Reflections from the Major League

Encased between “the amber waves of grain” and infinite rows of corn is the small community in rural Illinois that God has called me to serve. It is by His grace and for His glory that He has called my family here to advance the Kingdom (Mt. 6:33) and we are truly blessed. Outside of millions upon millions of bushels of corn, wheat, and soybeans, there just isn’t much that is produced in the middle of fly-over country; except that one guy.

Recently, one of our high-school standouts was noticed by a Major League baseball scout and was drafted into one of their franchises. He, like so many others before him, is currently working his way through the Minors as he refines his skill-set with the hopes of one day donning the MLB logo and taking the field as a professional at the top of his game…corn, wheat, soybeans, and that one guy. I hope he makes it; what an inspiration he will be to the little leaguers who take the field that year!

Just last week, I had the blessing, and privilege, of serving on one of my best friend’s ordination council as he was commissioned and charged with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some might conclude that he has made it to “the Majors” as a pastor who bears the glorious title of “Reverend” (please take that with all satire intended). But it was he who spoke of being “out of his league” when he stated to his assessors, “I feel as if I’m still in Tee Ball as I sit with you all who are in the Majors.” I remember that feeling well as I sat being examined by my soon-to-be colleagues. I remember thinking, “I hope they don’t see how unprepared I am; how ill-equipped I am; how inadequate I am for the task.” And yet, this is exactly where I still find myself today.

My response to my now ordained brother in Christ was, “When the tables are turned and you are examining someone else for ordination you won’t feel that way anymore.” I didn’t mean that he was now also in the Majors but that we are all still in the Minors; strike that—we are all profound sinners saved by God’s marvelous grace, called out of darkness into his marvelous light, that we might proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us (that sounds less than Tee Ball like that). There are no “Majors, Minors, or Tee Ball” in God’s economy. Our Puritan brothers, with all their faults and failures, saw themselves so clearly:

“Eternal Father,

Thou art good beyond all thought, but I am vile, wretched, miserable, blind; my lips are ready to confess, but my heart is slow to feel, and my ways reluctant to amend. I bring my soul to thee; break it, wound it, bend it, mould it. Unmask to me sin’s deformity, that I may hate it, abhor it, flee from it.My faculties have been a weapon of revolt against thee; as a rebel I have misused my strength, and served the foul adversary of thy kingdom. Give me grace to bewail my insensate folly, grant me to know that the way of transgressors is hard, that evil paths are wretched paths, that to depart from thee is to lose all good. I have seen the purity and beauty of thy perfect law…yet I daily violate and contemn in its precepts…yet I choose devises and desires to my own hurt, impiously resent, grieve, and provoke [your Spirit] to abandon me. All these sins I mourn, lament, and for them cry pardon…” (The Valley of Vision, pg. 124-125)

Does this sound like the pride of accomplishment from a “Major Leaguer?” The honest self-evaluation of the Puritans and their openness to provide, to all who would peer, a glimpse into their souls demonstrate to the world that even those who appear to “have arrived” are still a work in progress. This is why the Lord could pray, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through [the disciples] word…” (John 17:17-20). The Disciples didn’t have it all together, the Puritans didn’t have it all together, your pastor doesn’t have it all together, and I don’t have it all together.

This is, I’m certain, why my friend’s statement stung so deeply. It’s true, we ebb and flow in spiritual lives from time to time and I was definitely in an ebb; and elongated ebb…and I was likened to being in “The Majors.” You see, I knew where I was in my walk with Christ and regardless of what others may have seen, I knew I was not on the field with the pro’s; I was nursing some wounds and making my way back to the Great Physician who could heal my soul.

It has been attributed to many people throughout the years but I first heard it from a circuit speaker for Alcoholics Anonymous name Earl H. Earl said that he struggled all his life with this one thing: He was comparing his insides with other’s outsides and he was losing every time. What the recovering heroin junky and alcoholic was saying was that he knew who he really was; deep inside there was a scared, inadequate, weakling in desperate need of something greater; someone greater. And when Earl measured himself against the façade people often portray in public his fears and inadequacies were exacerbated.

But isn’t this where we should find ourselves before the cross of Christ; broken, desperate, and in need of something we cannot get anywhere else, searching for forgiveness, fulfillment and restoration? Isn’t this why the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, cried out in anguish, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a)

So, I can write today, pray today, read God’s Word today, praise and worship today because even though I may not be in “The Majors” I am in pursuit of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me. I “press on” (Philippians 3:12, 14) as the Apostle says. God has saved me by his grace and called me to a life of Christ-likeness, yet I sin; “but he gives more grace.” (James 4:6) Aren’t those the most beautiful words for a work in progress like myself…But he gives more grace…Ahhhh; like cool drink from the Fountain of Life in the arid plains of sin and despair. And for that sweet grace I will ever proclaim his excellencies.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

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Tolkien & Owen On Communion With God

 If you have ever read The Lord of The Rings or watched the movies, one of the main themes that drives the plot is fellowship. You are introduced to characters like Frodo Baggins, Gandalf, and Sam as well as the silly and inseparable duo that enjoy second breakfasts Merry and Pippin. The relationships each had with each other were deep before the great journey and it grew more intimate while on it. Struggles and battles, victories and loss all shaped the fellowship they had with each other. At the end you got a glimpse of how the bonds that they made were indivisible.

This is the stuff of communion.

And it doesn’t just happen in fantasy. The fellowship of close friends in a common purpose embodies one of the most precious privileges that we cherish and long for in this life. Whether in a strong Christian marriage or with that friend who sticks “closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), or, ultimately, in our union and communion with God.

Communion With God 

Normally when we see or hear the word ‘communion’ we automatically think of the ‘Lord’s Supper.’ Communion hopefully does happen when we do the Lord’s Supper, but it’s not limited to that event. John Owen says it like this, “Communion relates to things and persons. A joint participation in anything whatever, good or evil, duty or enjoyment, nature or actions.” To have Communion with God is an intimate, mutual, covenantal bond between God and his people. Normally when the Bible talks about communion and fellowship, specifically in the New Testament, the Greek word is koinonia. The words primary meaning is “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” J.I. Packer does much for us in explaining what this kind of communion with God looks like, “Communion with God is a relationship in which Christians receive love from, and respond in love to, all three persons of the Trinity.”

Read the words of Owen. “Now, communion is the mutual communication of such good things as wherein the persons holding that communion are delighted, bottomed upon some union between them. Our communion then, with God consists in his communication of himself to us, with our return unto him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him.” So without Christ and ultimately because of sin, communion with God is impossible. As Owen puts it, “By nature, since the entrance of sin, no man hath any communion with God. He is light, we are darkness; and what communion hath light with darkness?” Communion can only be a reality because of the Triune God being sovereign has sought to reconcile His enemies to Himself. By sending His Son, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” The wrath we deserve fell upon Him and He stood in our place as our substitute. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:9-11). “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

This communion is possible because each of the persons of the Trinity plays a unique role in the salvation of the elect (1 John 5:7). The Father elects to save His people in Christ (Eph. 1:4). The Son is appointed and willingly offers Himself as the Savior and Mediator (Luke 22:29; Heb. 10:5–7). The Holy Spirit furnishes Christ with the gifts necessary to accomplish His saving work (Luke 1:35; 3:21–22; 4:18), and also applies the benefits of Christ’s work to those whom the Father gives to the Son (John 6:38–39; 17:4). Thus, in a delightful harmony of mutual love and purpose, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have eternally covenanted to redeem the elect community.

The glorious truth is this that, all areas of our covenant relationship to God are Triune “so that no one may boast.”

Our justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification are ‘Triunely’ planned, purchased, and applied. Our access to God is through Christ, by the Spirit, and to the Father (Eph. 2:18). The gifts of the Spirit are won by Christ and offered to the Father (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Our worship is through the mediation of Christ, by the Spirit, and presented to the Father. Our prayers are in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, and addressed to the Father.

All that we have from God and enjoy with him is Triune.

Puritanical Tuesday: Vincent Alsop

Our Puritan in view today is one that I’m fairly certain you’ve never heard of.  Why I am certain about that?  Because I’ve never heard of him.  Don’t hear me being arrogant here.  I’m by no means a ‘Puritan scholar’ or anything close but I do usually have my hands deep into Puritan literature at any given time and until today I’ve never come across his name.  I’m sure the same is true of you.

Vincent Alsop was born in 1630 in South Collingham, Nottinghamshire.  His father George served as rector in South Collingham, and mother Judith was a homemaker.  He attended local grammar schools growing up but eventually landed at St. John’s College in Cambridge in 1648.  Becoming as assistant teacher at Oakham School in Rutland and then the pastor of the church in a neighboring city called Langham, Vincent would soon meet and marry the daughter of Benjamin King, a local minister in 1657.  It was his father-in-law Benjamin King who brought young Vincent into Puritanism, and once he entered into it Vincent never looked back.

Vincent was ejected from his pulpit for nonconformity in 1662, but remained preaching in the area privately.  He was seen praying with a sick person and sent to the Northampton jail for six months.  But the tide would turn, and in 1672 Vincent was able to minister publicly again at his house in Geddington under the Declaration of Indulgence.  He then pastored the church on Tothill Street, Westminster until his death in 1703.

Vincent was very polemical, always getting into debate with anyone who would give him an ear. Writing several short pieces attacking the errors of his day seemed to be his specialty until his son was imprisoned and charged with treason for participating in the Monmouth rebellion of 1685 (which no doubt, Vincent probably put him up to the task).  Vincent worked for his sons freedom and obtained it two years later.  Vincent’s reforms in the church at Tothill Street prepared the way for the greater reforms under Tothill’s next minister, Calamy.

The one remaining work by Vincent Alsop is Practical Godliness: The Ornament of All Religion.   Based on the title alone, you can imagine what Vincent thought about holy living.  First published in 1696, it is a collection of sermons based on Titus 2:10 which commands us to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.”  This stands today, being one of the most practical books on how to live according to the promises of the gospel and the precepts of the law.  The main argument stems from the Christian’s growth in Sabbath keeping, on which Vincent said “all practical religion rises, ebbs, falls, and flows.”  Vincent also treated the subject of the family quite heavily.  Vincent believed if families were to be profane in living, one could not expect the church to be holy either, because the church was made up of families.  Attached to the end of this book is a rare 67 page pamphlet calling for the proper use of clothing and fashion, which crazy enough, is still very practical today.

Of all we can learn about the Puritans, this one principle remains true in the life of Vincent Alsop.  They lived holy lives.  To such lives, we are called as well.  Thus, the writings of the Puritans remain a mine of wealth to us today.

Puritanical Tuesday: Richard Alleine

Last week for Puritanical Tuesday we spent time looking into the life of Joseph Alleine.  Today we look to his uncle and father-in-law, Richard Alleine.

The year the authorized KJV Bible was first introduced, 1611, was also the year Richard was born in Ditcheat, Somersetshire.  Richard’s father was the rector of the parish church there for more than 50 years, and it was his father who tutored young Richard, preparing him to attend Oxford (where he began studying at age 19).  Here’s the order of events for Richard: graduated from Oxford with a Bachelor of Arts in 1631, earned a Master’s degree at Oxford with high honors in 1634, and on March 2, 1634 Richard was ordained a priest in the diocese of Salisbury and the following year was appointed chaplain to Sir Ralph Hopton.

In 1642 Richard moved to Batcombe, Somerset to minister and after doing so for 20 years he declared himself to be a Puritan by subscribing to the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, and a local confession called ‘The Testimony of Ministers in Somersetshire to the truths of Jesus Christ.’  Much loved by the people, Richard was known for his tenderness in pastoral ministry.  But in 1662 he was ejected and persecuted for nonconformity.  He often held meetings and conventicles in various villages, which earned him a bad reputation with the authorities but due to his vast popularity they never arrested him.  The Five Mile Act of 1665 (an act prohibiting nonconforming Puritan pastors from living within 5 miles of the town they ministered in) then compelled him to take refuge in the village of Frome Selwood where he continued to preach until his death in 1681.

3 books remain from Richard Alleine today: 1) Heaven Opened: The Riches of God’s Covenant, 2) Instructions About Heart-work, and 3) The World Conquered by the Faithful Christian.  In all three you see the same tender but bold flavor he was known for shine through.  Loaded with spiritual insight, practical instructions, full of gospel grace, leaving no sin unexposed, his works are searching treatments of what practical godliness looks like in day to day life with God.

Here are two quotes to leave you with:

“Will you be persuaded, will you be prevailed upon, thus to prepare and bring over your hearts to the Lord?  Thus to preserve and keep them pure and faithful to Him?  And so trust to His faithfulness?  Might I prevail with you in this, I had done my work, and having put you thus into safe custody, should there be bold to leave you in this confidence, that you should be thenceforth ‘all kept by the mighty power of God, through faith unto salvation.'” (The ending words of Instructions About Heart-work)

“Repentance, if it is sincere, will be universal.  It will extend to every known sin.  He who does not repent of everything that is evil truly repents of nothing.” (The World Conquered by the Faithful Christian, page 131)

Puritanical Tuesday: Joseph Alleine

Even as a young man Joseph Alleine showed much promise in godliness and pastoral wisdom, but it wasn’t until he was 11, in 1645, when his whole life moved dramatically toward Christ and His service.  When his older brother Edward (a pastor) died, Joseph begged to take his place in the ministry of the Church.  So at age 16 he was sent off to study at Oxford, and guess who he sat under?  None other than the world-renowned Puritan theologians John Owen and Thomas Goodwin.

Often depriving himself of sleep and food Joseph gained a reputation for study, graduating from Oxford in 1653 with a Bachelor of Arts.  He was appointed the chaplain and tutor of Corpus Christi where he spent much time preaching: to prisoners, to the poor, and to the sick.  In 1655 he accepted the call to work as the assistant of George Newton (vicar of St. Mary Magdalene Church) in Taunton, Somerset.  Taunton was a Puritan stronghold so Alleine felt quite at home.  He would marry during this fruitful and uniquely blessed season of life and ministry.

His wife Theodosia once remarked about Joseph’s early hours of prayer saying, “I would be troubled if I heard smiths or other craftsman at work at their trades before my husband was at communion with God.”  Likewise Joseph told her once, “How this noise shames me!  Does not my Master deserve more than theirs?”

Richard Baxter said of Alleine, “His great ministerial skillfulness in the public explication and application of the Scriptures – was so melting, so convincing, so powerful.”  Another contemporary wrote, “Alleine was infinitely and insatiably greedy of the conversion of souls, wherein he had no small success.”  During his ministry in Taunton Joseph preached, pastored, and taught, as he was becoming mastered by the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  But as was the case with many Puritans Joseph was ejected for nonconformity in 1662 and because he knew his time would be short-lived as a public preacher, he increased his labors preaching twice daily for 9 more months when he was arrested and threw into prison in Ilchester.

As was also the case with many Puritans, Joseph’s prison cell became a catalyst for his writing.  Numerous pastoral letters and theological articles came forth from his cell.  Released in 1664 he resumed his public ministry though he remarked that from this point forward his ministry was “full of troubles and persecutions.”  He returned home to Taunton in 1668 when he became ill.  Only nine months later at the young age of 34, weary from hard work and suffering, Joseph Alleine died saying these words, “Christ is mine, and I am His – His by covenant!”

John Wesley would later call Alleine the “English Samuel Rutherford.”  His most well known works, which are still available today, are: The Act of Conformity, An Alarm to the Unconverted, The Life and Letters of Joseph Alleine, and The Precious Promises of the Gospel.  Alleine was the forerunner to the great men we know and read much of today like Richard Baxter, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, and Iain Murray.

Alleine had a huge love for God, and a large heart for those who sat under his ministry.  We should be comforted from his example and challenged.  He worked hard, loved God, and devoted his life to God’s Church.  Read Alleine yourself:

You are a people much upon my heart, whose welfare is the matter of my continual prayers, care, and study.  And oh that I knew how to do you good!  How it pities me to think how so many of you should remain in your sins, after so many and so long endeavors to convert you and bring you in!  Once more, oh beloved, once more to hear the call of the Most High God unto you.  The prison preaches to you the same doctrine that the pulpit did.  Hear O people hear; the Lord of life and glory offers you all mercy, and peace, and blessedness.  Oh, why should you die?  Whosoever will, let him take the waters of life freely.  My soul yearns for you.  Ah, that I did but know what arguments to use with you; who shall choose my words for me that I may prevail with sinners not to reject their own mercy?  How shall I get within them?  How shall I reach them?  Oh, that I did but know the words that would pierce them!  That I could but get between their sins and them.

Iain Murray summed up Alleine’s life well saying, “Never did the evangel (the gospel) of Jesus Christ burn more fervently in any English heart.”

May the same be true of you and I.

Puritanical Tuesday: Henry Airay

Born in 1560 near Lake Windemere, Henry Airay grew up in West-morland with his father William.  Henry was able to be educated as a child in the local grammar school and as an adult at Oxford University by the good graces and charity of their family friend Bernard Gilpin.  Henry would soon transfer to Queen’s College where he would receive his Bachelor of Arts (1583), Master of Arts (1586), Bachelor of Theology (1594), and Doctor of Divinity (1600).

Henry was ordained into vocational ministry in 1586 and preached with an uncommon zeal at Queen’s College.  He was soon caught amid controversy for his puritan and reformed views, and in one instance he rebuked and took William Laud to task for preaching “popery.”  He preached so regularly within the book of Philippians that it is no surprise Henry’s most well known work is his “Lectures on Philippians” published for the first time in 1618 (2 years after his death).

Henry did pastor in his older years as the rector pf Charlton-on-Otmoor, near Oxford in 1606 and later as rector of Bletchingdon, Oxfordshire in 1615.  One year after this last appointment he died.  At the funeral his cousin Christopher Potter noted that Henry was well known for “his holiness, integrity, learning, devotion to ministry, and his wise guidance in the government of Queen’s College.”  It was during his time as a rector that he was sought out and employed for counsel at Queen’s College and from his advice Queen’s College would send forth many faithful pastors into the Church.

Henry Airay is someone you should get to know.  His “Lectures upon the Whole Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians” was republished in 2001, containing 95 sermons, 95!  Here is a taste of his work.  Henry commenting on Philippians 3:10 said, “I note two reasons why the apostle reckoned afflictions an advantage to him: first, because in afflictions he had fellowship with Christ.  Second, because by afflictions he was made like unto Christ.”  The same flavor is carried throughout the whole of his 95 sermon collection on Philippians.

Used by God powerfully, unknown to most, zealous for preaching God’s Word, and living a life in line with it.  Can we want anymore from our pastors or for ourselves?  Nope.

Puritanical Tuesday: Henry Ainsworth

Born in 1569 of yeoman stock in Swanton Morley, Norfolk – Henry Ainsworth would become a controversial figure in Puritanism.  Finishing his formal education at Caius College, Cambridge in 1591 Ainsworth quickly identified himself with the Puritan party but then quickly moved into a Puritan sect called the Separatists.  The Separatists were congregationalists who separated (hence the name) from the rest of the Church because they didn’t want to wait for reform to happen within the church.  Because of such extreme methods the Separatists as a whole were known for instability and extremism.

Puritan persecution moved the Separatists into the Netherlands, and Ainsworth found himself living in poverty as a bookseller’s porter in Amsterdam in 1593.  But his gifts would soon make room for him in the Church.  Ainsworth knew Hebrew, almost better than anyone.  Soon after coming to Amsterdam Ainsworth found himself leading the exiled Separatists and did become the main teacher in their church.  Ainsworth eventually became the lead writer of the Separatist confession of 1596, which is a big deal because this is the first congregationalist confession ever written.

Known preacher Francis Johnson joined Ainsworth and became the pastor of their congregationalist church, but after a heated debate with Ainsworth about the nature of congregational involvement in the decision of the elders Johnson and Ainsworth parted ways in 1610.  It was then that most of Ainsworth’s followers decided to go their own way and began calling themselves the “Ainsworthians.”  For the next 12 years after this moment Henry Ainsworth found himself preaching and teaching while getting involved in all sorts of controversies big and small.  During these controversies Ainsworth wrote his most famous work “Annotations” which is a must have for any pastor’s library due to its insights into the Scripture.

Even though Ainsworth had a true graciousness and godliness about him, he was much despised for his congregationalists ways.  This has led to two general opinions about him today.  The pro-congregationalist writers today refer to him as “Dr. Ainsworth,” while most everybody else (Encyclopedia Britannica included) refers to Ainsworth as “H. Ainsworth – arch-heretic and ringleader of the Separatist movement in Amsterdam.”

But even so, his accomplishments as a scholar could not be denied.  A Puritan despised by other Puritans summarizes the life of Ainsworth well.  His life reminds us of the suffering Christians can experience even within the Church.  But, I tend to think Ainsworth brought some undue stress on himself with his conviction to stick to his congregationalist roots and go against the rest of Puritanism at large.

Puritanical Tuesday: Thomas Adams

Thomas_Adams

Thomas Adams (1583-1652) graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge with a Bachelor of Arts in 1602 and a Master of Arts in 1606 from Clare College.  In 1604 Adams was ordained a deacon and priest in the Church of England and served many positions throughout his 69 years.

Curate (parish pastor) of Northill, Bedfordshire from 1605-1611.  Vicar of Willington, Bedfordshire in 1612-1614.  Vicar of Wingrave, Buckinghamshire in 1614-1619.  Rector of St. Benet Paul’s Wharf, St Benet Sherehog, St. Gregory’s, occasionally preaching at St. Paul’s Cross, Whitehall, while serving as Chaplain to Henry Montagu (the first Earl of Manchester) for many years.  He was a busy man employed in the service of the Church of England.  We do not know much about the last 20 years of his life simply because he never wrote anything from 1632-1652 for print.  He died in 1652 at the age of 69.

Adams was known as a powerful preacher, oft-quoted writer, and influential churchman.  He had many friends in very high places, including John Donne the Earl of Pembroke.  He had an eloquence in writing which led Robert Southey to later describe him as “the prose Shakespeare of the Puritan theologians.”  Adams was more of a Calvinistic Episcopalian himself, but held a very high regard for the Puritan lifestyle, polemics, and theology.  Another reason Thomas Adams found a home within Puritanism was due to his vehement distaste of Roman Catholicism, the papacy, and the Jesuits.  He sought to purge the Church of England from the remnants of “popery.”  This naturally put him at odds with William Laud (the archbishop of Canterbury) and would eventually lead to his inability to obtain a position within the Church for his last years.

It was 1629 when Adams organized his sermons into a large collection, which later was made into 3 volumes when printed for public sale in 1861.  Volume 1 contains his Old Testament sermons, volume 2 contains his New Testament sermons, and volume 3 contains both the rest of his New Testament sermons, meditations on the Apostles’ Creed, and a large memoir of Adams written by Joseph Argus.  Later in 1633 Adams published (what he is more well known for) a large and extensive commentary on 2 Peter.  This commentary on 2 Peter was one of Spurgeon’s favorites.  Spurgeon once said Adams double columned 900 page volume on 2 Peter was “…full of quaintness, holy wit, bright thought, and deep instruction; we know of no richer and racier reading.”  Adams works are still available today anywhere Puritan books are sold.

J.I. Packer once described Adams sermons as unambiguously Calvinistic, pastoral, lively, warm, God-centered, illuminating, filled with grace, faith, the power of Christ, and a deep vigor.  Alexander Grosart said of him: “Thomas Adams stands in the forefront of our great English preachers.  He is not as sustained as Jeremy Taylor, nor as continuously speaking as Thomas Fuller, but he is surpassingly eloquent and brilliant, and more thought-laden than either.” It is also said that the collected works of Adams had a profound influence on John Bunyan (who would soon write Pilgrim’s Progress).

Let me end this overview of Thomas Adams by quoting the man himself from his most well known magnum opus on 2 Peter.  Commenting on 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord of not slack concerning His promise…” Adams said this: “Another cause of the Lord’s seeming slackness to deliver us for the present, is our slackness to praise Him for deliverances past.  Unthankfulness is the witch, the sorceress, whose drowsy enchantments have made us even forget God Himself.  If we forget Him, can He be blamed for slackness to remember us?”

Puritanical Tuesdays: Why You Should Spend Time with the Puritans

“The Puritans were burning and shining lights.  When cast out by the black Bartholomew Act, and driven from their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in a special manner wrote and preached as men having authority.  Though dead, by their writings they yet speak: a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour; and for these thirty years past I have remarked, that the more true and vital religion hath revived either at home or abroad, the more the good old puritanical writings, or the authors a of like stamp who lived and died in communion of the Church of England, have been called for… Their works still praise them in the gates; and without pretending to a spirit of prophecy, we may venture to affirm that they will live and flourish, when more modern performances of a contrary cast, notwithstanding their gaudy and tinseled trappings, will languish and die in the esteem of those whose understandings are opened to discern what comes nearest to the Scripture standard.”  (George Whitfield)

Why spend each Tuesday for the foreseeable future covering the Puritans?  Many reasons:

First, it was under the ministry of Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones that a resurgence in Puritan writings and doctrine came back into influence.  This was due to Lloyd-Jones numerous quotes throughout his sermons (which were very popular) from the Puritans.  Naturally, those who were eager to learn from Lloyd-Jones went to the Evangelical Library and dug up the Puritans Lloyd-Jones quoted.  Books were sold, read, and embraced.  Puritanism, which was ignored for so long, was finally gaining momentum and beginning to get back in the view of the Church.  Then in the late 1950’s Banner of Truth Trust began reprinting Puritans works of old and a new generation of Christians, already beginning to look more deeply into the truths of Scripture and the teaching of the Reformed Confessions, now began to delve deeply into the written legacy of the Puritans.  Since this time, Puritan literature has grown enormously.  So much that now there are more Puritan writings available than there is money to buy them, at least for most of us.  This resurgence alone in the writings, life, and doctrine of the Puritans is worth a look.

Second, Puritanism was not only a movement stressing covenant theology, predestination, and reformed church ecclesiology, it was known for emphasizing a high piety, stress on conversion, and existential heartfelt religion.

Third, being confessional and theological the Puritans searched the Scriptures, collected their findings, and sought to apply their findings to all areas of life.

Fourth, Puritanism was committed to Trinitarian theology, making much of the electing grace of God, the dying love of Jesus Christ, and the applicatory ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of sinners.

Fifth, Puritans believed in the significance of worship in the Church.  Specifically, the Puritans were committed to a worship that didn’t find its foundation in our creative imagination, but in the principles laid out for us in the Word of God.  Right preaching, liturgical reform in praise, prayer, and polity.

Lastly, Puritans focused on personal and comprehensive conversion.  Thus preaching the gospel became (as it should be!) central.  Their sermons were filled with pleading that probed the conscience; exposition aiming at awakening sinners by calling them to repentance and faith.  This led to a pervasive importance of the internal life of God in the soul of man that should pervade into all of life: church, home, work, society; public, and private.

Shaping life by Scripture, marrying doctrine and practice, confronting the conscience, engaging the heart, focusing on Christ, enduring through trials, and revealing true spirituality – this is the Puritans.  Why not spend time with them???

I have a deep affection for the Puritans, and it is my prayer that on these Tuesdays God would draw you closer to Himself by opening your eyes to the writings and the life of the Puritans.  My musings on these things are all going to be coming from the book Meet the Puritans, by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson.