Monday, December 21, 2009

North Sea Cross-Pollination

James Gilfillan, writing in The Sabbath Viewed in the Light of Reason, Revelation, and History with Sketches of its Literature (1862), pp. 114-117, notes a fascinating connection between the Sabbatarian views of Scottish Presbyterians and those of the Dutch Nadere Reformatie. He points out that some of the largest and unrefuted treatises on the Sabbath originated on both sides of the North Sea.

First, the massive treatise of John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679), De Causa Dei contra Anti-Sabbatarios Tractatus, or Treatise in the Cause of God against the Anti-Sabbatarians (Rotterdam, 1674-1676). Brown was a Scottish Covenanter who fled his motherland due to persecution, and ended in spending his last days in Holland, residing in Rotterdam and Utrecht. Gilfillan writes that this treatise was his "principal, though least popular work, and we should suppose, the largest ever published on the subject." James Walker writes that Brown's magnum opus is "larger than all the published works of Dr. [William] Cunningham put together" and this treatise of "our Scottish doctrine of the Sabbath...belongs, among books, to the order of the mighties: it is great in length, great in learning, great in patient sifting of the subject and in meeting of assertions and marshalling of arguments," The Theology and Theologians of Scotland: Chiefly of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, p. 25). Written in Latin, much of it remains untranslated into English today, although, thankfully, a select portion of this work representing representing perhaps the earliest Scottish Covenanter defense of exclusive psalmody has been translated in two parts appearing in The Confessional Presbyterian Journal (part one translated by N.E. Barry Hofstetter in 2007, and part two by my pastor, Dr. Steven Dilday, in 2009). This translation effort is most valuable, and it is to be hoped that the remainder of this worthy translation project will be taken up sooner rather than later.

Second, the compilation of two works on the Sabbath published in 1685 by Jacobus Koelman (1632-1695), the Dutch Puritan divine, entitled Het dispuit, en de historie, mitsgaders de praktijke van den sabbath, en's Heeren-dag (The Argument, History, and Practice of the Sabbath and the Lord's Day). Gilfillan describes it thus: "The work is second in magnitude only to that of Brown, and, like it, is a complete thesaurus on its subject. The arrangement of topics, which is indicated by the title, is happy, and each of them receives its distinct and proportionate attention. It has a novel feature of peculiar interest in the historical account which it supplies of opinions on the Sabbath, and of Sabbatic controversies in England and the Netherlands." Koelman and Brown were close friends, and in fact, Koelman translated certain works by Brown into Dutch.

Finally, Matthew Crawford (c. 1640-1700), a Scottish Presbyterian minister, wrote Exercitatio Apologetica, pro doctrina (de perpetua obligatione quarti precepti de Sabbato) ab Ecclesus Reformatis Communites recepta, adversus Socinianos, Anabaptistas, Libertinos, Pontificiodo quosdam Lutheranos, Enthusiastas, & quosdum Viros Doctos in Ecclesiis Reformatis (Utrecht, 1669) and dedicated it to Gisbertus Voetius. He was drawn to the Continent "having been captivated with the writings of the Belgic divines, on account of their signal erudition, and complete agreement in doctrine with his own Church and the Westminster Assembly." His grief at seeing the profanation of the Lord's Day there led to the eventual publication of this treatise, which Jacobus Koelman said in 1685 had never been answered.

These powerful works upholding the Christian Lord's Day reflect the "cross-pollination" that occurred between the the Puritans and Covenanters of the British isles and the Nadere Reformatie of the Netherlands. Though they represent perhaps the high-watermark of Puritan Sabbatarianism in the seventeenth century, it would be consistent with the aims of those divines on both sides of the North Sea, and desirable for us, to have each of these Latin and Dutch works fully available in the English and Dutch languages in the twenty-first century. It is my hope and prayer that, in the Lord's providence, this will come to pass.

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