The Puritans stressed the need for christian meditation, what we commonly refer to as devotions. These reasons can be summarized easily in six points.
- Our God who commands us to believe the Scriptures, and it also commands us also to meditate on it, in that the Scripture is sufficient for doing it. Often the puritans would use biblical characters as examples to compel their church members to do this; Isaac, Moses, Paul, Timothy, Joshua, David, Mary. For example; Psalm 19:14 reads, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
- Meditate on the word, because it is God’s letter to us. Christian do not run over God’s letter in haste, but meditate on his love in sending it to us.
- One cannot be a mature Christian without meditation. Thomas Manton once said, “faith is lean and ready to starve without meditation.”
- Without meditation the preached word will fail to benefit us. Baxter said, “reading without meditation is like swallowing raw and undigested food, a man may eat too much, but cannot digest too well.” The sermon is not enough for the Christian’s weekly living, he must constantly be reading, and applying the truths of Scripture to his life.
- Without meditation our prayers will not be effective; this serves as a middle sort of duty between word and prayer. The Scripture feeds meditation, and meditation feeds prayer.
- Christians who fail to meditate are unable to defend the truth. Without proper meditation on the Scriptures, the Christian has no backbone, and no self-knowledge. Manton would teach, “man who is a stranger to meditation does not know himself. ”
As Thomas Watson preached, and we may need to ponder “tis meditation that makes a Christian.”
If you neglect to instruct [children] in the way of holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No; if you will not teach them to pray, he will to curse, swear, and lie. If ground be uncultivated, weeds will spring.
The Puritans were a fascinating group of Protestants during the 16th and 17th Century intensely concerned with pious living. The seminary student of today can learn much from the Puritans. In the Puritans we see a people opposed with growing in the knowledge of God and the deep things of Christ. In thought and outlook they were radically God-centered. Their appreciation of God’s sovereign majesty was profound, and their reverence in handling his written word was deep and constant. They were patient, thorough, and methodical in searching the Scriptures. In them we see a great example for the modern seminary student to emulate. The Puritans were also immensely concerned with living out the truths of Scripture in their day to day lives. Puritan Richard Baxter wrote on this point
“Sound doctrine makes a sound judgment, a sound heart, a sound conversation [life] and a sound conscience.”
This shows just how closely related doctrine and practice were for the Puritans. This can be directly correlated to the seminary student of today, namely to live, love and apply the doctrinal truths learned in their studies to their daily lives. It is pointless in my opinion to enter seminary studies if this is not the student’s ultimate goal. The Puritans are one of the best examples of just how this is to be accomplished.The Puritans can also help the seminary student to read the Scripture through an Christological lens. A major principal of interpretation used by the Puritans was the idea, firmly rooted in Scripture, that all of God’s Word points to Christ. This can help the student immensely in their studies because once the student grasps this important hermeneutical principle they will see the bible in a deeper and fuller sense. Any student studying the Scriptures should desire this, namely to see Jesus Christ in all aspects of their theological studies.
The Puritans can teach the seminary student a great deal in the area of prayer and communion with God. The Puritans had a resolute prayer life and communion with God was of chief importance in their lives. The Puritan Thomas Goodwin described prayer in this manner;
“prayer is the soul’s breathing itself into the bosom of its heavenly Father.”
We can see from this beautiful quote that the Puritans were zealous about prayer and took prayer seriously. They give a great example to follow and the seminary student can learn that even the most studious of students must obtain their education through thoughtful time spent in prayer. Lastly, the Puritans can teach the modern student a great deal in nearly every aspect of the Christian life and practice. I outlined in this paper a few examples of this, but the Puritans can teach us so much more. Whether its zeal for God, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ in all things, the atrocious nature of sin, or the proper understanding of doctrine. The Puritans were great teachers from the past and the modern student would be wise to learn from such men.
 The Puritan Study, “The Delights and Pains of Puritan Study”, https://spurgeon.wordpress.com/2006/09/06/the-puritan-study-part-1-the-delights-and-pains-of-a-puritan-study.html (accessed March 27,2014).
 Peter Lewis, The Genius of Puritanism, (Grand Rapids: Soli Deo GloriaPublications, 1977), 12.
 Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine For Life. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012) 31.
Jonathan Edwards writes,
When God sets his seal on a man’s heart by his Spirit, there is some holy stamp, some image impressed, and left upon the heart by the Spirit, as by the seal upon the wax. And this holy stamp, or impressed image, exhibiting clear evidence to the conscience that the subject of it is the child of God, is the very thing which in Scripture is called the seal of the Spirit, and the witness or evidence of the Spirit. And this mark stamped by the Spirit on God’s children is his own image. That is the evidence by which they are known to be God’s children; they have the image of their Father stamped upon their hearts by the Spirit of adoption.
***Taken from Elliot Ritzema and Elizabeth Vince, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).
If you are doubtful concerning your state and condition, do not expect an extraordinary determination of it by an immediate testimony of the Spirit of God. I do grant that God doth sometimes, by this means, bring in peace and satisfaction unto the soul. He gives his own Spirit immediately “to bear witness with ours that we are the children of God,” both upon the account of regeneration and adoption. He doth so; but, as far as we can observe, in a way of sovereignty, when and to whom he pleaseth. Besides, that men may content and satisfy themselves with his ordinary teachings, consolations, and communications of his grace, he hath left the nature of that peculiar testimony of the Spirit very dark and difficult to be found out, few agreeing wherein it doth consist or what is the nature of it. No one man’s experience is a rule unto others, and an undue apprehension of it is a matter of great danger. Yet it is certain that humble souls in extraordinary cases may have recourse unto it with benefit and relief thereby. This, then, you may desire, you may pray for, but not with such a frame of spirit as to refuse that other satisfaction which in the ways of truth and peace you may find. This is the putting of the hand into the side of Christ; but “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
*** Taken from John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 594.
Adoption is a greater mercy than Adam had in paradise; he was a son by creation, but here is a further sonship by adoption. To make us thankful, consider, in civil adoption there is some worth and excellence in the person to be adopted; but there was no worth in us, neither beauty, nor parentage, nor virtue; nothing in us to move God to correct us, but nothing to move him to adopt us, therefore exalt free grace; begin the work of angels here; bless him with your praises who has blessed you in making you his sons and daughters.
Explain Nestorianism and the differences betweenthis view and the traditional orthodox understanding on the person of Christ?
Nestorianism maintains that Christ having two distinct natures, existed as two distinct persons. Many understood Nestorius to be arguing for two personal subjects in Christ, a man and a god similar to the ancient heresy of Paul of Samosata who argued that Jesus a man had been possessed by the divinity. Nestorius did not mean that but this has become the popular meaning of the heresy of Nestorianism. The Councils of Nicea in 325 A.D.Costantinople 381 A.D. and Chalcedon helped to establish the orthodox understanding on the Person of Christ. These Councils affirm that Christ is the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds God of God, Light of Light very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. This same Lord Jesus Christ for us men and our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. Christ is one person with two natures one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of nature’s being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated in to two persons, but one and the same Only begotten God the Word, Jesus Christ.
Explain the distinction John Owen made concerning the revelation of Christ in the Old Testament compared to the revelation of Christ in the New Testament?
John Owen made an important distinction concerning the revelation Christ delivered to the church in the Old Testament, the Son revealed God’s will to the prophets in His divine person, sometimes mediated through angels. In the revelation of the gospel Christ taking on humanity then taught it immediately Himself. Owen explains how Christ being omniscient, He knows everything there is to know. However in his mediatorial office, He revealed the will of the Father in an according to His human nature.
What were the two functions Stephen Charnock and John Owen ascribed to Christ priesthood explain?
Charnock noted that there are two functions of Christ’s priesthood one of oblation and intercession, Charnock notes they are both joined together, but one as precedent to the other. The oblation precedes the intercession and the intercession could not be without the oblation. John Owen agreed that these two acts must not be separate for it belongs to the same mediator for sin to sacrifice and pray. Owen states how in heaven Christ’s intercessory work is continued oblation of Himself. Christ impetrated, merited, or obtained by His death, must be applied on to upon them for whom He intended to obtain it, or else His intercession is in vain, He is not heard in the prayers of His mediatorship. Owen makes the point that the particularity of Christ’s death on the cross relates to His intercessory work in heaven.
How did Puritans such as Reynolds describe Christ exaltation in relation to His office as King?
The Puritans and particularly Reynolds addressed this issue of Christ’s exaltation in relation to His kingship. The exaltation of Christ as King is fully realized in His enthronement said Reynolds. Goodwin saw this to be realized at His ascension when a military triumph is accorded Him (leading captivity captive) which shows that Christ subdued His enemies at the cross according to Goodwin.
Explain the threefold view Thomas Goodwin held pertaining to the glory of Christ and it application to Christ’s role as mediator?
Goodwin saw Christ glory as threefold, the first glory which all the orthodox agreed upon is that the Christ divine nature cannot be diminished in any way. The Son in His divine nature is coequal in glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Goodwin saw this glory as Christ essential glory. Secondly Goodwin saw how Christ has a personal glory not shared with the Father or the Spirit namely the glory of His person as the God-man; this belongs to Christ alone on account of the hyposatical union. Christ thirdlypossesses the glory of His office as mediator of the covenant of grace.
Explain John Arrowsmith’s understanding on the nature of Christ human nature?
John Arrowsmithconcluded that Christ took a human nature clothed with infirmities as after the fall not before the fall. This is implied in his view by the word Flesh but he affirms that Christ did not take on all the infirmities of man distinguishing between painful infirmities and sinful infirmities, the latter Christ did not take on.
What distinction did Thomas Gooodwin make between the human and divine natures of Christ?
Thomas Goodwin declared that the two natures could not be changed into the other, for God was immutable and it was impossible for the nature of man should become the Nature of God, since the Essence of the Godhead is incommunicable. Therefore the perfections of Christ’s human nature come infinitely short of the attributes that are essential to the Godhead.
Describe some of Thomas Goodwin’s unconventional views on Christology?
Crisp’s saw that John Owen’s view on Christology was not conventional like Owen Godwin wrote that the Spirit sanctified the human nature and constituted Him as the Christ. Goodwin saw the Spirit as the immediate author of Christ graces for though Christ being the Son of God dwelt personally in the human nature and so advanced in His nature above ordinary creatures. All Christ graces were from the Holy Spirit, the Puritans varied on this point.
Explain how the Puritans saw the Spirit as Christ inseparable companion?
The Puritans saw the role of the Spirit in nearly every major event in the life of Christ. The Father decreed that the Son should assume flesh. The Son voluntarily took on flesh according to the will of the Father, but the Holy Spirit was the immediate divine efficiency of the incarnation (Luke 1:35- Matt. 1:18, 20). At Christ baptism the Spirit descended upon Him the Spirit played a major role in His temptation. His miracles the Pharisees ascribed to Beelzebub but He lets them know they blaspheme the Holy Spirit by saying this. His resurrection is attributed to the Spirit (Romans 8:11).
Describe Bavinck’s view regarding the intimate relationship between the Spirit and Christ?
For Bavinck the work of the Holy Spirit with respect to Christ human nature does not stand by itself. The Spirits work began at conception but it did not stop there, it continued throughout Christ entire life, even right into the exaltation. The Holy Spirit is the author of all creaturely lifeand specifically of the religious ethical life in humans. If humans in general cannot have communion with God except by the Holy Spirit, then this applies even more powerfully to Christ human nature.
What were some varying views among reformed theologians regarding the distinction between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace?
Dutch theologian Herman Witsius stated that the covenant between the Father and the Son “is the foundation of the whole of our salvation.” David Dickson saw the covenant of redemption as the basis for the temporal covenant of grace. John Brown of Haddington saw this in a different light he sees a clear distinction between the two covenants. Edmund Calamy echoes Brown on this point. He suggested that the Father made the covenant of grace with Jesus Christ from all eternity. Calmay’s view is consistent with the Westminster documents, these documents maintain that the covenant of grace was not a mere afterthought of God in response to the fall but instead was made with Jesus Christ from all eternity, being a contract of God the Father with God the Son from all eternity as mediator for the salvation of the Elect.
Some reformed theologians then distinguished between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace, where others preferred to speak of covenant of grace as having an eternal and a temporal aspect.
Where did the concept of the eternal covenant between God the Father and God the Son originate in the eyes of Richard Muller?
Dr. Richard Muller believed that the idea of this eternal covenant may have originated in the writings of Cocceius, “but its roots are most probably found in the earlier Reformed meditation on the trinitarian nature of the divine decrees.” Muller sees hints of this concept in the writings of Luther. The early Reformer Johannes Oecolampadius(1482-1531), in his lectures about Isaiah speaks of a covenant between the Father and the Son. The concept can be located also in John Calvin and his successors. David Dickson however most likely introduced the terminology of the covenant of redemption.
What were some texts that Thomas Goodwin and Patrick Gillespie saw as proving Christ was appointed as prophet, priest and king?
Thomas Goodwin saw such passages as Deuteronomy 18:15, priest Hebrews 3:1-2, and king Psalm 2:6. Patrick Gillespie elaborates on Goodwin’s point adducing a series of texts to prove that Christ’s appointment by the Father represents an important aspect of what constitutes a covenant. One of the most common texts sited is 1 Peter 1:20, which speaks of Christ as for ordained before the foundation of the world. Some other texts such as Psalm 89:9, Isaiah 42:6, Hebrews 5:5 confirm that Christ was by an eternal act of God’s will called to this work, and that long before He came into the world.
What was some varying views among Reformed theologians on the role of the spirit in the covenant of redemption?
Samuel Rutherford points out some differences among Reformed theologians. He states that not all mutual intratrintarian agreements must be called covenants and so suggests that only the Son is ordained (1 Peter1:20), with His own consent, to be Mediator. Reformed orthodox trinitarianism necessitates the Spirit’s presence in the Father-Son agreement. Scottish theologian James Durham notes that “All three persons give the command, and concur as the infinitely wise orders of the decree.” He argues then for the Spirit’s role as a contracting partner.
How did Thomas Goodwin describe the threefold distinction of God’s immanent, transient, and applicatory acts?
First, Thomas Goodwin describes these acts as follows.
- One, Immanent in God toward us, as His eternal love set and past upon us, out of which He chose us, and designed this and all blessings to us.
- Two, transient, in Christ done for us; in all He did or suffered representing us, and in our stead.
- Three, applicatory, wrought in us, and upon us, in endowing us with all those blessings by the Spirit, as calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification.
What were the four points Puritan Isaac Ambrose made in regards to demonic angels as principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies ?
On “Principalities” Ambrose writes, Satan rules over the entire world and is called the “prince of this world” and “god of this world”. God in justice gave Satan leave to prevail and rule in the sons of disobedience. Next Ambrose describes “Powers” Demons are filled with a mighty power. They can control natural forces such as lightning and wind (Job 1:16, 19), the bodies of animals (Matt. 8:32). They can afflict believers with disease. (Job 2:7). Ambrose next describes the “Rulers of the darkness of this world.” He designates Satan’s dominion in terms of its time, the age of Adam’s fall until Christ coming. The place earth as opposed to the heavens. Satan’s subjects those persons in darkness, the spiritual night of sin and ignorance. Lastly Ambrose describes “Spiritual wickedness” As spirits Ambrose says demons can attack us indivisibly in any place at any time. As wicked spirits they are evil and malicious. Their main work according to Ambrose is to damn souls, these wicked spirits not only tempt us to fleshly sins but to spiritual sins, such as unbelief, pride, hypocrisy etc.
How is Satan described as ultimately fulfilling God’s purposes?
The powers of Satan are described as limited by God for His divine purposes to do good to those whom He has chosen. The Puritans saw Job as a prime example of Satan’s limitations. Stephen Carnock wrote on this subject the following “The goodness of God makes the devil a polisher while he intends to be a destroyer.” This polishing makes are metal shine. Indeed, God’s wisdom rules over Satan’s schemes so that the devil accomplishes God’s plans.
What were some of the devices of Satan cataloged by Spurstowe and what were some of the remedies given by various Puritan writers?
Device one described by Spurstowe is that Satan leads men from lesser sins to greater. The remedy given by Spurstowe is as follows “Take heed of giving place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27). Brooks wrote “The least sin is contrary to the law of God, the nature of God, the being of God, and the glory of God.” Another device described by Spurstowe is how the devil persistently urges men to a particular sin. Satan inserts evil thoughts in the mind (John 13:2). The remedy given is to reject the promises of sin. Brooks wrote on this the following , “ Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst, he promises honor and pays with disgrace, he promises pleasure and pays with pain, he promises life and pays with death, but God pays as He promises, for all payments are made in pure gold.”
What biblical passages did Jonathan Edwards see as describing types of Satan?
Jonathan Edwards considered the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:12 to be a type of Satan. Edwards said the phrase “son of the morning” referred to Lucifer as the most glorious of the angels and “the very highest of all God’s creatures”. Likewise in Ezekiel 28:12 Edwards saw the “king of Tyre” as a type of devil who fell from grace.
How did Edwards see the revelation to the angels,“that God’s Son would become man” as the cause of Satan’s rebellion?
Edwards wrote that “Satan, or Lucifer, or Beelzebub, being the archangel one of the highest angels, could not bear it (the incarnation) thought it below him” to serve the lowly man, Jesus. Satan’s rebellion resulted in events that brought to pass the very thing Satan sought to avoid namely the incarnation of Christ and His exaltation over all angelic powers. Edwards’s view of the fall of the rebellious angels parallels his view of the confirmation of the elect angels in that both center on the Lord Jesus Christ.
How did Richard Goodbeer distinguish between the Puritan religious ideal and popular magical beliefs of the time?
Richard Goodbeer made a distinction between supplicative verses manipulative spirituality. The magical worldview was “fundamentally manipulative” he said, as men and women used rituals to control spiritual powers. The Puritans worldview by contrast was fundamentally supplicative, as people submitted themselves and their desires to the sovereign Lord through faith and prayer. On the popular level however these distinct approaches tended to blend together. The more God and Jesus Christ were emphasized the more the world of spirits diminished.
How Samuel Willard describes how angels reflect God, like God and how did he describe angles as falling short of God?
First, Willard explains how like God angels are Spirits an invisible substance. Second, since angels are Spirits they cannot be felt. Third, Spirits are the most agile, active, or nimble beings among creatures. Angels are God’s swift messengers to do his will. They travel faster than lightning. They are never tired. They are like the wind. Fourth, Spirits are the strongest among created beings. They excel in strength and are called powers. One angel can fight off an army of men. Consider what angels did at the empty tomb (Matt. 28:2-7). Fifth, Spirits are the most incorruptible of created beings. This refers to their power, not their purity. Lesser creatures cannot harm angels of annihilate them. Sixth, Spirits are rational substances, endowed with the noblest faculties of understanding and will. Angels fall short of God in a number of ways Willard says. One, Spirits are creatures, but God is not. He is and was and is to be.Two, God is a pure act, but angels have potentiality to be, or not to be, and so to change. Third, Angels are limited by their own essence to one place at a time. Fourth, Angels are under the dominion of their Creator. Five, as Spirits, the essence and acts of angels are different. They do not share in God’s simplicity whereby we can say that God loves and is love.
According to the Puritans what is the office and present work of angles?
William Ames said the work of angles is to celebrate the glory of God and execute His commandments, especially for the heirs of eternal life. Angles also according to Manton also delight in the gospel (1 Peter 1:12). Manton stated, “As we behold the sun that shineth to us from their part of the world, so do the angels behold the sun of righteousness from our part of the world, even Jesus Christ the Lord, in all the acts of meditation with wonder and reverence. The Puritans believed the angles were greatly involved in God’s providence throughout the world. James Ussher wrote that angles have general duties “in respect of all creatures”, namely that they are the instruments and ministers of God for the administration and government of the whole world.
Describe the Puritan understanding on the history of Angles?
The Puritan view on the history of angels begins with God’s eternal decree for them. It continues with their creation, the fall of some angles and the continued righteousness of others, and role of angels in redemptive history. Concluding with the angles role at the end of the age. First in the Westminster Larger Catechism on God’s eternal decree concerning angels’ states, God by an eternal and immutable decree, out of His mere love, for the praise of His glorious grace, hath elected some angels to glory and passed over and foreordained the rest to dishonor and wrath, thus angels and man have a parallel in election and reprobation. Two, God created angels (Col. 1:16). Three, God established some elect angels in righteousness. Four, God employed angels as servants of the present providence. Lastly, God brings the consummation of history through angels. Angels are prominent figures in the eschatology of the Larger Catechism, which says Christ will come to judge the world “with all his holy angels” (Matt. 25:31).
Describe some of the varying views among the Puritans regarding our communion with angels?
Puritans like Henry Ainsworth wrote on this topic the following “These heavenly spirits have communion, not only with God, in whose presence they stand, but also with us, the children of God, through faith, by which we are come unto the great assembly of the many thousands of them (Heb.12:22). Ainsworth also reflected the caution of other Puritans in writing “God hath in ages past, before the incarnation of Christ, more frequently employed them outwardly in revealing his will unto men, then in these last days he doth, since he hath opened unto us the whole mystery of His counsel by His Son (Heb. 1). Ambrose, on the other hand ascribed nearly everything in God’s providence in the world to the work of angels, even in the provision of our daily bread.
William Perkins writes on this topic the following, “Election is God’s decree whereby of his own free will he hath ordained certain men to salvation, to the praise of the glory of his grace. There appertain three things to the execution of this decree, first the foundation, secondly the means, thirdly the degrees. The foundation is Christ Jesus, called of his Father from all eternity to perform the office of the Mediator, that in him all those which should be saved might be chosen.”
How did William Perkins see predestination as being carried out through the covenants?
Perkins taught that God established a covenant of works with Adam in paradise, thus setting a covenantal context for the fall. Similarly, He made the covenant of grace as the context for the salvation of the elect.
How did William Perkins see reprobation as a logical concomitant of election, and what were the differences he emphasizes between the two?
Perkins wrote “If there be an eternal decree of God, whereby he chooseth some men, then there must needs be another whereby he doth pass by others.” Two differences of emphasis exist between reprobation and election, however. First God willed the sin and damnation of men but not with the will of approval or action. God’s will to elect sinners consisted of His delight in showing grace and His intent to work grace in them. But God’s will to reprobate sinners did not include any delight in their sin, nor any intent to work sin in them. Rather He willed not to prevent their sinning because He delighted in the glorification of His justice. Second, in executing reprobation, God primarily passes over the reprobate by withholding from them His special, supernatural grace of election.
How did Williams Perkins see preaching as essential for bringing in the elect?
Munson writes, “Perkins’ golden chain of the causes of salvation is linked through the instrument of preaching. Perkins wrote on the preaching of the Gospel “This gospel must be preached. It is the allure of the soul, whereby men’s forward minds are mitigated and moved from an ungodly and barbarous life unto Christian faith and repentance.” Perkins also said “The gospel preached is that ordinary means to beget faith.” Plain and powerful preaching of Scripture was not merely the work of a man, but a heavenly intrusion where the Spirit of the electing God speaks.
The Son’s generation was connected to the idea that the Father is the fountain of all deity (fons totius Deitatis). Thomas Goodwin uses this term, but he was always careful to insist that the Son and Spirit were “very God of very God”. Leigh speaks of the order of the persons to explain the doctrine, “the Father is the first person from himself, not from another both in respect of his Essence and person. The Son is the second Person, from his Father in respect of his Person and filiation, existing by eternal generation, after an ineffable manner (and is so called God of God) by reason of his Essence he is God himself. The Holy Spirit is the third person proceeding from the Father and the Son in respect of his person.” Leigh refers to the Nicene Creed to referring to the Son as (“God of God”) to speak of the Son’s eternal generation. Thomas Goodwin likewise argues for the “begottenness” or “eternal generation” of the Son based upon the Father communicating to the Son the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead.
For Stephen Charnock (1628-1680) the being of God is necessarily bound up with the concepts of essence and existence. In Charnock’s exposition of John 4:24 “God is a Spirit”. “He hath nothing corporeal, no mixture of matter, not a visible substance, a bodily form. Charnock notes that (John 4:24) is the only place in the whole Bible where God is explicitly described as a Spirit. Charnock states if God exists He must be immaterial because material by nature is imperfect. Charnock also describes God in two ways, by affirmation God is good and God has no body.
Charnock begins by noting the difficulty of this topic. In his attempt to understand eternity Charnock contrast the attributes of God with the concept of time. Eternity is perpetual duration, without beginning or end, but time has both beginning and an end. He explains how God as God must be eternal, and that eternity properly belongs to God. The Scriptures constantly speak of God as eternal (Exodus 3:14, Rom. 16:26). Nothing can give being to itself. Acts, whatever they may be, are predicated on existence, a cause precedes an effect. God’s very existence proves that He has no being from another, otherwise He would not be God therefore God must be eternal.
Charnock describes how when God acts He does so according to the counsel of His own infinite understanding. No one is His counselor. Charnock speaks of the divine will as something that is not rash, but follows “the proposals of His Divine mind, he chooses that which is fittest to be done.” Knowledge and wisdom differ insofar as knowledge is the “apprehension of a thing, and wisdom is the appointing and ordering of things.” God possesses an essential and comprehensive wisdom. The Son of God however is the personal wisdom of God. Wisdom, as a necessary perfection in God, is manifested in the Son of God, who “opens to us the secrets of God.” The work of Christ manifests the wisdom of God as both the just and the justifier of the ungodly; but Christ also reveals the preeminent wisdom of God, for in the incarnation the finite is united with the infinite, immortality is united to mortality, and a nature who made the law is united to a nature under the law all in one person.
For StephenCharnock Christ is the image of God’s holiness because since God in His glory is “too dazzling to be beheld by us,” the incarnation makes it possible for the elect to not only behold the holiness of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), but also become holy like God through Jesus Christ. Therefore in God’s goodness he provides a means in which we can apprehend this holiness, the application of this therefore has a Christ centered focus.
Charnock affirms a threefold dominion in God, that which is natural and therefore absolute over all things; that which is supernatural or gracious, which is the dominion God has over the Church; and that which is glorious (i.e. eschatological), which refers to the kingdom of God as He reigns over saints in heaven and sinners in hell. The first dominion is founded in nature; the second in grace; the third in regard to the blessed in grace; in regard of the demand, in demerit in them, and justice in him. The dominion of God is to be distinguished from His power. The latter has reference to His ability to affect certain things, whereas the former speaks of His royal prerogative to do as He so chooses.
The Westminster Confession of Faith makes some important points about the interpretation of Scripture, including chapter 1.9: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” A text may demand an allegorical interpretation because it literally is an allegory, but theologians are not to go to the text with the fourfold method (the literal sense “is that which is gathered immediately out of the words,” which is then coupled with the “spiritual sense,” divided into allegorical, tropological, and anagogical) in mind as a basic presupposition for interpreting the Bible. The Scriptures themselves must dictate how they are to be interpreted.
Another specific exegetical tool used by the Puritans to interpret Scripture is the analogy of faith (analogia fidei). Needed explained are the differences between the analogy of faith and the analogy of Scripture (analogia Scripturae). The Scriptures interpret the Scriptures, so that “when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture,… it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” The analogy of faith (analogia fidei) resulted from the fact that the Bible is the Word of God and therefore possesses an intrinsic consistency and unity. That is to say, the Scriptures do not contradict themselves. The analogy of faith maintains the internal consistency of the Scriptures, which are not contradictory. The analogy of faith differs from the analogy of Scripture (analogia Scripturae) insofar as the analogy of faith is a principle whereby a theologian uses the “general sense of the meaning of Scripture, constructed from the clear or unambiguous loci [passages] as the basis for interpreting unclear or ambiguous texts.” The analogy of Scripture, however, more specifically has in view the interpretation of unclear passages by comparing with clearer passages that are related to the difficult text in question.
Another specific exegetical tool used by the Puritans to interpret Scripture is to understand the limits of human reasoning. John Owen did not mince any words when it came to another fundamental aspect of interpreting the Bible. Those who attempt to interpret the Scriptures “in a solemn manner, without invocation of God to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation to him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from anyone who so proudly and ignorantly engageth in a work so much above his ability to manage.” Owen affirmed that the Holy Spirit works on the minds of the elect so as to enable them to understand the Scriptures since He is the immediate author of all spiritual illumination. Christians cannot assume this will happen, as if to take for granted this spiritual privilege; rather, they must pray that God would enable them to understand His mind and will, which apart from the Spirit is impossible. We must not allow our fallible reasoning a place of preeminence above the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit enables Christians to receive all of the truths of Scripture without letting reason dominate the way. If reason was to dominate our interpretation this will lead to various theological errors. Goodwin claims that the cause of all theological errors “hath been for the want of reconciling these things together.” He clearly has in mind those who exalt reason over revelation, which meant that so many glorious truths were denied in favor of reason. Reason cannot work out the mysteries of the Bible. If reason becomes the primary principle, and not faith, we will understand nothing, or little, of the mysteries of salvation. In the same way, Flavel suggests that reason is no better than a “usurper when it presumes to arbitrate matters belonging to faith and revelation.” Instead, reason sits at the feet of faith. Indeed, God’s works are not unreasonable, “but many of them are above reason.”
Answer, A Christological focus. Now what the puritans meant by the phrase Christological focus in interpretation needs explained. A major principle of interpretation used by the Puritans was the idea, firmly rooted in Scripture, that all of God’s Word points to Christ.
- John Owen states, “There are, therefore, such revelations of the person and glory of Christ treasured up in the Scripture, from the beginning unto the end of it, as may exercise the faith and contemplation of believers in this world, and shall never, during this life, be fully discovered or understood.”
- Thomas Adams (1583–1652) remarks that Christ is the “sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line…. Christ is the main, the centre whither all these lines are referred.”
- Similarly, commenting on how Christ is the scope of the Scriptures, Richard Sibbes (1577–1635) remarks: “Christ is the pearl of that ring, Christ is the object, the centre wherein all those lines end: take away Christ, what remains?—Therefore, in the whole scriptures let us see that we have an eye to Christ; all is nothing, but Christ.”
Because Christ, as the God-man, makes revelation possible to sinful, finite creatures, He also becomes the foundation and center of the Bible. Christ is, as it were, the fundamentum Scripturae (basic principle of Scripture).
The inspiration of Scripture
In view is the Word of God, which for Owen has a threefold meaning: “hypostatikos, endiathetos, and prophorikos.” The hypostatic (“personal”) Word has reference to the person of Christ. The latter two Greek terms speak of the “internal” or “inherent” (endiathetos) Word and the “spoken” (prophorikos) Word. The Bible, God’s supernatural revelation, is expressed in words and committed to writing. Faith arises from the authority and truth of God in the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth of God’s Word because the Spirit is truth. The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit infallibly assures believers that Scripture is God’s Word.
The truth of the Bible
Owen states that an internal, efficacious work of the Holy Spirit must illuminate the minds of believers so that they not only recognize the divine authority of Scripture, but also embrace the truths contained therein. The internal witness of the Spirit persuades believers that the Scriptures really are the very words of God. Thus Scripture, for Owen, is self-evidencing and has an innate efficacy because of its Author. Light and power constitute the self-evidencing nature of Scripture as the Word of God. Light, like God and Scripture, does not require proof of authenticity.
Christ the source of knowledge
Owen speaks of Christ as the “sacred repository” of all truth. Owen provides the ontological basis, in the glory of Christ’s person as the God-man, for revelation to be communicated from God to humanity; He is the Mediator not only in salvation, but also in all communication between God and fallen humanity. No one but the God-man has the ability to declare perfectly the revelation of God. So the “great end” of Christ’s coming was to reveal God (Matt. 13:35; John 1:18).
Covenantal context for the knowledge of God
God revealed Himself to Adam in the context of a covenant (the covenant of works). If this was true for Adam in the garden, how much more for the elect in the covenant of grace? Owen would argue that all true theology is based on a covenant, which means that supernatural theology is best understood covenantally. In the covenant of grace, God reveals His love and grace toward His people. But those truths are all proposed to God’s people in the various post-lapsarian covenants in and by Christ. Owen would demonstrate in his own writings, revelation was progressive along covenantal lines, but in the new covenant God speaks definitively and most gloriously in the person of Jesus Christ.
There are two ways according to the Puritans in which man finds acceptance with God one being works the other faith. The former was possible in the first covenant, (the covenant of works) but with the entrance of sin into the world, sinners must go outside of themselves and place their faith in the One who placed Himself under the covenant of works or be damned for failing to fulfill the terms of the covenant of works themselves. This is the covenant of grace; Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law for fallen humanity by saving a particular people for Himself (Galatians 4:4). The Puritans understood some similarities between the two covenants while forcefully insisting upon an absolute antithesis at the point of how a sinner may be justified before God (Ephesians 2:8).
For the Puritans, natural theology was linked to the creation of Adam in the image of God, and because of this, he was blessed in a natural theology (theolgia naturalis), or knowledge of God both innate and acquired from the handiwork of God around him. Some Puritans theologians debated among themselves whether all knowledge of God before the fall was natural or supernatural. Supernatural theology entails special revelation by God outside of his general revelation of nature. The Puritans agreed on the fact that Adam possessed a natural theology. There were some Puritans that disagreed whether or not Adam possessed a supernatural theology before the fall, Puritans such as John Owen limited supernatural theology not until after the fall because he maintains that originally revelation was partly supernatural and that this part was intended to increase daily. Thomas Goodwin believed that Adam’s end would have been continual life in the Garden of Eden, because only through Christ could he have acquired eternal life. John Owen seemed to suggest that both supernatural and natural theology coexisted before the fall, whereas Thomas Goodwin rejected this idea.
The Word of God for John Owen has a threefold meaning “hypostatikos, endiathetos, and prophorikos.” The “hypostatic” (personal) Word has reference to the person of Christ. The latter two Greek terms found commonly in patristic literature and used by Philo of Alexandria, speak of the (internal or inherent) “endiathetos” Word and the spoken “prophorikos” (spoken) Word. The logos prophorikos is the Bible, God’s supernatural revelation, expressed in words and commited to writing. Supernatural revelation provides objective ground for supernatural illumination, and John Owen constantly ties together the fact of divine revelation and the concept of approaching it.
What were the ten attributes of God that Puritan Stephen Charnock said could be understood by fallen man in light of nature?Posted: December 30, 2013
Stephen Charnock describes ten specific attributes that can be understood by the light of nature;
- One, the power of God in creating a world out of nothing (exnihillo).
- Two, the wisdom of God, in the order, variety and beauty of creation.
- Three, the goodness of God, in the provision God makes for His creatures.
- Four, the unchangeableness of God, for if He were mutable, He would lack the perfection of the sun and heavenly bodies, “wherein no change hath been observed.”
- Five, His eternity, for he must exist before what was made in time.
- Six, the omniscience of God, since as the Creator He must necessarily know everything He has made.
- Seven, the sovereignty of God, “in the obedience his creatures pay to him, in observing their several orders, and moving in the spheres wherein he set them”.
- Eight, the spirituality of God, insofar as God is not visible, “and the more spiritual any creature in the world is, the more pure it is.”
- Nine, the sufficiency of God, for He gave all creatures a beginning, and so their being was not necessary, which means God was in no need of them.
- Ten, His majesty, seen in the glory of the heavens.
Charnock concludes that all these attributes of God may be known by sinful man by observation of the natural world.
There is a Testimony of the Holy SPIRIT unto our Adoption, which comes as a Mighty Light, more Directly breaking in upon our Minds, to assure us, that we are indeed the Adopted of GOD. There is a Discursive Assurance of our Blessedness; which is drawn from the Marks and Signs of a Soul become an Habitation of God thro’ the Spirit. And then there is a more Intuitive Assurance of it; In which the Holy SPIRIT, more Immediately, and most Irresistibly, and with a Mighty Light, bears in upon the Mind of the Beleever a powerful perswasion of it, That he is a Child of GOD, and his GOD and Father will one day bring him to Inherit all things. The Soul of the Beleever is now wonderfully moved and melted and overpowered with such Thoughts as these; GOD is my Father, CHRIST is my Saviour, and I have an Inheritance in the Heavens reserved for me.
Thomas Manton gives four counsels to assist the weak in faith in being able to call God their Father.
First, “disclaim when you cannot apply.” If you cannot say “Father,” plead on your “fatherless” condition, using such texts as Hosea 14:3, “In thee the fatherless find mercy.”
Second, “own God in the humbling way.” Come to the Father like the prodigal son, confessing your unworthiness, or like Paul, as the chief of sinners. Come to Him as your Father-Creator if you cannot come to Him as your Father-Savior.
Third, “call him Father in wish.” If you cannot call Him Father with directness, do it with desire. “Let us pray ourselves into this relation, and groan after it, that we may have a clearer sense that God is our Father in Christ,” he counsels.
Fourth, make “use of Christ Jesus.” Since Christ’s name means so much in heaven, “if you cannot come to God as your Father, come to him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:14). Let Christ bring you into God’s presence. He is willing to change relations with us. Take him along with you in your arms. Go to God in Christ’s name: `Whatsoever you ask in my name, shall be given to you.’”
Some do more improve their privileges than others do. Now they cannot rationally expect the best and richest fruits of this gift, and to be enabled and enlarged by the Spirit, who do not give such ready entertainment and obedience to his motions, as the more serious and fruitful Christian doth.
– Thomas Manton