Posts Tagged ‘Church History’

THOMAS WATSON (c.1620-1686)

All of Thomas Watson’s writings and sermons are replete with sound doctrine, practical wisdom, and heart-searching application. His profound spirituality, gripping remarks, practical illustrations, and beauty of expression make him one of the most irresistible of the Puritans.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably hard study. In 1646 he was commenced a sixteen year pastorate at St. Stephen’s Walbrook. In 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II. He was released on 30th June,1652, and was formally reinstated vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license for the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston in Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28th July, 1686.

For more Information on his life, please visit the Thomas Watson Reading Room

Thomas Watson is by far my favorite Puritan and has been one of the most influential writers in my life. His writing is full of easy to understand illustrations and you get the feeling that he knew about life not just books. He was a pastor who wrote, not a writer who preached. He genuinely loved people and was concerned for their souls, minds and lives. He didn’t try to choose one of the three to focus on. I still hand out his book “The Godly Man’s Picture” (available from Banner of Truth or wherever BoT books are sold) to almost every Christian I meet. It is the most practical book on Christian living I have ever read.

In starting this new “column” for H&D, I wanted to choose someone who was perhaps the single most influential Christian (excluding living people) I have ever “met.”

Who are people in your mind, the readers of H&D should get to know?

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Today in Christian History  

1680 Death of Thomas Goodwin, 79, famed English Congregational Nonconformist preacher. His last words were: ‘Ah, is this dying? How I have dreaded as an enemy this smiling friend.’  


1805 Birth of Sarah Flower Adams, English religious writer. Her most enduring verses today comprise the lyrics to the hymn, “Nearer, My God, To Thee.”  


1906 Black evangelist William J. Seymour first arrived in Los Angeles and began holding revival meetings. The “Azusa Street Revival” later broke out under Seymour’s leadership, in the Apostolic Faith Mission located at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles. It was one of the pioneering events in the history of 20th century American Pentecostalism.  


1944 English apologist C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter: ‘Heaven enters wherever Christ enters, even in this life.’  


1980 American Presbyterian apologist Francis Schaeffer wrote in a letter: ‘None of us are normal, even after we are Christians if we mean by that being perfect. What is possible, however, is for us to live in the fullness of life in the circle of who we are, constantly pressing on the border lines to try to take further steps.’  


© 1987-2001, William D. Blake. Used by permission of the author, from
Almanac of the Christian Church



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Signs and Wonders: The Charismatic Power of Early Christianity

When we teach about the early church, we frequently omit the story of spiritual gifts. Cessationism is the belief that the miracles of Jesus’ lifetime and the apostolic period happened solely to attest to the authority and inspiration of the apostolic writings, and that miracles and extraordinary spiritual gifts ceased after the writing of the apostolic documents was concluded. As writers such as ex-Dallas Seminary professor Jack Deere have argued, this is a position with no biblical foundation. But it also has a problem with the historical record. That record shows clearly that the early church was quite active in the charismatic gifts at least through 200 AD. There was a decline in the 3rd century, and then again it became active. Sadly, many writers and teachers who are not cessationist continue to give the impression that miracles and extraordinary gifts were phenomena limited to the apostolic period. The way the early church is usually taught, we hear much about martyrdom and persecution; much about Gnostics and Arians and doctrinal disputes; much about how bishops and clergy roles evolved, and how the apostolic tradition was passed down and the canon of the New Testament evolved. We hear how Tertullian scoffed at those who tried to translate the gospel into the categories of Greek philosophy; how Origen of Alexandria nearly single-handedly invented the systematic study of the Bible; how Irenaeus defended the faith against a host of heresies and spoke of the Work of Christ in illuminating new ways; how Cyprian insisted on the unity of the church and its necessity for salvation. What we don’t usually hear is how these same august teachers and bishops from the 100s and 200s AD and beyond—Tertullian, Cyprian, Irenaeus, and many more—talked about miracles of healing, prophecy, and exorcism as everyday occurrences in the church. Tertullian is typical when he says “God everywhere manifests signs of his own power—to his own people for their comfort, to strangers for a testimony unto them” (Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul).

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Your Best Life Now????

Using promises of temporal, earthly blessings in return for a “decision for Christ” may seem to work well in modern America, but I have to wonder how such a “self-esteem” gospel would have worked in the early days of Cromwell’s England:

“As Dr. Bastwick ascended the scaffold on which he was to suffer mutilation, his wife rushed up to him, and kissed the ears he was about to lose. Upon her husband’s exhorting her not to be frightened, she made answer: “Farewell my dearest, be of good comfort: I am nothing dismayed.” The surrounding crowd manifested their sympathy by loud acclamations.

On descending from the scaffold he drew from his ear the sponge soaked with his blood, and, holding it up to the people, exclaimed: “Blessed be my God, who hath counted me worthy, and of his mighty power hath enabled me to suffer anything for his sake; and as I have now lost some of my blood, so I am ready and willing to spill every drop that is in my veins in this cause, for which I now have suffered: which is, for maintaining the truth of God, and the honor of my king against popish usurpations. Let God be glorified, and let the king live forever.”

When Mr. Burton, a puritan divine, was brought on the platform, and was asked if the pillory were not uneasy for his neck and shoulders, he answered: “How can Christ’s yoke be uneasy? He bears the heavier end of it, and I the lighter; and if mine were too heavy, He would bear that too. Christ is a good Master, and worth the suffering for! And if the world did but know His goodness, and had tasted of His sweetness, all would come and be His servants.” – From d’Aubigne’s The Protector: A Vindication, pp. 35-36.

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From Monergism:

This year we celebrate John Calvin’s 500th birthday on July 10th, 2009. To learn more about John Calvin and his Calvinism Theology, we have several links to choose from:

1. John Calvin’s Biographies and Writings
2. John Calvin’s Audio Multimedia
3. The Theology of Calvinism
4. Calvinism Audio Multimedia

In the All Asian & Oceania Speakers Messages folder, we have added: Michael Oh , Peter Jensen and Phillip Jensen .
In the All European Speakers Messages folder, we have added:
Colin Adams , Dave Bish, David J. McCullough , David Jackman , Donald Macleod , Eric Alexander , Geoffrey Thomas, Iain Wright, Ian Hamilton, Marcus Honeysett, Mike Reeves, Richard Cunningham

In the All North American Speakers Messages folder, we have added: Dale Ralph Davis

We have also updated several folders with newer sermons such as:
Gene Veith, Kim Riddlebarger
Michael Horton
Terry L. Johnson highly recommended!, Bryan Chapell, and Issues, Etc. Radio Program .

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Prominent Reformed Evangelical Promotes Medieval Mystics

This headline seems to fall in the “man bites dog” category. From a professor (also dean and VP) of Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, we expect precise articulations of Reformed doctrine. Defenses of biblical inerrancy. Disquisitions on the priority of theology over experience. We don’t expect a spirited exhortation to read thousand-year-old mystical texts. But that’s just what we get in Carl Trueman’s article Why Should Thoughtful Evangelicals Read the Medieval Mystics. And it’s worth reading—whether you share Trueman’s Reformed stance or not. In a nutshell, after acknowledging difficulties, he enumerates four reasons we should read such luminaries of the Middle Ages as Bonaventure, Hildegard of Bingen, and Julian of Norwich. For those wanting to cut to the chase, here’s my brief commentary on Trueman’s article.

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Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Along with Thomas Cromwell, he supported the principle of royal supremacy in which the king was considered sovereign over the Church within his realm. He was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the Church of England, and succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany. When Edward came to power, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the ”Book of Common Prayer”, a complete liturgy for the English Church. He developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints. Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy when Mary I came to the throne. Imprisoned for over two years and under pressure from the Church authorities, he made several recantations and reconciled himself with the Catholic faith. However, on the day of his execution, he dramatically withdrew his recantations and died as a Protestant martyr. His legacy lives on within the Church of England through the ”Book of Common Prayer” and the ”Thirty-Nine Articles”, an Anglican statement of faith derived from his work.

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The Puritans Behind the Myths The Puritans Behind the Myths
And how these adventurers affect us today.
Interview with Harry S. Stout

Who were the real Puritans? And why did Puritan become a derogatory label? In what ways have the Puritans shaped what we believe and how we live today? To answer these questions, CHRISTIAN HISTORY editors Kevin Miller and Mark Galli talked with Dr. Harry S. Stout, Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity at Yale University. Dr. Stout is the author of The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (Oxford, 1986).

Christian History: What do we misunderstand about the American Puritans?

Harry Stout: Most Americans picture the Puritans as people who had no humor and no compassion. In their minds, the Puritans sat in self-righteous judgment on the rest of the world. That stereotype has lent the word Puritanical the dark meaning it assumes today.

How would you dispel that myth?

Download Survey: Reformation to the Present, a Christian History Bible Study Course.

I would point out that the Puritans were enamored of bright clothing, and also, the Puritans were not opposed to parties. They certainly did not have sexual hang-ups. They were not prudes.

It’s true that promiscuity was absent from colonial New England. But for husband and wife, sex was important, and Puritan families were routinely large. A spouse could be punished by the authorities for withholding sex from his or her partner.

So how did the “joyless Puritan” stereotype get started?

It began during Prohibition. People like H. L. Mencken said, “Whom do we blame for this Victorian America we live in?” and the Puritans came out as culprits.

In fact, the Puritans were not teetotalers. Scholars estimate the Puritans had a rum-consumption rate that surpasses the alcohol-consumption rate in the 20th century.

Were Puritans deeply emotional people?

Yes. They were intense lovers and intense haters. They were intensely reverent.

For the Puritans, nothing was done unthinkingly or unfeelingly. They believed that their life mattered, that what they were doing was more important than anything else in the world. If you believe that, you will feel extreme emotions.

What scared the Puritans?

They were alarmed about secularism, though they would have called it infidelity. In their day, the great secularism was a form of deism that denied the divinity of Christ and undermined intimacy with God.

The Puritans also feared the rising generation would not measure up to the piety of their fathers and mothers. They often talked about loss of faith in their children.

Why do so many people misunderstand the Puritans?

To understand the Puritans, you have to adopt their attitude: Life is a great adventure. The Puritans saw themselves on a group mission, like a corporate Pilgrim’s Progress.

If you read the Puritans’ writings as cold, theological prose, they will kill you quickly. You have to look deeper to see what’s motivating them: the yearning to build a Christian civilization, a new world order. Creating this was the adventure of a lifetime.

In John Winthrop’s famous speech aboard the Arbella, the Puritans fixed on what I would call “a world-regenerative creed.” They believed, “We are reforming not only Anglicanism and Christendom but the whole world.”

Didn’t many Puritans come to America primarily to escape persecution?

There was persecution in England, but it was limited mostly to ministers. So it wasn’t fear of persecution that drove the laity to come.

Instead, many lay people were extraordinarily loyal to their pastors and followed their pastors to the New World. It’s impossible to overstate the spiritual and moral influence these ministers had over their congregations. Ministers were enormously respected, people for whom the laity literally traveled the ends of the earth. The most famous case would be Anne Hutchinson, who convinced her family to follow her minister, John Cotton, to America.

In history, what other groups have so thoroughly tried to create a new religious world?

The most obvious would be the Dutch in South Africa and the Mormons in Utah. In America, only two “theocracies” have lasted for any length of time: the Puritans’ in New England, and the Mormons’ in Utah.

Why did the Puritan experiment finally collapse?

The Puritans’ charter was revoked in 1689, so the Puritans could no longer compel assent. They had to tolerate Quakers and Anglicans. This created a real crisis of meaning: How do we survive in a pluralistic world?

Today, we take religious toleration for granted. What would terrify us would be the exact opposite—a theocracy, such as we see in the Middle East.

How much have the Puritans shaped American culture?

Though some scholars disagree, I believe Puritanism shaped American society to an extraordinary degree.

Recently, historians have pointed out—rightly, I think—that we cannot forget the contribution of Quakers, Presbyterians, native Americans, African-American slaves, and so on.

But the Puritans were more than merely one group among many. They exerted an influence in American culture disproportionate to their numbers.

For instance, they gave us a world-regenerative creed, a vision that America is “a city set upon a hill.” That vision infuses American literature, foreign policy—our entire sense of identity.

Listen to the presidents we’ve had for the last 30 years. They often speak of “destiny” and “providence.” Or civil-rights leaders spoke of a dream of equal treatment under the law. All of these people are drawing from Puritan roots, whether they know it or not.

In what other ways have Puritans made a major impact on modern American culture?

The Puritans believed that education was central to the Christian life. Harvard was formed while people were digging out the first settlements. The first classes at Harvard took place with bears running through the campus, yet classes were in Latin. The Puritan colleges were steeped in the Western Christian, classical tradition. In fact, Harvard and Yale were the only colleges in the Western world that required Hebrew.

For the next two centuries, Harvard and Yale were emulated widely—until the 20th century, when the university became secularized.

What can modern Christians learn from Puritan Christianity?

They were able to hold in tension traditions that many people consider opposites: liberal and evangelical. They eagerly studied the most recent learning, confident it could be reconciled with the evangelical teachings of the New Testament.

You always see in Puritans a passion for both the head and the heart, for both piety and intellect. That combination culminates in Jonathan Edwards. But entire generations of New Englanders tried to emphasize both head and heart.

What happened to this ideal?

It’s a hard one to maintain. After the American Revolution, the head moved toward Unitarianism, to a liberalism without the ballast of supernatural grace. The heart moved toward Methodist and Baptist piety. At the beginning, anyway, these movements were anti-intellectual and did not produce seminaries or colleges.

From that point on, few Christians have been able to achieve this synthesis of head and heart. Occasionally, though, you find a C. S. Lewis—a warm-hearted Christian and leading scholar.

If you were transported back to 17th-century Massachusetts, what would you find most enjoyable and most difficult?

Well, for starters, I’m sure I’d be banished. Anyone who didn’t conform, such as Roger Williams, was expelled.

What I would find most exciting is to be part of something bigger than myself, to be connected to something that’s going to live after I would die.

What I would find most frustrating is the idea that this larger purpose requires the coercive arm of the state.

How has studying the Puritans affected you personally?

You can’t read the number of Puritan sermons I’ve read and not confront the central question of those sermons: your mortality.

The Puritans knew that this life doesn’t go on forever, and that you need to live your life in the shadow of eternity.

It’s frightening to confront your mortality. Studying the Puritans made me confront what we try so hard to avoid in this society. But it confirmed in me the sense that there needs to be an eternal hope.

The Puritans Behind the Myths

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