Richard Duke (1658-1711) on faith’s role in justification

Richard Duke

 

To add to previous posts from William Ames, Thomas Chalmers, Henricus Siccama, and H.C.G. Moule on faith’s role in justification, here is a small snippet from the Reformed conforming churchman Richard Duke (1658-1711), who served as a prebendary of Gloucester, rector of Witney, Oxfordshire, and royal chaplain to Queen Anne. The excerpt is taken from his Fifteen Sermons preach’d on Several Occasions (1715), p. 254:

As there is no merit in works, so neither is there in faith; and tho’ God do’s justifie the believing man, it is not for the worthiness of his belief, but the worthiness of him, in whom he believes. In whom he believes, and from whom alone it proceeds also that he do’s believe. For let us give to faith all the highest elegies that are recorded of it, and very glorious things are spoken of it in the Book of God; let us own all its victories which are so triumphantly display’d in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews, and what is greater than all those what the same Apostle speaks of it in the text, through it ye are sav’d, yet that there may be no room for doubt but that salvation is still entirely to be ascrib’d to grace, we are at the same time taught that this faith, instrumentally imploy’d in so great a work, is itself of grace, it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

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Nathanael Taylor (fl. 1671-1691): Reformed instruction of children in a rural post-Restoration Church of England parish

Nathanael Taylor

 

Nathanael Taylor (fl. 1671-1691) was a Reformed conforming churchman, vicar of Hibaldstow, Lincolnshire, and first master of the Grammar School in nearby Brigg, Lincolnshire – which still exists today as Sir John Nelthorpe School, Brigg. Little else is known about Taylor, and he is not to be confused with his dissenting contemporary namesake Nathanael Taylor (d. 1702). In the picture above, taken from the front matter of a published sermon of his, Taylor can be seen in clerical habit, teaching the children at his school.

Despite information on his life having been lost in the sands of time, we can nevertheless get a good idea of the doctrine Taylor the rural parish minister would have taught his pupils, as in 1683 he published his A Practical and Short Exposition of the Catechism of the Church of England by way of Question and Answer, which, the title page explains, is intended to “instruct children in the true Protestant religion of the Church of England.” Two extra editions of this exposition were released over the following two years.

It does not take long to spot the Reformed credentials of Taylor’s exposition, which is peppered with citations from various domestic and foreign Reformed divines, including William Nicholson, John Arrowsmith, Richard Baxter, Edward Leigh, Franciscus Junius, Immanuel Tremellius, Richard Hooker, James Ussher, John Pearson, Philippe Du Plessis-Mornay, Johann Heinrich Alsted, John Calvin, William Ames, and even the Belgic Confession. This work was furthermore published under the patronage of the bishop of his diocese, the Reformed churchman Thomas Barlow, bishop of Lincoln.

Judging by the lack of information on his life, Taylor was most probably never well known to his contemporaries, as of course has been the case with most parish ministers throughout the ages, particularly rural ones. Yet his reading and absorption of the Reformed sources of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was clearly extensive, and undoubtedly those children who had sat at the feet of this Gamaliel in a small Lincolnshire town would have been nurtured in Reformed orthodoxy from a young age. Below is a sample :

Q. How doth Christ save us?

A. 1. Christ underwent the whole wrath of God due to us, and so satisfied God’s offended justice (2 Cor. 5:21; Matt. 26 and 27). 2. He performed actively what the law required, and so was without sin (Matt 3:17; 5:17). 3. Hence God is, through him, reconciled to us (2 Cor. 5: 18, 20-21). 4. Christ hath made known to us the terms of salvation, that we on our repentance for sin, and closing with him by faith, and living in obedience to him in the life of faith, may be saved (Luk. 24:47; Joh. 3:16). 5. He by his Word, ordinances, ministers, Spirit and graces, instructs us in his will, and enables us to perform what he requires (Jam. 1:28; Phil. 1:6). 6. He intercedes with God his Father, for the pardon of those sins attending our persons and performances, and pleads for the acceptance of us and them, on the account of his merits and mediation. (p. 31)

As a final taster, consider also Taylor’s beautiful exposition of what we should learn from Christ’s threefold office:

I learn from the offices of Christ, 1. That as Christ is my Lord and King, so I ought to obey him; and as he loved me so as to dye for me, I ought to love him so as to live to him, and to my power promote his kingdom and glory (2 Cor. 5:15). 2. As Christ is Prophet I ought to reverence God’s Word, ordinances and ministers, and to obey what Christ by them and his Spirit doth teach me to be my duty, it becoming me to have an ear to hear where the Almighty God condescends to speak (Prov. 1:24, 26, 28). 3. As Christ is my High Priest and Saviour to expiate my sin, and save my soul by his merits and mediation. I learn to disown all merits and works of righteousness of my own, and not to relie on any creature’s righteousness for justification, but wholly by faith and obedience, close with and live to him, expecting from him my salvation on the account of his own merits and free grace (Is. 64:6; Luk. 17:19). I learn also to disown all co-mediators, as saints and angels, and to account him as the sole procurer of my happiness, to whom my complaints of wants, and prayers for supplies, ought to be offered up and made known. (p. 32-33)

George Stradling (1620/21-1688): The inheritance of the saints, by its very nature as an inheritance, excludes all purchase on our part

George Stradling

 

George Stradling (1620/21-1688) was a Reformed conforming churchman who served as Dean of Chichester Cathedral for the final sixteen years of his life. Before becoming Dean of Chichester, Stradling had successively been a fellow of All Souls’ College and Jesus College, Oxford, and served in a number of parishes, including Fulham and St. Bride’s Fleet Street, London. He was furthermore also a canon of both St. Paul’s and Westminster.

In an All Saints’ Day sermon on Col. 1:12 included in his posthumously-published Sermons and Discourses upon Several Occasions (1692), Stradling discourses beautifully on the saints’ inheritance as being entirely a gift from God:

1. Our Lord himself hath told us, that God is beforehand with us; that whatsoever we can do is due from us to Him; that when we shall have done all those things which are commanded us, we must say, that we are unprofitable servants, and have done but that which was our duty to do (Luk. 17:10). And then what merit can there be in paying just debts?

And, 2. St. Paul hath told us, That we can do no good thing without Him too, who worketh in us both to will and to doe of his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). So that He crowns His own gifts in us, and rewards not our deservings.

Besides, 3. Our goodness extendeth not to God, says David (Ps. 16:2). And being unuseful, how can it be meritorious? Nay, our best works are so imperfect and so sinful too, that the utmost they can expect is but a pardon, and not a reward; and were they never so good and perfect, yet what proportion can they bear to such a reward as an inheritance in light? Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, to a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory? (2 Cor. 4. 17). Where we must not let pass an elegant antithesis; For affliction there is glory; For light affliction, a weight of glory; and for momentary affliction, an eternal weight of glory; to shew the vast disproportion between these things; so vast, that even martyrdom itself (the highest, utmost proof of our love to God) is, in St. Paul‘s account, nothing in comparison of that glory we expect; For I reckon, says he, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8. 18)

IV. And lastly, the very word inheritance excludes all purchase on our part. For this were to renounce succession, to cast off all filial duty and affection, not to own ourselves sons, but mercenary purchasers; yea, and purchasers of an inheritance already purchased for us by Christ, and for his sake freely bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father out of his own pure goodness and bounty, to which alone we must ascribe it. For we all (the best of us) have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). And we are told (Rom. 6:23) that, The wages of sin (our proper wages) is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. The Apostle might have said (and indeed the antithesis or opposition there seem’d to require it) But the wages of Righteousness is eternal life; but he altered the phrase on set-purpose, and chose rather to say, The gift of God is eternal life; that we might from this change of the phrase learn, that although we procure death unto ourselves, yet ‘tis God that bestows eternal life on us; that as He hath called us to his kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12), so he gives that glory and that kingdom for no other reason but because he is pleased so to do; It is your Father’s good pleasure, for into God the Father’s good pleasure Christ resolves it, to give you a kingdom (Luk. 12:32). No merit, nor so much as any good disposition in us for it; He prepares it for us (Matt. 20:23). And he prepares us for it too here in the Text, by making us meet to be partakers thereof.

For what meetness could he find in us for such an inheritance? Title to it we have none, being by nature the children of wrath and disobedience (Eph. 2:2, 3). Mere intruders here and usurpers, The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and we, the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12). Qualifications proper for it we have none too; that, an inheritance in light, we, darkness; that, an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away (1 Pet. 1:4), we corruptible, polluted, and still decaying. Οὐχ ἱκανοί ἐσμεν —cries out our Apostle, We are not sufficient, not fit (for the word signifies either) as of ourselves, but our sufficiency, or fitness (call it which you will), is of God, (2 Cor. 3:5; 2 Pet. 1:4), who as He makes us partakers of his divine nature, so meet partakers of the divine inheritance, not by pouring out the divine essence, but by communicating to us those divine qualities which will fit and prepare us for the sight thereof; by putting light into our understandings and holiness into our wills, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). By cleansing our hearts, and washing our hands, that so we may ascend into the hill of the Lord, dwell and rest in his Tabernacle (Ps. 15:24). He gives us faith, and with that a prospect of our inheritance; and He gives us hope, and with that an interest therein; And, to sum up all in one, He gives us his Holy Spirit, the earnest of that inheritance (Eph. 1:14), who worketh all our works in us, writes his laws in our hearts, and by softening, makes them capable of his divine impressions: In short, that divine Spirit, which by regenerating makes us new creatures, and so fit inhabitants for the new Jerusalem, calling us first to virtue, and then to glory: to that, as the way; to this, as the end (2 Pet. 1:3).

2. But besides this divine operation, we need divine acceptation also, whereby we may be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God, our inheritance (2 Thess. 1:5). For all our works and graces here being imperfect, can never capacitate us for it without God’s gracious acceptance. And therefore κατηξίωσεν ἡμας saith St. Chrysost. here. ‘Tis God’s καταξίωσις, not our ἄξια, his dignifiying of us, not our own dignity, that renders us worthy. And ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς, He makes us accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). And when the saints of God are said to be worthy to walk with Christ in white (Rev. 3. 4), ‘tis because He casts his garment of righteousness about them; and if their good works (which yet are but God’s own gifts) weigh down, ‘tis because He puts his grains of allowance into the scale.

But what need all this, either divine operation or acceptation, to make us meet partakers of the inheritance in light, may the enemies of God’s grace here say? What need we go farther than ourselves and our own nature for it? For Pelagius will tell us, that we are in as good a condition now as Adam himself was before his fall; our faculties the same, as strong and as able as ever; our understandings as clear to discern, and our wills as free to choose good and evil; that all the harm our first parent did us, was but to give us a bad Example, which ‘tis our fault if we will follow, and since our happiness depends on ourselves, that we are to blame ourselves, if we miss of it. And although some have thought this too gross to make man the sole author of his own fate, yet they have very little mended the matter, by so parting stakes between God and him, that they still allow the latter the better share in the work of his salvation. For they deny all preventing grace (the proper mark of a Semi-Pelagian) although they are pleased to grant a concurrent and subsequent one on God’s part to enable him to do his work with more ease and sureness, which otherwise would cost him more pains and hazard. However they so far agree with Pelagius, as to place this meetness for the inheritance in man himself, putting it into his own power to dispose himself to his conversion by an act of his own free-will, antecedent to God’s grace. A piece of heathen divinity borrowed from Seneca and Tully. For Seneca in a Stoical brag could say, That we live, is from God; but that we live well, is from ourselves. And, This is the Judgment of all Mankind, says Tully; That Prosperity is to be sought of God, but Wisdom to be taken up from our selves. On which saying of his, St. Augustine passes this judgment, That by making Men free, he made them sacrilegious. For what greater sacrilege than to rob God of his power to convert us, or at least to let him go but as a sharer with as therein? When, as to the first act of our conversion, we are as purely passive as to that of our creation or resurrection. We cannot create ourselves, and, being dead in trespasses and sins, no more raise up ourselves to a spiritual, than to a natural life: No, God must convert us, that we may be converted: Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned, says the Prophet Jeremy (Lam. 5:21. & Jer. 31:18). Nay, The very preparations of the heart in Man are from the Lord, says Solomon (Prov. 16:1). And, It is God who worketh in us both to will and to do, says St. Paul (Phil. 2:13). We cannot come to Christ, except the Father draw us (Joh. 6:44). Nor when we are drawn to Him, do anything without Him; Himself plainly telling us so (Joh. 15:5). Without me ye can do nothing; He does not say a little, but nothing. God must prevent and follow us with his grace, plant good inclinations in us, and nurse them up too. He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (Eph. 1:4), not that we were so before he chose us. He chose us first too, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (Joh. 16:15; 1 Joh. 4:10). He chose us also out of his own love, and then loved us for his choice, and made us Holy by his very choosing us. No prevision of our faith or good Works, but his own free goodness and mercy determined his choice; He found us not meet to partake of the inheritance, but made us so, says the text; Could we make ourselves meet, we might thank ourselves and not the Father, as the Apostle here exhorts the Corinthians and us to do.

– George Stradling (1620/21-1688), Sermons and Discourses upon Several Occasions, p. 300-308

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.