Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Biographies of Reformation, Puritan, Covenanter and Huguenot Women of the Faith

(Miss Katherine G. Myers reading Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr)

I have often been asked to help provide biographical resources regarding leading ladies of the Reformation, Puritan, Scottish Covenanter and French Huguenot eras. Considering the volumes that have been written on Martin Luther’s “Katie” alone, such a list could be endless; but I have attempted here to consolidate the key resources that I would recommend, along with links to these volumes either in print or online for handy reference. I have left out such ladies as Anne Hutchinson, Marie Dentière, and Anna Maria van Schurman (known as “The Tenth Muse”), each of whom would require a separate blog post. There were many godly women who stood alongside the godly men of those days. Their stories are worthy to read and remain inspirational today.

1. J.H. Alexander, Ladies of the Reformation

5. Roland Bainton, Women of the Reformation: In France and England The great biographer of Martin Luther has also spanned Europe to make known the stories of godly women of the Reformation era.

9. W.P. Breed, Jenny Geddes, or, Presbyterianism And Its Great Conflict With Despotism (See the first chapter particularly)
10. Simonetta Carr, Lady Jane Grey Simonetta Carr has done a great service to the church by her biographies, which are geared towards younger readers.

15. Faith Cook, Anne Bradstreet: Pilgrim and Poet Anne Bradstreet was also known as “The Tenth Muse.”

17. W.H. Davenport Adams, The Sunshine of Domestic Life; or, Sketches of Womanly Virtues, and Stories of the Lives of Noble Women

19. Alice Morse Earle, Margaret Winthrop: Biography of a Puritan Woman, the Wife of John Winthrop, First Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

20. James I. Good, [Famous] Women of the Reformed Church

21. John C. Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant (see the chapters on “The Women of the Covenant” and “The Wigtown Martyrs”)

22. Hope Irvin Marston, Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson The story of Margaret Wilson is inspirational, but heart-wrenching, so let the reader be forewarned.

23. J.C. McFeeters, Sketches of the Covenanters (see the chapter titled “The Daughters of the Covenant”)

25. Leslie Nuernberg, Only Glory Awaits: The Story of Anne Askew

26. Alexander Smellie, Men of the Covenant (see the chapter titled “Those Women Which Laboured in the Gospel”)

27. Ernst Staehelin, Frau Wibrandis: A Woman in the Time of Reformation

28. Rebecca VanDoodeward, Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth

29. John T. Wilkinson, ed., Richard Baxter and Margaret Chilton: A Puritan Love Story; Being the Breviate of the Life of Margaret Baxter (Breviate online; J.I. Packer, A Grief Sanctified)

30. Paul F.M. Zahl, Five Women of the English Reformation The five women are: Anne Boleyn, Katharine Parr, Jane Grey, Anne Askew and Catherine Willoughby.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

450th Anniversary of the Translation of Guido de Brès

Guido de Brès (1522 – May 31, 1567) was a French-speaking Walloon minister of the gospel, who studied under both John Calvin and Theodore Beza. Raised a Roman Catholic, he was converted to Christ before the age of 20. He would spend most of the rest of his life on the run for his faith. Most famous for his authorship of the Belgic Confession (1561), one of the Three Forms of Unity of the Reformed Churches (he also wrote another confession as well). It is an eloquent and profoundly spiritual milestone in the history of Reformed confessions and creeds, and it is the only Reformation creed written by a martyr. He also wrote Le Baston del la Foy (The Staff of Faith, Able to Shut the Mouths of Faith’s Enemies) (1562) and La Racine, Source et Fondement des Anabaptistes (The Root, the Origins, and the Foundation of the Anabaptists or Rebaptizers of Our Time) (1565), responses to both Roman Catholic and Anabaptists, the two greatest threats to the Reformed Faith at that time. Arrested in 1565, he was tried by the Spanish Inquisition, and ultimately hanged at Valenciennes, France on the last day of May, 1567, 450 years ago today. Before he was executed, he wrote a letter to his wife expressing his faith in Christ and encouraging her in the same, a letter which stands in the annals of church history’s most inspirational writings.

(The Countess de Reux Visiting De Bray and Le Grange in Prison
Illustration from James Wylie's History of Protestantism)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

MHCC 52: Why Was Eve Formed From Adam's Rib?

In the famous Commentary of Matthew Henry, we find a beautiful summary of why woman was created in the Garden of Eden from the rib of Adam rather than from the earth like Adam was. 

“ 4. That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. Adam lost a rib, and without any diminution to his strength or comeliness (for, doubtless, the flesh was closed without a scar); but in lieu thereof he had a help meet for him, which abundantly made up his loss: what God takes away from his people he will, one way or other, restore with advantage. In this (as in many other things) Adam was a figure of him that was to come; for out of the side of Christ, the second Adam, his spouse the church was formed, when he slept the sleep, the deep sleep, of death upon the cross, in order to which his side was opened, and there came out blood and water, blood to purchase his church and water to purify it to himself. See Eph. v. 25, 26.” – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary Upon the Whole Bible (1708-1710, 1991, 2006), p. 10 (Gen. 2.21)

This quote, often-repeated, highlights the companionship that God intended for husband and wife. As Henry no doubt would acknowledge, this understanding of the relationship between man and wife was not unique to him. As it turns out (here I wish to thank Adam Brink for highlighting this point) there is a long theological pedigree to this idea which predates Matthew Henry by centuries. In this blog post, I will provide citations to other theologians who have made this very point. This list may not be complete (allusions to this idea may be found in Augustine and earlier), but it shows a trajectory of thought which is historically intriguing, at least to this researcher, and each contribution along the way has its own particular and profound eloquence.

“Adam lost a rib, but he got a better thing instead of it, even a help meet for him. Thus God uses to deal with his children: they lose sometimes some of their creature-comforts; but then perhaps they get more of the Creator’s comforts, and that’s a blessed exchange. This bone was taken out of Adam’s side, fitly noting the woman’s place: not out of his head, to be above him; nor out of his feet, to be trampled on by him; nor from before him, as his better; nor from behind him, as his servant; -- but out of his side, to be equal with him; near his heart, for he owes her love; under his arm, for he owes her protection. Surely they forget from whence the woman was taken, that carry themselves haughtily and abusively towards their wives.” – Philip Henry (1631-1696), An Exposition…Upon the First Eleven Chapters of Genesis (1682, 1839), p. 56 (Gen. 2.21) * This commentary by Matthew Henry’s father was written by the hand of Matthew Henry in 1682.
 “The woman was taken out of this part, not out of the higher or lower parts, to show that she is neither to be her husband’s mistress, to usurp authority over him, 1 Tim. ii.12; nor yet to be his slave, to be abused, despised, or trampled under his feet; but to be kindly treated, and used like a companion, with moderation, respect, and affection.” – Matthew Poole (1624-1679), “Annotations Upon the Holy Bible” (1683-1685), Vol. 1, p. 7 (Gen. 2.21). * “One fact is certain from internal evidence, that Mr. Henry wrote his Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, with the learned compilation of Poole, called Criticorum Synopsis, open before him; as, in all difficult passages, he has judiciously selected that opinion from the many presented in this work, which, upon the whole, seems to be most probable.” – Archibald Alexander, Preface to Matthew Henry’s Commentary
“To honour marriage more yet, or rather to teach the married how to honour one another, it is said that the wife was made of the husband's rib, Gen. ii.22; not of his head, for Paul calleth the husband the wife's head, Ephes. v. 23; not of the foot, for he must not set her at his foot. The servant is appointed to serve, and the wife to help. If she must not match with the head, nor stoop at the foot, where shall he set her then? He must set her at his heart, therefore she which should lie in his bosom was made in his bosom, and should be as close to him as his rib, of which she was fashioned.” – Henry Smith (1560-1591), A Preparative to Marriage (1591), p. 8
"It was right for the woman to be made from a rib of man. First, to signify the social union of man and woman, for the woman should neither "use authority over man," and so she was not made from his head; nor was it right for her to be subject to man's contempt as his slave, and so she was not made from his feet." -- Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), Summa Theologiae (1265–1274, 1485), Pars Prima, Quest. 92, Art. 3 * Thomas Aquinas wrote a commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences.
“It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a help like unto himself” – “‘like unto himself’ – this corresponds to equivalence. By this is indicated that the woman must be the equal of the man, or his companion, not under him and not above him. Also, the woman was made from man’s rib, not from the upper part or from the lower, but from the middle, that by it might be designated that woman must be man’s equal.” – Robert of Sorbon (1201-1274), De Matrimonio (Of Marriage) (c. 1260-1270) on Gen. 2.18
“WHY WOMAN WAS FORMED FROM THE MAN’S SIDE AND NOT FROM SOME OTHER PART OF HIS BODY. But although woman was made from man for these reasons, nevertheless she was formed not from just any part of his body, but from his side, so that it should be shown that she was created for the partnership of love, lest, if perhaps she had been made from his head, she should be perceived as set over man in domination; or if from his feet, as if subject to him in servitude. Therefore, since she was made neither to dominate, nor to serve the man, but as his partner, she had to be produced neither from his head, nor from his feet, but from his side, so that he would know that she was to be placed beside himself whom he had learned had been taken from his side.” -- Peter Lombard (1100-1160), Libri Quatuor Sententiarum (Sentences) (c. 1150), Bk. 2, Distinction 18, Ch. 2 (see also 3.18.3;; 4.28.4) * Peter Lombard was a pupil of Hugh of St. Victor.
“XXXV. Why woman was made from man, and why from the side.
But afterwards as a help to generation woman was made from man himself, since, if she had been made from another source, surely the beginning of all men would not have been one. Now she was made from the side of man that it might be shown that she was created for association in love, lest perhaps, if she had been made from the head, she would seem to be preferred to man unto damnation, or, if from the feet, to be subject unto slavery. Since, therefore, she was furnished to man neither as a mistress nor a handmaid but as a companion, she had to be produced neither from the head nor from the feet but from the side, in order that he might realize that she was to be placed beside him, whom he learned had been taken from his very side.” -- Hugh of St. Victor (c. 1096-1141), De Sacramentis (Sacraments of the Christian Faith) (c. 1134), Book I, Part VI, Sec. 35
“[God took one] of the ribs. Why was the woman formed from a rib? For if she were formed from his foot or hand or some other part she would stand in shame before him. Another interpretation is that it shows the greatest love, for the rib is, after all, closest to the heart, as it is said: the rib is the guardian of the heart.” – Anonymous (Irish), Commemoratio Geneseos (8th Century)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Book Review: Godly Conference

Recently, my friend Russ Gaippe at The Reformed Book Cellar asked me to write a book review. I chose a book that has been a great encouragement to me since it was written in 2011. Dr. Joanne J. Jung is the author of Godly Conference: Rediscovering the Puritan Practice of Conference. One of the private means of grace that also augments the public means of grace, godly conference is indeed a practice worth rediscovering, one that the Puritan wrote often about. For my book review, please visit The Reformed Book Cellar here

Monday, February 6, 2017

Best Set of Online Bible Commentaries

If you are interested in quality Reformed Bible commentaries, and your book budget is limited or you appreciate the benefits of being able to search online, be sure to bookmark this page at Reformed Books Online (RBO): Bible Commentaries.

Travis Fentiman has done yeoman's work to assemble most of the highest rated commentaries identified by Charles Spurgeon, Richard Muller, Cyril J. Barber and others in one place where they are easily accessible online. Of particular interest to readers of this blog, there are so many Puritan and Reformation-era Bible commentaries that are now accessible.

This is a fantastic resource, and I highly commend it to all students of the Word of God.

Here is a more thorough overview of what this resource entails:

This is the best and largest collection of Bible commentaries on the net (a total of 2,200+).  It includes, but is not limited to:
– Every commentary that Charles Spurgeon gave his top recommendation (3 stars  *** ) and ‘good’ recommendation (2 stars  ** ) to in his Commenting and Commentaries  (1876);
– Every Reformed, Puritan or otherwise good commentary we could find on PRDL and EEBO that is in English;
– Every relevant commentary  mentioned by Dr. Richard Muller in his survey of the major Reformation and Puritan era commentaries in McKim’s Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters  Buy  that is in English and online;
– Most all of the older Bible commentaries that a Bible-believer would be interested in, that are free online (in the public domain, pre-1920’s);
– The best of the commentaries listed in Cyril J. Barber’s The Minister’s Library (1974), including his top recommendations;
– The major commentaries from the Early and Medieval Churches that have been translated into English;
– And many more.
The Best works are at the top of each page.  More commentaries follow under the sub-sections: 1500’s, 1600’s, Simple & Practical, Intermediate, Advanced.
Commentaries in larger subsections have not been reduplicated on the pages of the individual books, except as Spurgeon or Barber commented on them.  Some of the best commentaries are on those pages, so be sure to check them as well.
In the days ahead (Deo volente) we hope to add much more to this collection, including works in Latin and a selection of the better contemporary commentaries (only a few are present as is).  
While contemporary commentaries have their benefits (they are typically more uniform, focus on exegesis, bring in archaeology, have some updated research, etc.), they are, as a whole (with few exceptions), seriously deficient in deep, savory, godliness.  They will feed you information, but not your eternal soul.  On the other hand, not only do many 1800’s commentaries often have more thorough scholarship in them than many contemporary commentaries (for instance, see Jamieson-Fausset-Brown in Whole Bible Commentaries), but in reading older puritan commentaries from the Reformation age, one not only grows in knowledge, but finds depths of soul-stirring communion with our Eternal and Beloved God.
Spurgeon’s justly famous, helpful and often humorous comments and evaluations have been quoted under the titles where possible.  His scale is as follows: 
*** – ‘Heartily recommended’ ** – ‘Good, but more ordinary’ * – ‘Least desirable’
Do note that Spurgeon’s recommendations were for whether a late-1800’s seminary student preparing to be a preacher should buy a certain commentary.  As some commentaries were very pricey and scarce in Spurgeon’s day, he sometimes gave a lower rating to certain commentaries than what they otherwise deserve, and his emphasis is on whether a given work will be helpful to a preacher or not.  By God’s grace, we have many more of these works available to us than what even Spurgeon and his readers had available to them in their own day.
Cyril J. Barber’s comments have been added where possible as well.  He was a late-1900’s evangelical pastor and bibliophile who reprinted many of the best works he commends through (the now defunct) Klock & Klock Publishers (which commentaries should be purchased immediately if found).
Not every commentary is reformed, as truth may appreciated, and should be desired, wherever it is found.  A number of broadly evangelical works have been included (especially in the mid-1900’s) at Barber’s recommendation. 
Please note, in relation to this collection, the words of Spurgeon:
‘It is to be specially noted, that in no case do we endorse all that any author has written in his commentary.  We could not read the works through, it would have needed a Methuselah to do that; nor have we thought it needful to omit a book because it contains a measure of error, provided it is useful in its own way; for this catalog is for thoughtful, discerning men, and not for children.  
We have not, however, knowingly mentioned works whose main drift is skeptical, or Socinian, except with a purpose; and where we have admitted comments by writers of doubtful doctrine, because of their superior scholarship and the correctness of their criticisms we have given hints which will be enough for the wise.  It is sometimes very useful to know what our opponents have to say.’
Do note that, while liberal theology is in serious, fundamental, unbelieving error, some of the better, more conservative liberal works (usually noted as such) from the mid-late 1800’s and early 1900’s have been included on these pages as they often contain a wealth of information that can be found nowhere else (which is particularly valuable for the advanced student if one is looking for exhaustive information on a particular text).  These works are usually in the advanced sections of the webpages (as liberals rarely wrote anything that fed anyone’s soul).  Barber often relates why the particular work is useful.  Needless to say:  Beware of their presuppositions, eat the meat, spit out the bones, and feed upon the vast majority of the commentaries that hold forth God’s Truth in shining fullness.
Many of the works on these pages can be bought on Amazon and BookFinder. A book in hand is worth two on the computer.
Please enjoy thoroughly to the glory of God, and tell your friends.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Christ is King of the Nations

Jesus Christ, as Mediator, in his office as King, rules not only over the church, but over all things, as Paul says in Ephesians 1:22: "Head over all things to the church." Although disputed by many, yet it has been the distinctive testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and the broad testimony of many Reformed divines outside the RP Church, that Christ indeed, as King, does govern all things, and that his kingly rule is not confined merely to the church.

In March 2016 I began to undertake an historical survey of Reformed literature on the subject, and was delighted to see how many Puritans, Huguenots, Reformed Baptists, Dutch Reformed theologians and modern Reformed divines have also affirmed this important aspect of Christ's mediatorial kingly rule. The fruit of my research is a paper which can be found at a new website, which I hope will serve as a resource for those interested in delving further into this topic. It is a chronological survey covering the period from the 1500s to the present day demonstrating that there is broad historic appreciation within the Reformed church for the Covenanter distinctive doctrine that Christ rules over nations as well as the church in his kingly office.

For those who are interested, please bookmark this page for your reference, and I encourage you to not only read the quotes that I have assembled but also to click on the hyperlinks to the authors' own writings, and to study this important and practical, but often neglected, doctrine at greater length. May the Lord bless your studies, and may Christ's crown and covenant be lifted high among the nations.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

To Thirst For the Living God

"My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" -- King David
"There is in true grace an infinite circle: a man by thirsting receives, and receiving thirsts for more." -- Thomas Shepard
"O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." -- King David
"I thirst for thirstiness; I weep for tears." -- Thomas Gataker
"I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land." -- King David
"The Samaritan woman at the well found the Lord thirsting, and by him thirsting, she was filled. She first found him thirsting in order that he might drink from her faith. And when he was on the cross, he said, "I thirst," although they did not give him that for which he was thirsting. For he was thirsting for them." -- Augustine
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." -- Isaiah
"We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee stil:
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill." -- Bernard of Clairvaux
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." -- The Lord Jesus
"O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still." -- A.W. Tozer
"But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." -- The Lord Jesus
"With meat and drink indeed I'm blest,
Yet feed on hunger, drink on thirst.
My hunger brings a plenteous store,
My plenty makes me hunger more." -- Ralph Erskine

Monday, May 16, 2016

RBO is the Place to Go

I want to highlight a very valuable website which is fast becoming a go-to repository of some of the best Reformed reading material on the Internet: Reformed Books Online. It is run by my friend Travis Fentiman, who is a licentiate in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). I am a contributor to the site as well. 

There are a number of great websites around which have assembled collections of Reformed literature. I recommend the Post-Reformation Digital Library, Monergism, A Puritan's Mind and others. But as RBO has grown and expanded (and continues to do so weekly), I think it has become a site that all Reformed Christians will find to be simply invaluable as it makes available and accessible material from the time of the Reformation forward to the present on such a wide range of topics that readers of this blog will appreciate.

For example, those interested in Psalmody, Psalters or the Establishment Principle or the writings of the Westminster Divines or Scottish Covenanters will have hours and hours of edifying reading. If you desire to read all Reformed Systematic Theologies available online, and much, much more [see also several recommended reading lists here], RBO is the place to go.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Presbytery Inn Interview

My friend Devan Meade recently interviewed me at his website The Presbytery Inn about three of my favorite subjects: books, John Calvin, and books. :) 

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Plea Answered: Wilhelmus à Brakel's Commentary on Revelation Translated

It was just over 7 years ago today that I published "A Plea to Translate Wilhelmus à Brakel's Exposition of Revelation." When Father Brakel's "The Christian's Reasonable Service" was translated into English in the 1990s -- a great service to the church indeed -- a decision was made not to translate the final portion of it consisting of his commentary on Revelation because it represented a postmillennial eschatological perspective (common to all Puritans, whether Dutch, Scottish, English or American). This omission in translation left a gap for English readers desiring both to have a full translation of à Brakel's magnum opus, and those interested to read for themselves his understanding of the last book of the Bible.

I am pleased to report that this gap has finally been filled by J. Parnell McCarter and his team at the Historicism Research Foundation who have now produced an English translation of this work titled "
Not to be Ignored: Rev. Wilhelmus à Brakel's Commentary on Revelation" (2016), which is now available for purchase in paperback or digital format. For those who have been waiting, as I have, for this important work to be accessible in English, please see the announcement of this publication here for details on how to purchase your copy.

Many thanks to Mr. McCarter and those who assisted in the project for this valuable contribution to the church! 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In Which Women Deacons Were Approved by the Westminster Assembly

Let me tell you about the time that the Westminster Assembly passed a proposition authorizing in their Presbyterian church order that women be included in the office of deacon. The story is fascinating, especially of how it ends, and, well, maybe better told by Dr. Wayne Spear in his "Covenanted Uniformity in Religion: The Influence of the Scottish Commissioners on the Ecclesiology of the Westminster Assembly," pp. 119-121.
The Assembly still had before it another proposition from the Second Committee, 'That widows, which we read of, I Tim. v. 3, and elsewhere, are included under the name deacons.'[211] This came up for discussion on December 28 and 29, 1643.
The Independents, especially [Sidrach] Simpson and [William] Bridge, argued most strongly in the Assembly for the inclusion of deaconesses in the church. Simpson, for example, drew from 1 Timothy 5 the points that qualifications for the widow are given, some of them the same as are required for bishops and deacons; that she is to be enrolled, i.e., elected; and that she is not to depart from her employment.[212] Significantly, he related the passage in 1 Timothy to the text that was so central in the Independents' ecclesiology, Romans 12:6-8, understanding 'he that sheweth mercy' (with a curious change in gender) to refer explicitly to the widow, or deaconess. The position taken by the Independents was supported by other leading men of the Assembly only by Lazarus Seaman and George Gillespie. 
The notion that the widow in 1 Timothy 5 was a deaconess went back at least to [John] Calvin, who also appealed to Romans 12:8. In the Institutes, Calvin held that there are two grades of deacons: those who distribute alms, and those who devote themselves to the care of the poor and sick. 'Of this sort were the widows whom Paul mentions to Timothy [1 Tim. 5:9-10]. Women could fill no other public office than to devote themselves to the care of the poor.'[213] Calvin's teaching on this point was taken up by the English Separatists; Henry Barrow's A True Description out of the Word of God, of the Visible Church (1589) made a distinction between the 'most diligent and trusty deacons' and 'most loving and sober relievers' in the church.[214] The latter, who are designated as officers,
'must be women of sixty years of age at the least, for avoiding of inconveniences: they must be well reported of for good works, such as have nourished their children, such as have been harbourers to strangers: diligent and serviceable to the saints, compassionate and helpful to them in adversity, given to every good work, continuing in supplications and prayer night and day.'[215]
Some of the strongest leaders in the Assembly argued against including widows or deaconesses as officers, holding that they were, in the Timothy passage, the recipients rather than the bestowers of the alms of the church: [Charles] Herle, [Stephen] Marshall, [Herbert] Palmer, [Thomas] Temple, and [Cornelius] Burgess all took the negative side.[216]
When it came to a vote, the Assembly was evenly divided: the proposition passed by just one vote. Had [John] Lightfoot been present, the outcome would have been different, for he strongly opposed the proposition; but, as he said, 'It was my unfortunacy to be called into the city before it came to a vote.'[217] In the next session, there was a long debate on Romans 16:1-2 as a proof text, which ended in a negative vote, and the Assembly went on to other matters.[218]
In the process of editing, the only significant change  that was made in the section was that this reference to widows was quietly dropped. Although technically this amounted to changing a previous vote of the Assembly, it was not objected to, undoubtedly because of the divided opinion in the Assembly when the proposition was originally passed. As far as can be determined, the existence of deaconesses in the church was no more than a matter of theory, even for the advocates of their inclusion. 
[211] Lightfoot, Journal, 43.
[212] Lightfoot, Journal, 94-25.
[213] Calvin, Institutes, 4.3.9.
[214] In The Reformation of the Church, ed. Iain Murray (London: Banner of Truth, 1965), 197.
[215] Murray, Reformation, 99.
[216] Lightfoot, Journal, 94-96.
[217] Lightfoot, Journal, 96; Gillespie, Notes, 5. 
[218] Lightfoot, Journal, 97-98.
HT: Steve Bradley

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Blog: The Presbytery Inn

Be sure to check out a new blog by my friend Devan Meade: The Presbytery Inn. It is a place where good theology is "on tap." It combines edifying articles, book reviews, quotes with good beer. The description says it all:
The Presbytery Inn. A bar and guest house for those of a Confessional Presbyterian persuasion. If you like to talk about Turretin while drinking an Oatmeal Stout, this is the place for you. Feel free to stretch your legs, take a walk around the establishment, and note that there are many dusty corners and small nooks in this creaky old inn. We find those places that have been the most lived in are the ones that provide the greatest rest. And, indeed, the one who called us before the foundation of the world, is the one in whom we find our greatest rest. This website is intentionally confessional, subscribing to the original Westminster Confession of Faith.

Friday, July 17, 2015

How Then Shall We Live, According to a Puritan

Richard Rogers, "Seven Treatises":

Sundry necessary observations for a Christian, fit also to meditate upon. 
1. That we keep a narrow watch over our hearts, words, and deeds continually. 
2. That with all care the time be redeemed, which hath been idly, carelessly, and unprofitably spent. 
3. That once in the day at the least private prayer and meditation be used.
4. That care be had to do, and receive good in company.
5. That our family be with diligence and regard instructed, watched over and governed.
6. That no more time or care be bestowed in matters of the world, then must needs.
7. That we stir up ourselves to liberality to God's Saints.
8. That we give not the least bridle to wandering lusts and affections.
9. That we prepare ourselves to bear the cross, by what means it shall please God to exercise us.
10. That we bestow some time not only in mourning for our own sins, but also for the sins of the time and age wherein we live.
11. That we look daily for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, for our full deliverance out of this life.
12. That we use (as we shall have opportunity, at least as we shall have neccessity) to acquaint our selves with some godly and faithful person, with whom we may confer of our Christian estate, and open our doubts, to the quickening up of Gods graces in us.
13. That we observe the departure of men our of this life, their mortality, the vanity and alteration of things below, the more to condemn the world, and to continue our longing after the life to come. And that we meditate and muse often of our own death, and going out of this life, how we must lie in the grave, all our glory put off; which will serve to beat down the pride of life that is in us.
14. That we read somewhat daily of the holy Scriptures, for the further increase of our knowledge, if it may be.
15. That we enter into covenant with the Lord to strive against all sin, and especially against the special sins and corruptions of our hearts and lives, wherein we have most dishonored the Lord, and have raised up most guiltiness to our own consciences, and that we carefully see our covenant be kept and continued.
16. That we mark how sin dieth and is weakened in us, and that we turn not to our old sins again, but wisely avoid all occasions to sin.
17. That we fall not from our first love, but continue still our affections to the liking of Gods word, and all the holy exercises of religion diligently hearing it, and faithfully practicing the same in our lives and conversations: that we prepare our selves before we come, and meditate and confer of that we hear, either by our selves, or with other: and so mark our daily profiting in religion.
18. That we be often occupied in meditating on Gods benefits and works, and sound forth his praises for the same.
19. That we exercise our faith by taking comfort and delight in the great benefit of our redemption by Christ, and the fruition of Gods presence, in his glorious and blessed kingdom.
20. Lastly, that we make not these holy practices of repentance common in time, nor use them for course.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Family That Prays Together

It is a well-known truism that “the family that prays together stays together.”

The saying was invented by Al Scalpone, a professional commercial-writer, and was used as the slogan of the Roman Catholic Family Rosary Crusade by Father Patrick Peyton (P. Peyton, All for Her, 1967). The crusade began in 1942 and the slogan was apparently first broadcast on 6 Mar. 1947 during the radio programme Family Theater of the Air. The Crusade in Britain started in 1952, and the expression now has many (often humorous) variant forms. [Jennifer Speake, ed., “The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs” (5th ed., 2008), p. 109]

Though the saying comes directly to us through a 20th century Roman Catholic “crusade,” the principle behind the saying is a Biblical and Protestant one.

Religion is absolutely necessary to preserve domestic union. For families are but little societies, as societies are larger families; and therefore religion, which is confessedly the best bond and cement of union in states and larger communities, is likewise so in little domestic governments: and family prayer is as much a duty in this smaller sphere of action, as public worship is a national concern. [Jeremiah Seed, “Domestic Love and Union Recommended and Enforced” (Serm. III) in “Discourses on Several Important Subjects. To Which are Added Eight Sermons,” (5th ed., 1757) Vol. 1, pp. 68-69]

Seed adds: 

Besides, the united devotions of a whole family acting in concert will be more effectual, than the solitary prayers of any single member, when detached from the whole body: as they have a tendency to beget in others a correspondent piety, to propagate the flame from breast to breast, and to encourage, countenance, and give a sanction to exemplary holiness: but chiefly, because God has promised, that where two or three are gathered together, he will be in the midst of them. It is a beautiful and amiable sight to behold a well-regulated society, glorifying God with one heart and one mouth, canceling their former sins by repentance, and forming settled resolutions of obedience for the future.
Add to this, that the joint devotions of a family are as necessary to derive a blessing upon a family, and to return thanks for blessings already received; as the applications of each individual are to beg God, or to thank him for, his own personal advantages. [Jeremiah Seed, “The Duties of Family and Private Prayer Considered” (Serm. XI) in “Discourses on Several Important Subjects. To Which are Added Eight Sermons,” (5th ed., 1757) Vol. 1, pp. 290-291]

More recently, Herbert Lockyer writes:

A home which puts Christ first and is bathed in prayer never breaks apart. When the first family was formed, family prayer began, with the head of the family as the priest. 'I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.' Genesis 18:19 'There can be no true family life without family religion, and family religion is best sustained by family worship,' says W.C. Proctor. The proverb has it that, 'A home without prayer is like a house without a roof.' Manifold promises are for those whose home life is permeated with prayer. 'A family that prays together, stays together.' Family prayer is 'the bond of family love, the cement of domestic amity, and the sweetener of home life.'" [Herbert Lockyer, "All the Promises of the Bible (1962)," p. 219]

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What is Freer Than Gift?

There is a wonderful chapter in Daniel Rogers' “Practical Catechism” on the free offer of the gospel. Below are some extracts from it designed to whet the appetite, stir the appreciation of God’s free offer of grace in the gospel, and in his words, “teach thee to mend thy slow pace, and run, yea, fly to this offer and free gift.” Read the full chapter in the link below from pages 88 to 108. Daniel Rogers (1573–1652) was an English Puritan minister and scholar, son of Richard Rogers, and a student of William Perkins.

Article IV.
The gospel and the offer of grace in it, is the revealer of this deliverance.
 “That is his gracious offer, made to the soul therein: which is nothing else, but the expression of the covenant of grace, that he is willing a poor soul may come to him without doubting and fear, because he holds out the Golden Scepter unto it, and bids it, Be reconciled. Hither refer all those texts wherein this offer is made, both in the covenant and in the seal of Baptism, Isa. 55.1, Ho, every one that thirsteth come. And, Let him that thirsteth, drink freely, Rev. 22.17, and John 7.37, In the great days of the feast, Jesus cried, If any man thirst, let him come.
And surely whoso will profit by this Article, must get this lesson by heart: That the Lord who freely purposed, and faithfully sent his Son into the world, still continues his freedom, and doth offer the Lord Jesus with his excellency most freely. A bottom of most unspeakable comfort to all poor, bruised reeds and broken souls. For if he be freely offered, what poor soul should doubt to accept him? What is freer than gift? He that gave him freely, cannot withdraw him again, nor keep back his satisfaction from a needing soul, as if he repented. And having given him once, he cannot recall him, for why then gave he him? And if he be wholly given, even with all his excellency, what particular thing can be denied with him? It behooves us then much to understand the truth of this freedom: which in a few particulars I will name.
 First, God offers Christ of his own accord, therefore freely. It never came into the heart of Angel or man to dream of it, or desire it. Romans 5, When we were yet enemies. The sun doth not arise more freely over the head of a drunkard snoring in his bed, or wallowing in his vomit, than the Lord Jesus came and is offered to a sinner in his blood and woeful misery. Preventing kindness is free, ere we desired it. See Isa. 65.1.
He offers it to whom he pleaseth, passing by millions of people in the world, and offering it to such and such nations, as he did of old to Israel, neglecting the world; so that it is merely unconditional and free, as when Paul came to Athens or Ephesus, who had never heard of gospel before.
Q. What are you so large in opening of this?
 A. Because it’s the main hinge whereupon the door of hope and faith turneth: the offer of God satisfied, being the immediate object to which the soul is to resolve and empty itself. The offer I say assisted with a promise. For an offer is no otherwise differing from a promise, than as a general out of which a particular issueth; the promise is included in an offer, but yet in special expressing the Covenant of God to all that receive the offer, that he will receive them, be their God, both in pardon and in all-sufficiency. Into these the soul doth wholly pour forth herself: which that we may understand, consider this, that we have to do with the Father immediately, but with our Lord Jesus only mediately, as a means to lead us with confidence unto him. The Father properly looks at the Son as our surety, and us, for his sake: but we look at him directly, and to our Lord Jesus, as our Mediator. So that look what we can show for our reconciliation, must come from the Father, and that is his offer and promise, oath and covenant of mercy. Into that therefore the poor soul is to resolve itself, all her doubts, fears, temptations and distempers whatsoever, and so to remain settled. So that it mainly concerns the soul to understand the nature, ground, and properties of the offer and promise.
Fifthly, this should sear us from all infidelity and contempt of God’s offer: Oh! It’s free and from mere good will, the Lord is tied to none; He hath rejected millions of Jews and Turks and baptized ones, and chosen to offer grace to thee. And, shall the contempt of the free offer of that which thousands would have been glad of (upon the price of going from sea to sea for it) be pardonable? Do but consider what woeful punishment will lie upon thee, who refuseth such an offer laid in thy lap, when as many poor souls would rejoice if the spending of days and nights might procure them a tender and believing heart to receive it; and yet complain, that they cannot come by it. Oh, tremble at the freedom of this offer! Be humble and base thyself to consider but this; I am a poor wretch, standing to the mercy of a free God, who hath it to give where he will, and to deny it at his pleasure. If he gave it to a prodigal son, and deny it to a moral civilian: if he give it to one that came into the vineyard at the eleventh hour, and deny it to him that came in at the seventh: if he deny it to the willer and runner, and be found of such as sought him not, who shall allege against freedom? May he not do with his own as he pleases? Oh, despise none! Lest the Lord make the despisers to seek the despised (as the Gileadites sought to Jeptha) and be glad of their portion. Oh! Turn all emulation and scorn into humility; and deep adoring of this freedom.
Fourthly, let it teach thee to mend thy slow pace, and run, yea, fly to this offer and free gift. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Victory Song For Christ

"On January 1, 1541, during his stay in Worms [Germany], [John] Calvin wrote the poem Epinicion Christo cantatum 'just for fun.' This 'Victory Song for Christ' was a poem with clear allusions to the events in Worms." -- Wulfert de Greef, The Writings of John Calvin, p. 140

This 124-line epic poem is Calvin's only known poetic work, originally written in Latin, and thus far, only translated in full into German and French. Written in 1541, and circulated amongst friends in manuscript form. It was finally published for the first time in Geneva in 1544, after it had already been added to a Catholic index of prohibited works by the inquisitor Vidal de B

Calvin later, in a letter to Conrad Hubert, on May 19, 1557, stated: "By nature I was inclined to poetry, but I have bid it farewell, and for twenty-five years I have composed nothing, except at Worms, following the example of Philipp and Sturm, I was led to write for diversion that poem that you read." (Calvini Opera 16, no. 2632, col. 488) 

Jean-Henri Merle d'Aubigné later translated a portion of this poem from the French version into English, from History of the Reformation in the Times of John Calvin, Vol. 7, Chap. 19, which is here reproduced for our readers. "It is the only poem of his that we possess, and it contains some fine lines." It concludes with an eloquent cry of exultation in the victory of Jesus Christ over his enemies at the last day. 

Yes, the victory will be Christ’s, and the year which announces to us the day of triumph is now beginning. Let pious tongues break the thankless silence and cause their joy to burst forth. His enemies will say, What madness is this? Are they triumphing over a nation which is not yet subdued, are they seizing the crown before they have routed the enemy? True, impiety sits haughtily on a lofty throne. There still exists one who by a nod bends to his will the most powerful monarchs, his mouth vomiting a deadly poison and his hands stands with innocent blood. But for Christ death is life and the cross a victory. The breath of his mouth is the weapon with which he fights, and already for five lustra he has brandished his sword with a vigorous hand, not without smiting. The pope, leader of the sacrilegious army, wounded at last, groans under the unlooked for plagues which have just fallen upon him, and the profane multitude is trembling for terror. If it be a great thing to conquer one’s enemies by force, what must it be to overthrow them by a mere sign? Christ casts them down without breaking his own repose: he scatters them while he keeps silence. We are a pitiful band, low in number, without apparel, without arms, sheep in the presence of ravening wolves. But the victory of Christ our king is for that very reason all the more marvelous. Let his head then be crowned with the laurel of victory, let him be seated on the chariot drawn by four coursers abreast, that his glory may shine forth before all.
 Que tous ses ennemis qui lui ont fait la guerre 
Aillent après, captifs, baissant le front en terre:
Eck still flushed with his Bacchic orgies, the incontempent Cochlaeus, Nausea with his wordy productions, Pelargus with his mouth teeming with insolence, -- these are not the chief men, but the shameless multitude have set them for standard-bearers in the fight. Let them learn then to bow their necks under an unaccustomed yoke. And you, O sacred poets, celebrate in magnificent song the glorious Victory of Jesus Christ, and let all the multitude around him shout ‘Io Paean!’

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Calvin on the Free Offer of the Gospel and God's Love to All Men

John Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon No. 28 (on Deut. 4.36-38), p. 167:

It is true that Saint John saith generally, that [God] loved the world. And why? For Jesus Christ offereth himself generally to all men without exception to be their redeemer...Thus we see three degrees of the love that God hath shewed us in our Lord Jesus Christ. The first is in respect of the redemption that was purchased in the person of him that gave himself to death for us, and became accursed to reconcile us to God his Father. That is the first degree of love, which extendeth to all men, inasmuch as Jesus Christ reacheth out his arms to call and allure all men both great and small, and to win them to him. But there is a special love for those to whom the gospel is preached: which is that God testifieth unto them that he will make them partakers of the benefit that was purchased for them by the death and passion of his Son. And forasmuch as we be of that number, therefore we are double bound already to our God: here are two bonds which hold us as it were strait tied unto him. Now let us come to the third bond, which dependeth upon the third love that God sheweth us: which is that he not only causeth the gospel to be preached unto us, but also maketh us to feel the power thereof, so as we know him to be our Father and Saviour, not doubting but that our sins are forgiven us for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, who bringeth us the gift of the Holy Ghost, to reform us after his own image. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Robert Hamilton: First 'Reformed Presbyterian'

To Sir Robert Hamilton of Preston (1650-October 20/21, 1701) is credit given for the first recorded instance of the term "Reformed Presbyterian,"* which he wrote of himself in his dying declaration. He was:
  • A leader of the Scottish Covenanters;
  • A combatant at the Battle of Drumclog (June 22, 1679);
  • A fugitive from English justice, who was exiled in Holland for many years for his Covenanter convictions;
  • The man whose influence led to the Dutch Presbyterian ordination of James Renwick, the last Scottish Covenanter minister to be publicly executed; and he was
  • An author of the 1679 Rutherglen Declaration and the 1692 Sanquhar Declaration.
John Howie, biographer of the Covenanters, devoted a chapter to the record of his life in his famous "Scots Worthies." His life indeed was the stuff of heroic adventure novels. Much maligned, ever zealous, hunted and on the run, willing to sacrifice lands and title, "with Moses he made that noble choice, rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season, and did esteem a stedfast adherence to the cause of Christ, (with all the reproaches that followed thereon) greater riches than all his brother's estate. For out of a true love to Jesus Christ, his covenanted cause, interest and people, he laid his worldly honour in the dust, continuing still a companion in the faith, patience, affliction and tribulation of that poor, mean and despised handful of the Lord's witnesses in these lands, who still owned and adhered unto the state of the Lord's covenanted cause in Scotland" (John Howie, Scots Worthies, p. 600).

When he finally returned to Scotland in 1689, he could not in good conscience accede to the Erastian Revolution Settlement. On account of his involvement in publishing the 1692 Sanquhar Declaration, he was arrested and spent some eight months in prison until he was released upon the magistrates' prerogative. After a life spent in the service of Christ's covenanted cause in Scotland, he left this world with a dying testimony in which he stated:
I die a true Protestant, and to my knowledge a reformed Presbyterian, in opposition to popery, prelacy, and malignancy, and whatever is contrary to truth, and the power of godliness, as well against flattering pretenders to unwarrantable zeal on the right hand, as against lukewarmness on the left; adhering with my soul to the holy sweet scriptures, which have often comforted me in the house of my pilgrimage, our confession of faith, our catechisms, the directory for worship, covenants, national and solemn league and covenant, acknowledgment of sins and engagement to duties, with the causes of God's wrath, and to all the faithful public testimonies given against defections of old or late, particularly these contained in the informatory vindication, and that against the toleration, and the two last declarations emitted since this fatal revolution, which testimonies I ever looked upon as a door of hope of the Lord's returning again to these poor backslidden lands.
And now, my dear friends, let nothing discourage you in that way. The Lord will maintain his own cause, and make it yet to triumph. The nearer to-day it may be the darker, but yet in the evening time it shall be light, and the farther distant ye keep from all the courses and interests of this generation, the greater will your peace and security be. O! labour to be in Christ, for him, and like him, much in reading of the holy scriptures, much in prayer and holy unity among yourselves. Be zealous and tender in keeping up your private fellowship for prayer and Christian conference, as also your public correspondences and general meetings, go to them and come from them as these intrusted, really concerned and weighted with Christ's precious controverted truths in Scotland, and labour still to take Christ along with you to all your meetings, and to behave yourselves as under his holy and all-seeing eye when at them, that ye may always return with a blessing from his rich hand. Now farewell, my dear Christian friends, the Lord send us a joyful meeting at his own right hand after time; which shall be the earnest desire, while in time, of your dying friend,
Sic subscribitur,R. HAMILTON.
Matthew Hutchison wrote concerning this testimony:
In such sentiments as these we find the true inner spirit, the real sustaining power of these faithful men. Religion was to them after all much more than a public testifying for the truth; it was a living and walking by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the joy of his holy fellowship upheld them in all their sorrows and trials. 'In Christ, for Him, like Him,' that was the sum of their testimony, that was their aim and their glory.
James Renwick himself once wrote the following witness to the legacy of Robert Hamilton:
But let the world say what it they will, I must say this, and I say it without vanity or flattery, that a little of Robert Hamilton's spirit in such a day as this is very much worth.
John Howie adds:
The faithful Mr. Renwick called him Mi pater, my father, and ever had a high esteem and regard for him, as the contents of most part of his letters bear: Yea, in the very last letter he wrote, he accosts him thus, 'If I had lived and been qualified for writing a book, and if it had been dedicated to any, you would have been the man; for I have loved you, and I have peace before God in that; and I bless his name that ever I have been acquainted with you, &c.'
* "He left a written testimony to the cause for which he had laboured and suffered, urging his brethren to unwavering steadfastness and watchfulness against defections. In this deed, we find for the first time that we have noticed, the combination of the words that afterwards became the designation of the church, "I die a true Protestant, and to my knowledge a Reformed Presbyterian." (Matthew Hutchison, The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland: Its Origin and History, 1680-1876, p. 138)

"How We Got the Name Reformed Presbyterian
The first recorded use of the term was in 1701. In that year Robert Hamilton died. Among his last words were these: 'I die a true Protestant, and to my knowledge a Reformed Presbyterian.'" (Peter Lippincott, ed., Psalm Singing of the Covenanters, p. 19)