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Archive for the ‘Puritans’ Category

Source: John Owen, The Glory Of Christ ‘The Way And Means Of The Recovery Of Spiritual Decays, And Of Obtaining Fresh Springs Of Grace’

There is no visible difference, as to light, between the light of the morning and the light of the evening; yea, this latter sometimes, from gleams of the setting sun, seems to be more glorious than the other. But herein they differ: the first goes on gradually to more light, until it comes to perfection; the other gradually gives place to darkness, until it comes to be midnight. … And, by the way, this comparing of the path of the just to the morning light reminds me of what I have seen more than once. That light has sometimes cheerfully appeared to the world, when, after a little season, by reason of clouds, tempests, and storms, it has given place again to darkness, like that of the night; but it has not so been lost and buried like the evening light. After a while it has recovered itself unto a greater luster than before, manifesting that it increased in itself while it was eclipsed as to us.

(Isa. 44:3,4): "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses." … And here is, a supposition of what we are in ourselves, both before and after our conversion to God,—namely, as thirsty, dry, and barren ground. We have nothing in ourselves, no radical moisture to make us flourishing and fruitful. And as it is before, so it is after conversion: "We are not sufficient of ourselves; our sufficiency is of God" (II Cor. 3:5). Being left to ourselves, we should utterly wither and perish. But this is the glory of covenant promises, that, as to the communication of the grace of conversion and sanctification to the elect, they are absolutely free and unconditional. … But the promises which respect the growth, degrees, and measures of this grace in believers are not so. There are many duties required of us that these promises may be accomplished towards us and in us; yea, watchful diligence in universal gospel obedience is expected from us to this end. (See II Pet. 1:4-10.) This is the ordinary method of the communication of all supplies of grace to make us spiritually flourish and be fruitful, namely, that we be found in the diligent exercise of what we have received. God sometimes deals otherwise, in a way of sovereignty, and surprises men with healing grace in the midst of their decays and backslidings (as Isa. 57 :17,18). So has many a poor soul been delivered from going down into the pit. The Good Shepherd will go out of His way to save a wandering sheep; but this is the ordinary method.

And there is no grace or mercy that more affects the hearts of believers, that gives them a greater transport of joy and thankfulness, than this of deliverance from backslidings. It is a bringing of the soul out of prison, which enlarges it unto praise (Ps. 142:7).

The work of recovering backsliders or believers from under their spiritual decays is an act of sovereign grace, wrought in us by virtue of divine promises. Out of this eater comes meat. Because believers are liable to such declensions, backslidings, and decays, God has provided and given to us great and precious promises of a recovery, if we duly apply ourselves to the means of it.

That I might show how great a thing it is to have our spiritual decays made up, our backslidings healed, and to attain the vigorous actings of grace and spiritual life, with a flourishing profession and fruitful obedience …

First, all our supplies of grace are from Jesus Christ.

Second, the only way of receiving supplies of spiritual strength and grace from Jesus Christ, on our part, is by faith.

Third, this faith respects the person of Christ, His grace, His whole mediation, with all the effects of it, and His glory in them all. This is that which has been so much insisted on in the foregoing discourses that it ought not to be again insisted upon. This, therefore, is the issue of the whole: a steady view of the glory of Christ, in His person, grace, and office, through faith—or a constant, lively exercise of faith on Him, according as He is revealed to us in the Scripture—is the only effectual way to obtain a revival from under our spiritual decays, and such supplies of grace as shall make us flourishing and fruitful even in old age. He that thus lives by faith in Him shall, by his spiritual thriving and growth, "show that the Lord is upright, that he is our rock, and that there is no unrighteousness in him."

The only inquiry remaining is how a constant view of the glory of Christ will produce this blessed effect in us; and it will do so several ways.

a) It will be effected by that transforming power and efficacy with which this exercise of faith is always accompanied. This is that which changes us every day more and more into the likeness of Christ, as has been at large before declared. Herein all revivals and all flourishings are contained. To have a good measure of conformity to Christ is all whereof in this life, we are capable; the perfection of it is eternal blessedness. According as are our attainments therein, so is the thriving and flourishing of the life of grace in us; which is that which is aimed at. Other ways and means, it may be, have failed us; let us put this to the trial. Let us live in the constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and virtue will proceed from Him to repair all our decays, to renew a right spirit within us, and to cause us to abound in all duties of obedience. This way of producing these effects flesh and blood will not reveal—it looks like washing in Jordan to cure a leprosy; but the life of faith is a mystery known only to them in whom it is.

b) It will fix the soul to that object which is suited to give it delight, complacency, and satisfaction. This in perfection is blessedness, for it is caused by the eternal vision of the glory of God in Christ; and the nearer approaches we make to this state, the better, the more spiritual, the more heavenly, is the state of our souls. And this is to be obtained only by a constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, as has been declared. And it is several ways effectual to the end now proposed. For,

1. Most of our spiritual decays and barrenness arise from an inordinate admission of other things into our minds. These weaken grace in all its operations. But when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and His glory, when the soul cleaves to Him with intense affections, they will cast out, or not give admittance to, those causes of spiritual weakness and indisposition. (See Col. 3:1—5; Eph. 5:8).

2. Where we are engaged in this duty, it will stir up every grace to its due exercise. This is that wherein the spiritual revival inquired after consists. This is all we desire, all we long for, this will make us fat and flourishing—that every grace of the Spirit have its due exercise in us. (See Rom. 5:3—5; II Pet. 1:5—8.) Whereas, therefore, Christ Himself is the first proper, adequate object of all grace, and all its exercise (for it first respects Him, and then other things for Him), when the mind is fixed on Him and His glory, every grace will be in a readiness for its due exercise. And without this we shall never attain it by any resolutions or endeavors of our own, let us make the trial when we please.

3. This will assuredly put us to a vigilant watch and constant conflict against all the deceitful workings of sin, all entrances of temptation, all surprisals into foolish frames by vain imaginations, which are the causes of our decays. Our recovery or revival will not be effected, or a fresh spring of grace be obtained, in a careless, slothful course of profession. Constant watching, fighting, contending against sin, with out utmost endeavor for an absolute conquest over it, are required. And nothing will so much excite and encourage our souls in this as a constant view of Christ and His glory; everything in Him has a constraining power hereunto, as is known to all who have any acquaintance with these things.

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If all things work for good, hence learn that there is a providence. Things do not work of themselves, but God sets them working for good. God is the great Disposer of all events and issues, He sets everything working. “His kingdom ruleth over all” Psalm 103:19. It is meant of His providential kingdom. Things in the world are not governed by second causes, by the counsels of men, by the stars and planets, but by divine providence. Providence is the queen and governess of the world. There are three things in providence: God’s foreknowing, God’s determining, and God’s directing all things to their periods and events.

Source: Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial (1633) Republished All Things For Good, Puritan Paperback, 55.

Note: God foreknows the future because he has determined ends and directs the bringing about of those ends c.f. Isaiah

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Obedience

"[Obedience] is the submissive performance of the will of God for the glory of God.  It holds the will of God as a pattern and a rule, as shown by the words of Christ which both describe our observance (Mt. 6:10) and explain his own (Mt. 26:39, 42)."

"The principle efficient cause of [obedience] as an inner, abiding principle is indirectly faith and directly sanctifying grace."

"Our [obedience] is nothing else than gratitude owed to God, and is rightly explained by theologians under that title."

"The law of God …does not have the justifying power it had in the original state of integrity nor the condemning power it had in the state of sin.  But it does have the force and vigor of a directing power; and it also retains a certain force of condemnation, for it reproves and condemns sin in the faithful (although it cannot wholly condemn the faithful themselves because they are not under the law but under grace.)"

Source: William Ames The Marrow of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 219-221.

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Truth obeyed, said the Puritans, will heal.

Source: J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 1990, reprint (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 65

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And how doth God the Holy Ghost save thee?

By his illumination, by his renovation and by his preservation.

What is God’s design in saving of poor men?

The glorifying of his Name, of his Grace and Justice, and the everlasting happiness of his creature.

Source: John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
(Christiana – Prudence’s catechising of Christiana’s children)

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Christian comes to the cross.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

… Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold three Shining Ones came to him and saluted him with "Peace be unto thee". So the first said to him, "Thy sins be forgiven thee"; the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment ; the third also set a mark on his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bade him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the Celestial Gate.

Christian comes to Hill of Difficulty.

I beheld, then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the Hill Difficulty; at the bottom of which was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate; one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, and drank thereof, to refresh himself … I looked, then, after Christian, to see him go up the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to going, and from going to clambering upon his hands and his knees, because of the steepness of the place. Now, about the midway to the top of the hill was a pleasant arbour, made by the Lord of the hill for the refreshing of weary travellers; thither, therefore, Christian got, where also he sat down to rest him.

Christian falls asleep in the arbour. He is awaken by a Shining One but has to proceed in the dark and as an oversight leaves his scroll behind.

At last he bethought himself that he had slept in the arbour that is on the side of the hill; and, falling down upon his knees, he asked God’s forgiveness for that his foolish act, and then went back to look for his roll. But all the way he went back, who can sufficiently set forth the sorrow of Christian’s heart? Sometimes he sighed, sometimes he wept, and oftentimes he chid himself for being so foolish to fall asleep in that place, which was erected only for a little refreshment for his weariness. Thus, therefore, he went back, carefully looking on this side and on that, all the way as he went, if happily he might find his roll, that had been his comfort so many times in his journey. He went thus, till he came again within sight of the arbour where he sat and slept; but that sight renewed his sorrow the more, by bringing again, even afresh, his evil of sleeping into his mind. Thus, therefore, he now went on bewailing his sinful sleep, saying, O wretched man that I am that I should sleep in the day-time! that I should sleep in the midst of difficulty! that I should so indulge the flesh, as to use that rest for ease to my flesh, which the Lord of the hill hath erected only for the relief of the spirits of pilgrims!

… Now, by this time he was come to the arbour again, where for a while he sat down and wept; but at last, as Christian would have it, looking sorrowfully down under the settle, there he espied his roll; the which he, with trembling and haste, catched up, and put it into his bosom. But who can tell how joyful this man was when he had gotten his roll again! for this roll was the assurance of his life and acceptance at the desired haven. Therefore he laid it up in his bosom, gave thanks to God for directing his eye to the place where it lay, and with joy and tears betook himself again to his journey.

After climbing the Hill of Difficult, Christian sojourns at the Beautiful Palace. There he is shown many things from the Scriptures before the time comes for him to depart.

Then he began to go forward; but Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence would accompany him down to the foot of the hill. So they went on together, reiterating their former discourses, till they came to go down the hill. Then said Christian, As it was difficult coming up, so, so far as I can see, it is dangerous going down. Yes, said Prudence, so it is, for it is a hard matter for a man to go down into the Valley of Humiliation, as thou art now, and to catch no slip by the way; therefore, said they, are we come out to accompany thee down the hill. So he began to go down, but very warily; yet he caught a slip or two.

Later on the journey Christian meets up with Faithful.

Then I saw in my dream they went very lovingly on together, and had sweet discourse of all things that had happened to them in their pilgrimage

Hopeful allows himself to follow Christian’s lead off the narrow path. Christian believes that the slight detour will not permanently lead them off the path and make things more comfortable.

Christian: Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?

Hopeful: I was afraid on it at the very first, and therefore gave you that gentle caution. I would have spoken plainer, but that you are older than I.

Christian: Good brother, be not offended; I am sorry I have brought thee out of the way, and that I have put thee into such imminent danger; pray, my brother, forgive me; I did not do it of an evil intent.

Hopeful: Be comforted, my brother, for I forgive thee; and believe, too, that this shall be for our good.

Christian: I am glad I have with me a merciful brother; but we must not stand thus: let us try to go back again.

Christian and Hopeful are captured by Giant Despair who locks them in his dungeon in Doubting Castle. They are beaten often and come close to falling into total despair as had many pilgrims before them. Hopeful says:

Others, so far as I can understand, have been taken by him, as well as we; and yet have escaped out of his hand. Who knows, but the God that made the world may cause that Giant Despair may die? … my brother, let us be patient, and endure a while. The time may come that may give us a happy release … With these words Hopeful at present did moderate the mind of his brother; so they continued together (in the dark) that day, in their sad and doleful condition.

Shortly afterwards, Christian remembers that he has a key ‘Promise’ and the Pilgrims are able to escape the giant and dungeon of despair. Later they learn of how Giant Despair had blinded the eyes of many of his captives causing them to wander and fall amongst the tombs of the dead.

The Pilgrims travel in through the Delectable Mountains and the Shepherds’ Fields and the Beautiful Land belonging to Immanuel.

Finally Christian and Hopeful together cross the dark river. For Christian in particular the crossing is difficult and fearful.

These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you; but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.

Shining Ones meet the pilgrims on the other side of the river. The pilgrims ascend the mighty mountain upon which the celestial stood. The climb with much agility and speed having left their mortal garments behind them in the river. Bunyan mentions a city with foundations on the mountain but rises above the clouds, sweet conversation, clouds as chariots, beauty and glory inexpressible, the paradise of God, tree of life, never-fading fruits, white robes, walking with the King, the former things no more, participating in the final judgment, comforts, crowns of glory, the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One. Also the sounding of trumpets, the ringing of bells, shouts and joyful singing that welcome the pilgrim’s arrival.

Oh, by what tongue or pen can their glorious joy be expressed!

And thus they came up to the gate.

So I awoke, and behold it was a dream.

source: John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

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Having fled the City of Destruction, Pilgrim falls into the Slough of Despond. A servant of the king is sent to assist Pilgrim out of the bog. Help makes the following statement:

This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place. And this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

source: John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

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