious Christian who wants to understand clearly the Anglican doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. The key to the article’s teaching is the phrase, “lively faith.” A lively faith is genuine trust and confidence of the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ and a steadfast hope of all good things to be received at God’s hand. If a lively faith is not there, the spiritual benefit cannot be gained. Such hypocrisy is a dangerous presumption, not because the elements themselves have any power in themselves to harm, but the spiritually blind, cut off from God’s grace, abuses his great gift. As the “Exhortation” says before reception of the elements confirms,
For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us;) so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord’s Body; we kindle God’s wrath against us; we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death. Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries. 
Article 29 remains relevant today, particularly for Anglicans in North America. It is troubling how North American Anglicans omit article 29 from their report on the ecumenical dialogue between the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Lutheran Church – Canada (LCC), On Closer Acquaintance: An Interim Report 2016. Still more seriously, in section 11 on Holy Communion, the ACNA representatives referred to an implied acceptance by the ACNA of the Lutheran view of presence in an earlier joint statement with the American Lutheran Church (NALC). Worse of all is how the ACNA representatives persuaded the Lutherans delegates that the Forty-Two Articles (notice how the reference is cleverly made to the 1553 42 articles, not the 1571 historical formulary that includes article 29) or the final rubric of the 1662 Lord’s Supper (known historically as the Black Rubric) are not “Anglicanism’s last word on the sacramental presence of our Lord” (p. 9). Adding that the “current ACNA communion liturgy does not have the Black Rubric at all!” (p. 9). Should such a vital article and its accompanying doctrinal confirmation by Scripture, Chalcedon, Church Fathers, Anglican forebears, other articles, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer – the historical formulary, be exchanged for such a bowl of ecumenical pottage?
 

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For previous articles in this series, see:
  1. Introduction
  2. One God in Trinity, Trinity in Unity (Art. 1)
  3. The Incarnation and Atonement (Art. 2)
  4. The Work of Christ (Arts. 3-4)
  5. The Holy Spirit (Art. 5)
  6. The Rule of Faith: Part 1 (Art. 6)
  7. The Rule of Faith: Part 2 (Art. 7)
  8. The Rule of Faith: Part 3 (Art. 8)
  9. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 1 (Art. 9)
  10. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 2 (Art. 10)
  11. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 3 (Art. 11)
  12. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 4 (Art. 12)
  13. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 5 (Arts. 13-14)
  14. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 6 (Art. 15)
  15. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 7 (Art. 16)
  16. Grace Alone! (Art. 17)
  17. Christ Alone! (Art. 18)
  18. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 1 (Art. 19)
  19. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 2 (Art. 20)
  20. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 3 (Art. 21)
  21. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 4 (Art. 22)
  22. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 5 (Art. 23)
  23. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 6 (Art. 24)
  24. The Sacraments: Part 1 (Art. 25)
  25. The Sacraments: Part 2 (Art. 26)
  26. The Sacraments: Part 3 (Art. 27)
  27. The Sacraments: Part 3: (Art. 28)

 



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Antinomianism

By Patrick Ramsey

In several articles, I have referred to the so-called antinomians” by which I mean the 17th century English theologians who were labelled antinomians. In this article, I will provide a brief explanation of English antinomianism.
 
The term “antinomian” was a term of abuse and rejected by most if not all of the accused. Nevertheless, the accused were set apart by a number of shared beliefs and concerns, not least of which was the belief in the abrogation in some sense of the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments. The term “antinomian” therefore was not completely unwarranted or inappropriate despite the fact they did not advocate licentious living. It must also be noted that there was a good deal of diversity within the antinomian movement. David Como has identified two basic types of antinomianism in early Stuart England: “perfectionist” and “imputative.” The latter type was moderate and by far the most popular.
 
John Eaton was the recognized leader of the imputative or moderate type of antinomianism. Indeed, he is often regarded as the father of English Antinomianism. This is true, not in terms of being the first to introduce antinomian ideas in England, but in terms of prominence and influence. Reacting against mainstream Puritan doctrine and practice, Eaton sought to convince the church of his own views, which he believed were in line with the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther. He thought that the Church of England had been tainted by legalists who had corrupted the doctrine of justification with “a swirl of covenants, conditions, works, threats, and penalties, all reinforced by mortifications, fasts, and other ‘legall devotions.’” Hence, the church needed to be called back to her reformation roots. This he labored to do until his death in 1642.
 
The mantle was then passed on to Tobias Crisp, who has been sometimes regarded as the high priest of English Antinomianism. Having probably imbibed Eatonist ideas through John Emersone in the late 1620s, Crisp moved to London in 1642 where he quickly became an influential leader, along with John Simpson and Giles Randall, of the antinomian movement. His time on the center stage was short lived, however, because he died from smallpox the following year. Nevertheless, his friend and fellow antinomian Robert Lancaster saw to it that his teaching lived on by having a collection of his sermons printed shortly after his death entitled, Christ Alone Exalted. Two more volumes of his sermons with the same title came off the presses in 1644 and 1646. All three volumes were combined into one volume and republished, along with ten previously unpublished sermons, in 1690 by Samuel Crisp, the author’s son. The 1690 edition was reprinted in 1755 in two volumes with explanatory notes and a memoir of Crisp by John Gill. The Gill edition remains in print today.
 
A number of people have summarized the main tenets of seventeenth century English Antinomianism. Richard Baxter judged that there were forty characteristics of Antinomianism, but two key ones that undergirded the whole system: justification from eternity, and denial of the conditionality of the covenant of grace. John Flavel addressed ten errors in his book against antinomianism, whereas Robert Traill noted seven doctrines that properly deserve the epithet “antinomian.” More recently, Barry Howson, in summarizing the theology of antinomianism lists seven tenets. Similarly, David Como, while acknowledging significant intellectual differences among proponents, is of the opinion that there are seven antinomian tendencies or characteristics. Although these lists are not identical, they are similar and reflect an emphasis on the freeness and fullness of justification and the sovereignty of God in redemption. As a result, man’s role in salvation, in both justification and sanctification, is downplayed significantly, if not removed entirely. All forms of human endeavor, including faith, are disconnected from playing any active part in salvation. This is the reason, for example, there are no conditions in the covenant of grace. Faith is not the instrumental condition of justification and good works are not the way to salvation or the antecedent condition for glorification. Thus, antinomianism, as a system, is constructed to prohibit even a whiff of legalism or moralism.
 
*This post is an excerpt from my ThM thesis, “Anti-Antinomianism: The Polemical Theology of Daniel Williams.”


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Edwards in Ministry

By Jeffrey Waddington

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire…[1]

Though this is arguably the most famous sermon ever preached on American soil, Jonathan Edwards preached just as much—if not more frequently—on the anticipated joys of heaven as he did the fears of hell. My goal today is to catch a glimpse of his ministry, both in the pulpit and in the mission field.

Edwards the Pastor

It was during this time in New York City that Edwards penned many of his “resolutions” which have proved beneficial to readers over the years.[2]For a short time Edwards settled as the pastor of a congregation in Bolton, Connecticut. However, it was to another congregation that Edwards would be called and would make his mark on history. Edwards’s life as pastor in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton is perhaps best known. In 1726, the congregation of the church in Northampton voted to call Jonathan Edwards to assist his grandfather Solomon Stoddard in pastoring the church. A few months after his arrival in Northampton, Edwards married his sweetheart Sarah and so began an “uncommon” marriage of many years. Edwards gave years of service to the spiritual care of the Northampton congregation. He preached at least twice on Sunday and several times during the week. He is said to have spent upwards of twelve to thirteen hours a day in his study and he read with quill in hand and produced a voluminous body of semi-private notebooks, the best known simply as his “Miscellanies.”[3]

It was during his time at Northampton that Edwards became best known as an advocate for the Great Awakening. This defense of the “surprising” work of God did not sit well with everyone in the New England colonies, causing dissension even within his own congregation. Societal changes also affected Edwards’ relationship to his congregation. More open and democratic ways were coming into vogue and Edwards did not always share an appreciation for these. One incident is indicative of the tensions developing at Northampton. This is sometimes called the “bad book” incident. Some young men (in their twenties) in the congregation got a hold of a midwifery book that described intimate details of the female anatomy and these young men used this information to taunt young women in the congregation and town. Edwards and the church had to do something about this problem and this he sought to do. Unfortunately he did not handle the situation as well as he could have. 

In 1749 and into 1750 Edwards’ pastoral troubles came to a head when he had a change of mind about the requirements for communion. For years Edwards followed the practice of his grandfather Solomon Stoddard who opened the Lord’s Table to all those who affirmed orthodox Christian doctrine and lived an outwardly moral life. Edwards understandably came to question this view and sought to convince his congregation that candidates for admission to the Lord’s Supper ought to give evidence of grace. While his view would become the majority report among New England congregations, it was not so at home.[4]Eventually a ministerial council was called to help settle the dispute between Edwards and his congregation. The council, for various and complicated reasons, voted with the congregation to remove Edwards from his charge. Oddly enough, the congregation would have to draw upon Edwards for pulpit supply for up to another year. Eventually God in his providence provided a new work for Edwards further west in the Massachusetts colony. 

Edwards as Missionary to the Stockbridge Indians

After his Northampton deposition Edwards would eventually receive a call to serve as a missionary at the far west outpost of Stockbridge and as pastor to the English speaking community that had been built up there. Edwards would serve in this capacity for more than seven years. Sometimes this chapter in his life has been painted as if he had little or nothing to do. The contrary was in fact the case. During his time at Stockbridge (later made famous as the home of painter Norman Rockwell), Edwards ministered to the Indians of the region, gave oversight to a school for Indian children, battled continually with members of the Williams clan (the same family, relatives of Edwards, who gave their name to Williams College in Williamstown in western Massachusetts), and penned some of his most well-known theological and philosophical treatises. During this time he also carried on voluminous correspondence with persons high and low in the colonies and in Europe. 


Jeffrey C. Waddington (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) is stated supply at Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He also serves as a panelist at Christ the Center and East of Eden and is the secretary of the board of the Reformed Forum. 


[1]Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 22: Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742 (Harry S. Stout, Nathan O. Hatch, Kyle P. Farley, eds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 411.

[2]The “resolutions” can be found in The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 16: Letters and Personal Writings (George S. Claghorn, ed., New Haven: Yale University, 1998), 252-59.

[3]There are four volumes of the Yale edition of Edwards’ Works which are devoted to his “Miscellanies.” These are: The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 13:The “Miscellanies,” a-500 (Thomas A. Schafer, ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994); The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 18:The “Miscellanies,” 501-832 (Ava Chamberlain, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000); The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 20:The “Miscellanies,” 833-1152 (Amy Plantinga Pauw, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); and The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 23:The “Miscellanies,” 1153-1360 (Douglas A. Sweeney, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

[4]Writings related to the communion controversy can be found in Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 12: Ecclesiastical Writings (David D. Hall, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994).

 



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Owen and Universal Redemption

By J.I. Packer

John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is a polemical work, designed to show, among other things, that the doctrine of universal redemption is unscriptural and destructive of the Gospel. There are many, therefore, to whom it is not likely to be of interest. Those who see no need for doctrinal exactness and have no time for theological debates which show up divisions between so-called Evangelicals may well regret its reappearance.

Some may find the very sound of Owen’s thesis so shocking that they will refuse to read his book at all; so passionate a thing is prejudice, and so proud are we of our theological shibboleths. But it is hoped that this article will find itself readers of a different spirit. 

There are signs today of a new upsurge of interest in the theology of the Bible: a new readiness to test traditions, to search the Scriptures and to think through the faith. It is to those who share this readiness that Owen’s treatise is offered, in the belief that it will help us in one of the most urgent tasks facing Evangelical Christendom today—the recovery of the Gospel. 

This last remark may cause some raising of eyebrows, but it seems to be warranted by the facts. 

There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead.

This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical Gospel. Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that Gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. 

Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic Gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. 

The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. 

One way of stating the difference between this new gospel and the old is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be “helpful” to man—to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction—and too little concerned to glorify God. The old Gospel was “helpful,” too—more so, indeed, than is the new—but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace.

The old Gospel’s center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old Gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old Gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of Gospel preaching has changed. 

From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of “helpfulness.” Accordingly, the themes of man’s natural inability to believe, of God’s free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for His sheep, are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not “helpful”; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ. (The possibility that such despair might be salutary is not considered; it is taken for granted that it cannot be, because it is so shattering to our self-esteem.)

However this may be, the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical Gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that Gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. Thus, we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of His redeeming work as if He had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God’s love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence “at the door of our hearts” for us to let them in. 

It is undeniable that this is how we preach; perhaps this is what we really believe. But it needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical Gospel. The Bible is against us when we preach in this way; and the fact that such preaching has become almost standard practice among us only shows how urgent it is that we should review this matter. To recover the old, authentic, biblical Gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need. And it is at this point that Owen’s treatise on redemption can give us help. 


Editor’s Note: This article comes from An Introduction to the Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Find more from this booklet at ReformedResources.org.



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Meet the Puritans is the Alliance’s voice of Puritan and Reformed Theology. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Meet the Puritans and the mission of the Alliance.

An Unchanging God and a Changing World (2)

By Patrick Ramsey

In the last article, I looked at how interactions with the so-called antinomians over important soteriological issues required Westminster divine Anthony Burgess to discuss the doctrine of God. The antinomians, at times, appealed to divine attributes, such as immutability and impassibility, in order to defend their particular positions on salvation, including justification before faith. In response, Burgess attempted to demonstrate the compatibility between the typical Reformed view of salvation and the traditional doctrine of God. I want to look briefly at how he did that in this article.
 
Burgess did not budge on the traditional doctrine of God. He firmly embraced the doctrine of divine simplicity, affirming that “we must not hold that there are any accidents in God; or that he can be a subject recipient of such, because of his most pure and simple Essence; so that whatsoever is in God is God.” He did the same with immutability, noting that “it must be readily granted, That God is unchangeable” because mutability or potential indetermination is an imperfection. Still further, Burgess acknowledged that God “can have no losse or injury, for he is always the same happy and immutable glorious God.” God is unchangeable and impassible.  
 
Nonetheless, Burgess also maintained God’s meaningful interaction with the world. He noted that we must hold that “Scripture doth represent God doing and working such mercies and judgments as seemeth good to him.” God administers different degrees of punishments to people for the same sin. God loves then hates, and hates then loves. God related to Adam first as a child of favor, then after the fall as a child of wrath. God hated a believer before his conversion and then loved him when he was united to Christ. Our sin “is a reall offence and dishonor” to God and we can, by our sin, rob God of his honor and glory.  
 
How do these two truths hold together? That is the question. The answer is found by making the right and necessary distinctions. One important distinction that Burgess made is between divine attributes and their effects. Take for example the attribute of justice. Burgess stated that there “is a great deal of difference between Justice, as it is an essentiall property in God, ad intra, and between the effects of it, ad extra.” God is unchangeably just in terms of his essential attribute of justice. He never becomes less just or more just. However, there is variation with respect to the outworking or effects of the attribute of justice in the world. Burgess wrote: “God’s essentiall justice doth not receive more or lesse, but the effects of his Justice may be more or lesse: If many men in the same sin, and God doth punish some of them with a remarkable temporall judgment, we may not say, God dealeth more justly with these then the other; yet we may say, the effects of his Justice are greater upon some then others.”
 
A similar distinction is that of immanent and transient acts. An immanent act, such as God’s decree, is an eternal act that exists in God and is identical with God. A transient act, such as creation, is the outworking of God’s immanent act in time and is equivalent to the effect of God’s decree. Transient acts not eternal or identical to the nature of God.  
 
Consider creation as an example. God willed to create from all eternity. Creation as an immanent act is eternal. But that does not mean that creation itself is eternal. Immanent acts are distinct from any outward effects or positive changes. At the same time, when God brought the universe into existence he “did not then begin to have a will to create: but he had a will from all eternity, that the world should exist in time.” This latter point is important because some have argued for the eternality of all created things in order to maintain God’s immutability and simplicity. They argue that if something is done in time then there must be some new act or will in God, and that God is now something that he wasn’t before such as a creator. A new will or attribute would imply that God is mutable and that is rightly unacceptable. But then so is the conclusion that all is from eternity.
 
Transient acts, however, do not imply new divine acts of will or attributes. Everything that comes to pass in time is according to God’s eternal will that does not change. Thus, when events do come to pass they do “cause an extrinsecall denomination to be attributed to God, as now he is a Creatour, and was not before” but that is only in relation to the creature and “not because any new accident is in [God].” As Burgess says, “There is no change made in God, but the alteration is in the creature.” God’s immanent act doesn’t change. His will is immutable. But the effects of his will (transient acts) do produce change and involve many changes in the creature. God doesn’t change his will, but he does will many changes.
 
Burgess used this distinction to answer the antinomian argument for eternal justification and their consequent denial of a historical transition from wrath to grace in the life of the believer. Predestination is an immanent act, but the rest of God’s saving acts, such as regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification are transient acts. Justification, therefore, unlike predestination, is not eternal. The perpetual mistake of the antinomians is that they confound “God’s decree and purpose to justifie, with justification, God’s immanent action from all eternity, with that transient, which is done in time.”  
 
The believer, therefore, does undergo a historical transition from wrath to grace. He moves a position of condemnation and wrath to a position of justification and sonship. Or in terms of love and hate, the believer transitions from a “state of hatred” to “a state of love and friendship.” As we saw in the example of creation, this doesn’t imply any change in God. God himself doesn’t increase and decrease in love or in any other attribute. God’s love is immutable and eternal. But the effects of God’s love change and change us. The “grosse mistake” that people make is to confound “the love of God, as an immanent act in him, with the effects of this love.” 
 
God loved his elect before they believed with a love of election and a purpose to save them in time. He loved them from all eternity. But many of the effects of his love are not exhibited until his appointed time in history. In other words, the elect do not experience certain effects of God’s love until they are regenerated, believe and walk in holiness. Indeed, so long as they are only under the love of election they are said to be hated in the sense that they are under the wrath of God because for them “there is no actuall remission of sin, no acceptance or complacency in [their] person or duties.” God’s electing love, however, does produce the effects of love and that is what produces the historical transition from wrath to grace. Burgess writes:
“Here we are to conceive a love of God electing us from all eternity, which doth produce another love of God (not immanent in him, for so nothing is new in God, but transient in us) and that is justification; from this love floweth another effect of love, which is glorification…And whereas the Opponent saith, God loved us before we did believe; it is true, with a love of purpose; but many effects of his love are not exhibited till we doe believe. He loveth us and so worketh one effect of love in us, that that effect may be a qualification for a new and further effect of love. He loveth us, to make us his friends, and when he hath done that, he loveth us with a love of friendship. God loved us before he gave Christ, for out of that love he gave us Christ, that so when Christ is given us, he may bestow another love upon us. Now because it is ordinary with us to call the effect of love, love, as the fruit of grace is grace; Therefore we say, In such a time God loved not one, and afterwards we say, He doth love the same, not that herein is any change of God, but several effects of his love are exhibited.”  
Another distinction that Burgess used in his interaction with the antinomians was between the internal attributes of God and the external good things that his creatures owe him. This distinction upholds divine impassibility. With respect to the internal attributes of God such as justice, wisdom, glory and happiness, God cannot suffer loss or injury. But with respect to what we owe God such as honor, praise and reverence, then we may take these away by our sin so that “God have lesse of this external Honour and Glory then he hath.” Burgess noted that depriving God of his external honor is no minor affair even though it does not “make to the internal Happiness of God” because God is pleased with it and threatens to punish those who refuse to give it. Besides, he further argued, the necessity of Christ’s death is proof that “sinne is a reall offence and dishonor to him.”  
 
How does an unchanging God relate to a changing world? How can we maintain divine immutability, simplicity and impassibility on the one hand and God’s meaningful interaction with the world on the other hand? Anthony Burgess used three distinctions to answer these questions: attributes and their effects, immanent and transient acts, and internal and external attributes.


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Meet the Puritans is the Alliance’s voice of Puritan and Reformed Theology. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Meet the Puritans and the mission of the Alliance.