Friday, 31 August 2012

Trueman on why Owen is not better known

The name of John Owen (1616-1683) is little known today even in theological circles outside of very conservative evangelical churches and the narrow and highly specialized field of early modern intellectual history. This is This is unfortunate, for Owen was without doubt the most significant theological intellect in England in the third quarter of the seventeenth century and one of the two or three most impressive Protestant theologians in Europe at the time. It was his misfortune, however, to be on the losing side: for Owen was a Puritan and allied to the Indepenedent party in the struggles which tore England apart in the 1640s and 1650s; as such, as such he was one of history's losers; and, as history is generally written by those who win, Owen was swiftly and decisively written out of the intellectual history of England in the aftermath of the Great Ejection of 1662 when non-conformists were not simply expelled from the Church of England, but excluded from the establishment, political, cultural, and intellectual, with all of the later impotence with regard to influence and the writing of history which that implies. ...
(From the intro to his John Owen: reformed Catholic, Renaissance man)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Treading the grain link

See link here

Third Way Link

I found this here

On this 350th anniversary of the Great Ejection, when the Puritans were ejected from the Church of England, I pulled down a volume of Thomas Manton, the ejected rector of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden.
Of his influence, the First Bishop of Liverpool J.C. Ryle wrote, “If ever there was an English divine who must be classed as a Puritan, that man is Manton…his works, like the Pilgrim’s Progress deserve the attention of all true Christians…As an expositor of Scripture I regard Manton with unmingled admiration. Here, at any rate, he is facile princeps [easily first] among the divines of the Puritan school… In days like these [Ryle wrote in 1870], I am thankful that the publishers of Manton’s Works have boldly come forward to offer real literary gold to the reading public.”
Dr William Bates preached his funeral sermon. I found it in volume 22. When we read how he described his departed friend, we understand why Ryle wrote what he did and how it was reported that Bates would weep whenever he spoke of Manton for some years after his friend’s death. At the same time, the description below provides us with a powerful depiction of a true preacher and true preaching.
His name is worthy of precious and eternal memory. God had furnished him with a rare union of those parts which are requisite to form an eminent minister of his word. A clear judgment, a rich fancy, a strong memory, and happy elocution met in him; and were excellently improved by his diligent study. In preaching the word he was of conspicuous eminence; and none could detract from him, but from ignorance or envy. He was endowed with an extraordinary knowledge of the scripture; and in his preaching, gave such perspicuous accounts of the order and dependence of divine truths, and with that felicity applied the scripture to confirm them, that every subject, by his management, was cultivated and improved. His discourses were so clear and convincing, that none, without offering violence to conscience, could resist their evidence; and from hence they were effectual, not only to inspire a sudden flame, and raise a short commotion in the affections, but to make a lasting change in the life.
His doctrine was uncorrupt and pure; the truth according to godliness. He was far from the guilty, vile intention to prostitute the sacred ordinances for acquiring any private secular advantage; neither did he entertain his hearers with impertinent subtleties, empty notions, intricate disputes, dry and barren, without productive virtue; but as one who always had in his eye the great end of his ministry, the glory of God, and the salvation of men. His sermons were directed to open their eyes, that they might see their wretched condition as sinners, to hasten their flight from the wrath to come, and make them humbly, and thankfully, and entirely receive Christ as their Prince and all-sufficient Saviour; and to build up the converted in their holy faith, and more excellent love, which is the “fulfilling of the law:” in short, to make true Christians eminent in knowledge and universal obedience.
And as the matter of his sermons was designed for the good of souls, so his way of expression was proper for that end. His style was not exquisitely studied, not consisting of harmonious periods, but far distant from vulgar meanness. His expression was natural and free, clear and eloquent, quick and powerful; without any spice of folly; and always suitable to the simplicity and majesty of divine truth. His sermons afforded substantial food with delight, so that a fastidious mind could not disrelish them. He abhorred a vain ostentation of wit in handling sacred truths, so venerable and grave, and of eternal consequence. His fervour and earnestness in preaching was such as might soften and make pliant the most stubborn and obstinate spirit. I am not speaking of one whose talent was only voice, who laboured in the pulpit as if the end of preaching were the exercise of the body, and not for the profit of souls.
But this man of God was inflamed with holy zeal, and from thence such expressions broke forth as were capable of procuring attention and consent in his hearers. He spake as one who had a living faith within him of divine truth. From this union of zeal with his knowledge, he was excellently qualified to convince and convert souls. His unparalleled assiduity in preaching declared him very sensible of those dear and strong obligations which lie upon ministers to be very diligent in that blessed work. This faithful minister abounded in the work of the Lord; and, which is truly admirable, though so frequent in preaching, yet was always superior to others, and equal to himself, He was no fomentor of faction, but studious of the public tranquillity; he knew what a blessing peace is, and wisely foresaw the pernicious consequences which attend divisions.
Consider him as a Christian, his life was answerable to his doctrine. This servant of God was like a fruitful tree, which produces in the branches what it contains in the root. His inward grace was made visible in a conversation becoming the gospel. His resolute contempt of the world secured him from being wrought upon by those motives which tempt low spirits from their duty. He would not rashly throw himself into troubles, nor, spreta conscientia [disdaining conscience], avoid them. His generous constancy of mind in resisting the current of popular humour, declared his loyalty to his divine Master. His charity was eminent in procuring supplies for others, when in mean circumstances himself. But he had great experience of God’s fatherly provision, to which his filial confidence was correspondent.
I shall finish my character of him by observing his humility. He was deeply affected with the sense of his frailty and unworthiness. He considered the infinite purity of God, and the perfection of his law, the rule of duty; and by that humbling light discovered his manifold defects. He expressed his thoughts to me a little before his death. “If the holy prophets were under strong impressions of fear upon extraordinary discoveries of the divine presence, how shall we poor creatures appear before the holy and dreadful Majesty? It is infinitely terrible to appear before God, the Judge of all, without the protection of the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel.” This alone relieved him, and supported his hopes. Though his labours were abundant, yet he knew that the work of God, passing through our hands is so blemished, that without appealing to pardoning mercy and grace, we cannot stand in judgment.
1662 may have been a significant year for the Book of Common Prayer. It was not, however, a good year for those to whom the gospel and a good conscience were more precious than the institutional church. May God grant to his church more such men and ministers today!

Reformed Reader Link

I found this here
In August of 1662 around 2,000 ministers left the national church of England for the sake of conscience (they were called the non-conformists).  You’ll have to read about this significant church history event elsewhere since I simply want to point out a few prayers of repentance that two pastors prayed the last Sunday of their parish ministry in the English state church.  The pastors were Edmund Calamy (d. 1666) and Thomas Watson (d. 1686).  Here are excerpts from their prayers.  Notice the depth of their repentance and confession of sin.
“We confess we have forfeited all our mercies; we have heard much of God, Christ, and heaven with our ears, but there is little of God, Christ, and heaven in our hearts.  We confess, many of us by hearing sermons, are sermon-proof; we know how to scoff and mock at sermons, but we know not how to live sermons” (Calamy).
“We have sinned presumptuously against the clearest light and dearest love; always have we sinned.  …Thou hast shown mercy to us, but the better thou hast been to us, the worse we have been to thee.  Thou hast loaded us with thy mercies, and we have wearied thee with our sins.  When we look into ourselves, oh, the poison of our natures!  …By our spiritual leprosy we infect our holy things.  Our prayers need pardon and our tears need the blood of sprinkling to wash them.  …We confess we are untuned and unstrung for every holy action; we are never out of tune to sin but always out of tune to pray.  We give the world our main affections and our strong desires…there is not that reverence, nor that devotion, nor that activeness of faith that there should be. …Oh, humble us for our unkindness, and for Christ’s sake blot out our transgressions; they are more than we can number, but not more than [thou canst] pardon” (Watson).
When these types of deep, heart-felt prayers of repentance and confession are spoken in private and in the pulpit, the Christian church is strengthened.  We shouldn’t balk at the intensity of confession here, we should likewise say and expound upon the words that arose from the beaten-breast of the tax collector: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:13; cf. Neh. 9:1ff).
The above prayer excerpts are found in this new revised edition of the Sermons of the Great Ejection (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2012).
shane lems

Friday, 24 August 2012

Today is the day

Today is the day 350 years ago when 2000 or so were ejected from the national church in England and Wales for the sake of conscience. It is right that we should give thanks for their noble stand and pray that we too may be men and women willing to follow conscience and to do what we believe is according to the Word of God regardless of what it costs.

Friday, 17 August 2012

An anonymous prayer from 1662

This prayer was prayed 350 years ago today on the Lord's Day before the Great Ejection

To thee, O Lord Jesus, we commend ourselves: To thee who judgeth rightly, thy poor Servant resigneth, and committeth this Congregation. The Lord pardon unto me wherein I have been wanting unto them: The Lord pardon unto them, wherein they have been wanting in the hearing of thy Word, that we may not part with sin in our hearts. Unto thee who judgest uprightly I commend them. The Bishop of Souls take care of them: Preserve them from the love of the World: teach them to wait on thee, and to receive from thee whatever any one or Family may stand in need of.
Provide them a Pastor according unto thine own will, only in the mean time give us that Anointing [that] shall lead us out of our own wills and ways, that we may walk in the ways of Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus say now amongst them, I am your Shepherd, you shall not want. Say to them as thou didst to thy Disciples, Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in the Father, believe also in me. So far as we are able we put thy Name upon them: we name the Name of the Lord Jesus over them. The Lord Jesus bless them; teach them to follow Holiness, Peace, and a Heavenly Conversation. The Lord make them useful to each other. The Lord Jesus be a blessing to them, and me and all ours. The God of Peace and Consolation fill them with blessings according as thou seest every one stand in need of. To thee, O Lord, we commend them, do thou receive them, that under thy counsel they may be preserved blameless, until the day [of] Jesus, where we may all meet crowned with Glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Evangelical Times

This month's Evangelical Times has four independent articles by myself and Lee Gatiss. For more on ET see here. For ine my artilces see here.

Grace Magazine article

I have an article in this month's magazine as follows. More on Grace here.

1662 And All That

Like Grace Magazine itself, most though not all of its readers could be described as Baptist. Here in the UK, Baptists are considered to be nonconformists or dissenters. There were plenty of Baptists and other dissenters from the national church before 1662 but it was in that year, 350 years ago this year, that nonconformity as such arose and began to be, under God, a significant force in the life of the nation.
The writer Anthony Burgess once wrote, “It's always good to remember where you come from and celebrate it. To remember where you come from is part of where you're going.” The beginnings of nonconformity are something that nonconformists or dissenters today ought to be familiar with. Back in 1962, speaking at the Evangelical Library, Dr Lloyd-Jones said that practically all that is good in evangelicalism finds its roots in the Puritanism so fiercely persecuted then. He also declared that “the very greatness of the men themselves as men of God demands our attention”.

So what happened in that year? Who were these nonconformists or dissenters and what did they refuse to conform to or dissent from? This was the year that the Act of Uniformity was passed. The main event occurred on St Bartholomew's Day, August 24, 1662, when about two thousand ministers and others in the pay of the national church in England and Wales were silenced or ejected from their livings for failing to conform to and dissenting from what the Church of England now required.
What was required, among other things, was that they use the newly published prayer book. The 1662 prayer book has many admirable qualities but there is much to object to and this renewed policy of vigorously enforcing its use was too much for many, especially after having not used for over a decade during the Interregnum after the death of Charles I. The prayer book was not the only concern (nonconformists also objected, for example, to the requirement of re-ordination by a bishop where that had not happened before) but it proved to be the catalyst for their objections and fears.

The Great Ejection, as it has come to be known, really includes all the ejectments and silencing that took place in the years from the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 through to 1662 and the immediately following period. Previous to this the number of independent churches, including baptist ones, was relatively small. It was with the ejection of such a large number of men, some 20% of the clergy, the majority of whom went on preaching, despite strong and sometimes vicious opposition and gathered local nonconformist churches, that nonconformity began to be the force we know it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Most of the names of the men who were ejected and their wives who suffered with them are unfamiliar to us, though some such as Richard Baxter, Thomas Manton and Thomas Watson are still read. Henry Jessey was the most famous Baptist. Most of the ejected were presbyterian, though some 194 were congregationalist. There were apparently only 19 Baptists, 11 of them in Wales, though some became Baptists later. They were nearly all men, however, who any Reformed Baptist today could admire and be ready to learn from. Though some few good men did remain in the national church, Gerald Bray is right to say that almost all of the ejected “were Puritans, and so the Act may be said to represent the expulsion of Puritanism from the national Church.”

The persecution launched against these men also swept into its net Baptists and others already outside the national church. John Bunyan is the most famous example. He was imprisoned in 1660 and remained there for the best part of the next 12 years. His congregation had previously been meeting in the parish church in Bedford but that all came to an end with the Restoration. Their conscientious stand for the truth and their great courage and wisdom in the face of persecution give an example that ought to be known and emulated. 
Relief from direct persecution finally came for the nonconformists with the Toleration Act of 1689, when King William and Queen Mary came to the throne. It was in that year that the Particular Baptists finally felt free to publish their confession of faith. The work had been completed back in 1677. Nonconformists continued to be treated as second class citizens, even then, being practically barred from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, for example, until as late as 1828 but at least the worst of the persecution was over.
The years 1662 to 1689 saw great variation in the levels of persecution and understandably things varied from place to place. In 1664 a conventicle act was passed banning religious gatherings of more than five (apart from family members). In 1665 a particularly cruel law was passed. Known as the five mile act, this act forbade the ejected from living within five miles of their former place of abode. The idea was to try and cut them off from their former congregations, who usually remained loyal. In 1670 a second conventicle act was passed. Famously described by Andrew Marvell as ‘the quintessence of arbitrary malice’, it reduced penalties for ordinary worshippers but fines for preachers and the owners of places where conventicles were found went up to £20 for a first offence, £40 for a second. The idea of distraint was also introduced, the seizure of a person’s property in order to obtain payment. If the minister could not pay, wealthier members of the congregation could lawfully be plundered.
In 1672 and 1683 Charles then James decreed indulgences but, unsupported in Parliament by law, these did not last and the pattern of persecution continued in most places. The Broadmead Baptists wrote of some eight waves of persecution altogether and it is clear that, as is often the case to this day, persecution did come in waves. Typically again, it varied in form and intensity, from minor harassment to mass imprisonment. Various factors were involved such as one's willingness to adapt to the situation and the attitude of local magistrates. A G Matthews suggests that 12.4% of the ejected men, some 215 altogether, were imprisoned between 1662 and the death of Charles II in 1685. Most were in for short periods but others were in prison for lengthy terms. Some seven ministers actually died in prison.

There was a Bible taught confidence among dissenters that their sufferings were working for them “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”. When Joseph Oddy was taunted by a Cambridge wit with the doggerel lines

Good day, Mr Oddy,
Pray how fares your body;
Methinks you look damnably thin?

He shot back with

That sir's your mistake,
'Tis for righteousness' sake;
Damnation's the fruit of your sin.

Dissenters were not slow to see in various providences God's hand encouraging them and dealing with their persecutors. What else could one make of the Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of London of 1666 and the war with the Dutch, too, for that matter? “Nonconformist writings abound” says Michael Watts “in stories of disasters which befell individual persecutors”.
Positively, Philip Henry, father of Matthew, observed in old age that though many of the ejected ministers were brought very low, had many mouths to feed, were greatly harassed by persecution and their friends were generally poor and unable to support them, yet, in all his acquaintance, he never knew, nor could remember to have heard of any nonconformist minister being in prison for debt.

A Lesson
The Bible speaks about the conscience often enough but it is a rather neglected subject among evangelicals today. The 1662 men were men who knew that they had a conscience and who were willing to act upon it with courage when necessary.
The story is told of how someone once said to Oliver Heywood, “Ah, Mr Heywood, we should gladly have you preach still in our church”. He replied “Yes, I would as gladly preach as you can desire it, if I could do it with a safe conscience”. The man honestly replied “Oh, sir, many nowadays make a great gash in their consciences: cannot you make a little nick in yours?” Heywood clearly could not. Oh for men and women like him today.