Archive for the ‘Biographies’ category

Charles Spurgeon + Lyrical Theology

July 2, 2011

Yet another reason why Shai Linne is my favorite hip hop artist around . . .

Prone to Wander, Lord I Feel It

September 14, 2009

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

These words were written by in 1758 by Robert Robinson, three years after his conversion at the age of 23.  In a drunken stupor at the age of 17, Robinson and his friends attended an evangelistic meeting of George Whitefield where he preached on the wrath of God.  It was his testimony that Whitefield’s message tormented his conscience for three years until he found rest in Jesus Christ.  Shortly thereafter, Robinson embraced the call to ministry in the Calvinist Methodist tradition.

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John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology (Review)

July 10, 2009

Today, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth–a man who towers over church history like few others.  Many of those I follow on Twitter are sharing their favorite quotes from Calvin’s writings, but as one rightly exhorted, get to know the man himself and not the caricature.  In the book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology you get just that–a great picture of Calvin as he was, not what some today are trying to make him out to be.

Below is a review for that book published in the Founders Journal.

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Parsons, Burk, ed. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2008), 257pp. $19.00.

In the providence of God, we are living in a time where the resurgence of Calvinism is welcoming the 500th year of John Calvin’s birth.  Unlike generations past, Calvinism is cool, even to the point that The New York Times are writing reports on the leaders of this new generation of Calvinists.  Molly Worthen, author of the New York Times’ article, made a striking conclusion about the Calvinism of this generation:

“[The] New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.“[1]

Whether Worthen’s assessment is a misperception or not can be argued as a litmus test for Calvinism according to John Calvin, for Calvin knew nothing of this kind of doctrine that resulted in pride rather not humility.  The book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology is intended to peel back the layers of modern-day half-truths and caricatures to show the true nature of the man and his message.  The editor, Burk Parsons, explains that “the purpose of this volume [is] that the people of God might more fully trust, invoke, praise, and love the Lord” (xix).

More than a focus on Calvin, this book, as Calvin would so desire, transcends to a deeper and truer knowledge of Calvin’s God.  If it is agreeable that “a true Calvinist is one who strives to think as Calvin thought and live as Calvin lived—insofar as Calvin thought and lived as our Lord Jesus Christ” (6), then it is incumbent upon all Calvinists, especially those brought up in this recent resurgence, to read this book.  Divided into two sections, the excellent list of contributors provides both breadth and depth into both Calvin’s life and thought in way that both the layman and scholar can richly benefit.  But more importantly, the tenor of the writings exhibit the humility of Calvin and cast his writings under the majesty of the God whose fear was always in his heart.

Calvin’s life-long prayer was, “I offer my heart to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely” (32), and what this book does is provide a panoramic picture—whether as disciple of Christ, churchman, preacher, Reformer, theologian, or statesman—of how that prayer produced a man who was “mastered by God” (7).

Of all the books that are available today in honor of Calvin, perhaps there is none other that can give you a glimpse into a man who gazed at God through the lens of His Word.  Given the popular misperception that Calvinists are not committed to evangelism, missions, or church planting, however, it would have been more fitting to highlight Calvin’s impact in turning Geneva as the greatest missionary sending city during the Reformation.

Should we glean from the teachings of Calvin, we would have as a tutor a man intimately acquainted with the greatest knowledge in the world—God Himself.

Should we follow the example of Calvin, we would have as a friend a man whose devotion was a touchstone of humility.  A closer look into the life of Calvin would garner a deeper love for God and His Word, which to no one’s surprise, reveals the enduring impact of the contribution he made, and continues to make, 500 years after his birth.

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[1] “What Would Jesus Smack Down?” by Molly Worthen The New York Times (January 6, 2009). Available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11punk-t.html?_r=5&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all (accessed January 23, 2009).

A Life of Constant Devotedness to God

April 9, 2009

I’ve been working on a sermon focusing on the work of prayer in living on mission (from Matthew 9:35-10:4), and there’s no better example I can think of than the life of David Brainerd.  Over the past couple of days, I have been reading over his journal, and I wanted to share with you some excerpts where he expresses his passion for God and the “conversion of the heathen” as a result of God enlarging and warming his heart through earnest, pleading prayer.

Consider these journal excerpts of a life of “constant devotedness to God.”

“After this, in he vacancy, before I went to tarry at the college, it pleased God to visit my soul with clearer manifestations of Himself and His grace. I was spending some time in prayer and self-examination, when the Lord by His grace so shined into my heart that I enjoyed full assurance of His favor, for that time; and my soul was unspeakably refreshed with divine and heavenly enjoyments” (71).

“One day I remember in particular, I walked to a considerable distance from the college, in the fields alone at noon, and in prayer found such unspeakable sweetness and delight in God that I thought, if I must continue still in this evil world, I wanted always to be there, to behold God’s glory.  My soul dearly loved all mankind, and longed exceedingly that they should enjoy what I enjoyed.  It seemed to be a little resemblance of heaven” (72).

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Who is Joseph Alleine?

December 3, 2008

[Reformation Heritage Books has graciously provided this biographical and reprint essay on the life and works of Richard Baxter. You can find this information and others in the book, Meet the Puritans.]

Joseph Alleine (1634-1668)

Born at Devizes, Wiltshire, early in 1634, Joseph Alleine loved and served the Lord from childhood. A contemporary witness identified 1645 as the year of Alleine’s “setting forth in the Christian race.” From eleven years of age onward, “the whole course of his youth was an even-spun thread of godly conversation.” When his elder brother Edward, a clergyman, died, Joseph begged that he might be educated to take Edward’s place in the ministry of the church. He entered Oxford at age sixteen and sat at the feet of such great divines as John Owen and Thomas Goodwin.

Alleine began his studies at Lincoln College in 1649. Two years later, he became a scholar of Corpus Christi College, where the faculty was, in general, more thoroughly Puritan than at Lincoln. Alleine studied long hours, often depriving himself of sleep and food. He graduated from Oxford in 1653 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and became a tutor and chaplain of Corpus Christi. He also devoted much time to preaching to prisoners in the county jail, visiting the sick, and ministering to the poor.

In 1655, Alleine accepted the invitation of George Newton, vicar of St. Mary Magdalene Church, Taunton, Somerset, to become Newton’s assistant. Taunton, a wool-manufacturing city of some 20,000, was a Puritan stronghold. Shortly after moving to Taunton, Alleine married his cousin, Theodosia Alleine, whose father, Richard Alleine, was minister of Batcombe, Somerset (see below). She was an active woman who feared God deeply. Early in their marriage, she ran a home school of about fifty scholars, half of them boarders. She would later serve as her husband’s biographer after his death.

Alleine rose early, devoting the time between four and eight o’clock in the morning to the exercises of private worship. His wife recalled that he “would be much troubled if he heard smiths or other craftsmen at work at their trades, before he was at communion with God: saying to me often, ‘How this noise shames me! Doth not my Master deserve more than theirs?'”

His ministry in Taunton as preacher and pastor was very fruitful. Richard Baxter recalled Alleine’s “great ministerial skillfulness in the public explication and application of the Scriptures-so melting, so convincing, so powerful.” Alleine was also an excellent teacher, devoting much time to instructing his people, using the Shorter Catechism. He was a passionate evangelist. One contemporary wrote, “He was infinitely and insatiably greedy of the conversion of souls, wherein he had no small success.”

Ejected for nonconformity in 1662, Alleine took the opportunity to increase his public  labors, believing that his remaining time was short. He preached on average one or two sermons every day for nine months until he was arrested and cast into the Ilchester prison. The night before, Alleine had preached and prayed with his people for three hours and had declared, “Glory be to God that hath accounted me worthy to suffer for His gospel!”

Alleine’s prison cell became his pulpit as he continued to preach to his people through the prison bars. He also wrote numerous pastoral letters and theological articles. Released on May 20, 1664, after about a year in prison, he resumed his forbidden ministry until arrested again on July 10, 1665 for holding a conventicle. Once more released from prison, his remaining time was “full of troubles and persecutions nobly borne.” He returned to Taunton in February, 1668, where he became very ill. Nine months later, at age thirty-four, weary from hard work and suffering, Alleine died in full assurance of faith, praising God and saying, “Christ is mine, and I am His-His by covenant.”

The Act of Conformity (RE; 47 pages; n.d.)

This small, polemical tract is bound with RE Publications’ edition of Alleine’s Alarm to the Unconverted. It is not included in the list of Alleine’s works compiled by Charles Stanford in 1861. No one is certain that it was written by Alleine, though its style is similar to that of his other works. The work is an in-depth examination of the Oath of Allegiance passed on August 24, 1662, and whether or not a nonconformist minister could conscientiously subscribe to it. The Act of Conformity offers an emphatic “No,” saying, “Taking this oath will encourage Parliament (when they shall see how glibly and smoothly we swallow every pill) to think themselves either infallible in imposing, or us as ductile, flexible and sequatious souls” (p. 45).

An Alarm to the Unconverted (BTT; 148 pages; 1995)

This evangelical classic was first printed in 1671 (subtitle: A Serious Treatise on Conversion), when 20,000 copies were sold, and subsequently reprinted in 1675 as A Sure Guide to Heaven, which was the title given to the latest BTT editions. It is a powerful manual on conversion and the call of the gospel, as the chapter titles reveal: Mistakes about Conversion; The Nature of Conversion; The Necessity of Conversion; The Marks of the Unconverted; The Miseries of the Unconverted; Directions to the Unconverted; The Motives to Conversion.

Alleine’s model of Puritan evangelism is well suited to correct today’s distortions of the gospel. For example, he shows us that dividing the offices and benefits of Christ is not a new idea. The true convert is willing to receive Christ, both as Savior from sin and as Lord of one’s life. He asserts:

All of Christ is accepted by the sincere convert. He loves not only the wages but the work of Christ, not only the benefits but the burden of Christ. He is willing not only to tread out the corn, but to draw under the yoke. He takes up the commands of Christ, yea, the cross of Christ. The unsound convert takes Christ by halves. He is all for the salvation of Christ, but he is not for sanctification. He is for the privileges, but does not appropriate the person of Christ. He divides the offices and benefits of Christ. This is an error in the foundation. Whoever loves life, let him beware here. It is an undoing mistake, of which you have often been warned, and yet none is more common (p. 45).

This book, reprinted some five hundred times and the most famous of Alleine’s nineteen treatises, has been used for the conversion of many souls. It greatly influenced the evangelistic approach of famous preachers such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon. Despite a smattering of statements that may be misconstrued as promoting human ability in salvation, Alleine’s classic remains a golden example of evangelistic preaching and a spur to personal evangelism.

The Life and Letters of Joseph Alleine (RHB, 332 pages, 2003)

A definitive biography of Alleine has yet to be written. The longest sustained seventeenth century narrative was written by his wife, Theodosia, following his ejection and imprisonment after the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1662. In 1672, four years after his death and a year after the first printing of Alarm to the Unconverted, Alleine’s Christian Letters, Full of Spiritual Instructions was printed in London. The following year, fragments of biographical information and personal reminiscences were brought together by his widow and Richard Baxter and were printed with his letters. That volume was reprinted with corrections in 1677 as The Life and Death of that Excellent Minister of Christ Mr. Joseph Alleine (London: Nevil Simmons).

Additional printings of the 1677 volume with minor additions or deletions took place in 1806, published by J. Gemmill; in 1829, by the American Sunday School Union; and in 1840, by Robert Carter in New York. The RHB reprint of 2003 includes the Carter edition, plus two letters from the Gemmill edition and three letters from Alleine’s Remains. Thus, for the first time, all forty-nine of Alleine’s extant letters are printed in one volume. An appendix contains George Newton’s Sermon Preached at the Funeral of Mr. Joseph Alleine (London: Nevil Simmons, 1677).

Charles Stanford’s biography, Joseph Alleine: His Companions and Times, appeared in 1861. Though Charles Spurgeon called it an “admirable biography,” it, too, is incomplete, no doubt partly due to the paucity of details of Alleine’s life. Although Alleine’s Life and Letters suffers somewhat from not being a sustained narrative, it has the advantage of having been written by Alleine’s contemporaries. Allowing for some repetition and hagiographical tendencies, these pages display the portrait of a minister who had a large heart for God and for the precious souls of those who sat under his ministry.

In this book, Richard Baxter wrote chapter 1 of Alleine’s biography. Richard Alleine, his father-in-law, wrote chapter 3. Other chapters were written by his senior colleague, George Newton (chap. 4), his widow (chap. 6), and his close friend and ministerial colleague, Richard Fairclough (chap. 9). The remaining chapters were written by several close friends who preferred to remain anonymous.

Valuable as the account of Alleine’s life by his contemporaries is, his letters which form the second half of the book are of greater worth. While the narrative of his life gives us an account of his outward circumstances, his letters reveal the secret springs of his heart, exhibiting the fervor of an evangelist, the heart of a pastor, and the patience of a sufferer for Jesus Christ. Many of these letters were written from prison to parishioners in Taunton when he was no longer able to minister the Word of God to them in person. With their emphasis on Christ and true godliness, these letters breathe the atmosphere of heaven itself. Here is a passage expressing his love for his people in Taunton:

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 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 of 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 (pp. 150-51).

Truly, as Iain Murray writes, “Never did the evangel of Jesus Christ burn more fervently in any English heart!”

When the Scottish missionary Alexander Duff (1806-78) read this book, he was deeply impressed by Alleine’s rich variety of gifts and graces, mature judgment, fervent devotion, and pervasive seriousness. Duff wrote: “What inextinguishable zeal! What unquenchable thirstings after the conversion of lost sinners! What unslumbering watchfulness in warning and edifying saints! What profound humility and self-abasement in the sight of God! What patience and forbearance, what meekness and generosity, what affability and moderation!  What triumphant faith-what tranquil, yet rapturous joy!” No wonder John Wesley called Alleine “the English Rutherford.”

In a day when the desire for personal happiness and self-esteem have replaced the biblical mandate for holiness of life, a reading of Alleine’s life and letters can be a real tonic to the soul.

The Precious Promises of the Gospel (SDG; 40 pages; 2000)

This booklet is extracted from Richard Alleine’s Heaven Opened. It is one of the two chapters written by Joseph Alleine. Impersonating God in addressing His people, Alleine provides us with a moving declaration of the loving, merciful heart of the Triune God, revealed in the promises of Scripture, which are woven into nearly every sentence.

Other Puritan Profiles in the 08PRC:

* Who Is Richard Baxter? (November)
* Who Is William Guthrie? (October)
* Who Is Sameul Bolton? (September)
* Who Is William Bridge? (July)
* Who Is John Bunyan? (May)
* Who Is Jeremiah Burroughs? (April)
* Who Is Thomas Watson? (March)
* Who Is John Flavel? (February)
* Who Is Richard Sibbes? (January)

Who Is Richard Baxter?

November 4, 2008

[Reformation Heritage Books has graciously provided this biographical and reprint essay on the life and works of Richard Baxter. You can find this information and others in the book, Meet the Puritans.]

Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

Richard Baxter was born in 1615, in Rowton, near Shrewsbury,in Shropshire. He was the only son of Beatrice Adeney and Richard Baxter, Sr. Because of his father’s gambling habit and inherited debts, and his mother’s poor health, Richard lived with his maternal grandparents for the first ten years of his life. When his father was converted through “the bare reading of the Scriptures in private,” Richard returned to his parental home, and later acknowledged that God used his father’s serious talks about God and eternity as “the Instrument of my first Convictions, and Approbation of a Holy Life” (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:2-4).

Baxter’s education was largely informal; he later wrote that he had four teachers in six years, all of whom were ignorant and two led immoral lives. Nevertheless, he had a fertile mind, and enjoyed reading and studying. A prolonged illness and various books-particularly William Perkins’s Works-were the means God used to “resolve me for himself,” Baxter wrote (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:3-4). When he was fifteen, he was deeply affected by Richard Sibbes’s The Bruised Reed: “Sibbes opened more the love of God to me, and gave me a livelier apprehension of the mystery of redemption and how much I was beholden to Jesus Christ.” Subsequently, Ezekiel Culverwell’s Treatise of Faith (1623) “did me much good” (ibid., 1:4-5).

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Who Is Samuel Bolton?

September 2, 2008

[Reformation Heritage Books has graciously provided this biographical and reprint essay on the life and works of Samuel Bolton. You can find this information and others in the book, Meet the Puritans.]

Samuel Bolton (1606-1654)

This scholar and member of the Westminster Assembly was not related to his namesake above. Samuel Bolton was born in London in 1606, was educated at Manchester School, matriculated as a pensioner at Christ’s College, Cambridge, in 1625, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1629 and a Master of Arts in 1632.

Bolton became curate of Harrow, Middlesex, in 1634; minister of St. Martin Ludgate, London, in 1638; and then, in 1641, minister of St. Saviour’s, Southwark. During his ministry there, he was also appointed lecturer at St. Anne and St. Agnes, Aldersgate, and was delegated as a member of the Westminster Assembly.

In 1645, Bolton became master of Christ’s College, Cambridge (1645). Even then, however, he continued to preach regularly in London, especially at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, because “his desire to win souls to Christ by preaching was so great” (Calamy, p. 25). Later, he served as vice-chancellor of Cambridge University (1650-52).

Bolton wrote seven books, most of which were collections of revised sermons. They reveal him as a clear, warmly experimental, orthodox interpreter of Scripture. He lived as he preached, taught, and wrote.

He died October 15, 1654, at the age of forty-eight, after a long illness. At his funeral, he was described as a God-fearing, other-worldly divine whose preaching “snatched our souls by vigorous sympathy.” In his will, he asked “to be interred as a private Christian, and not with the outward pomp of a doctor, because he hoped to rise in the Day of Judgment and appear before God not as a doctor, but as a humble Christian.” Edmund Calamy preached at his funeral.

The Arraignment of Error (SDG; 460 pages; 1999)

Notwithstanding its title, this book aims to show why unnecessary controversy ought to be avoided as well as why errors on essential doctrines must be firmly opposed. Its title page summarizes the questions addressed:

A discourse serving as a curb to restrain the wantonness of men’s spirits in the entertainment of opinions, and as a compass whereby we may sail in the search and finding of truth, distributed into six main questions.

Question 1. How may it stand with God’s, with Satan’s, and with a man’s own ends, that there should be erroneous opinions?

Question 2. What are the grounds of abounding errors?

Question 3. Why are so many carried away with errors?

Question 4. Who are those who are in danger?

Question 5. What are the means of examining opinions, and the characteristics of truth?

Question 6. What ways has God left in His Word to suppress error and correct erroneous persons?

Under which general questions, many other necessary and profitable queries are comprised, discussed, and resolved. And, in conclusion of all, some motives and means conducing to a happy accommodation of our present differences are subjoined.

The Arraignment of Error addresses the question: If there is one truth and one gospel, why are there so many divisions among God’s people? Bolton’s answer is that errors abound to try and sift God’s children, thus preparing them to hold the truth dear. He addresses other questions as well, such as: Why does God allow errors in the church? What should we do when godly men disagree on doctrinal matters? What is the importance of synods and councils in settling matters? Bolton teaches that both the pastoral use of synods and the power of the civil magistrate are necessary, but both should be limited, clearly defined, and subjected to Scripture. He writes with conviction: “The Word of God and God in His Word, the Scripture and God in Scripture is the only infallible, supreme, authoritative rule and judge of matters of doctrines and worship, of things to be believed and things to be done.”

The True Bounds of Christian Freedom (BTT; 224 pages; 2001)

First published in 1645, this book explains the place of the law in the Christian’s life. Living in an age in which licentiousness and immorality abound, we cannot recommend this book enough. Bolton’s analysis is piercing. While opposing Antinomianism, he assures the believer that the law is not a death sentence, but rather an encouragement to do good works. The law is to be loved and cherished, not feared and disobeyed.

After defining the nature of true freedom, Bolton answers six related questions:

Are Christians free from the moral law as a rule of obedience?
Are Christians free from all punishments and chastisements for sin?
If a believer is under the moral law as a rule of duty, is his liberty in Christ infringed? Can Christ’s freemen sin themselves back into bondage?
May Christ’s freemen perform duties for the sake of reward?
Are Christians free from obedience to men?

Bolton concludes his treatise by saying, “It is my exhortation therefore to all Christians to maintain their Christian freedom by constant watchfulness.”

Christian Freedom first appeared under the endorsement of John Downame, who described it as a “solid, judicious, pious and very profitable” book. In this edition, S.M. Houghton provides a poignant summary of the historical background to Bolton’s book in an appendix (pp. 225-30).

Who Is William Bridge?

July 9, 2008

[Reformation Heritage Books has graciously provided this biographical and reprint essay on the life and works of William Bridge. You can find this information and others in the book, Meet the Puritans.]

William Bridge [1600-1670]

William Bridge was a native of Cambridgeshire. He entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1619, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1623 and a master’s degree in 1626, then served for several years as a fellow at the college. While a student at Cambridge, he was greatly influenced by John Rogers’s lectures at Dedham, Essex.

Bridge was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1627. Two years later, he was appointed a lecturer at Saffron Walden, Essex, where he began to show some nonconformist influence, refusing to wear the surplice and hood on the basis that he had not been licensed by a bishop. In 1631, he was licensed and did conform. About that time, he was appointed lecturer at Colchester, Essex, and was also asked to give the Friday lectures at St. George’s Tombland, Norwich. In 1632, he became rector of St. Peter Hungate in Norwich. In 1634, he was brought before the consistory court and temporarily suspended for espousing limited atonement and condemning Arminians. Two years later, the new bishop of Norwich, Matthew Wren, who led a vicious campaign against nonconformity, deprived Bridge. Bridge’s supporters petitioned the king on his behalf, claiming that Wren was undermining the economy. Bridge did not respond to charges made against him, but remained in Norwich until he was excommunicated and ordered away from English soil.

Archbishop Laud wrote to the king, “Mr. Bridge of Norwich rather than he will conform, hath left his Lecture and two Cures, and is gone into Holland.” Charles I responded in the margin, “Let him go: we are well rid of him.”

Bridge settled in Rotterdam by May of 1636, where he succeeded Hugh Peters and began co-pastoring a congregation with John Ward. He renounced his Church of England ordination and was ordained as an Independent by John Ward, whom he in turn ordained. Eventually Ward was deposed in 1639 for opposing Bridge and recycling too many old sermons. Jeremiah Burroughs replaced Ward as Bridge’s co-pastor.

Bridge returned to England in 1641, where he became better known for his Puritan views. In 1642, he was appointed as a member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines and proved himself a noted Independent. With Burroughs, Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye, and Sidrach Simpson, he wrote An Apologetical Narrative to promote Congregational polity and present objections to Presbyterianism.

In 1642, Bridge accepted a position as town preacher at Yarmouth, where he organized an Independent church, and formally became its pastor in the fall of 1643. He labored there until 1662, when he was ejected from the pulpit by the Act of Uniformity.

Bridge was an excellent preacher, able scholar, and prolific writer with a well-furnished library. He arose at 4 a.m. each day to search the Scriptures, confess his sins, and commune with God. He often studied for seventeen hours a day, yet did not become an ivory tower theologian. His parishioners viewed him as a charitable and candid pastor whose ministry helped many people.

Bridge was often called to preach before the Long Parliament and was consulted by Parliament on church-related issues. He was also a prominent member of the Savoy Conference and a well-known writer.

Bridge spent his last years at Yarmouth and Clapham, Surrey, where he preached for an Independent church, which he probably founded. Reportedly, “the people flooded in such numbers to hear him that by 7 a.m. there is no room to be got” (Barker, Puritan Profiles, p. 87). He died in Clapham on March 12, 1671.

The Works of William Bridge [SDG; 5 volumes; 1990].

First published in three volumes in 1649, in two volumes in 1657, and later expanded to include all the writings of Bridge in five volumes in 1845, The Works of William Bridge (reprinted from the 1845 edition) is full of practical Puritan teaching. Topics such as the gospel mystery, the great things of faith, Christ and the covenant, and evangelical repentance are covered with keen insight and pastoral warmth.

Chapters in volume 1 include: “The Great Gospel Mystery of the Saints’ Comfort and Holiness,” “Satan’s Power to Tempt and Christ’s Love to and Care of His People Under Temptation,” “Grace for Grace, or the Overflowings of Christ’s Fullness Received by All Saints,” “The Spiritual Life, and Inbeing of Christ in All Believers,” “Scripture Light the Most Sure Light” (sermons on 2 Peter 1:19 which elicited a response from the Quaker, George Whitehead), and “The Righteous Man’s Habitation in the Time of Plague and Pestilence” (an exposition of Psalm 91 to encourage believers while the plague ravaged London).

Volume 2 includes: “A Lifting up for the Downcast,” “Five Sermons on Faith,” and “The Freeness of the Grace and Love of God to Believers Discovered.”

Volume 3 contains “Christ and the Covenant” (a series of ten sermons taken down by note-takers), “Christ in Travail,” and “Seasonable Truths in Evil Times” (nine sermons preached in the London area, including one that asserts the repression of nonconformists is part of God’s design to test them).

Volume 4 contains “Seventeen Sermons on Various Subjects and Occasions” and “Evangelical Repentance.”

Volume 5 contains “The Sinfulness of Sin and the Fullness of Christ,” “Eight Sermons,” “A Word to the Aged,” “The Wounded Conscience Cured” (asserts the right of subjects to defend themselves and of parliament to declare what the law is), “The Truth of the Times Vindicated” (insists that truth must be defended even as it acknowledges that civil war is the worst form of conflict), “The Loyal Convert” (condemns “service-book men” who do not uphold the Solemn League and Covenant), and “The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Opened.”

A Lifting Up for the Downcast [BTT; 288 pages; 1988]

This book, based on Psalm 42:11, is a collection of thirteen sermons on spiritual depression. It has helped hundreds of God’s people battle discouragement. Bridge addresses the following causes of depression: great sins, weak grace, miscarriage of duties, lack of assurance, temptation, desertion, affliction, and inability to serve. This book is packed with comforting advice showing why believers ought not be discouraged no matter what their condition.

The final sermon, “The Cure of Discouragements by Faith in Jesus Christ,” is worth the price of the book. “Be sure that you do not go to God without Christ, but with Christ in your arms,” Bridge says (p. 276).

A Word to the Aged [SDG; 20 pages; 2003]

In this booklet, William Bridge addresses particular sins to which the elderly are most inclined, such as a complaining spirit, bitterness, and impenitence. Pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ as the remedy for the sins and infirmities of old age, he gives counsel on improving the remaining years of the elderly so that their lives might more glorify the Lord and be pleasing to Him.

Dr. Nettles Bio Sketch of Daniel Marshall (PDF)

June 25, 2008

Due to the fact that there were some technical issues with the live-stream and my inability to keep up with Dr. Nettles in the presentation of biographical sketch of Daniel Marshall, I have asked Dr. Nettles to allow me to post a PDF version of his notes, to which he graciously agreed. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Nettles for making his lecture available to us as I believe we have much to learn from men like Daniel Marshall.

>> Download: Biographical Sketch of Daniel Marshall by Dr. Tom Nettles (PDF)

Also, some have asked about the book that Dr. Nettles mentioned at the beginning of his message regarding the life of Daniel Marshall.  Here is the bibliographic information for those interested:

Thomas Ray, Daniel and Abraham Marshall: Pioneer Baptist Evangelists to the South (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press), 2006.

NFC III: Tom Nettles on “Biographical Sketch of Daniel Marshall”

June 25, 2008

About Tom Nettles:

Dr. Nettles is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America. He came to Southern Seminary from the faculty of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. He previously taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author or editor of nine books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, the highly influential volume which he co-authored with L. Russ Bush; and Why I am a Baptist, co-edited with Russell D. Moore.

Text: 2 Corinthians 3 (click)

It is a tremendously powerful concept to say that “You are our letter . . .”.  This passage speaks of the ministry of Daniel Marshall.  We are looking at Daniel Marshall because we are here talking about church planting.  The history of Baptist life is a series of church plants.

Daniel Marshall (1706-1784)

Ninth of eleven children.  Became a believer in 1726.  A man of “ardent temper” very zealous for Christ.  For 20 years, he lived in prosperous circumstances.  Marshall was speaking of the necessity of the new birth and was arguing for a regenerate church membership.  In 1744, he heard Whitfield preach and saw many conversions.  He came to believe that the time of the millennial glory was near.  The confession stance of his church and his hope of success was in the historical stance of Calvinism.  Marshall had the conviction that he should dispose of all his earthly goods for the sake of the conversion of the heathen.  The nearest opportunity for the conversion of the heathen was the Mohawk Indians in 1751.  Many of the Indians were impressed by the concerns of the gospel, and several were converted.

In Winchester, Marshall attended a church within the Philadephia Association and concluded that they were biblically sound.  He was licensed to preach the gospel and the unrestrained exercise of his gifts.  His gifts were “not above the level of mediocrity.”

** At this moment, I realized that I in no wise will be able to keep up with Dr. Nettles in his paper on Daniel Marshall.  I will see if I can get a PDF copy of it up for download.  In the meantime, another article by Dr. Nettles related to Daniel Marshall is “Shubal Stearns and the Separate Baptist Tradition.”

Biblical Principles that can be gleaned . . .

1.  True success and preaching comes not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit.

2.  God gives the increase.  Marshall gives flesh to reality that God does not depend on the legs of men, but on His own determination to build His own church and uses whatever instrument He desires.

3.  The great value of personal courage bolstered by the fact that God will own His cause.  Paul–“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

4.  Marshall served as a great encouragement to young ministers.  He attended his preaching with great urgency and fervency.  He knew how to encourage one to stir up the gift of God in them, to not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord.

5.  The irreplaceable value of zeal.  The prominent feature of Marshall’s character was the burning zeal for the conversion of the heathen.  Love to Christ, love for the souls of men, constituted his ruling passion.

6.  The indivisible nature of doctrine and gospel ministry.  Each church plant began with a robust doctrinal statement.  A firm doctrinal basis from the beginning can protect the sheep from the wolves as well as a witness to truth once for all delivered to the saints for generations to come.

Piper on Bunyan’s Life of Suffering and Service

May 8, 2008

One of the greatest blessings of the writing and preaching ministry of John Piper is his commitment to remembering and learning from great men and women in church history. His messages, articles, and books on these saints of old have profoundly affected many today, and we would be well-served to avail ourselves to such pacesetters in the race of faith.

In 1999, John Piper addressed the life of John Bunyan, focusing specifically on his suffering and service. His message can be read or download (MP3) for your benefit. Piper concludes the biographical portion of his message, stating,

So, in sum, we can include in Bunyan’s sufferings the early, almost simultaneous, death of his mother and sister; the immediate remarriage of his father; the military draft in the midst of his teenage grief; the discovery that his first child was blind; the spiritual depression and darkness for the early years of his marriage; the death of his first wife leaving him with four small children; a twelve year imprisonment cutting him off from his family and church; the constant stress and uncertainty of imminent persecution, including one more imprisonment; and the final sickness and death far from those he loved most. And this summary doesn’t include any of the normal pressures and pains of ministry and marriage and parenting and controversy and criticism and sickness along the way.

In the second half of his message, Piper makes five observations from the suffering service of John Bunyan. Here they are:

1. Bunyan’s suffering confirmed him in his calling as a writer, especially for the afflicted church.

2. Bunyan’s suffering deepened his love for his flock and gave his pastoral labor the fragrance of eternity.

3. Bunyan’s suffering opened his understanding to the truth that the Christian life is hard and that following Jesus means having the wind in your face.

4. Bunyan’s suffering strengthened his assurance that God is sovereign over all the afflictions of his people and will bring them safely home.

5. Bunyan’s suffering deepened in him a confidence in the Bible as the Word of God and a passion for Bible memory and Biblical exposition as the key to perseverance.

After reading and listening to the life of such a man as John Bunyan, I cannot help but think of how little I have lived and suffered for the sake of Christ. We need to read about Bunyan in the morning, Brainerd at noon, and Baxter in the evening to keep us sober in the day of spiritual inebriation. May God help us to live for Him that is invisible as we progress to our heavenly home.

Who Is John Bunyan?

May 4, 2008

[Reformation Heritage Books has graciously provided this biographical and reprint essay on the life and works of John Bunyan. You can find this information and others in the book, Meet the Puritans.]

John Bunyan [1628-1688]

John Owen said of John Bunyan, a powerful preacher and the best-known of all the Puritan writers, that he would gladly exchange all his learning for Bunyan’s power of touching men’s hearts. John Bunyan was born in 1628 at Elstow, near Bedford, to Thomas Bunyan and Margaret Bentley. Thomas Bunyan, a brazier or tinker, was poor but not destitute. Still, for the most part, John Bunyan was not educated well. He became rebellious, frequently indulging in cursing. He later wrote, “It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil at his will: being filled with all unrighteousness; that from a child I had but few equals, both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God” (Works of Bunyan, ed. George Offor, 1:6). Sporadic periods of convictions of sin helped restrain some of that rebellion, however.

When Bunyan was sixteen years old, his mother and sister died a month apart. His father remarried a month later. Young Bunyan joined Cromwell’s New Model Army, where he continued his rebellious ways. Fighting in the Civil War sobered him considerably, however. On one occasion, his life was wonderfully spared. “When I was a soldier, I with others, was drawn out to go to such a place to besiege it. But when I was just ready to go, one of the company desired to go in my room; to which when I consented, he took my place, and coming to the siege, as he stood sentinel he was shot in the head with a musket bullet and died” (ibid.).

Bunyan was discharged from the army in 1646 or 1647. His military experience was later reflected in his book, The Holy War.

In 1648, Bunyan married a God-fearing woman whose name remains unknown, and whose only dowry was two books: Arthur Dent’s The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven and Lewis Bayly’s The Practice of Piety. When Bunyan read those books, he was convicted of sin. He started attending the parish church, stopped swearing (when rebuked by a dissolute woman of the town), and tried to honor the Sabbath. After some months, Bunyan came into contact with some women whose joyous conversation about the new birth and Christ deeply impressed him. He mourned his joyless existence as he realized that he was lost and outside of Christ. “I cannot now express with what longings and breakings in my soul I cried to Christ to call me,” he wrote. He felt that he had the worst heart in all of England. He confessed to be jealous of animals because they did not have a soul to account for before God.

In 1651, the women introduced Bunyan to John Gifford, their pastor in Bedford. God used Gifford to lead Bunyan to repentance and faith. Bunyan was particularly influenced by a sermon Gifford preached on Song of Solomon 4:1, “Behold thou art fair, my love, behold thou art fair,” as well as by reading Luther’s commentary of Galatians, in which he found his own experience “largely and profoundly handled, as if [Luther’s] book had been written out of my own heart” (cited by Greaves, John Bunyan, p. 18). While walking through a field one day, Christ’s righteousness was revealed to Bunyan’s soul and gained the victory. Bunyan writes of that unforgettable experience:

One day, as I was passing in the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal I saw with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ, at God’s right hand; there, I say, as my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away. Now I went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God. I lived for some time very sweetly at peace with God through Christ. Oh! methought, Christ! Christ! There was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes. I saw now not only looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, and resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ! It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because now I could look from myself to Him, and would reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunk at home! Oh, I saw that my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ my Lord and Saviour! Now Christ was all (Grace Abounding, paragraphs 229-32, pp. 129-31).

The year 1654 was a momentous one for Bunyan. He moved to Bedford with his wife and four children under the age of six; his firstborn, Mary, was blind from birth. That same year, he became a member of Gifford’s church, and was soon appointed deacon. His testimony became the talk of the town. Several people were led to conversion in response to it. By the end of the year, he had lost his beloved pastor to death.

In 1655, Bunyan began preaching to various congregations in Bedford. Hundreds came to hear him. He published his first book the following year, Some Gospel Truths Opened, written to protect believers from being misled by Quaker and Ranter teachings about Christ’s person and work. Two years later, Bunyan published A Few Sighs from Hell, an exposition of Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and Lazarus. The book attacks professional clergy and the wealthy who promote carnality. It was well received, and helped establish Bunyan as a reputable Puritan writer. About that same time, his wife passed away.

In 1659, Bunyan published The Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded, which expounds his view of covenant theology, stressing the promissory nature of the covenant of grace and the dichotomy between law and grace. This helped establish him as a thoroughgoing Calvinist, though it led to false charges of antinomianism by Richard Baxter.

In 1660, while preaching in a farmhouse at Lower Samsell, Bunyan was arrested on the charge of preaching without official rights from the king. When told that he would be freed if he no longer preached, he replied, “If I am freed today, I will preach tomorrow.” He was thrown into prison, where he wrote prolifically and made shoelaces to provide some income for twelve and a half years (1660-1672).

Prior to his arrest, Bunyan had remarried, this time to a godly young woman named Elizabeth. She pleaded repeatedly for his release, but judges such as Sir Matthew Hale and Thomas Twisden rejected her plea. So Bunyan remained in prison with no formal charge and no legal sentence, in defiance of the habeas corpus provisions of the Magna Carta, because he refused to give up preaching the gospel and denounced the Church of England as false (see Bunyan’s A Relation of My Imprisonment, published posthumously in 1765).

In 1661 and from 1668-1672, certain jailers permitted Bunyan to leave prison at times to preach. George Offer notes, “It is said that many of the Baptist congregations in Bedfordshire owe their origins to his midnight preaching” (Works of Bunyan, 1:lix). His prison years were times of difficult trials, however. Bunyan experienced what his Pilgrim’s Progress characters Christian and Faithful would later suffer at the hands of Giant Despair, who thrust pilgrims “into a very dark dungeon, nasty and stinking.” Bunyan especially felt the pain of separation from his wife and children, particularly “blind Mary,” describing it as a “pulling of the flesh from my bones.”

Prison years, however, were productive years for Bunyan. In the mid-1660s, Bunyan wrote extensively, with only the Bible and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs at his side. In 1663, he wrote Christian Behaviour, intended as a handbook for Christian living and a response against charges of antinomianism, as well as a last testament, since Bunyan expected to die in prison. He also finished I Will Pray with the Spirit, which expounded 1 Corinthians 14:15, and focused on the Spirit’s inner work in all true prayer. In 1664, he published Profitable Meditations; in 1665, One Thing Needful, The Holy City (his understanding of church history and the end times), and The Resurrection of the Dead. This latter work is a sequel to The Holy City, in which Bunyan expounds the resurrection from Acts 24:14-15 in a traditional way, and then uses his prison torments to illustrate the horrors that await the damned following the final judgment. In 1666, the middle of his prison-time, he wrote Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, in which he declared, “The Almighty God being my help and shield, I am determined yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow upon my eyebrows, rather than violate my faith and principles.” During the last part of his imprisonment, he finished A Confession of My Faith, A Reason for My Practice, and A Defence of the Doctrine of Justification, an uncompromising criticism of the rising tide of Pelagianism among the Nonconformists and latitudinarianism among the Anglican establishment.

The Bedford congregation, sensing some relaxation of the law against preaching, appointed Bunyan as pastor on January 21, 1672, but Bunyan was not released until May. He had been the first to suffer under Charles II and was the last to be released. His long years in Bedford’s county prison made him a martyr in the eyes of many.

Bunyan had enjoyed only a few years of freedom when he was again arrested for preaching and put in the town jail. Here he wrote Instruction for the Ignorant (a catechism for the saved and unsaved that emphasizes the need for self-denial), Saved by Grace (an exposition of Ephesians 2:5 that encourages the godly to persevere in the faith notwithstanding persecution), The Strait Gate (an exposition of Luke 13:24 that seeks to awaken sinners to the gospel message), Light for Them That Sit in Darkness (a polemical work against those who oppose atonement by Christ’s satisfaction and justification by His imputed righteousness, especially the Quakers and Latitudinarians), and the first part of his famous Pilgrim’s Progress. That book, which sold more than 100,000 copies in its first decade in print, has since been reprinted in at least 1,500 editions and translated into more than two hundred languages, with Dutch, French, and Welsh editions appearing in Bunyan’s lifetime. Some scholars have asserted that, with the exception of the Bible and perhaps Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, this Bunyan classic has sold more copies than any other book ever written.

John Owen, minister of an Independent congregation at Leadenhall Street, London, successfully appealed for Bunyan to Thomas Barlow, bishop of Lincoln, who used his influence at court to secure Bunyan’s release from prison on June 21, 1677. Bunyan spent his last years ministering to the Nonconformists and writing. In 1678, he published Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, a popular exposition of John 6:37 that movingly proclaims a strong free offer of grace to sinners to fly to Jesus Christ and be saved. This book went through six editions in the last decade of Bunyan’s life. In 1680, he wrote The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, described as “a series of snapshots depicting the commonplace attitudes and practices against which Bunyan regularly preached” (Oxford DNB, 8:707). Two years later, he published The Greatness of the Soul and The Holy War. In 1685, he published the second part of Pilgrim’s Progress, dealing with Christiana’s pilgrimage, A Caution to Stir Up to Watch Against Sin, and Questions About the Nature and the Perpetuity of the Seventh-day Sabbath.

In the last three years of his life, Bunyan wrote ten more books, of which the best-known are The Pharisee and the Publican, The Jerusalem Sinner Saved, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, The Water of Life, Solomon’s Temple Spiritualized, and The Acceptable Sacrifice. Most of those books were reproduced in paperback by William Frasher in the 1960s through Reiner Press, in Swengel, Pennsylvania. They are not listed separately in this book because they are included in Bunyan’s Works.

In 1688, Bunyan died suddenly from a fever that he caught while traveling in cold weather. On his deathbed, he said to those who gathered around him, “Weep not for me, but for yourselves. I go to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will, no doubt, through the mediation of his blessed Son, receive me, though a sinner; where I hope we ere long shall meet, to sing the new song, and remain everlastingly happy, world without end” (Works of Bunyan, 1:lxxviii). After telling his friends that his greatest desire was to be with Christ, he raised his hands to heaven, and cried, “Take me, for I come to Thee!” and then died. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, close to Thomas Goodwin and John Owen.

The Works of John Bunyan (BTT; 3 vols., 2,400 pages; 1999).

Bunyan was unusual among the Puritans in that he had little formal education. Nevertheless, he read exhaustively, and the Holy Spirit blessed his studies. He became a prolific writer and wrote more than sixty works in sixty years. Many of those have been overshadowed by Pilgrim’s Progress and The Holy War, but they are still worthy of reading.

Bunyan’s works are a treasure of scriptural, experiential truth. He was a Spirit taught theologian who had the gift of interpreting evangelical truth for the masses. Bunyan was one of the most popular Puritans, no doubt because, while possessing the Word-centeredness and depth of doctrine and experience of other Puritans, he presented truth with warm simplicity. Several publishers have reprinted Bunyan’s individual works. Most recently, SDG has reprinted The Fear of God, in which Bunyan addresses the objects and reasons for fearing God, the various kinds of fear, the character and effects of godly fear, and the privileges and uses of this doctrine. BTT has also reprinted five of Bunyan’s works (The Acceptable Sacrifice, All Loves Excelling, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, The Jerusalem Sinner Saved, and Prayer) in the Puritan Paperback Series. GM has reprinted Groans of a Lost Soul, Solomon’s Temple Spiritualized, and Advice to Sufferers, among others.

For those wishing to own the best of what Bunyan has written, the BTT edition of George Offor’s 1854 compilation is the best option. It offers fifty-five of Bunyan’s works in three volumes. The first volume contains valuable introductions and an eighty-page memoir of Bunyan’s life and times. Volumes 1 and 2 contain his experimental, doctrinal, and practical works, such as Christ a Complete Saviour and The Fear of God. Volume 3 has Bunyan’s allegorical, figurative, and symbolical works, such as The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Holy War, and The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, as well as a compendious index.

Christiana’s Journey; Or, The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Second Part (BP; 150 pages; 1993).

This edition contains the text of Christiana’s Journey and seventy-three beautiful full-page oil paintings by Albert Wessels, which especially engage children.

Bunyan may have been motivated to write the second part of Pilgrim’s Progress in which Christiana and other female characters, as well as children, play prominent roles to depict a more subdued way in which the Holy Spirit often works conversion in typical church members. Hence Christiana and her children do not fall into the Slough of Despond nor have such a dramatic experience at the cross as Christian did. Christian and Christiana traverse much of the same ground, which shows the universality of believers’ spiritual experiences, but the section on Christian is more autobiographical while the section on Christiana is more corporate and normative, showing a more typical morphology of conversion.

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (AP; 243 pages; n.d.).

An indispensable source for Bunyan’s early life and conversion, this autobiographical classic chronicles his life from infancy to his imprisonment in 1660. Text on the remainder of Bunyan’s life is supplied by the editor. It provides an open and candid look into his life struggles, showing that God’s grace abounds to even the chief of sinners. Richard Greaves writes, “Although conventional in structure, Grace Abounding transcends contemporary examples of the genre in its depth of psychological experience, its riveting account of Bunyan’s struggle to keep from succumbing to pervasive, numbing despair, and his agonizing wrestling with biblical texts” (Oxford DNB, 8:705).

Grace Abounding was published six times during Bunyan’s lifetime, and has been reprinted scores of times over the centuries. This reprint is taken from the eighth edition.

The Holy War (Reiner; 454 pages; 1974).

This allegory, second only to Pilgrim’s Progress, bears the full title of The Holy War, made by King Shaddai upon Diabolus, for the Regaining of the Metropolis of the World; or, the Losing and Taking again of The Town of Mansoul. Reiner’s edition contains the valuable “explanatory, experimental, and practical notes” of George Burder and sixty-eight engravings.

Macauley claims that The Holy War, written after Bunyan’s imprisonment, “would be the best allegory ever written if Pilgrim’s Progress did not exist.” The Holy War is more difficult to read but is also more profound in places than Pilgrim’s Progress partly because it involves several levels of allegory. “Mansoul is not only the soul of each believer and the allegorical personification of Christianity but the symbol of England itself” (Oxford DNB, 8:707). The Holy War contains valuable counsel on how to fight the good fight of faith. It will richly reward the meditative reader.

The Pilgrim’s Progress (Reiner, 1974; BTT, 1983; BP, 1999).

This is a moving, allegorical account of spiritual warfare experienced by a wayfaring pilgrim traveling from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, in which Bunyan allegorizes his own religious experience as a guide for others. “Christian is both pilgrim and warrior, and the message of The Pilgrim’s Progress is not only a call to embrace and persist in the Christian life, but also a summons to battle the forces of evil” (Oxford DNB, 8:705).

Bunyan’s insights into mankind’s desperate plight and God’s redeeming grace make this a legendary classic. Regeneration, faith, repentance, justification, mortification, sanctification, and perseverance are poignantly painted for us in biblical, doctrinal, experiential, and practical detail.

Among the more than two dozen reprints of Bunyan’s classic since 1960, three are worthy of mention. First, an excellent edition of both parts of Pilgrim’s Progress containing the invaluable explanatory notes of Thomas Scott, original marginal notes, and textual support, has been reprinted by Reiner (1974), and is the most helpful edition. It includes a helpful 50-page memoir of Bunyan by Josiah Condor.

Second, Banner of Truth Trust published a deluxe edition in 1983, which includes original marginal notes and references from Scripture, both parts of Pilgrim’s Progress, and a series of sketches by William Strang.

Third, Bunyan Press has issued a handsome, coffee-table volume containing the complete text of Pilgrim’s Progress along with a beautiful collection of more than seventy oil paintings by Albert Wessels. This edition is excellent for helping children grasp the classic story. A number of retellings of Bunyan’s famous story have been printed for children by other publishers.

How Jeremiah Burroughs Learned Contentment

April 27, 2008

[Phil Simpson, whom I have mentioned in an earlier post, has graciously agreed to guest blog here at P&P with an article on Jeremiah Burroughs’ life, and more specifically, how he learned contentment. Phil is currently writing a biography on Burroughs which hopes to be published within the year. You can find more information at his website, The Jeremiah Burroughs Homepage.]

Imagine you are listening to a sermon on Christ’s faithfulness in the darkest trials. The sermon is being preached by a young, married preacher who recently had a child. You will likely listen and benefit from the sermon. But imagine that same sermon being given by a man whose wife and only daughter were killed two years ago in an automobile accident, and whose only son has just been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Which of the two sermons is most likely to make you sit on the edge of your seat? As you can imagine, a man’s life experiences can certainly add force and weight to his message. This is the case with Jeremiah Burroughs, whose teaching on contentment is given weight by a series of trials experienced during his lifetime.

Jeremiah Burroughs was born in East Anglia, England, in 1599. After completing his MA at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1625, he was forced to leave the University because he refused to conform to unbiblical rituals, ceremonies, and superstitions which the Church of England had begun to enforce at that time. However, this did not prevent him from entering the ministry, and after serving two years as curate at All Saints Church, Stisted, he was appointed lecturer at Bury St. Edmunds in 1627. As a lecturer, he was free from the restrictions placed on the vicars of the church. He served in the same town as Edmund Calamy, and shared a town lectureship with him. His future seemed bright. His heart’s desire was to serve the Lord and his kingdom in as great a capacity as the Lord would allow.

However, his first job ended in disappointment. In 1630, he reported that “I have been nearly three and a half years with them with little success.” He further commented that the people had a “strange disposition”. To make matters worse, the congregation seemed determined to get rid of Burroughs because he spoke out against the sin of one of the town’s local officials. When a change in pay left him without any certainty of income, he was forced to take a job offered to him in Tivetshall, Norfolk. This was somewhat disappointing to him, since it was a small country church, and he felt there might be less opportunity to do good than at the larger town of Bury.

Nevertheless, in 1631 he became the vicar of Tivetshall, and served there for several years. He was even able to engage in rotating lectureships with William Bridge and William Greenhill. However, when William Laud was appointed Archbishop, all ministers in England were required to read, from their pulpits, The King’s Book of Sports, an official declaration of recreational activities in which king’s subjects were to participate on Sundays. Such “sports” included “leaping, vaulting… May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances, and the setting up of May-poles”. Burroughs and other Puritan ministers felt this violated their convictions of the sanctity of the Sabbath. Laud then appointed bishop Matthew Wren to visit the churches in Norfolk and report any nonconformists to him. Wren was especially zealous, and also enforced his own recently-published “visitation articles” which contained 139 articles with 897 questions to be asked of ministers at these visitations! These included:

-Does he receive the sacrament kneeling himself, and administer to none but such as kneel?

-Does he wear the surplice while he is reading prayers and administering the sacrament?

-Does he in Rogation-days use the perambulation around the parish?

-Has your minister read the book of sports in his church or chapel?

-Does he use conceived (rather than written) prayers before or after the sermon?

-Are the graves dug east and west, and the bodies buried with their heads at the west?

-Do they kneel at confession, stand up at the creed, and bow at the glorious name of Jesus?

(more…)

Who Is Thomas Watson?

March 11, 2008

[Reformation Heritage Books has graciously provided this biographical and reprint essay on the life and works of John Flavel. You can find this information and others in the book, Meet the Puritans.]

Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

Thomas Watson was probably born in Yorkshire. He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1639 and a Master of Arts degree in 1642. During his time at Cambridge, Watson was a dedicated scholar. After completing his studies, Watson lived for a time with the Puritan family of Lady Mary Vere, the widow of Sir Horace Vere, baron of Tilbury. In 1646, Watson went to St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, London, where he served as lecturer for about ten years, and as rector for another six years, filling the place of Ralph Robinson.

In about 1647, Watson married Abigail Beadle, daughter of John Beadle, an Essex minister of Puritan convictions. They had at least seven children in the next thirteen years; four of them died young.

During the Civil War, Watson began expressing his strong Presbyterian views. He had sympathy for the king, however. He was one of the Presbyterian ministers who went to Oliver Cromwell to protest the execution of Charles I. Along with Christopher Love, William Jenkyn, and others, he was imprisoned in 1651 for his part in a plot to restore the monarchy. Although Love was beheaded, Watson and the others were released after petitioning for mercy. Watson was formally reinstated to his pastorate in Walbrook in 1652.

When the Act of Uniformity passed in 1662, Watson was ejected from his pastorate. He continued to preach in private—in barns, homes, and woods—whenever he had the opportunity. In 1666, after the Great Fire of London, Watson prepared a large room for public worship, welcoming anyone who wished to attend. After the Declaration of Indulgence took effect in 1672, Watson obtained a license for Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate, which belonged to Sir John Langham, a patron of nonconformists. Watson preached there for three years before Stephen Charnock joined him. They ministered together until Charnock’s death in 1680. Watson kept working until his health failed. He then retired to Barnston, in Essex, where he died suddenly in 1686 while engaged in private prayer. He is buried in the same grave as his father-in-law who served as a minister at Barnston.

Watson’s depth of doctrine, clarity of expression, warmth of spirituality, love of application, and gift of illustration enhanced his reputation as a preacher and writer. His books are still widely read today.

All Things for Good (BTT; 128 pages; 1988).

Watson once said he faced two great difficulties in his ministry: to make the unbeliever sad without grace and to make the believer glad with grace. In this study of Romans 8:28, formerly titled A Divine Cordial (first printed in 1663, one year after two thousand ministers were ejected from the Church of England), Watson encourages God’s people to rejoice. He explains how the best and worst experiences work for good. He writes, “To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that all things which fall out shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.”

If someone asks, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “How can I know if I am called by God?,” offer them this book. Its chapters on the love of God, effectual calling, and the purpose of God are especially helpful in understanding Romans 8:28. Chapter 5, on the “tests of love to God,” is particularly searching.

The Art of Divine Contentment (SDG; 133 pages; 2001).

Watson’s works are all marked by profound spirituality, terse style, impressive remarks, and practical illustrations. This book, first printed in 1653, is no exception. Based on Philippians 4:11, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content,” Watson writes, “For my part, I know not any ornament in religion that doth more bespangle a Christian, or glitter in the eye of God and man, than this of contentment. Nor certainly is there anything wherein all the Christian virtues do work more harmoniously, or shine more transparently, than in this orb. If there is a blessed life before we come to heaven, it is the contented life.”

Godly contentment is a theme missing from many pulpits today. A serious reading of this treatise or Jeremiah Burroughs’s Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment would do much to fill this void.

The Beatitudes (BTT; 307 pages; 1971).

First published in 1660, this exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 is rich with instruction. For example, in explaining the blessedness of meekness (5:5), Watson explains meekness towards God as submission to His will and flexibility to His Word. Meekness towards man, he says, involves bearing injuries, forgiving injuries, and recompensing good for evil. In bearing injuries, meekness opposes a hasty spirit, malice, revenge, and speaking evil of others. In forgiving injuries, meekness forgives truly, fully, and often. In recompensing good for evil, Watson says, “To render evil for evil is brutish; to render evil for good is devilish; to render good for evil is Christian.” He offers numerous reasons why Christians should be meek, such as: Jesus Christ is meek; meekness is a great ornament to a Christian; meekness is the way to be like God; meekness argues a noble and excellent spirit; meekness is the best way to conquer and melt the heart of an enemy; meekness contains great promises, for the meek shall inherit the earth; and an un-meek spirit hinders peace. All of this is cogently explained in a mere fifteen pages (pp. 105–119).

A Body of Divinity (BTT; 316 pages; 1998).

This book, first published after Watson’s death in 1692, was his magnum opus and became his most famous work. Following the question-and-answer format of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, it offers 176 sermons on the essential teachings of Christianity. It shows the author’s deep understanding of spiritual truths and his ability to make them clear to anyone. Unlike most other systematic theologies, it weds knowledge and piety together, and can be used effectively in daily devotions. It is perhaps the most experiential systematic theology ever written, with the exception of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service.

The Lord’s Prayer and The Ten Commandments (cf. below) complete Watson’s exposition of the Shorter Catechism. This trilogy on the Shorter Catechism has been reprinted often over the centuries in one or three volumes.

The Duty of Self-Denial and Ten Other Sermons (SDG; 210 pages; 2001).

This book includes eight chapters on self-denial, based on Luke 9:23, and ten additional sermons, seven of which have not been reprinted since the seventeenth century. Watson teaches that “self-denial is the first principle of Christianity.” He describes what self-denial is, then demonstrates the Christ-asserting nature of every self-denying act. The additional sermons in this volume are also valuable, particularly those on God as the reward of His people (Gen. 15:1), “kissing” the Son (Ps. 2:12), the comforting rod (Ps. 23:4), and the Judgment Day (Acts 17:31).

The Fight of Faith Crowned (SDG; 191 pages; 1996).

This book contains six sermons that had not yet been reprinted in the twentieth century. They include “The Crown of Righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8), “The Righteous Man’s Weal and the Wicked Man’s Woe” (Isa. 3:10–11), “Time’s Shortness” (a funeral sermon for the Puritan preacher John Wells, based on 1 Cor. 7:29), “The Fight of Faith Crowned” (a funeral sermon for Henry Stubbs, based on 1 Tim. 4:7–8), “A Plea for Alms” (Ps. 112:9), and “The One Thing Necessary” (Phil. 2:12). The last sermon strips away every excuse for not seeking God and pleads that we bow to the demands of the gospel. Watson concludes by explaining six helps for working out one’s salvation: Christ’s strength, diligence, love, humility, hope, and prayer.

Gleanings from Thomas Watson (SDG; 144 pages; 2001).

This work offers quotations from Watson’s writings. It sorts them according to fifteen areas of the believer’s walk with Christ, including contentment, persecution, temptation, preaching, prayer, and meditation. Watson had the gift of presenting profound doctrinal truth in vivid images and colorful metaphors that are particularly memorable.

Here are a few samples:

• He who is ashamed of Christ is a shame to Christ.
• Worldly sorrows hasten our funerals.
• They that bear the cross patiently shall wear the crown triumphantly.

The Godly Man’s Picture (BTT; 252 pages; 1992).

This work is subtitled Drawn with a Scripture Pencil, or, Some Characteristics of a Man who is Going to Heaven. After explaining the nature of godliness, Watson describes twenty-four marks of a godly man, including “moved by faith,” “fired with love,” “prizes Christ,” “loves the Word,” “is humble,” “is patient,” and “loves the saints.” The concluding chapters offer helps to godliness, advice on how to persevere in godliness, counsel and comfort for the godly, and teaching on the mystical union between Christ and His people.

Harmless as Doves: A Puritan’s View of the Christian Life (CFP; 188 pages; 1994).

This book contains ten excellent sermons that provide a biblical picture of practical Christian living. They include “Christian Prudence and Innocency,” “On Becoming A New Creature,” “The Evil Tongue,” “Not Being Weary in Well-Doing,” “On Knowing God and Doing Good,” “Christ All in All,” “The Preciousness of the Soul,” “The Soul’s Malady and Cure,” “The Beauty of Grace,” and “The Trees of Righteousness Blossoming.” These sermons reveal Watson’s colorful and compelling style of preaching. They are experiential and practical and make excellent devotional reading.

Heaven Taken by Storm (SDG; 135 pages; 1992).

This is an excellent handbook—perhaps the best ever written—on how to use the various means of grace. Based on Matthew 11:12, Watson describes how the Christian is to take the kingdom of heaven by holy violence through the reading and exposition of Scripture, prayer, meditation, self-examination, conversation, and keeping the Lord’s Day. He explains how the believer is to battle against self, Satan, and the world, and counters objections and hindrances to offering such violence. An appendix to the book includes two additional sermons: “The Happiness of Drawing Near to God” and “How We May Read the Scriptures with Most Spiritual Profit.”

This book helped lead Colonel James Gardiner (1688–1745) as well as many others to conversion. It is an excellent book to give to those who want to start reading the Puritans.

The Lord’s Prayer (BTT; 332 pages; 1994).

Originally produced as a companion to A Body of Divinity on the Shorter Catechism, Watson continues the question-and-answer format to explain the petitions of Jesus’ model prayer. In our opinion, this book matches Herman Witsius’s The Lord’s Prayer in usefulness. Witsius’s work is more deliberate and theological, while Watson’s is more devotional and practical.

The Mischief of Sin (SDG; 176 pages; 1994).

This is Watson’s most definitive treatment of sin. It includes four parts: “The Mischief of Sin,” “The Desperateness of Sinners,” “An Alarm to Sinners,” and “Hell’s Furnace Heated Hotter.” “The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper” is included in an appendix.

John MacArthur writes, “Thomas Watson’s study of sin is profound, convicting, thought-provoking, and filled with rich spiritual insight. It distills the best attributes of Puritan writing. As devotional as it is doctrinal, as practical as it is biblically sound, and as delightful as it is convicting, this books cuts to the very heart of the biblical issues regarding sin. You cannot read it and remain indifferent toward sin in your own life.”

A Plea for the Godly and Other Sermons (SDG; 480 pages; 1997).

This collection containing some of Watson’s best work includes: “Comfort for the Church,” “The Happiness of Drawing Near to God,” “The Tongue, a World of Iniquity,” “The Mystical Temple,” “Christ All in All,” “The Perfume of Love,” “A New Creature,” “The Heavenly Race,” “The Fiery Serpents,” and Watson’s farewell sermon.

The Puritan Pulpit: Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) (SDG; 233 pages; 2004).

This book, the second in the Puritan Pulpit Series, is a collection of ten sermons not found in any other work of Watson’s in print today: “A Christian on Earth Still in Heaven,” “Christ’s Loveliness,” “God’s Anatomy Upon Man’s Heart,” “The Beauty of Grace,” “The Preciousness of the Soul,” “The Saint’s Desire to be with Christ,” “The Saint’s Spiritual Delight,” “The Soul’s Malady and Cure,” “The Tree of Righteousness Blossoming and Bringing Forth Fruit,” and “The Spiritual Watch.” These sermons are vintage Watson—pastoral and easy to understand, rich with illustration and abounding in application.

Religion Our True Interest (BB; 144 pages; 1992).

This work consists of Watson’s notes on Malachi 3:16–18. It offers helpful teaching on religious conversation, God-centered thinking, God’s disposition toward His people, and the fear of God, which Watson defines as “reverencing and adoring God’s holiness, and setting ourselves always under His sacred inspection.” Today, we’re sorely in need of such teaching, for too many people who call themselves Christians lack this mark of grace, which Watson calls “the best certificate to show for heaven” though “the fear of God is not our plea, yet [it is] our evidence for heaven.”

The covenant-keeping character of God is evident as Watson explains God’s promise “They shall be mine” from the book of Malachi. Believers belong to God, Watson says, but God and all His riches also belong to believers. God says, “My wisdom shall be yours to teach you, my holiness shall be yours to sanctify you, my mercy shall be yours to save you,” to which Watson responds, “What richer dowry than deity? God is a whole ocean of blessedness. If there is enough in Him to fill the angels, then surely He has enough to fill us.” This book is rich fare for the encouraging, enlightening, and admonishing of believers.

Sermons of Thomas Watson (SDG; 745 pages; 1997).

This work was originally titled Discourses on Interesting and Important Subjects, being the Select Works of the Reverend Thomas Watson (2 volumes). With the exception of The Beatitudes, this reprint puts everything in the original two volumes under one cover. It includes “The Christian’s Charter of Privileges,” “The Saint’s Spiritual Delight,” “A Treatise Concerning Meditation,” “The Upright Man’s Character,” and “The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil.” The treatise on meditation is particularly valuable. Edward Reynolds writes in the introductory epistle: “Meditation is the palate of the soul whereby we taste the goodness of God; the eye of the soul whereby we view the beauties of holiness; the askesis and gymnasia, whereby our spiritual senses are exercised,… it is the key to the wine-cellar, to the banqueting house, to the garden of spices, which letteth us in unto him whom our soul loveth; it is the arm whereby we embrace the promises at a distance, and bring Christ and our souls together.”

The Ten Commandments (BTT; 245 pages; 1998).

This third volume that Watson wrote on the Shorter Catechism examines the moral law as a whole as well as each of its commandments. Watson repeatedly shows the various ploys of indwelling sin. In view of the importance of law in Christian living, this is an extremely valuable work.

Who Is Richard Sibbes?

January 10, 2008

RHB has gracious to give me permission to post their biographical sketches of Puritan Divines from Meet the Puritans by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson. Remember, you can purchase your own copy with a special discounted price of $20 (retail $35) by either calling RHB at (616) 977-0599 or emailing them at orders@heritagebooks.org. Be sure to tell them you want the “2008 Puritan Challenge” special, and they will hook you up.

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)

Richard Sibbes was born in 1577 at Tostock, Suffolk, in the Puritan county of old England. He was baptized in the parish church in Thurston, and went to school there. As a child, he loved books. His father, Paul Sibbes, a hardworking wheelwright and, according to Zachary Catlin, a contemporary biographer of Sibbes, was “a good, sound-hearted Christian,” but became irritated with his son’s interest in books. He tried to cure his son of book-buying by offering him wheelwright tools, but the boy was not dissuaded. With the support of others, Sibbes was admitted to St. John’s College in Cambridge at the age of eighteen. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1599, a fellowship in 1601, and a Master of Arts degree in 1602, In 1603, he was converted under the preaching of Paul Baynes, whom Sibbes called his “father in the gospel.” Baynes, remembered most for his commentary on Ephesians, succeeded William Perkins at the Church of St. Andrews in Cambridge.

Sibbes was ordained to the ministry in the Church of England in Norwich in 1608. He was chosen as one of the college preachers in 1609 and earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1610. From 1611 to 1616, he served as lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. His preaching awakened Cambridge from the spiritual indifference into which it had fallen after the death of Perkins. A gallery had to be built to accommodate visitors in the church. John Cotton and Hugh Peters were converted under Sibbes’s preaching. During his years at Holy Trinity, Sibbes helped turn Thomas Goodwin away from Arminianism and moved John Preston from “witty preaching” to plain, spiritual preaching.

Sibbes came to London in 1617 as a lecturer for Gray’s Inn, the largest of the four great Inns of Court, which still remains one of the most important centers in England for the study and practice of law. In 1626, he also became master of St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge. Under his leadership, the college regained some of its former prestige. It graduated several men who would one day serve prominently at the Westminster Assembly: John Arrowsmith, William Spurstowe, and William Strong. Soon after his appointment, Sibbes received the Doctor of Divinity degree at Cambridge. He became known as “the heavenly Doctor,” due to his godly preaching and heavenly manner of life. Izaac Walton wrote of Sibbes:

Of this blest man, let this just praise be given,
Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.

In 1633, King Charles I offered Sibbes the charge of Holy Trinity, Cambridge. Sibbes continued to serve as preacher at Gray’s Inn, master of St. Catharine’s Hall, and vicar of Holy Trinity until his death in 1635.

Sibbes never married, but he established an astonishing network of friendships that included godly ministers, noted lawyers, and parliamentary leaders of the early Stuart era. “Godly friends are walking sermons,” he said. He wrote at least thirteen introductions to the writings of his Puritan colleagues.

Sibbes was a gentle man who avoided the controversies of his day as much as possible. “Fractions breed fractions,” he insisted. His battles with Archbishop Laud, Roman Catholics, and Arminians were exceptions. He also remained close friends with many pastors and leaders who wanted more radical reform than he did for the Church of England.

Sibbes was an inspiration to many. He influenced Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, and Independency, the three dominant parties of the church in England at that time. He was a pastor of pastors, and lived a life of moderation. “Where most holiness is, there is most moderation, where it may be without prejudice of piety to God and the good of others,” he wrote.

The historian Daniel Neal described Sibbes as a celebrated preacher, an educated divine, and a charitable and humble man who repeatedly underestimated his gifts. Yet Puritans everywhere recognized Sibbes as a Christ-centered, experiential preacher. Both learned and unlearned in upper and lower classes profited greatly from Sibbes’s alluring preaching.

Sibbes wrote, “To preach is to woo…. The main scope of all [preaching] is, to allure us to the entertainment of Christ’s mild, safe, wise, victorious government.” He brought truth home, as Robert Burns would say, “to men’s business and bosoms.” Catlin wrote of Sibbes, “No man that ever I was acquainted with got so far into my heart or lay so close therein.” In our day, Maurice Roberts says of Sibbes, “His theology is thoroughly orthodox, of course, but it is like the fuel of some great combustion engine, always passing into flame and so being converted into energy thereby to serve God and, even more, to enjoy and relish God with the soul.”

David Masson, biographer of John Milton, wrote, “No writings in practical theology seem to have been so much read in the mid-seventeenth century among the pious English middle classes as those of Sibbes.” The twentieth-century historian William Haller said Sibbes’s sermons were “the most brilliant and popular of all the utterances of the Puritan church militant.”

Sibbes’s last sermons, preached a week before his death, were on John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…. I go to prepare a place for you.” When asked in his final days how his soul was faring, Sibbes replied, “I should do God much wrong if I should not say, very well.” Sibbes began his will and testament, dictated on July 4, 1635, the day before his death, with “I commend and bequeath my soul into the hands of my gracious Savior, who hath redeemed it with his most precious blood, and appears now in heaven to receive it.” William Gouge preached Sibbes’s funeral sermon.

The Works of Richard Sibbes (BTT; 7 vols., 3,850 pages; 2001)

These seven volumes, meticulously edited with a 110-page memoir by Alexander Grosart, were published by James Nichol of Edinburgh in the 1860s and reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust in the 1970s. They reveal Sibbes’s conviction that the best Christian counseling is done by the Holy Spirit through the patient and lively exposition of God’s Word. This should surprise no one who is aware of Sibbes’s subject matter in his sermons. J. I. Packer writes, “Sibbes concentrated on exploring the love, power and patience of Christ, and the riches of the promises of God. He was a pioneer in working out the devotional application of the doctrine of God’s covenant of grace.”

The first volume of Works contains “The Bruised Reed” (see below) and “The Soul’s Conflict,” a 175-page treatise on Psalm 42:11, showing how the believer can, by faith in Christ, gain victory over spiritual despair. The volume concludes with five sermons on 1 Peter 4:17-19 and four other sermons. The sermon “Christ is Best” (Phil. 1:23-24) alone is worth the price of the book.

The second volume in the set contains larger treatises from Old Testament passages, including “Bowels Opened” (expository sermons on Song of Solomon 4:16 to 6:13), “A Breathing after God” (Ps. 27:4), the well-known “Returning Backslider” (Hos. 14), and “The Glorious Feast of the Gospel” (Isa. 25:7-9).

The third volume is devoted to Sibbes’s exposition of 2 Corinthians 1. Solid doctrine, love for Christ, and warm pastoral applications abound in this commentary. Sibbes is full of Christ when he describes the Christian in his sufferings and the promised comfort of God, saying that sufferings precede comforts because that was the pattern Christ established for us. This work also contains Sibbes’s notable teaching on the sealing of the Holy Spirit (vv. 22-23).

According to Sibbes, looking at the role of the Spirit in sealing the soul of believers is like examining His work in personal assurance of faith. Sibbes viewed the sealing of the Spirit as two distinct matters, however. He distinguished between the office or function of the Spirit as a seal given in regeneration to a sinner and the work of the Spirit in applying that seal to the believer’s consciousness.

The once-for-all sealing of salvation is granted when a person first believes in Christ. Sibbes taught that as a king’s image is stamped upon wax, so the Spirit stamps believers’ souls with the image of Christ from the moment of believing. Such sealing produces in every believer a lifelong desire to be transformed fully into the image of Christ.

This seal, which every believer has whether he is conscious of it or not, is a mark of authenticity that distinguishes the believer from the world. As merchants mark their wares and herdsmen brand their sheep, so God seals His people to declare that they are His rightful property and that He has authority over them, Sibbes said.

The second kind of sealing is a process. It is the kind of assurance that can gradually increase throughout a believer’s life through singular experiences and by daily, spiritual growth. This sealing can be observed in the fruits of sanctification, such as peace of conscience; the spirit of adoption whereby we cry “Abba, Father”; prayers of fervent supplication; and conformity with the heavenly image of Christ. Sibbes thus emphasized both the intuitive testimony of the Spirit and the sanctifying fruits of the Spirit.

The Spirit grants this special sealing to saints in times of great trial, Sibbes said. The Spirit gave such seals “even as parents [who] smile upon their children when they need it most.” Such sealing was “a sweet kiss vouchsafed to the soul.” Paul in the dungeon, Daniel in the lions’ den, and his three friends in the fiery furnace experienced that kind of encouragement.

Volume 4 contains other sermons on texts or portions of the two epistles to the Corinthians, including “Glorious Freedom: The Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law” (see below) and an exposition of 2 Corinthians 4. This volume emphasizes the centrality of Christ and the role of the Spirit in the lives of believers. According to Sibbes, the Spirit must be an integral part of our lives, our churches, and our world. We must relish His indwelling and His comforting work, while striving not to grieve Him. We should walk in daily communication with the Spirit through the Word, relying upon every office the Holy Spirit provides, as described in Scripture. As Sibbes writes: “The Holy Spirit being in us, after he that prepared us for a house for himself to dwell in and to take up his rest and delight in, he doth also become unto us a counselor in all our doubts, a comforter in all our distresses, a solicitor to all duty, a guide in the whole course of life, until we dwell with him forever in heaven, unto which his dwelling here in us doth tend.”

The fifth volume offers teaching on passages in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Timothy. They contain sermons on several of the richest and best known of all Paul’s words, such as Romans 8:28 and Galatians 2:20, and address subjects such as the art of contentment, the life of faith, the power of Christ’s resurrection, the Christian’s end, Christian work, and the providence of God. Most well-known are Sibbes’s “A Fountain Sealed” (Eph. 4:30) and “The Fountain Opened” (1 Tim. 3:16).

This volume stresses the privileges of believers, such as communion with Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, assurance of faith, and future glory. Nearly two hundred pages are devoted to teachings on Philippians, which stress the believer’s heavenly citizenship. Everywhere in this volume, Sibbes proves his reputation as “a Christ-preacher.” He writes, “The special work of our ministry is to lay open Christ, to hold up the tapestry and unfold the mysteries of Christ. Let us labour therefore to be always speaking somewhat about Christ, or tending that way. When we speak of the law, let it drive us to Christ; when of moral duties, let them teach us to walk worthy of Christ.”

The sixth volume contains eighteen sermons on a great variety of subjects, including faithful covenanting, Josiah’s reformation, successful seeking of God, the saint’s comforts, spiritual mourning, and Lydia’s conversion. “A Heavenly Conference between Christ and Mary after His Resurrection” ( John 20:16) represents Puritan divinity at its best. For example, when speaking of the constancy of Christ’s love for Mary and for the church, Sibbes writes, “The whole chain [of God’s love] so holdeth, that all the creatures in heaven and earth cannot break a link of it. Therefore never doubt of continuance, for it holds firm on God’s part, not thine. God embraceth us in the arms of his everlasting love, not that we embraced him first. When the child falleth not, it is from the mother’s holding the child, and not from the child’s holding the mother. So it is God’s holding of us, knowing of us, embracing of us, and justifying of us that maketh the state firm, and not ours; for ours is but a reflection and result of his, which is unvariable” (p. 439).

The final volume contains thirty-five sermons on practical themes such as recovery from discouragement, true happiness, prayer, the success of the gospel, the return of Christ, the danger of backsliding, and the resurrection. The sermon titled “The Matchless Mercy” (Micah 7:18-20) exalts the mercy of God. Sibbes’s last two sermons on John 14:2 are also included.

The Bruised Reed (BTT; 128 pages; 1998)

This treatise on the dejected sinner is one of the best works of its kind. In sixteen chapters, Sibbes expounds Isaiah 42:3, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” Richard Baxter said that God used the reading of this treatise to effect his own conversion. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “I shall never cease to be grateful to Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil…. I found at that time that Richard Sibbes, who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as the ‘Heavenly Doctor Sibbes’ was an unfailing remedy…. The Bruised Reed quieted, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed me.”

Glorious Freedom (BTT; 194 pages; 2000)

This book was published under the supervision of Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye four years after Sibbes’s death. They said it shows “the liberty of the sons of God…the image of their graces here and glory hereafter” and it provides “much comfort and great encouragement to all [who] begin timely and continue constantly in the ways of God.”

Glorious Freedom explains the believer’s relation to the law based on 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. Sibbes describes the fuller revelation of God in the coming of Christ and its effect on those who behold that glory by the Spirit. The vitality of the new covenant results in spiritual liberty and likeness to Christ. The book addresses subjects such as the Spirit of Christ, liberty, the gospel beyond the law, communion with God in Christ, and conformity to the image of Christ. “Sibbes never wastes the student’s time,” Spurgeon wrote; “he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.”