James Clifford (c. 1622-1698) on the second article of the Creed

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James Clifford (c. 1622-1698) was a Reformed conforming churchman and musician, chorister of Magdalen College, Oxford, canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, curate of St. Gregory by St. Paul’s, and chaplain to the Society of Serjeant’s Inn, Fleet Street. While known primarily for his The Divine Services and Anthems usually sung in the Cathedrals and Collegiate Choires in the Church of England (first edition 1663), Clifford three decades later also wrote A Catechism containing the Principles of Christian Religion (1694), which contains the following golden Q&A on the second article of the Apostles’ Creed. Notice also the emphasis on comfort in relation to each doctrine, taking its cue from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q. Declare unto me the second part of the Creed, concerning faith in God the Son. Which is the second article?

A. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

Q. What is signified by that word JESUS?

A. This word signifieth a Saviour. (Matt. 1:21)

Q. Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, a Saviour?

A. Because he saveth us from all our sins (Heb. 7:25). Neither ought any safety to be sought for from any other, nor can elsewhere be found (Acts 4:12; Is. 43:11).

Q. Whom doth he save?

A. He saveth all and only the elect and believers, which have been, are, or shall be, even from the beginning to the end of the world (Jn. 3:16).

Q. What evils doth he deliver his elect from?

A. From all sin. So the angel testifieth (Matt. 1:21; 1 Jn. 1:7). And also from the punishment of sin: for the cause being taken away, which is sin; the effect is taken away, which is punishment (Rom. 8:1).

Q. How doth Christ save his elect?

A. 1st, He saveth us by his merit or satisfaction: because, by his obedience, passion, death, and intercession, he hath merited for us remission of sins, reconciliation with God, and everlasting life (1 Jn. 1:7; Rom. 5:19; Is. 53:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). 2ndly, He saveth us by his efficacy, power, and operation: because he not only obtaineth, by his meriting for us, remission of sins, and that life which we had lost; but also applieth effectually unto us, by virtue of his Spirit, through faith, the whole benefit of our redemption. For what benefits he merited by his death, he doth not retain them unto himself, but bestoweth them on us.

Q. What is it therefore to believe in Jesus?

A. It is not only to believe, that he is able to save, and that he is the only means to obtain salvation by; but also, that he is my Saviour (Lk. 1:47; Ps. 27:1). And that I rely wholly upon him, and none but him, for the salvation of my soul (Jn. 6:68).

Q. What comfort hast thou by this?

A. That though I am guilty of innumerable sins, both original and actual, even the breach of the whole law, and so am worthy to be damned; and have all the plagues of God, due to my sin, cast upon me; yea though I were a bond-slave to sin and Satan: yet I believe that Jesus is my Saviour, and that he hath delivered me from all my sins, both the guilt, and the satisfactory punishment of them; and also from the power of sin and Satan (Lk. 4:18).

Q. What is signified by the word CHRIST?

A. Christ signifieth anointed.

Q. Why is he called Christ, that is, anointed?

A. Because he was ordained of the Father, and anointed of the Holy Ghost, the chief Prophet and Doctor (Deut. 18:15), who hath opened unto us the secret counsel, and all the will of his Father, concerning our redemption (Jn. 15:15). And the High Priest, who, with that one only sacrifice of his body, hath redeemed us (Heb. 9:28), and doth continually make intercession to his Father for us (Rom. 8:34). And a King, who ruleth us by his Word and Spirit; and defendeth and maintaineth that salvation which he hath purchased for us (Lk. 1:33; Jn. 10:28).

Q. What benefit hast thou by this?

A. That both I, and all the elect of God, are made spiritual kings, priests, and prophets (Rev. 1:5-6). Kings, in bearing rule over our hearts, and mastering our rebellious thoughts, wills, and affections (Rom. 6:12). Priests, in offering up to God our spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5) of prayer (Ps. 141:2), of thanksgiving (Heb. 13:15), of alms (Heb. 13:16), of a contrite heart (Ps. 51:17), of our whole souls and bodies for the service of God (Rom. 12:1). And prophets, in applying that knowledge we have, to the benefit and good of others (Lk. 23:32).

Q. Now shew me why this Jesus Christ is called the only Son of God, seeing we also are said to be the sons of God?

A. Christ is called God’s only Son, because he alone is the co-eternal and natural Son of the eternal Father (Jn. 1:14; Heb. 1:5). The angels also, and Adam before his fall, are his sons, by creation. But we are sons adopted of the Father, by grace, for his sake (Eph. 1:5; Jn. 1:12).

Q. What comfort cometh by this?

A. It sheweth the wonderful love, and great mercy of God to me, that when I was, by nature, the child of wrath and perdition, he spared not to give his only Son for me, to make me his child, and heir, by the grace of adoption (Jn. 3:16).

Q. Wherefore is he called our Lord?

A. Because he redeeming and ransoming both our body and soul from sin, not with gold and silver, but with his precious blood, and delivering us from all the power of the devil, hath set us free to serve him (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:9).

Q. What is the comfort of this?

A. That Christ being my Lord, and I living under his dominion, I need not fear what enemies, whether devil, or wicked men, can do unto me: If God be on our side, who can be against us? And though I was under the prince of darkness, having Satan my Lord, until I believed in Christ; yet since I am Christ’s, and he is my only Lord, and that by purchase with his blood, by gift from his Father; and by marriage contracted, to be consummate at his appearing.

– James Clifford (c. 1622-1698), A Catechism containing the Principles of Christian Religion, p. 50-59.

John Pearson (1613-1686) on the catholicity of the Church

John Pearson

 

John Pearson (1613-1686) was, without question, the preeminent Reformed divine in the Church of England after the Restoration. Pearson was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge (1661-1673), Master of Jesus College, Cambridge (1660-1662), Master of Trinity College, Cambridge (1662-1672), and Bishop of Chester (1673-1686). Widely esteemed in his day for his expertise in patristics and the oriental languages, he produced various theological works, but was particularly renowned for his Exposition of the Creed (first edition 1659), the standout systematic work in the Church of England during the later Stuart period.

Every Sunday, Christians around the world confess the Apostles’ Creed, and, in the ninth of its twelve articles, they confess the Church to be catholic. What is meant by this? Previously we have considered Bénédict Pictet (1655-1724) on the catholicity of the Church, and related excerpts from Matthew Poole (1624-1679) and Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713).  Below is Pearson’s explanation  (minus the lengthy marginal notes in Latin and Greek):

[T]he word Catholick, as it is not read in the Scriptures, so was it not anciently in the Creed […] but being inserted by the Church, must necessarily be interpreted by the sense which the most ancient Fathers had of it, and that sense must be confirmed, so far as it is consentient with the Scriptures. To grant then that the word was not used by the Apostles, we must also acknowledge that it was most anciently in use among the Primitive Fathers, and that as to several intents. For first, they called the epistles of S. James, S. Peter, S. John, S. Jude, the Catholick Epistles, because when the Epistles written by S. Paul were directed to particular churches congregated in particular cities, these were either sent to the churches dispersed through a great part of the world, or directed to the whole Church of God upon the face of the whole earth. Again, we observe the Fathers to use the word Catholick for nothing else but general or universal, in the ordinary or vulgar sense; as the Catholick resurrection is the resurrection of all men, the Catholick opinion, the opinion of all men. […]

When this title is attributed to the Church it hath not always the same notion or signification; for when by the Church is understood the house of God, or place in which the worship is performed, then by the Catholick Church is meant no more than the common Church, into which all such persons as belonged to that parish in which it was built were wont to congregate. For where monasteries were in use, as there were separate habitations for men, and distinct for women, so were there also churches for each distinct: and in the parishes, where there was no distinction of sexes as to habitation, there was a common Church which received them both, and therefore called Catholick.

Again, when the Church is taken for the persons making profession of the Christian Faith, the Catholick is often added in opposition to hereticks and schismaticks, expressing a particular Church continuing in the true Faith with the rest of the Church of God, as the Catholick Church in Smyrna, the Catholic Church in Alexandria [etc.].

Now seeing these particular Churches could not be named Catholick as they were particular, in reference to this or that city, in which they were congregated, it followeth that they were called Catholick by their coherence and conjunction with that Church which was properly and originally called so; which is the Church taken in that acceptation which we have already delivered. That Church which was built upon the Apostles as upon the foundation, congregated by their preaching and by their baptizing, receiving continued accession, and disseminated in several parts of the earth, containing within it numerous congregations all which were truly called churches, as members of the same Church; that Church I say, was after some time called the Catholick Church, that is to say, the name Catholick was used by the Greeks to signifie the whole. For seeing every particular congregation professing the name of Christ was from the beginning called a Church, seeing likewise all such congregations considered together were originally comprehended under the name of the Church, seeing these two notions of the word were different, it came to pass that for distinction’s sake at first they called the Church, taken in the large and comprehensive sense, by as large and comprehensive a name, the Catholick Church.

Although this seem the first intention of those which gave the name Catholick to the Church, to signifie thereby nothing else but the whole or universal Church, yet those which followed did signifie by the same that affection of the Church which floweth from the nature of it, and may be expressed by that word. At first they called the whole Church Catholick, meaning no more than the universal Church; but having used that term some space of time, they considered how the nature of the Church was to be universal, and in what that universality did consist.

As far then as the ancient fathers have expressed themselves, and as far as their expressions are agreeable with the descriptions of the Church delivered in the Scriptures, so far I conceive we may safely conclude that the Church of Christ is truly Catholick, and that the truly Catholick Church is the true Church of Christ, which must necessarily be sufficient for the explication of this affection, which we acknowledge when we say, we believe the Catholick Church.

The most obvious and most general notion of this Catholicism consisteth in the diffusiveness of the Church, grounded upon the commission given to the builders of it, Go teach all nations, whereby they and their successors were authorized and empowered to gather congregations of believers, and so to extend the borders of the Church unto the utmost parts of the earth. The Synagogue of the Jews especially consisted of one nation, and the publick worship of God was confined to one country (Ps. 76:1-3; 147:29) […] The temple was the only place in which the sacrifices could be offered, in which the priests could perform their office of ministration; and so under the Law there was an enclosure divided from all the world besides. But God said unto his Son, I will give the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession (Mark 15:15). And Christ commanded the Apostles, saying, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature; that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). Thus the Church of Christ, in its primary institution, was made to be of a diffusive nature, to spread and extend itself, from the city of Jerusalem, where it first began, to all the parts and corners of the earth. From whence we find them in the Revelation, crying to the Lamb, Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by the blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Rev. 5:9). This reason did the ancient Fathers render why the Church was called Catholick, and the nature of the Church is so described in the Scriptures.

Secondly, they called the Church of Christ the Catholick Church, because it teacheth all things which are necessary for a Christian to know, whether they be things in heaven or things in earth, whether they concern the condition of man in this life, or in the life to come. As the Holy Ghost did lead the Apostles into all truth, so did the Apostles leave all truth unto the Church, which teaching all the same, may well be called Catholick, from the universality of necessary and saving truths retained in it.

Thirdly, the Church hath been thought fit to be called Catholick in reference to the universal obedience which it prescribeth; both in respect of the persons, obliging men of all conditions, and in relation to the precepts, requiring the performance of all the evangelical commands.

Fourthly, the Church hath been yet further called or reputed Catholick, by reason of all graces given in it, whereby all diseases of the soul are healed, and spiritual virtues are disseminated, all the works, and words, and thoughts of men are regulated, till we become perfect men in Christ Jesus.

In all these four acceptations did some of the ancient Fathers understand the Church of Christ to be Catholick, and every one of them doth certainly belong unto it. Wherefore I conclude that this Catholicism, or second affection of the Church, consisteth generally in universality, as embracing all sorts of persons, as to be disseminated through all nations, as comprehending all ages, as containing all necessary and saving truths, as obliging al conditions of men to all kind of obedience, as curing all diseases, and planting all graces, in the souls of men.

The necessity of believing the holy Catholick Church, appeareth first in this, that Christ hath appointed it as the only way unto eternal life. We read at the first, that the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47), and what was then daily done, hath been done since continually. Christ never appointed two ways to heaven; nor did he build a Church to save some, and make another institution for other men’s salvation. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12); and that name is no otherwise given under heaven than in the Church. As none were saved from the deluge but such as were in the Ark of Noah, framed for their reception by the command of God; as none of the first-born of Egypt lived, but such as were within those habitations whose doorposts were sprinkled with blood by the appointment of God for their preservation; as none of the inhabitants of Jericho could escape the fire or sword, but such as were within the house of Rahab, for whose protection a covenant was made; so none shall ever escape the eternal wrath of God, which belong not to the Church of God. This is the congregation of those persons here on earth which shall hereafter meet in heaven. These are the vessels of the Tabernacle carried up and down, at last to be translated into, and fixed in, the Temple.

Secondly, it is necessary to believe the Church of Christ which is but one, that being in it we may take care never to cast ourselves, or be ejected out of it. There is a power within the Church to cast those out which do belong to it; for if any neglect to hear the Church, saith our Saviour, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican (Matt. 18:17). By great and scandalous offences, by incorrigible misdemeanours, we may incur the censure of the Church of God, and while we are shut out by them, we stand excluded out of heaven. For our Saviour said to his Apostles, upon whom he built his Church, whosoever’s sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosoever’s sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:23). Again, a man may not only passively and involuntarily be rejected, but also by an act of his own, cast our or reject himself [out of the Church], not only by plain and complete apostasy, but by a defection from the unity of truth, falling into some damnable heresie, or by an active separation, deserting all which are in communion with the Catholick Church, and falling into an irrecoverable schism.

Thirdly, it is necessary to believe the Church of Christ to be holy, lest we should presume to obtain any happiness by being of it, without that holiness which is required in it. It is not enough that the end, institution, and administration of the Church are holy; but, that there may be some real and permanent advantage received by it, it is necessary that the persons abiding in the communion of it should be really and effectually sanctified. Without which holiness the privileges of the Church prove the greatest disadvantages, and the means of salvation neglected, tend to a punishment with aggravation. It is not only vain but pernicious to attend at the marriage-feast without a wedding garment, and it is our Saviour’s description of folly to cry, Lord, Lord, open unto us, while we are without oil in our lamps. We must acknowledge a necessity of holiness, when we confess that Church alone which is holy can make us happy.

Fourthly, there is a necessity of believing the Catholick Church, because except a man be of that he can be of none. For seeing the Church which is truly Catholick containeth within it all which are truly churches, whosoever is not of the Catholick Church, cannot be of the true Church. That Church alone which first began at Jerusalem on earth, will bring us to Jerusalem in heaven; and that alone began there which always embraceth the faith once delivered to the Saints. Whatsoever Church pretendeth to a new beginning, pretendeth at the same time to a new Churchdom, and whatsoever is so new is none. So necessary it is to believe the holy Catholick Church.

Having thus far explicated the first part of this article, I conceive every person sufficiently furnished with means of instruction, what they ought to intend, when they profess to believe the holy Catholick Church. For thereby everyone is understood to declare thus much: I am fully persuaded, and make a free confession of this, as of a necessary and infallible truth, that Christ by the preaching of the Apostles, did gather unto himself a Church consisting of thousands of believing persons, and numerous congregations, to which he daily added such as should be saved, and will successively and daily add unto the same unto the end of the world: so that by the virtue of his all-sufficient promise, I am assured that there was, hath been hitherto, and now is, and hereafter shall be so long as the sun and moon endure, a Church of Christ one and the same. This Church I believe in general holy in respect of the Author, end, institution, and administration of it; particularly in the members, here I acknowledge it really, and in the same hereafter perfectly, holy. I look upon this Church not like that of the Jews limited to one people, confined to one nation, but by the appointment and command of Christ, and by the efficacy of his assisting power, to be disseminated through all nations, to be extended to all places, to be propagated to all ages, to contain in it all truths necessary to be known, to exact absolute obedience from all men to the commands of Christ, and to furnish us with all graces necessary to make our persons acceptable, and our actions well-pleasing in the sight of God. And thus I believe the holy Catholick Church.

– John Pearson (1613-1686), An Exposition of the Creed, 4th edition (1676), p. 345-351

Robert South (1634-1716) on election and the efficacy of Christ’s death

Robert South

Robert South (1634-1716) was a high churchman, prebendary of Westminster, canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and one of the preeminent Reformed conforming divines of the post-Restoration era. South was renowned particularly for his numerous sermons, which were very much “in vogue” in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and which were known by his contemporaries for their sometimes outspokenly Reformed contents.

One such example is found in a Good Friday sermon preached before the University of Oxford in Christ Church cathedral, on March 20, 1668. The excerpt below is taken from the 6th edition of South’s Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, vol. 3, p. 368-370. The text for this sermon was Is. 53:8, “For the transgression of my people was he stricken,” and South raises the question of how the people mentioned in the text came to be God’s people:

If it be here asked, upon what account the persons here spoken of were denominated and made God’s people? I answer, that they were so by an eternal covenant and transaction between God the Father and the Son; by which the Father, upon certain conditions to be performed by the Son, consigned over some persons to him to be his people. For our better understanding of which we are to observe that the business of man’s redemption proceeds upon a two-fold covenant.

First, an eternal covenant made between the Father and the Son, by which the Father agreed to give both grace and glory to a certain number of sinners, upon condition that Christ would assume their nature, and pay down such a ransom to his justice, as should both satisfy for their sin, and withal merit such a measure of grace as should effectually work in them all things necessary to their salvation. And this covenant may be properly called a covenant of suretyship or redemption. Upon which alone, and not upon any covenant made between God and man in their own persons, is built the infallibility of the future believing, repenting, and finally persevering, of such as Christ from all eternity undertook to make his people.

Secondly, the other covenant made in time, and actually entered into by God and man, by which God on his part promises to men eternal salvation, upon condition of faith and repentance on theirs. And this is called in Scripture, the second covenant, or the covenant of grace, and stands opposed to that which is there called the first covenant, or the covenant of works.

Now by that eternal compact or transaction between the Father and the Son (of which alone we now speak) was this donation of a certain determinate number of persons made to Christ to be his people, by virtue of which agreement or transaction he was in the fullness of time to suffer for them, and to accomplish the whole work of their redemption from first to last. For to affirm that Christ died only to verify a proposition (that whosoever believed should be saved) but in the meantime to leave the whole issue of things in reference to persons so loose and undetermined, that it was a question, whether ever any one should actually believe, and very possible that none ever might, and consequently that after Christ had suffered, had been stricken, and died for transgression, yet for anything that he had done in all this, he might never have had a people; this certainly is a strange and new Gospel, and such as the doctrine of our Church [of England] seems utterly unacquainted with.

John Hall (1633-1710): A mother’s prayer for her newborn child

John Hall_Bp_of_Bristol

 

John Hall (1633-1710) was a Reformed conforming divine, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford for a staggering 45 years, and Bishop of Bristol. Hall’s magnum opus is a devotional prayer book titled Jacob’s Ladder: Or, The Devout Soul’s Ascension to Heaven, which by 1728 had undergone 16 editions.  Among the various prayers suited for all occasions is a beautiful one titled “A Prayer of a Woman after her delivery”:

O Merciful God and heavenly Father, who hast now most especially made known unto me that thou art able to do more exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think; make me thankfully to rejoyce in the works of thy love and thy tender mercy, thy favours are great and wonderful in sparing the life of my self and mine infant, and freeing me from my pangs, and it from the darkness of the silent womb.

Thine, O Lord, is thy power, by which I am delivered; thine is the mercy, by which I am safely returned into my bed; thine is the work of the frame and fashion of this my babe; thine therefore shall be likewise thy glory for ever and ever; Grant blessed Father, that I may never forget thy goodness, but may express my thankfulness, in new obedience, Make me careful to perform what service I promised thee, in the extremity of mine anguish: As thou hast given me the fruit of my body to the joy of my heart, so give me the fruit of righteousness sown in peace. Give me the wisdom which is from above, that is full of good works, without hypocrisy. Lord make me thy servant by grace, and make this child, thy child by adoption & mercy; give me comfort in its life, for the sorrows which I endured at his birth. Give thy blessing on the meanes for the nourishment of this Child: Give it strength, that it may live to receive the seal of thy mercy, in the laver of baptism; and do thou be present with thy blessing, when the sign shall be administred. O let it live, if it be thy blessed will, and grow up in wisdome, and in stature, and in grace, both with thee and with men; that so I may magnifie thy name, for making me an instrument to propagate the number of thine elect. Take pity upon all that suffer afflictions, especially on those women who are in labour with children: Give them comfort in the time of their miseries, ease from their torments, joy in their desired issue, and thankfulness for thy blessings; Lord grant that both I and they, may sing praises to thy Name, for the greatness of our deliverance, and express our thanks, in our godly lives; that when this painful life shall have end, we may sing triumphantly in eternal glory, through Jesus Christ our only Lord and Saviour; in whose most blessed Name and words, I conclude my imperfect prayers, saying, as he himself hath taught me,

Our Father, &c.

John Edwards (1637-1716) on the necessity of doctrinal preaching

John_Edwards

 

Knowledge is as necessary as practice in religion, yea even in the Christian religion. Which I will evince from these three propositions:

1. Knowledge is a necessary ingredient or part of Christianity, and consequently unless divine principles and truths be taught us, which are the true matter of our knowledge, our Christianity is imperfect. There wants a main and essential part of it, such a part as is absolutely requisite to make the other parts useful. For this is certain, that the practical parts of Christianity will be wholly insignificant, if they be separated from this. The reason is plain, because fearing and loving of God and keeping his commandments, are duties that can’t be practised aright without a due knowledge. Therefore a preacher must make his people knowing in religion. This is not his trade, as some reproachfully term it, but it is that which the nature of his high calling and office requires of him. For truth is a talent committed to us, and we are the trustees of this precious depositum. All our hearers have a right to share in this sacred treasure, and we must with faithfulness impart it to them. We must beware of imaginary draughts of Christianity, of false schemes of the Gospel, of which there are sundry extant at this day. These we must carefully avoid, and be very frequent in insisting on the fundamental articles of our faith, because our religion consists in true principles as well as right practice.

2. We ought to be very solicitous and careful in this matter, because, if our knowledge and our principles be corrupted, our practice will be so too. It cannot be otherwise, because the former have so great and so immediate an influence on the latter. Knowledge and belief are the foundations of Christianity, and a Christian life is the superstructure that is erected on them: whence it follows that he who supplants the Christian truth, undermines the life of religion, and effectually subverts its morals. By overturning the faith he destroys the practical part of Christianity, And truly on some accounts the corruption of the Christian doctrines, and error in judgment are worse than in manners, for the depraving of the understanding, the leading faculty of the soul, is in some respects more dangerous than a debauching of the will, I mean as to some particular instances. Yea, ‘tis certain that even an indifferency about the principal truths of religion is of pernicious consequence, as every day’s experience informs us, for from this cold and indifferent temper many slip into atheism and all manner of irreligion and immorality. Wherefore there is a necessity of our being right in our opinions as to religious matters.

3. Knowledge of divine truths is a necessary condition of our happiness, and on that account (as well as the others before-mentioned) the preacher is obliged to instruct and inform men’s minds about the doctrinal part of religion. We must know then that our religion and our happiness answer to one another. As we cannot be said to be religious without understanding and knowledge, so neither can we be happy without them, for they are necessary ingredients of both. Which will easily be granted by those who have a true notion of happiness, which consists in the perfecting our understandings, as well as our wills and actions. Which confutes that prevailing opinion before-mentioned, that men of all persuasions and sects may be saved, which cannot be true if a right knowledge be necessary to happiness. And this is the profess’d doctrine of our Church [i.e. the Church of England] in her eighteenth article. Besides, it is required of us in order to our future blessedness, that we make open profession of our faith, with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, saith the Apostle in Rom. 10:10, and certainly this implies that we are bound to know the articles of our faith, and the doctrines and truths of our most holy religion. And this implies without doubt that we are to explain these to the people, and to study to remove from them all ignorance of the necessary points of religion, and to help them to a true and right understanding of all the fundamental and essential doctrines of Christianity. Our place and function exact this of us [as preachers], and we should be unfaithful to men’s souls if we should neglect this.

In brief, we must instruct the people in the sacred truths of the Gospel, and the whole body of its principles, or else we cannot lay claim to that character of being good ministers of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine, that is well acquainted with and imparting unto others the knowledge of the principles of Christianity.

– John Edwards (1637-1716), The Preacher, 1:50-53.

For more on this theme, see this series of three years ago from the later Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on why all Christians must endeavour to become proficient in theology.

Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690) on union with Christ, double imputation, and justification

Ezekiel Hopkins

 

In a previous post we looked at a snippet from John Edwards of Cambridge (1637-1716) on the believer’s union with Christ as the foundation of double imputation. The same doctrine can be seen beautifully treated by another Reformed conforming churchman, Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690), Bishop of Derry in Ireland, in his posthumously published The Doctrine of the Two Covenants (1712, p. 52-53):

…Faith gives us a title to the righteousness of Christ, and makes it ours not only by the promise of God, but as it is the bond of union between Christ and the soul. By faith it is that we are made mystically one with Christ, living members in his body, fruitful branches of that heavenly and spiritual vine. We have the communication of the same name. So also is Christ, saith the Apostle (1 Cor. 12:12), speaking there of Christ mystical, both his Person and his Church. We have the same relations, I ascend to my Father and to your Father (John 20:17). We are made partakers of the same Spirit, for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his (Rom. 8:9), he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). And finally, the very life that we live is said not to be ours, but Christ liveth in us, and that we live by the faith of the Son of God (Gal. 2:20). So that being thus one with Christ, his righteousness becomes our righteousness, even as our sins became his: and God deals with Christ and believers, as if they were one person. The sins of believers are charg’d upon Christ, as though they were his; and the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to believers as theirs: neither is God unjust either in the one, or the other imputation, because they are mystically one; and this mystical union is a sufficient ground for imputation. Yet from this union flows the participation only of the benefits of his mediatorship: for we are not hereby transubstantiated or deify’d, as some of late years have blasphemously conceited; neither the Godhead of Christ, nor his essential righteousness as God, nor his divine and infinite properties are made ours; but only the fruits and effects of his mediation: so that hereupon God graciously accounts of us as if we had done in our own persons, whatsoever Christ hath done for us, because by faith Christ and we are made one.

Later on he offers a further discussion of this doctrine, this time drawing on the biblical imagery of the marriage between Christ and believers (p. 186-188):

Faith makes the righteousness of Christ to be ours, as it is the bond of that mystical union that there is between Christ and the believing soul. If Christ and the believer be one, the righteousness of Christ may well be reckoned as the righteousness of the believer. Nay, mutual imputation flows from mystical union: the sins of believers are imputed to Christ, and the righteousness of Christ to them; and both justly, because being united each to [the] other by a mutual consent (which consent on our part is faith) God considers them but as one person. As it is in marriage, the husband stands liable to the wife’s debts, and the wife stands interested in her husband’s possessions, so it is here: faith is the marriage-band and tie between Christ and a believer; and therefore all the debts of a believer are chargeable upon Christ, and the righteousness of Christ is instated upon the believer: so that upon the account of this marriage-union he hath a legal right and title to the purchase made by it. Indeed this union is an high and inscrutable mystery, yet plain it is that there is such [a] close, spiritual, and real union between Christ and a believer. The Scripture often both expressly affirms it, He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17); and also lively illustrates it by several resemblances. It is likewise plain that the band of this union on the believer’s part is faith: consult Rom. 11:17 with 11:20. And therefore from the nearness of this union there follows a communication of interests and concerns: insomuch that the Church is called Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, so also is Christ), and their sufferings called the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24; Acts 9:4). So likewise from this mystical union the sins of believers are laid upon Christ, and his righteousness imputed unto them: see this as to both parts: He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21) and He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us (Gal. 3:13-14). It is still upon the account of this union that Christ was reckoned a sinner, and we are reckoned as righteous. And therefore as faith is the bond and tye of this union, so it is, without more difficulty, the way and means of our justification. By faith we are united unto Christ; by that union we have truly a righteousness; and upon that righteousness the justice of God, as well as his mercy, is engaged to justifie and acquit us.

Edward Lake (1641-1704) on the remarkable faith of the thief next to Christ on the cross

Edward_Lake

Edward Lake (1641-1704) was a Church of England minister, chaplain and tutor to princesses Mary and Anne, Archdeacon of Exeter, and rector of the united parishes of St. Mary-at-Hill and St. Andrew Hubbard in London. In a sermon on Luke 23:43, Lake speaks about the remarkable faith of the thief next to Christ on the cross:

There are three famous conversions recorded in Scripture, which we most gratefully commemorate: St. Paul’s, Mary Magdalen’s, and this penitent thief’s. But among them all, this of the thief appears most illustrious: For Mary Magdalen had seen many of our Saviour’s miracles, had heard many of his sermons; and withal her sister’s good example might influence her, and work much upon her: And for St. Paul, he saw Christ surrounded with glory, more resplendent than the sun at noon day; he likewise heard his powerful voice calling upon him to return: but this convert never saw miracle, never heard sermon, never had seen the good example nor the glory of Christ; but only saw him in his humiliation and disgrace, rent and torn upon the cross, as if he had been as arrant a malefactor as himself. O wonderful change! That a man deservedly condemned to the cross, should in an instant turn and become a confessor. We may say of him, as our Saviour did of the Syrophoenician woman, Great is thy faith, which can see the sun under so thick a cloud, that can discover a Saviour under such a veil of misery, and call him Lord; that when he saw Jesus struggling for his own life, when no deliverer came to him, yet could cast himself upon him for his everlasting safety, Lord remember me. I question whether the apostles themselves reached in some particulars to such a faith; they acknowledged indeed Jesus to be Christ while he lived, but denied him upon his arraignment; and when he was dead, they spake diffidently, We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel; they could not tell what to make of it: but this man very stoutly confesseth him even while he was dying.

– Edward Lake (1641-1704), Sixteen sermons preached upon Several Occasions, p. 73-74