Matthew Hale (1609-1676): All my intellectual power was given me “to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”

matthew_hale

 

The following is from Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676), the great Puritan-minded English jurist, in his The Account of the Good Stewart, chapter XI, titled “The Account of my Learning of Natural Causes and Effects, and of Arts and Sciences.” While especially relevant to Christian students and academics, it is nevertheless applicable to any Christian, and I deem it worthy to be reproduced here in full:

I have not esteemed them [i.e. the learning of arts and sciences] the chiefest or best furniture of my mind: but have accounted them but dross in comparison of the knowledge of Thee [i.e. God], and thy Christ, and Him crucified. In the acquiring of them I have always observed this care: – 1. That I might not too prodigally bestow my time upon them, to the prejudice of that time and pains for the acquiring of more excellent knowledge, and the greater concernments of my everlasting happiness.

2. I carried along with me, in all my studies of this nature, this great design of improving them, and the knowledge acquired by them to the honour of thy name, and the greater discovery of thy wisdom, power, and truth; and so translated my secular learning into an improvement of divine knowledge. And had I not had, and practised that design in my acquests of human learning, I had concluded my time misspent; because I ever thought it unworthy of a man that had an everlasting soul, to furnish it only with such learning, as either would die with his body, and so become unuseful for his everlasting state, or that in the next moment after death, would be attained without labour or toil in this life. Yet this advantage I made and found in my application to secular studies: –

It enlarged and habituated my mind for more useful inquiries.

It carried me up, in a great measure, to the sound and grounded knowledge of Thee, the first cause of all things.

It kept me from idleness and rust.

It kept my thoughts, and life oftentimes, from temptations to worse employments.

My learning and knowledge did not heighten my opinion of myself, parts or abilities; but the more I knew, the more humble I was.

I found it was thy strength and blessing that enabled me to it; that gave me understanding and enlarged it. I did look upon it as a talent lent me, not truly acquired by me.

The more I knew, the more I knew my own ignorance. I found myself convinced that there was an ignorance in what I thought I knew; my knowledge was but imperfect, and defective; and I found an infinite latitude of things which I knew not: the farther I waded into knowledge, the deeper still I found it; and it was with me, just as it is with a child that thinks, that if he could but come to such a field, he should be able to touch the hemisphere of the heavens; but when he comes thither, he finds it as far off as it were before. Thus, while my mind pursued knowledge, I found the object still as far before me as it was, if not much farther; and could no more attain the full and exact knowledge of any one subject, than the hinder wheel of a chariot can overtake the former: though I knew much of what others were ignorant, yet still I found there was much more, whereof I was ignorant, than what I knew; even in the compass of a most confined and inconsiderable subject. And as my very knowledge taught me humility, in the sense of my own ignorance; so it taught me that my understanding was of finite and limited power, that takes in things little by little, and gradually; – That thy wisdom is unsearchable and past finding out; – That thy works, which are but finite in themselves, and necessarily short of that infinite wisdom by which they are contrived, are yet so wonderful, that as the wise man saith, “No man can find out the work that thou makest, from the beginning to the end” (Eccl. 3:11). If a man would spend his whole life in the study of a poor fly, there would be such a confluence of so many wonderful and difficult exhibits in it, that it would still leave much more undiscovered than the most singular wit ever yet attained.

It taught me also, with the wise man, to write vanity and vexation upon all my secular knowledge and learning (Eccl. 1:14). That little that I know, was not attained without much labour, nor yet free from much uncertainty; and the great residuum which I knew not, rendered that [which] I knew poor, and inconsiderable: and therefore: –

I did most evidently conclude, that the happiness and perfection of my intellectual power, was not to be found in this kind of knowledge; in a knowledge thus sensibly mingled with ignorance, in the things it seems to know; mingled with a dissatisfaction, in respect of the things I know not; mingled with a difficulty in attaining, and restlessness when attained. The more I knew, the more I knew that I knew not. My knowledge did rather enlarge my desire of knowing than satisfy it; and the most intemperate sensual appetite under heaven, was more capable of satisfaction by what it enjoyed, than my intellectual appetite or desire was, or could be satisfied with the things I knew: but the enlarging of my understanding with knowledge, did but enlarge and amplify the desire and appetite I had to know; so that what Job’s return was upon his inquisition after wisdom: “The depth saith, It is not in me; and the sea saith, It is not in me” (Job 28:14); the same account all my several boxes or kinds of knowledge gave me, when I inquired for satisfaction in them. My abstract and choice speculations in the Metaphysics were of that abstract and comprehensive nature, that when I had perused great volumes of it, and intended [i.e. applied] my mind close to it, yet it was so mercurial, that I could hardly hold it; and yet so extensive and endless, that the more I read or thought of it, the more I might. – Natural Philosophy (though it were more tractable, because holding a greater vicinity to sense and experiment, yet) I found full of uncertainty; much of it grounded upon imaginary suppositions, impossible to be experimented; the latter philosophers censuring the former, and departing from them, and the latest despising and rejecting both; the subject as vast as the visible or tangible universe, and yet every individual so complicated, that if all the rest were omitted, any one had more lines concentred in it, than were possible for any one age to sift to the bottom; yet any one lost, or not exactly scanned, leaves all the rest uncertain and conjectural: the very disquisition concerning any one part of the brain, the eye, the nerves, the blood, hath perplexed the most exact scrutators. – Those more dry, yet more demonstrable conclusions in the Mathematics, yet they are endless and perplexed. The proportion of lines to lines, of superficies to superficies, bodies to bodies, numbers to numbers, – nay, to leave the whole latitude of the subject, see what long, and intricate, and unsatisfactory pains men have taken about some one particular subject, the quadrature of the circle, conical, oval, and spiral lines; and yet if it could be attained in the perfection of it, these three unhappinesses attend it:

1. That it is but of little use: it is only known that it may be known. That which is of ordinary use either in Architecture, Measuring of bodies and superficies, Mechanics, Business of Accounts, and the like, is soon attained, and by ordinary capacities: the rest are but curious impertinents, in respect of use and application.

2. That they serve only for the meridian of this life, and of corporal converse. A separated soul, or a spiritualized body, will not be concerned in the use and employment of them.

3. But admit they should; yet, doubtless, a greater measure of suck knowledge will be attained in one hour after dissolution, than the toilsome expense of an age in this life would produce. And the like may be said for Astronomical disquisitions. What a deal to do there is, touching the motion or consistency of the sun or earth; the quality and habitableness of the moon; the matter, quantity, and distance of the stars; the several positions, continuity, contiguity, and motions of the heavens; the various influences of the heavenly bodies in their oppositions, conjunctions, aspects. When once the immortal soul hath flown through the stories of heaven, in one moment all these will be known distinctly, clearly, and evidently, which here are nothing but conjectures and opinions, gained by long reading or observation.

Upon all these considerations I concluded, that my intellectual power, and the exercise of it in this life, was given me for a more sure and certain, useful, advantageous, suitable and becoming object, even “To know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). – A knowledge that is useful for the acquiring of happiness here and hereafter; a knowledge of a subject, though infinitely comprehensive, yet but one; a knowledge, that though it still move farther, yet it satisfies in what is acquired, and doth not disquiet in attaining more; a knowledge that is of such use in the world that is to come, as it is here; a knowledge, that the more it is improved in this life, the more it is improved in that which is to come; every grain of it here is enlarged to a vast proportion hereafter; a knowledge that is acquired, even with a consent, a desire to know, because thy goodness pleaseth to fill such a desire, to instruct from thyself, and there is none [that] teacheth like thee.

Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669): Vivification of the new man is the cause of the mortification of the old man

Johannes_Cocceius

 

There are two parts of conversion, answering to two ends. For the person who is converted is converted from bad to good, from darkness to light, from the slavery of Satan to God (1 Ki. 8:25; Is. 59:20; Jer. 15:19; Acts 26:18).

These parts are called in Scripture nekrosis, mortification, or ekdosis, the putting off of the old man; and zoopoiesis, vivification and endusis, the putting on of the new man. ‘Having put off the old man with his deeds; and having pit on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him’ (Col. 3:9-10, see also Eph. 4:22-24 and Gal. 5:24-25).

These parts go together. But, as regards the order of nature, although newness be subsequent to oldness, […] yet the newness of the love of God is the cause of abolishing the oldness of the enmity of God. Darkness is not removed except by light; nor death except by life; nor poverty except by riches; nor nakedness except by being clothed; nor ugliness except by beauty; nor vice except by virtue; in the same way, neither is hate except by love.

– Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669), Summa Theologiae, XLV. 6-8.

John Edwards (1637-1716): None predestined to eternal life who are not also predestined to be conformed to Christ

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This [i.e predestination] is a doctrine of great use and advantage, if we believe the Church [of England] in her foresaid Article of predestination; where she tells us, that it is full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons; that it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation, to be enjoyed through Christ; and that it doth fervently kindle their love to God. It is an effectual antidote against pride and an undue opinion of our own worth and ability: and it is a powerful motive to obedience and good works; for God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and without blame (Eph. 1:4). Which last thing is sufficient to acquaint us with the perverse spirit of our adversaries: they all agree to assert, that the doctrine of absolute predestination tends to the promoting of an unholy and vicious life. For if persons (say they) be predestinated to eternal glory and happiness, they have free leave to live as they list, and they may do it without any danger: for if they be preordained to happiness, they cannot possibly miss of it, whatever their behaviour is. This is proclaim’d aloud by all Arminian writers and preachers, and they have taught every one of their disciples and followers to object this against the decree of election. But this shews, that they wilfully reject and contradict the foresaid text of the Apostle, which acquaints us that the election of certain persons from eternity was in order to their sanctification; they were chosen that they should be holy. And the same Apostle informs us, that whom God did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29).

God hath predestinated no man to eternal life, whom he hath not also predestinated to be conform’d to Christ in righteousness and holiness. This is the election which we assert; and we see that it is so far from promoting a vicious and unholy life (as the Arminian sect have the confidence and hardiness to aver), that there cannot possibly be any holiness in men’s lives without this election, and the effectual grace of God which follows it; both which are the great source of all personal righteousness and sanctity.

– John Edwards (1637-1716), The Arminian Doctrines Condemn’d, p. 131-132

John Edwards (1637-1716): It is vain and senseless to confine the doctrine of predestination to schools and universities

John_Edwards

 

In 1622, King James I issued instructions to the English clergy under the title Directions Concerning Preachers through Archbishop George Abbot, in order to restrict preaching on controversial issues. One of these directions reads as follows:

“That no preacher of what title soever under the degree of a bishop, or dean at the least, do from henceforth presume to preach in any popular auditory the deep points of predestination, election, reprobation or of the universality, efficacy, resistibility or irresistibility of God’s grace; but leave those themes to be handled by learned men, and that moderately and modestly by way of use and application, rather than by way of positive doctrine, as being fitter for the schools and universities, than for simple auditories.”

The Church of England divine John Edwards (1637-1716), whose works are crammed with a Reformed Orthodox understanding of predestination, criticized the king’s instruction in vol. 2 of his work titled The Preacher (p. 131-136, spelling modernized in places):

1. I do not see how it can be presumption to preach of these points [of doctrine] in the pulpit, seeing the Holy Scripture so often mentions them. Surely it can be no fault to deliver those doctrines, even in a popular auditory, when the Holy Bible, which is put into the hands of the people, delivers these sacred truths to us. May we not hear the same things from the preacher’s lips which we have from the mouths and pens of the inspired prophets and apostles? I believe I shall never be convinced that a minister of the Gospel, who is to take the matter [i.e. content] of his sermons from the Scriptures, is to be blamed for handling those very doctrines which he finds there; and especially seeing they are represented there as necessary to be believed, and of the foundation of the Christian religion.

2. It is observable that these doctrines of predestination, election, reprobation, etc., were held to be Orthodox in those times (viz. at the close of King James the First’s reign) by our Church [i.e. the Church of England]. For we see here that no fault is found in them, yea, it is supposed that the things themselves are true, and according to Scripture, otherwise no persons would be allow’d to preach and handle them: but some are here allow’d and authorized to do it. Now seeing they are own’d to be Orthodox, it is very strange and unaccountable that they may not be preached by all the ministers and dispensers of the Gospel. Have any men power to cull and pick out of the Bible such and such particular doctrines for the pastors of the Church to discourse of, and to order that others shall be debarred the pulpit? If any warrant can be shewed for this, I shall be silent, but till then I must profess myself bound to believe that the whole will of God, that is, all doctrines in the Scriptures relating to salvation, are to be preach’d to the people by the faithful ambassadors of Christ. In the Form of ordering Priests in our Church, we find that the Bishop delivers to every one of them the Bible, saying, Take thou authority to preach the Word of God, but he doth not confine them to certain texts, and certain doctrines, and give them authority to preach only on them. No: the Bible in general is their storehouse, and they may furnish themselves with all sorts of divine truths, and communicate them to their hearers.

3. How vain and senseless is that, that a popular auditory must hear nothing of these doctrines of predestination, etc., but the schools and universities may ring of them? As if there were nothing but matter of dispute and controversy in these evangelical matters. This is a great mistake, for there is solid, undoubted and incontestable truth in them, abstract from all debates and disputes. And the vulgar and illiterate are as capable of this as the most learned, and therefore they ought not to be excluded from hearing these doctrines, yea, they are hugely concerned in them, because by means of these they have an occasion of improving their spiritual knowledge, of strengthening their faith, of heightening their love and affection towards the Holy Jesus, of admiring the sovereignty, and extolling the peculiar grace and bounty of God. Is there any reason then to confine these doctrines to the schools and universities?

4. That is very silly and weak that none but a bishop or dean must preach of predestination and election, and the like doctrines, that none but cathedral men must venture upon these points: as if the Gospel, which delivers these doctrines, had commission’d those persons, and none else, to treat of them. This is a palpable imposing on the Christian world, this is a plain lessening and debasing the commission of Christ’s ambassadors, this is an unwarrantable confining the ministers of the Gospel, and the Gospel itself. Besides that it is a foolish intimation that a title or a dignity makes a man an able minister of Christ Jesus. But I think no more need to be said to expose this folly.

There are those that look upon these doctrines as wholly indifferent, and therefore advise that nothing should be said of them in the pulpit. But these men that talk thus, have either read the Scripture, or they have not: if they have, they can’t but see that these doctrines are not of an indifferent nature; if they have not, it is to be presumed that they have little regard to those sacred writings, and look upon them as indifferent, as well as these points: and perhaps they reckon all as such, and think one persuasion as true as another. This sceptical sort of gentlemen, I hope, our clergy will have nothing to do with, and consequently will not listen to what they say of the foresaid doctrines.

Some others would have us believe that the doctrine of the decrees, and of divine concourse, and of the power of grace, etc., are philosophical speculations, and therefore are not fit for the people. And sometimes they call them philosophical disputes and philosophical hypotheses. At other times they are said to be scholastical notions, and therefore are not to be regarded: as one among us lately was against the applying the epithet idolatrous to the Church of Rome, because it was (he said) a Scholastick term.

There are others of our order that refuse to discourse to the people on any of these points, because they carry some difficulty with them, and they pretend that they are loth to perplex their hearers’ minds. But this is a mere pretence, for on the same account some of the articles of our religion, which they themselves own necessary to be taught, are to be laid aside, as the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son of God, etc. Therefore it is evident that the eternal decrees and the other truths so often mentioned ought to be preached, tho’ they be difficult. This must not deter us from delivering what is truth, and what is adjusted to the Word of God. And yet here this ought to be inserted, that about the way and manner of handling these points there is caution and prudence to be observed. The mere disputative part should not be undertaken ordinarily in our sermons. The abstruse speculations that may arise from these doctrines are not to be the subject of our discourses to the people: but the substantial part of them must be. For this being plainly and expressly contained in the Scriptures, we are obliged to discourse of it, as well as of other truths contained in that Holy Volume. And let me tell you, if this were commonly treated of, with judgment and care, and with shewing what are the useful inferences that naturally flow from it, it would be easily apprehended, and readily embraced, and our auditors would call for frequent instructions and applications relating to these divine subjects.

Well then, be persuaded of the necessity of acquainting your flock with these truths. We have Philistines that stop up these walls, but do you open them, and let your people have free admission to them. Nay, account it no other than sacrilege to rob the Church of these holy doctrines, which are her right and due. They being part of the Word of God (as I said before), take heed that as you do not add to it, so you do not diminish ought from it, Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18.

John Wallis (1616-1703): The habits of grace, by infusion, may be in the children of believers from an early age

 

John Wallis

 

John Wallis (1616-1703) was an English mathematician and divine, who served as the Savilian Professor of Geometry at the University of Oxford for 54 years from 1649 until his death. Wallis, the most important English mathematician prior to Isaac Newton, is most well-known for his contributions to the development of calculus, geometry, and trigonometry, as well as for serving as the chief cryptographer of the Parliamentarian party. A Puritan at heart and of Presbyterian conviction, Wallis served as a non-voting scribe at the Westminster Assembly and published quite a few theological works, his sermons being noteworthy among these.

On 25 February 1696, Wallis received a letter from an unknown “Anti-Paedo-Baptist”, signed merely with the initials “C.C.”, to which he replied three days later with his A Defence of Infant-Baptism. His response is very edifying and full of “notable quotables”, but here I merely quote a few passages from early on in his discussion (p. 12-16) to serve as an appetizer (some spelling modernized):

“…the children of Christians now, have as well a right to be reputed members of the Christian Church, as the children of the Jews of the Jewish Church; and consequently to be solemnly received into it: that is, into God’s visible Church, both of them; and both a like obligation to be offered and dedicated to the service of the True God.

And it is not reasonably to be supposed, that God would so often, and so emphatically make promises to the righteous, and their seed, if there was not somewhat of peculiar preference intended them, beyond those of the wicked, or those that are out of God’s visible Church. […] Otherwise, Christ’s coming would render the condition of children worse than before … [which is] contrary to what Christ seems to intimate, in that of, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Which intimates a capacity in children of an interest in heaven hereafter, and in the visible Church here (especially if by Kingdom of Heaven be here meant, the Gospel Church).

As likewise to that of, Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy. Which implies a certain holiness, as to the children of one, though not of both believing parents; which they would not have, if neither of the parents were believers. Which seems to me so clear an evidence of some relative holiness, or interest in the visible Church, or dedication to the service of God, as is not easy to be avoided.”

Wallis goes on:

“The right of believers’ children to be within the Church is not a new institution (as if we should now look for a distinct institution of infant-baptism, beside that of baptism), but as old as Adam, for ought I know; but the solemn rite of admission into this Church (to which the child hath a right to be admitted) is a new institution; then by circumcision, appointed to Abraham; and now by baptism, upon a new institution appointed by Christ.

By being believers’ children, they have jus ad rem [a right to the matter/thing]; and by being baptized, they have jus in re [a right in the matter/thing], whatever be the pale and promise of the visible Church. And so long as, by our fault, we debar them from baptism, we do, so much as in us lyeth, debar them of that advantage, whatever it be.

Nor is it only a privilege of the children (to be thus early admitted into the visible Church, with the benefits thereto appertaining, and thus dedicated to the service and worship of God), but a duty of parents, and other superiors, thus to dedicate them, and (so far as in them lyeth) give them up to God. And we need not doubt, but that the parent hath a natural right over the child of so doing.

And we do not know how soon the effect of such dedication (upon God’s acceptance) may operate. Samson, before he was born, was devoted by Manoah to be a Nazirite. And Samuel was, by his mother, vowed before he was born, and after presented while an infant to the special service of God. Jeremy [i.e. Jeremiah] is said to be sanctified from his mother’s womb; and Paul likewise; and John the Baptist, while yet unborn; and Timothy, from a child.

And we have no reason to doubt, but many children very early, and even before their birth, may have the habits of grace infused into them, by which they are saved, though dying before the years of discretion. My meaning is, that God may, by his grace, so predispose the soul to an aptness for good, as (by our natural corruption) we are supposed to be habitually inclined to evil, though not yet in a capacity to act either.

For as the habits of corruption, which we call original sin, by propagation; so may the habits of grace, by infusion, be inherent in the soul, long before (for want of the use of reason) we are in capacity to act either; as is also the rational faculty, before we are in a capacity to act reason.

And we may have encouragement to expect, or hope for, such work from God on the heart of a child, from our early devoting him to God’s service. And the proper way, by Christ appointed, for thus devoting or offering up persons to God, is baptism into the Name, and to the service of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

John Edwards (1637-1716) on the believer’s union with Christ as the foundation of double imputation

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In his The Doctrin [sic] of Faith and Justification set in a True Light, the Reformed Conformist John Edwards (1637-1716) extensively discusses the doctrine of double imputation, or, to use his parlance, mutual imputation. That is, the mutual imputation of the sin of believers to Christ on the cross and the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to believers. Concerning the latter imputation, Edwards writes (spelling modernized):

“By Christ’s obedience we are esteemed by God as obedient: and in Christ’s undergoing the penalty of disobedience, we are looked upon as undergoing that penalty ourselves […] God accounts of it as if we had satisfied in our own persons.” (p. 292-293)

He goes on to discuss how this mutual imputation is founded on believers’ union with Christ by faith (p. 294):

“Believers are virtually the same with Christ: they are accounted as one person with him, and he with them. This near conjunction, or rather identity, is set forth by that of husband and wife (Eph. 5:31), of the head and its members (Eph. 4:15; Col. 2:19), of the vine and its branches (Rom. 11:17; John 15:1-2). As the husband and wife are but one legal person, as the head and members make but one body, and the vine and branches but one tree, so Christ and the regenerate are reckoned the same. They are not only one body (1 Cor. 12:13), but one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Yea, as the Father and Christ are one, so Christ and believers are one. That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21). That they may be one, even as we are one (v. 22). It must be a very true, real and strict union that is expressed to us by so many ways. Now, this near and intimate conjunction between Christ and his chosen, is the foundation of the reciprocal transferring of sin and righteousness. For Christ, and the faithful, being by their near union become one mystical person, there must needs flow from thence this interchangeable communication. By virtue of this coalition it is, that believers are reckoned to have done and suffered the very same things that Christ did and suffered. Not only their sins are transferred on him, but his obedience and death are esteemed as theirs. This is the natural result of Christ’s being made, by the Divine appointment and constitution, one person with us.”

Johannes Braun (1628-1708) on God’s absolute decree and things decreed conditionally

Johannes Braun cover

 

“Although God has decreed so many various things, nevertheless only a singular decree of God is granted, and this is absolute and by no means conditioned, nor is one thing [which has been decreed] contrary to another, as the Socinians, Vorstius, Episcopius, the Jesuits, and others dream. For by a singular and absolute act of the will he has decreed whatever should come to pass or not come to pass […] Although God may decree certain things under some particular condition, such as Peter’s salvation under the condition that he believes, yet only the thing decreed is conditioned, but not the decree itself: for he has decreed absolutely to give salvation and its condition, namely faith and perseverance in faith.”

– Johannes Braun (1628-1708), Doctrina Foederum, sive Systema Theologiae Didacticae & Elencticae, Vol. I, Pars II, Cap. IX. Section XI