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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezekiel Hopkins

 

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

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

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

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

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

Edward_Lake

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

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

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

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

John_Edwards

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.