Archive for the ‘Puritans’ Category

Exhaustive and Exhausting

February 18, 2008

I’ve just finished reading John Owen’s Communion with God for the second time. This time I read it in a new version edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic. I would have to say that it is a great version. The language is modified in places to enable the reader to understand more readily and there are useful footnotes to translate the archaic terms. However the greatest strength of this version is its layout. The book is very clearly set out and has an excellent outline at the beginning which makes the whole book much more easily read and the argument more easily followed. It is a well presented book and if the Puritans are going to be accessible to the presetn generation this is the way to go.

JI Packer writes somewhere of Owen that you have a sense that when he deals with a topic that he has exhausted it.  Certainly that is the sense that you have with Communion with God. Even in this more accessible edition this is not an easy read. But it is very profitable. As I said this is my second time through the book. I find reading it slow going and I can only manage usually a section at a time. But I always come away from it having profited from Owen’s insights and with my heart warmed as Owen deals with how our communion is with each person of the Trinity.

If you read this book you may find that progress is slow but it is really worth it. If you want to tackle just one book that will stretch you in terms of your understanding of the depths of the Christian faith this book deserves a look. It is exhaustive and may leave you feeling exhausted but it will also give you a sense of achievement and it will lead you to marvel at the wonder of your salvation.

True Conversion

June 8, 2007

I’ve just been reading John Owen’s Pneumatalogia, his treatise on the work of the Holy Spirit.  He notes in the course of the treatise that there is often a preparatory work of the Holy Spirit that some view as true conversion but which reality falls some way short of true conversion. He notes the following five marks of true conversion through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit-

  1. Our will is changed so that we are now inclined to obey God
  2.  There is a new sense of excellency in the truth revealed in the gospel
  3. Our conscience is now purged of dead works
  4. The Holy Spirit fills us in every part and fixes our affections upon Christ
  5. That the work of the Holy Spirit touches every faculty

In an age when there is little self examination of ourselves as Scripture exhorts us to do and the idea of being Christian sits lightly with many, Owen’s marks of true conversion are well worth our consideration.

When Heaven isn’t Heaven

June 1, 2007

In his writings John Flavel, the Puritan minister, repeats the idea that heaven cannot be heaven to those who do not love God. For heaven is that realm where God is loved supremely and where God is prized above heaven itself. Therefore it must follow that for those who do not love God heaven cannot be heavenly.

It is an important point he makes. For in my experience of having to conduct funerals of those who have little time for God the expectation is that the departed loved one will go to heaven. I’ve never met anyone who even countenanced the idea that a loved one could go to hell. (In much the same way as I have never had anyone convert to atheism on their deathbed!) But would heaven be heavenly for someone who did not love God? I agree with Flavel that it would not. If God is not the delight of our earthly existence, how could He possibly be the delight of our heavenly existence?

In the final analysis, as Romans 2 makes clear, God give us what we have lived for. If we have sought Him He is our reward. If we have not sought Him then God also gives us the desires of our hearts- an eternal future without Him.

The pursuit of heaven really is the serious business of this life. The essence of true Christianity is not fire insurance faith but delight in and a longing for God.

Assurance- Then and Now

May 23, 2007

Just finished Joel Beeke’s The Quest for Full Assurance. It’s a great study in Puritan theology and it is an excellent place to begin looking at the Puritans. Beeke has a great feel for what the Puritans were all about. Also there is an excellent bibliography for anyone interested in Puritanism of Puritan studies. The book at once shows the great strengths of Puritan theology- their serious-minded theological enquiry- and their weakness- an attention to detail that at times leads them into exegetical problems.

The book ends with a section on the contemporary relevance of the Puritan debate on assurance. Beeke suggests that our lack of interest in assurance today is not a sign of spiritual health but of spiritual lethargy. The Puritans are often accused of keeping people in a state of permanent suspense over assurance. But Beeke points out that what has replaced it today has been something glib and presumptuous. That where people are concerned about assurance is a very good thing, as it shows a concern for spiritual well-being and the spiritual vitality that flows from and assured faith.

It seems to me that Beeke has raised important issues about the current spiritual climate.

A Must Read for Evangelicals

May 12, 2007

Above all Earthly Pow’rs is the fourth part of David Wells ‘trilogy’ examining contemporary evangelicalism in North America. I read the first two volumes- which were okay- and skipped the third (a verdict on the first two?) This however is a must read. It is an extremely powerful book(no pun intended!). Its great strength is to show how we have beocme immersed in our culture and how that culture has shaped us. Whilst it is directed primarily towards North America it has much to say to us on this side of the Atlantic where we catch cold every time American evangelicalism sneezes. Wells has his critics- who doesn’t?- but this really is a must read. Not least because of Wells own passionate affirmation of the gospel.

Jonathan Edwards for today

May 4, 2007

I read Josh Moody’s ‘Jonathan Edwards and The Enlightenment’ some months back as part of my doctoral studies and hugely enjoyed it. I sensed that of many of the books I had read on Edwards Moody’s showed an unusually perceptive grasp of Edwards’ thought and what he was about. It was with a sense of anticipation that I then picked up Moody’s ‘The God-Centred Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today.’ And I was not disappointed. This is a very good book. If you are unfamiliar with Edwards it is useful introduction to his thought and why so many have found him helpful. More than that Moody is very perceptive in applying just what it is about Edwards’ thought that is so relevant to us today. He moves beyond the simple hailing of Edwards as an icon of Calvinist orthodoxy and really thinks through the implications of his thought for today. Whilst it is a book that has much to say to any thoughtful reader I found it had particular relevance for me as a pastor.
So pick it up and read it for your profit. Then pass it on to a pastor you know.