Posted tagged ‘Samuel Bolton’

The Five-Fold Peace of a Christian

September 25, 2008

Continuing in the string of excerpts from Samuel Bolton’s book, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, I want include Bolton’s commentary on the “five-fold peace of a Christian man.”  Bolton writes:

1.  There is a peace which flows from the witness-bearing of our conscience to our integrity and exact walking.

2.  There is a peace which flows from the soul’s communion and converse with God in duty.

3.  There is a peace which comes to the believer from the exercise of the grace implanted in him.

4.  There is a peace which flows from the sense and knowledge of God’s grace implanted in the soul.

5.  There is a peace which flows from the assurance that God is at peace with the soul, a peace which flows from the sense of Divine favour.

– Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, 156-57.

Legal vs. Evangelical Obedience: Nine Differences

September 23, 2008

Samuel Bolton, in his book The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, lays out nine differences between legal obedience and evangelical obedience.  He writes:

1.  Slavish spirit vs. Childlike spirit

“In one case the man does things in a legal spirit, either hoping to get rewards by it, or fearing punishments if he omits the duty.  The godly man, on the other hand, goes about duty for the sake of obtaining communion with God, and knows it to be his reward and happiness to have that communion, while the lack of it is the greatest punishment he can endure.”

2.  Burdensome vs. Delight

“To the man who has to do with nothing but duty while he is performing duty, to him duty is tedious; but to those who have to do with God, with Christ, in their duties, to them duty is a delight. . . . The godly man has to do with God.  He labours, he breathes, his heart gapes for him.  He it is who he has in his eyes, and whom he labours after in prayer, even if he cannot enjoy Him.”

3.  Conviction of conscience vs. Necessity of nature

“With many, obedience is their precept, not their principle; holiness their law, not their nature.  many have convictions who are not converted; many are convinced they ought to do this and that, for example, that they ought to pray, but they have not got the heart which desires and lays hold of the things they have convictions of, and know they ought to do.  Conviction, without conversion, is a tyrant rather than a king; it constrains, but does not persuade; it forces, but does not move and incline the soul to obedience.  It terrifies but does not reform; it puts a man in fear of sin and makes him fear the omission of duty, but it does not enable him either to hate sin or love duty.  All that it does is out of conviction of conscience, not from the necessary act of a new nature. Conscience tells a man that he ought to do certain things, but gives him no strength to do them.  It can show him the right way and tell him what he ought to do, but it does not enable the soul to do it.  Like a milestone by the roadside, it shows the traveler the way, but does not give him strength to walk in the way.  On the other hand, where there is the principle of the Gospel, where there is grace, it is in the soul as a pilot in a ship who not only points the way but steers the vessel in the way which he appoints.”

4.  Satisfaction in duty vs. Satisfaction in Christ

“The one kind of man looks for his satisfaction in the duty by the performance of the duty, the other looks for satisfaction in the duty as he finds Christ thereby; it is not in the duty, but above the duty, that he finds his satisfaction.”

5.  Shell vs. Substance

“The one kind of man contents himself with the shell, the other is not content without the substance.  The godly man goes to duty as the means of communion with God; the other goes to duty merely to satisfy the grumblings and quarrels of his conscience.”

6.  Performance as self-righteousness vs. Performance as Christ’s righteousness

“The one type of man performs duty in order to live but it. . . . But the believer prays and performs duty, yet he looks beyond them, and looks to live by Christ alone. . . . Even though he has done both these things in abundance, yet for his acceptance he looks up to Christ as if he himself had done nothing at all.”

7.  Formality vs. Fervency

“The one man does things coldly and formally, the other fervently. . .  A natural man may pray earnestly at times when in fear or horror, under pangs of conscience, but he does not cry believingly.  There may be much affection in a prayer when there is but little faith; there may be fleshly affections, natural affections, affections heightened either from convictions or fears or horrors.  Yet these are but the cries of nature, of sense, and of reason, the cries of flesh, not of faith.  Affections based on true faith are not loud, yet they are strong; they may be still, yet they are deep; though they are not so violent, yet they are more sweet, more lasting.”

8.  Duty only when pressured vs. Duty continually with happiness

“The formal man does duty with a view to it serving other ends, and especially when he finds himself in extreme difficulties. . . . But it is not so with the godly man.  He closes with these duties as his heaven, as a part of his happiness, a piece of his glory.  He does not close with them from a necessity of submission, but out of delight; these things are not his penance but his glory and his desire.”

9.  Duty with reluctance vs. Duty with delight

“The one man engages in duty as it if were medicine, not food.  He is reluctant to perform it; he has no pleasure in it; he is driven to it only because he conceives that his soul’s health demands it.  But the godly man engages in duty as a healthful man sits down to meat; there is delight, desire, and pleasure in he exercise.”

– Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, 140-44.

The Positive Aspects of Christian Freedom

September 16, 2008

At the close of his first chapter in The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, Samuel Bolton gives seven positive aspects of our freedom in Christ.  Bolton writes:

1.  We are freed from a state of wrath and brought to a state of mercy and favour (Eph. 2:1-10).

2.  We are freed from a state of condemnation and brought to a state of justification (Rom. 8:1).

3.  We are freed from a state of enmity and brought into a state of friendship (Col. 1:21).

4.  We are freed from a state of death and brought to a state of life (Eph. 2:1).

5.  We are freed from a state of sin and brought into a state of service (Rom. 8:12).

6.  We are freed from a state of bondage, a spirit of slavery in service, and brought into a spirit of sonship and liberty in service (2 Pet. 1:4).

7.  We are freed from death and hell, and brought to life and gloryHeaven is our portion, our inheritance, our mansion-house.  It was made for us, and we for it; we are vessels prepared for glory (Rom. 9:23).

– Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, 47-49.

Two Propositions, Six Questions, One Issue

September 9, 2008

Samuel Bolton outlines his book, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, rather nicely with two propositions and six questions.  At the heart of these propositions and questions is what role the law plays (if any) in the Christian life.  This is an important topic because there subtleties that can easily incline one to err on the sides of both legalism and antinomianism.  If Christ has come to see us free, what does that freedom look like?

Bolton’s two propositions are:

Proposition 1: “The law remains as a rule of walking for the people of God.”
Proposition 2: “The law is not incompatible with grace.”

Bolton answers the following questions which result in the substance of his book:

Query 1: “Are Christians freed from the moral law as a rule of obedience?”
Query 2: “Are Christians freed from all punishments and chastisements for sin?”
Query 3: “If a believer is under the moral law as a rule of duty, is his liberty in Christ infringed?”sin?”
Query 4: “Can Christ’s freemen sin themselves into bondage again?”
Query 5: “May Christ’s freemen perform duties for the sake of reward?”
Query 6: “Are Christians freed from obedience to men?”

Interested?  Join in on the Puritan Reading Challenge!

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).