Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Coleman Interposition 1

"There is a God that judgeth in the earth," and that ruleth over the affairs of men. The providential government of God, extending to the minutest concerns, and having a special regard to the interests of his servants, was a truth firmly believed and realized by the body of Nonconformist ministers. It was under a full conviction of this truth that they cast themselves on the care of God; and they trusted that he would superintend all their concerns.
They knew that in his consummate but inscrutable wisdom he did frequently call his servants to pass through scenes of self-denial, painful trial, and suffering in the path of duty. Yet they believed that he often interposed on their behalf; that he did impart special consolation in seasons of greatest trial; and that such a sacred, sanctifying influence was bestowed as made great good to arise out of seeming evil. He would "cause the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder he would restrain."
In accordance with these views, we find a number of remarkable, well-authenticated facts, in the history of the two thousand confessors, which indicate divine interpositions in their favour, deliverances granted, supplies communicated, support and consolation afforded. There were scenes of darkness which the light of eternity only can dispel, yet there were others irradiated with a light from above, while the sufferers remained on earth.
We select a few instances of this nature, and bring them together in this part of our work, in order to render them more full and impressive than when they are found scattered in different places.
In the memoirs of the life of the eminent Philip Henry we are informed that there were many worthy, able ministers, in the part of the country where he resided, turned out both from work and subsistence, that had not such comfortable support for the life that now is as Mr. Henry himself had, for whom he was most affectionately concerned, and to whom he showed kindness. There were computed, within a few miles around him, so many ministers turned out to the wide world, stripped of all their maintenance, and exposed to continual hardships, as,« with their wives and children, having most of them numerous families, made up above a hundred that lived upon Providence, and though oft reduced to wants and straits, were not forsaken, but were enabled to "rejoice in the Lord, and to joy in the God of their salvation," notwithstanding; to whom the promise was fulfilled, "So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." Mr. Henry made the following observation not long before he died, that though many of the ejected ministers were brought very low, had many children, were greatly harassed by persecution, and their friends 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.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Coleman Anecdote 21 Isaac Watts

We shall here present an instance to illustrate the painful operation of the laws against Nonconformists in the cases of some respectable laymen, who were engaged in the education of the young. In the town of Southampton there were two ministers ejected by the Act of Uniformity. One of them, Mr. Giles Say, became the pastor of a congregation of Nonconformists there. Under the Indulgence given by Charles II. his house was licensed for preaching; but after that Indulgence was withdrawn he was thrown, for exercising his ministry, into the common jail of the town. There was cast into the same prison with him, Mr. Isaac Watts, father of the celebrated Dr. Watts, the sweet singer of our Israel. He had become a deacon of the church that had been formed by Mr. Say, was evidently a man of vigorous intellect, considerable information, exalted piety, inflexible principle, every way worthy to be the parent and the father of the distinguished individual who inherited his name and perpetuated his virtues. He was master of a boarding-school in his native town, the repute of which was so well established and widely diffused, that pupils from America and the West Indies were committed to his care. The uncompromising integrity of his religious principles exposed him to much persecution, and he was compelled to occupy a cell in the common prison for the cause of Christ.
The first imprisonment took place during the infancy of his son Isaac, before he had begun to lisp in numbers; and tradition relates that the devoted wife and mother would visit the prison with her babe in her arms, and has sometimes placed herself on a stone in front of the cell in which her husband was confined to suckle her child, her beloved Isaac. When this son was about nine years of age, in the year 1683, Mr. Watts was again imprisoned, and driven afterwards into exile from his family. His son, in his memoranda:-
"My father persecuted, and imprisoned for Nonconformity six months, after that forced to leave his family, and live privately in London for two years." The trials of the parents made, as may be conceived, a deep impression upon the mind of the son; the adversities of his early years were remembered by him in after life, and doubtless here originated that ardent attachment to civil and religious liberty which marked his character, and "which led his .muse to hail its establishment with exultation when the dynasty of the tyrannical Stuarts was driven from the throne.
During the time that Mr. Watts was exiled from his family he wrote a long and most valuable letter of pious counsels to his children, which appears to have been done at the special request of his son Isaac. An extract or two shall be presented to the reader, to show the spirit of this devoted Nonconformist confessor :—
"My dear Children,—Though it hath pleased the only wise God to suffer the malice of ungodly men, the enemies of Jesus Christ, and my enemies for his sake, to break out so far against me as to remove me from you in my personal habitation, thereby at once bereaving me of that comfort which I might have hoped for in the enjoyment of my family in peace, and you of that education which my love as a father, and duty as a parent, required me to give; yet such are the longings of my soul for your good and prosperity, especially in spiritual concernments, that I remember you always with myself in my daily addresses to the throne of grace. ... I charge you frequently to read the Holy Scriptures, and that not as a task or burden laid on you, but get your hearts to delight in them. There are the only pleasant histories, which are certainly true and greatly profitable; there are abundance of precious promises made to sinners such as you are by nature; there are sweet invitations and counsels of God and Christ to come in and lay hold of them; there are the choice heavenly sayings and sermons of the Son of God, the blessed prophets and apostles." He directs them to consider their sinful and miserable state—to learn to know God according to the discoveries he hath made of himself—to remember him as their Creator and Benefactor—to know that, as they must worship God, so it must be in his own ways, according to the rules of his gospel. "Entertain not in your hearts any of the Popish doctrines of having more Mediators than one, viz., the Lord Jesus." "Do not entertain any hard thoughts of God and his ways, because his people are persecuted for them." "Lastly, I charge you to be dutiful and obedient to all your superiors, to your grandfather and both grandmothers, and all other relations and friends that are over you, but in an especial manner to your mother, to whose care and government God hath wholly committed you in my absence, who, as I am sure, dearly loves you, so she will command and direct you to her utmost ability, in all ways for. your good of soul and body." On these points he enlarges with some fullness and much affection.

Sermons on the Great Ejection

GoodBookStall Review:
The Act of Uniformity of 1662 prescribed that any minister in England who refused to conform to the Book of Common Prayer by 14th August 1662 would be ejected from the Church of England. Over 2,000 evangelical ministers left their livings rather than conform to what they saw as extra-Biblical rules and regulations. It was a sad day for the Church of England from which many think the Church never recovered.
This book is not the history of that tragic event but rather gives us an insight into the kind of men who were affected. The book consists of brief biographies and the last sermons by seven men who chose to leave their flock. At the end there is a fascinating catechism which gives us the Biblical reasons why so many felt compelled to resign. First published in 1662 and 1663 the text has been updated into modern English.
Here we see Puritan preaching at is best: Biblical exposition, lively illustrations and pastoral application. Not surprisingly there is a great deal of parting counsel which could be summed up by the phrase "Stand firm in the faith". For these men truth and holiness rightly came before conformity and unity.
Any Christian who is grappling with the issue of whether unity is more important than truth would do well to read this book, especially the catechism. Any minister who is about to preach his last sermon to a congregation will find many stimulating ideas here. All Christians who desire to feed their soul will not be disappointed – this is a spiritual feast.
If you have never read any Puritan books this is a good place to start – you will find these sermons readable, challenging and edifying.
Alan Hill