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

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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

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Richard Hooker (1554-1600) on the relation between the believer’s union with Christ and perseverance

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The believer’s spiritual union with Christ is a doctrine distilling great comfort, and is key to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Richard Hooker (1554-1600) picks up on this in his A Discourse of Justification:

He that hath the Son, hath life, saith St. John, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life (1 Jn. 5:12). If therefore he which once hath the Son, may cease to have the Son, though it be for a moment, he ceaseth for that moment to have life. But the life of them which have the Son of God, is everlasting in the world to come (1 Jn. 5:13). But because as Christ being raised from the dead died no more, death hath no more power over him (Rom. 6:10, Cf. Hooker’s Sermon on the Perpetuity of Faith); so justified man being allied to God in Jesus Christ our Lord, doth as necessarily from that time forward always live, as Christ, by whom he hath life, liveth always (Jn. 14:19)…

For as long as that abideth in us, which animateth, quickeneth, and giveth life, so long we live, and we know that the cause of our faith abideth in us for ever. If Christ, the fountain of life, may flit and leave the habitation, where once he dwelleth, what shall become of his promise, I am with you to the world’s end? If the seed of God, which containeth Christ, may be first conceived and then cast out; how doth St. Peter term it immortal (1 Pet. 1:23? How doth St. Peter affirm it abideth (1 Jn. 3:9)? If the Spirit, which is given to cherish and preserve the seed of life, may be given and taken away, how is it the earnest of our inheritance until redemption (Eph. 1:14)? How doth it continue with us for ever (Jn. 14:14)? If therefore the man which is once just by faith, shall live by faith, and live for ever, it followeth, that he which once doth believe the foundation, must needs believe the foundation for ever. If he believe it for ever, how can he ever directly deny it? Faith holding the direct affirmation; the direct negation, so long as faith continueth, is excluded.

– Richard Hooker (1554-1600), The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker (1793 edition), 3:462-463.

John Edwards (1637-1716) on justifying faith and personally applying Christ’s merits

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Reformed divines generally consider justifying faith to consist of three elements: knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia). A person can have a bare theoretical knowledge of the truths of the Gospel (notitia), and cognitively agree with or assent to them as being true (assensus), both of which are necessary to justifying faith; but it is only when these are accompanied by a turning away from yourself to trust entirely in Christ and his merits alone for salvation (fiducia), i.e. personally applying his merits to yourself by faith, that faith becomes justifying faith. John Edwards (1637-1716) stresses the necessity of this personal application of Christ in his The Doctrin [sic] of Faith and Justification set in a True Light, p. 107-109:

We smile at the Athenian, who being shew’d a map of the world, presently look’d where his house stood, and when he could not find that there, he found fault with the map, as an imperfect representation of the world; for (as he thought) if it had been a complete one, it must needs have had in it his little dwelling at Athens. This, indeed, might argue silliness in the poor man; but apply this to religion, and the business of our souls, and the salvation of them, and then such kind of acting will not be folly, but exceeding great wisdom and prudence. The Holy Scriptures, but especially the Gospel, is the map which we Christians are presented with; it is continually before our eyes, and we are invited to survey the several parts and climates of it. Here is great salvation tendered to us; wherever we cast our eyes, there are manifest discoveries of the love of God in Christ, of his designs of mercy to lost souls, of his glorious purposes to save sinners. But the whole Gospel is no better than an unknown land, to the person that is not particularly interested in it; and therefore that which we are chiefly to mind, is whether we are comprehended in this map of life, and whether besides the general belief of the Gospel, we can particularly apply and appropriate Christ’s purposes of mercy to ourselves. This is the special and peculiar act of justifying faith, and therefore in this we should think ourselves most of all concerned. For as it is with food, physick [i.e. medicine] and apparel, if the first be not eaten, it cannot nourish us; if the second be not taken, it cannot cure us; and if the last be not put on and worn, it cannot warm us: so neither can the mercy of God in Christ be really advantageous to us, unless it be by some proper instrument applied and made use of. The great and precious promises, in which God’s mercies are contain’d and convey’d, are generally propounded to the righteous; but it is a true and operative faith which makes the particular and special application of them to ourselves.

This was represented of old in the Mosaic sacrifices for sin; they were first slain and offer’d, and then the blood of them was sprinkled. This was absolutely necessary, in order to the expiation of sin. Unless those that offer’d the sin-offering had the blood of it sprinkled upon them, they remain’d unpurified. Which occasion’d that of the Psalmist, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean, for the hyssop was made use of in sprinkling the blood. And we find that this sprinkling or application of the blood of the sacrifices is mention’d expressly by the sacred writers of the New Testament, and it is applied to the sufferings of Christ, to let us know, that the shedding of the blood of Christ on the cross will not avail us, except there be added this sprinkling of it upon us, this applying the virtue and merit of his sufferings. And this is done by faith: for by it all things that Christ hath done or suffer’d for us as a Mediator, are applied to us. Him God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, Rom. 3:25. Whence I gather, that it is faith that makes Christ’s undertakings effectual. God is not actually reconcil’d to us, till by faith we lay hold on Jesus. We are saved by his meritorious sufferings; but not unless they be applied and appropriated unto us by faith; namely, when every one of us can particularly say, from an inward sense and persuasion in his heart, and from a secret virtue and change which he feels there, “the Son of God hath loved me, and given himself for me, Christ was born for me, suffer’d and died for me, rose again for me, ascended into heaven, and there intercedeth for me; in a word, all his undertakings were for me and my everlasting benefit.”

Later on, on p. 209-210, he adds this beautiful bit:

…the act of faith whereby we apply the righteousness of Christ to our own souls in particular, cannot but convey an infinite joy to us: for see how it is in secular and worldly matters, if I can cast mine eye on a small parcel of land, and say with truth, that these few acres of ground are mine, that they belong to me as the right owner, this is far more grateful and pleasant to me, than if I should mount a hill, and take a view of a much larger tract of ground; nay, if I should come down, and have the liberty to ride or walk in it, to feed my eye, and almost lose it in surveying its vast extent, but then after all must say, this belongs to my neighbour, not a foot of these fair fields is mine. If it be thus in temporal and worldly things, it is much more in those that are spiritual. If I can only say, there are great and precious promises in the Gospel, there are vast privileges purchased by Christ’s undertakings, sinners may partake of all benefits and blessings by his blood; but if I cannot add, that I have an interest and propriety in them, I have no ground in rejoicing. What comfort is it to a man to be told, that the sun shines, when he is pent up in a dungeon, where he never sees the light, or feels the warmth of the sun? But if I can say, and say it truly and on good grounds, that I have a portion in those undertakings, I am particularly concerned in the death and merits of Christ, I have a share in the promises of the Gospel, I can, and do apply his meritorious righteousness to my soul, I rest on Christ, not only as a perfect Saviour, but as my Saviour; if I can say this, I have reason to rejoice and be exceeding glad.

Hugh Latimer (c. 1487-1555) on the assurance of election

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We have in previous posts considered the question “How can I know whether I am one of the elect?”, and have seen answers to this question in selections from John Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, Joseph Alleine, Bénédict Pictet, and Wilhelmus van Irhoven. To add to these, consider the following two excerpts from the sermons of the English Reformer Hugh Latimer (c. 1487-1555), of which the first is from his Sermon on the third Sunday of Epiphany, preached on 24 January 1552:

When we hear that some be chosen and some be damned, let us have good hope that we shall be among the chosen, and live after this hope; that is, uprightly and godly, then thou shalt not be deceived. Think that God hath chosen those that believe in Christ, and that Christ is the Book of life. If thou believest in him, then thou art written in the book of life, and shalt be saved. So we need not go about to trouble ourselves with curious questions of the predestination of God; but let us rather endeavour ourselves that we may be in Christ, for when we be in him, then are we well, and then we may be sure that we are ordained to everlasting life.

Merely a few weeks later, in his Sermon on the Sunday called Septuagesima, preached on 14 February 1552, he warns against seeking the assurance of your election from God’s hidden counsels, which would prove futile, but rather:

…if thou begin with Christ, and consider his coming into the world, and doest believe that God hath sent him for thy sake, to suffer for thee, and deliver thee from sin, death, the devil, and hell, then when thou art so armed with the knowledge of Christ, then I say, this simple question [of whether I am elect] cannot hurt thee, for thou art in the book of life which is Christ himself. […]

[O]ur election is sure if we follow the Word of God. Here is now taught you how to try our your election, namely, in Christ, for Christ is the accounting book and register of God, even in the same book, that is, Christ, are written all the names of the elect. Therefore we cannot find our election in ourselves, neither yet in the high counsel of God: for Inscrutabilia sunt judicia altissimi [The judgments of the Most High are past finding out] (Job 34). Where shall I find then my election? In the counting book of God which is Christ: for thus it is written: Sic Deus dilexit mundum, that is, God hath so entirely loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to that end, that all that believe in him should not perish, but have life everlasting. Whereby appeareth most plainly that Christ is the book of life, and that all that believe in him are in the same book, and so are chosen to everlasting life, for only those are ordained [to eternal life] which believe.

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”

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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

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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