Tag Archives: Puritan

Christ: The Most Precious Remedy

old-medicine-bottlesWhat is the most precious remedy against the wiles of the devil and sin?

Seriously to consider, That even those very sins that Satan paints, and puts new names and colors upon, cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus. That Christ should come from the eternal bosom of his Father to a region of sorrow and death; that God should be manifested in the flesh, the Creator made a creature; that he who was clothed with glory should be wrapped with rags of flesh; he who filled heaven and earth with his glory should be cradled in a manger; that the almighty God should flee from weak man—the God of Israel into Egypt; that the God of the law should be subject to the law, the God of the circumcision circumcised, the God who made the heavens working at Joseph’s homely trade; that he who binds the devils in chains should be tempted; that he, whose is the world, and the fullness thereof, should hunger and thirst; that the God of strength should be weary, the Judge of all flesh condemned, the God of life put to death; that he who is one with his Father should cry out of misery, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46); that he who had the keys of hell and death at his belt should lie imprisoned in the sepulcher of another, having in his lifetime nowhere to lay his head, nor after death to lay his body; that that HEAD, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns, and those EYES, purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death; those EARS, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; that FACE, which was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews; that MOUTH and TONGUE, which spoke as never man spoke, accused for blasphemy; those HANDS, which freely swayed the scepter of heaven, nailed to the cross; those FEET, “like unto fine brass,” nailed to the cross for man’s sins; each sense pained with a spear and nails; his SMELL, with stinking odor, being crucified on Golgotha, the place of skulls; his TASTE, with vinegar and gall; his HEARING, with reproaches, and SIGHT of his mother and disciples bemoaning him; his SOUL, comfortless and forsaken; and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colors upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against sin, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!

Thomas Brooks (1608-80), The Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices20.


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Finding Certainty in Precision

But how can God’s will be known?  Can we tell His requirements with certainty and exactness?  Is there any way out of the fogs of pious guesswork on this point into the clear light of certainty?  Yes, said the Puritans, there is; the way out is to harness our consciences to the Holy Scriptures, in which the mind of God is fully revealed to us.  To them, Scripture was more than the fallible and sometimes fallacious human witness to revelation which is all that some moderns allow it to be; it was revelation itself, the living Word of the living God, divine testimony to God’s own redemptive acts and plans, written by the Holy Ghost through human agents in order to give the Church of every age clear direction on all matters of faith and life that could possibly arise.

But, it might be said, such a formula is unrealistic and empty.  The Bible is, after all, a very old book, the product of a now long-vanished culture.  Most of it was written for people in an utterly different situation from our own.  How can it throw clear and direct light on the problems of life today?  It can do so, the Puritans would reply, because the God who wrote it remains the same, and His thoughts about man’s life do not change.  If we can learn to see what principles He was inculcating and applying in His recorded dealings with Israel and the early Church, and to reapply them to our own situation, that will constitute the guidance that we need.  And it is to help us to do this that the Holy Spirit has been given.

Certainly, seeing the relevant principles and applying them correctly in each case is in practice and arduous task; ignorance of Scripture, and misjudgment of situations, constantly lead us astray, and to be patient and humble enough to receive the Spirit’s help is not easy either.  But it remains true nonetheless that in principle Scripture provides clear and exact guidance for every detail and department of life, and if we come to Scripture teachably and expectantly God Himself will seal on our minds and hearts a clear certainty as to how we should behave in each situation that faces us.  “God hath appointed means for the cure of blindness and error,” wrote Baxter. “Come into the light, with due self-suspicion, and impartiality, and diligently use all God’s means, and avoid the causes of deceit and error, and the light of truth will at once show you the truth.”

The Puritans themselves sought clear certainty as to God’s truth in its practical bearing, and believed that they had been given it.  Their quest sharpened both their moral sensibilities and their insight into the Bible.  They would not have been interested in vague moral uplift; what they wanted was to grasp God’s truth with the same preciseness of application with which they held that He had revealed it.  Because of their concern for preciseness in following out God’s revealed will in matters moral and ecclesiastical, the first Puritans were dubbed “precisians.”  Though ill-meant and derisive, this was in fact a good name for them.  Then as now, people explained their attitude as due to peevish cantankerousness and angularity or morbidity of temperament, but that was not how they themselves saw it.

Richard Rogers, the Puritan pastor of Wethersfield, Essex, at the turn of the sixteenth century, was riding one day with the local lord of the manor, who, after twitting him for sometime about his “precisian” ways, asked him what it was that made him so precise.  “O sire,” replied Roger, “I serve a precise God.”

If there were such a thing as a Puritan crest, this would be its proper motto.  A precise God – a God, that is, who has made a precise disclosure of His mind and will in Scripture, and who expects from His servants a corresponding preciseness of belief  and behavior – it was this view of God that created and controlled the historic Puritan outlook.  The Bible itself led them to it.  And we who share the Puritan estimate of Holy Scripture cannot excuse ourselves if we fail to show a diligence and conscientiousness equal to theirs in ordering our going according to God’s written Word.

J. I. Packer, “The Puritan Conscience” in Puritan Papers, Vol. 2, 245-47.

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Your Heart Must Be Pure

If we must be pure in heart then we must not rest in outward purity.  Civility is not sufficient.  A swine may be washed, yet a swine still.  Civility does not wash a man, grace changes him.  Civility, like a star may shine in the eyes of the world, but it differs as much from purity as the crystal from the diamond.  Civility is but strewing flowers on a dead corpse.  A man may be wonderfully moralized, yet but a tame devil.  How many have made civility their saviour!  Morality may damn as well as vice.  A vessel may be sunk with gold, as well as with dung.

Observe two things:

1. The civil person, though he will not commit gross sins, yet he is not sensible of heart sins.  He does not discern the ‘law in his members’ (Romans 7:23).  He is not troubled for unbelief, hardness of heart, vanity of thoughts.  He abhors gaol-sins, not gospel-sins.

2. The civil person has an aching tooth at religion.  His heart rises against holiness.  The snake is of a fine colour, but has a deadly sting.  The civil man is fair to look to, but has a secret antipathy against the ways of God.  He hates grace as much as vice.  Zeal is as odious to him as uncleanness.  So that civility is not to be rested in.  The heart must be pure.  God would have Aaron wash the inwards of the sacrifice (Leviticus 9:14).  Civility does but wash the outside; the inwards must be washed.  “Blessed are the pure in heart.’

Thomas Watson (1620-86), The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12, 175-76.

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