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The Precisionists-A Seminary Paper on the Reformation leading up to the Puritans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Puritans

Scott Paul Bushey

HS740 The Puritans

Student ID# 57740903

April 25, 2017 in the year of our Lord

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Precisionists

A Seminary Paper on the History of the Puritans

This is my 4th paper for my Doctor of Divinity program at the North American Reformed Seminary. This paper will address the Puritans, who they were and their application of God’s word to their lives. There is much too much history to address here in one treatise; having said that, I will attempt to make this paper as coherent as possible highlighting some historical data that is relevant to the subject at hand and how the Puritans came about in time.

John Geree writes:

“The Old English Puritan was such a one, that honored God above all, and under God gave every one his due. His first care was to serve God, and therein he did not what was good in his own, but in God’s sight, making the word of God the rule of his worship.”[1]

To truly explain what and who the Puritans were, we need to prepare the path rightly. Prior to the Reformation period, the church was under the hand of the Catholic Church.

Many men died trying to Reform the church during this period. Up until the reformation, Rome was functioning along the lines of orthodoxy, but towards this point, it became more and more evident that they had built on more traditions than the word of God, binding the consciences of their parishioners that went way beyond what the bible commanded and was quickly slipping into heresy in many ways. It was here that God decreed the separation from the Roman church for the true elect of God.

I will begin by addressing some of the pertinent history as the path and pattern are important to the history of the Reformation. I will start with the New Testament church as it embarked in the timeframe as represented in the book of Acts to begin with.

The path to the reformation took many turns. Some were good and some bad. God had His providential hand in these twists. The church was much like a young child in the faith. Bruises were part and parcel. During this initial period, the church was growing and experienced some typical growing pains. In time, these challenges warranted a reforming back to the biblical example. Just like in our day, there came all types of theological abuses in the early church. This digression could be a result of not having the actual bible in hand as we do now as a guide. Speculation arose in regard to many doctrines and as a result, many of our creeds were created to combat error that reared its ugly head, ultimately purging away this dross from our practices.

In the period of ad 30-64, we can see in the book of Act’s the church at large. This is called the ‘Apostolic period’. The book of Acts is a historic account of the daily actions of Christ’s bride in action under the oversite of its local church leaders and the Holy Spirit. As well, the church had the letters of the Apostle Paul as a reference point. During this period, the persecution of the church was minimal. Most of its trials were not real persecution, that being, true persecution would follow and when one contrasts that persecution to what they experienced in this time frame, one can see that the church was ultimately unfettered at this early stage. In this earlier time, any persecution the church felt was secondary to Roman rule and the Jews of the day. These were no more than typical growing pains. Christians, during this period were gentle and quiet citizens, following the commands of Christ. In that, the national rule and Jews let them alone following the thought that if this was not of God, it would pass with the tides like most other trends.

It being that Christians were by and large, kind, loving and obedient citizens of Rome, they could often be found praying for their civil leaders, paying their taxes and helping the destitute. This was not seen by Rome as a hindrance to their cause and ultimately left the Christian church to itself, as long as they stayed within the realm of their civil laws.

In AD 51, there did arise some vehement persecution from the Jews and the Christian church had to be ejected from the city of Rome secondary to unrest, again at God’s protective hand.

In the year 54-69, things changed drastically as Nero took office. Much can be said of Nero, most of it is not good. His official title was ‘Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus’. He was the adopted son of Claudius. Rome saw Nero as compulsive and corrupt in many ways. The Roman Historian ‘Tacitus’ says of Nero:

“Nero punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty a class hatred for their abominations who are commonly called Christians. ‘Christus’ from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of Pontious Pilate in the reign of Tiberius…”[2]

It is said that Nero enhanced many facets of Roman rule and encouraged entertainment and athletic games to progress. He felt that one way to win the love of Rome’s people was through feeding their senses with elaborate festivals, circuses and games. In many ways, he was correct.

During this period, Nero’s hatred for Christianity and those attached to it grew at an alarming rate. Nero saw that the persecution of Christians pleased the Jews and many Roman people. Many believers were executed. One story has it that Nero had Christians dipped in oil and set ablaze to light his personal garden. Most all of us know of the fire that destroyed much of Rome’s central areas. There is speculation as to how this fire started but some believe Nero ordered it so as to build the Domus Aurea or ‘Golden House’. This creation was to be used for a massive venue for additional entertainment.  It is said to have been 300 acres large on the slopes of the Palatine Hill. It had 300 rooms, but without sleeping quarters. It was by far, Nero’s greatest work. More unrest rose in Rome and eventually Nero was driven from power, even being seen as a criminal and ordered to be executed by the people he intended to entice. He committed suicide on the 9th of June, year 68.

John Huss

John Huss was born in 1369. He is said to be a ‘bohemian’. Specifically in Husinec, in the southern Czech Republic. The town was nicknamed, ‘Goosetown’. Huss was known as ‘Goose’ which in the Bohemian language is Husstown. His name was shortened to Huss eventually. Huss then entered the Priesthood to garnish a better lifestyle for himself and was ordained in 1401. His first assignment was at Prague’s Bethlehem Chapel. The church had a large congregation totally about 3000 members. Wycliffe’s work was instrumental in his spiritual growth and ultimately came to the conclusion that Rome was in error, even calling it ‘a cult’. The battle ensued between the Bohemians and the Germans who were stalwart Roman Catholics. Ultimately all of the German students and teachers were forced out of the University in Prague. At this point, the Pope got involved and sided with the Roman Church and Huss was eventually excommunicated and disposed of his pulpit. Huss continued to preach, however, citing that his being disposed was not of the people and only a paper document. Following this event, the Roman Church began to sell indulgences to the people of Prague and surrounding areas. For those who are not privy to the idea, indulgences were offerings made to the Church of Rome that would decrease the amount of suffering and persecution one would have to pay for sins committed, once glorified. Consider the doctrine of Purgatory. The official catechism of the Roman church describes these indulgences as:

“a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints”. [3]

Huss’ persecution and death

In the year 1414, 13 years after being ordained, Huss was called to the carpet at the Council of Constance to answer concerns over his theology. It is said that the council told him that he would have safe passage. Upon arrival, Huss was chained and jailed-obviously a lie and break in the ninth commandment. Constance probably justified this lying saying that they were doing the work of God. After failing the number of attempts to get Huss to recant of the things Rome deemed heretical, Huss responded with:

‘I did appeal unto the pope; who being dead, and the cause of my matter remaining undetermined, I appealed likewise unto his successor John XXIII: before whom when, by the space of two years, I could not be admitted by my advocates to defend my cause, I appealed unto the high judge Christ.” [4]iii

Huss was brought to the church, stripped of his priestly clothes and sentenced to be burned at the stake. His final words were the reading of a Psalm and the singing of a familiar chant of the age: ‘Christ, the Son of the living God, have mercy upon me’. He was translated into glory in the year 1415.

 John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe was born in the year, 1384. Wycliffe was raised in the town of Hopswell, England. He was a Seminary Professor at Oxford and eventually ordained to the Priesthood of the Roman Catholic church. On February 19, 1377, Wycliffe was summoned before the Bishop of London, William Courtenay for various or even undocumented reasons related to his theology. Apparently, there was an unsettled sentiment at this time against Wycliffe and this began the harassment.

In 1377, Pope Gregory the 6th put together a polemic against a number of Wycliffe’s positions which he felt were dangerous to church and state. In 1377, Wycliffe was asked if withholding traditional payments to the Roman Church was wrong, in which he responded, ‘yes’. It being that Wycliffe used the scriptures as an absolute guide to the church, this became highly problematic. One of his main concerns had to do with the Papacy and he railed against it often.

Possibly the greatest provision Wycliffe brought to the church is when he decided that the bible needed to be translated into modern vernacular or into English. Wycliffe died in 1384 while preaching of a stroke. He was never excommunicated. The story does not end there for this dear soul. On May 4 1415, the Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic and banned his writings. His books were burned and forbidden for them to be read. It was the councils desire to remove Wycliffe from history, ultimately exhuming his remains after approximately 44 years, the remains were burned and cast into a local river.

Martin Luther

It begins.

Luther was a Roman Monk, ordained to the priesthood in 1507.  He resided in Saxony. In1510 Luther was sent to Rome on monastic business. At this time, Luther became exceedingly disillusioned with the greed and corruption that was becoming blatant in the Church.

In the midst of this idea, Luther became very speculative and cynical. He knew that there was something wrong with the church, but couldn’t really explain it at the time. In 1515, after studying and teaching on the book of Romans, Luther came to the conclusion that man is justified by faith in Christ alone and not by any work, especially not an indulgence. One of the most poignant statements we have is when Luther said, ‘justification by faith alone is the article which the church stands or falls’. The reformation begins here.

In 1513 Pope Leo x becomes Pope.

This was the beginning of the end for Luther and the Roman Catholic Church. I won’t go into much more in this regard as most reading this paper already are aware of Luther’s protest and his nailing of his 95 theses on the Wittenberg church doorway on October 31, 1517.

2 years later, in 1519, Luther was brought up on charges by the church and state and was ordered by the newly crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V to meet at the Diet of Worms, ultimately being excommunicated January 3, 1521 and deemed a heretic by the Emperor and Church. The emperor himself issued an ‘edict’ stating that “for this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds to receive, defend, sustain, or favor the said, Martin Luther”[5].  On April 17, 1521 Luther met with the council of Worms. Here is where we hear one of the most famous statements ever made of a Christian man:

“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

After this statement was issued, the Diet convened for the day and Luther then left to go into hiding in Wartberg Castle, Germany. Following Luther’s scape, the Diet remained divided and as time passed, so did the wound. For nine years, he remained here.

It is here that the Reformation began. Those siding with Luther were called ‘the protestors’. It is here the term ‘protestant’ originated, i.e. one who is protesting and his followers were called Lutherans.

Another important fact that God used in Luther was that under Rome’s direction, the layperson was unable to understand the bible; at the time, it was in Latin only. Luther translated the bible into the language of the common folk so that they too could read the scriptures. The rest is history.

Ulrich Zwingli

In the midst of what was going on in Germany, Switzerland had a hand in the reform as well with H. Zwingli, which was very similar. In 1519, Zwingli pastored a church in Zurich. Upon his arrival, Zwingli decided to bypass the required texts of Rome to speak expositionally from the book of Matthew-this was a direct assault on Roman rule. This caused a controversy and Zwingli, like Luther found himself in front of the council of Zurich who heard his plea. The result was found in his favor and they allowed Zwingli to continue, being faithful to the scriptures. Following this move, all the statues and rituals of Rome were removed and discarded.

Zwingli still faced loyal followers of Rome, not to mention those of the Anabaptist persuasion that rose up against infant baptism, calling it a remnant of Rome. Again, the council met in regard to the Anabaptists and sided with Zwingli. Many Anabaptists were condemned and killed for the action.

In 1525, Luther’s work comes to a pinnacle and he pens his greatest effort, ‘The Bondage of the Will’. In 1531, Zwingli passes into glory and the following year of 1532, Calvin is converted. In 1536, Tyndale is strangled and burned at the stake. Tyndale was the first to translate the bible into English from the original language.

In 1536 Calvin pens his institutes. In 1543, J. Knox was converted. In 1545, the council of Trent is formed to combat the protestant onslaught. In 1546, Luther passes into glory. In 1547, Edward the VI takes the throne in England. In 1553, Bloody Mary takes the throne.

Bloody Mary (Mary Tudor)

Mary was the only child to survive to adulthood of Henry the VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Mary had her cousin, Lady Jane Grey beheaded to assume the office and the trail of blood continued with the protestant persecution. It didn’t take Mary long and in 1554, with the stamp of approval from the Pope, England revived the ‘Heresy Acts’. In total, 283 Protestants were martyred under this Marian persecution. Some familiar names were Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer.

In 1558, Mary Tudor died. She was obsessed with producing an heir for the throne so that her half-sister Elizabeth, who was Protestant, could not take the position. She searched out a suitable Roman Catholic as a groom so that the previous work she had done would not be in vain and ultimately settling on Phillip II of Spain. The marriage produced no children, possibly that God had cursed her womb for her actions against the church, eventually dying of uterine cancer. Elizabeth was crowned queen in 1558 and most all of those exiled by Mary’s terror returned to England.

In 1559, Elizabeth enacts the ‘Act of Uniformity’ and makes the 1559 ‘Book of Common Prayer, the state standard for religious worship. This is where much of the disagreement blossoms. The Act and the Book are not what the Protestant church see as valid and reject it based on God’s word.

In 1563, in response to Calvinist doctrine, the Church of England pens the XXXIX Articles.

Moving ahead to 1603, James I takes the throne. In the same year, as James was traveling to England to take his position, he is presented a list of appeals in the ‘Millenary Petition’. In this petition, 1000 signatures of Ministers in the Church of England present their distaste with the Anglican Church. representatives from the Church of England meet with King James I to discuss the state of affairs. In 1604, the Hampton Court Conference is held in response. Most all of the petitions were quashed. One of the good things that did come from this meeting was the new English translation of God’s word, known as the King James Bible is produced. Some of the complaints were, ‘the signing of the cross’ that Rome uses in its mass, lay baptism, Confirmation ceremonies, wedding rings, Absolution by the Priests, to name a few.

Clarendon Code

In 1661-1665 Charles II reigned; his Lord Chancellor at that time was a man named Edward Hyde who was 1st Earl of Clarendon. The Clarendon Code was a series of four laws that passed by Cavalier parliament that was assigned to persecute the Presbyterian dissenters. The four laws were:

  • The Corporation Act of 1661-the People of England were to take only Anglican Communion, reject the previously approved Solemn League and Covenant and disallow any nonconformist to take any office.
  • Act of Uniformity-revised in 1662-all liturgical services must use the Book of Common Prayer
  • Coventicle Act 1664-the forbidden meetings in hidden places and coventicles
  • Five Mile Act 1665-expelled pastors had to move five miles away from their respective congregations as to not be influential.

The Era of the Puritans 1559

The time of the Puritans was a great epoch in the church. One may ask ‘if these Puritans are relevant in our age?’ Given the temperament of our present age, where church is focused on entertaining the masses, egalitarianism and complementarianism, I would answer with a resounding, Yes, they are most needed! The present-day church is far from the churches that the Puritans attended. In fact, most Puritan people of that age would not be caught dead in the churches that line our streets.  The church of this day does not want to harm anyone. It is complimentary only. The gospel is not a biblical gospel and is watered down to the degree that very little gospel truth remains. Often times, sin is not ever mentioned in the sermon; egalitarianism and temperance is the line of thinking. In one local church in my town, the pastor brings in animals, zip lines, smoke machines and has a rock band to keep the masses entertained. The sermon, is more of a self-help teaching. I often ask, having read many of the Puritans, what happened and how did the present-day church get to this point? My only answer to this would be addressed on two heads: 1) God has ordained such, as exampled in the book of Amos, the people of God lying comfortably on their slabs of marble, taking everything for granted, being gluttonous in so many ways and 2) The Lord has cast dumbness upon these peoples. Their eyes have been glassed over and now, based on this foggy vision, could not discern truth from error any longer, much like the veil that Jews have over their eyes. One might ask, ‘why has God veiled their eyes? What sin have they committed? This could be for varied reasons; 1) They are reprobate, and the other, 2) could be based on a national sin. America is guilty of so many aberrant practice-many are abominations in God’s sight! The only thing missing at this point is bestiality and pedophilia and not too soon in the future, the pedophiles will be demanding their rights, crying, ‘we are one million strong, we want our rights just like the sodomites!’ This is a sad fact, but I believe it to be true. But I amplify this so as to show how far we have fallen from scripture and the era of the Puritans.

In the Puritan age, unlike now, men were seeking God in ways that the church hadn’t known since the birth of the church. Luther, as mentioned, was the catalyst God used to start this reformation movement; with the completion of Calvin’s writings, men were able to see a systematic theology in ways that weren’t typically available, previously. This systematic laid out primary foundations of God’s word in a way that is hard to deny. It is based on logical orders of God’s word and of the utmost use to the church.  Most present-day churches are independent and attempt to say they use God’s word alone as guide to doctrine and life; however, they generally reject help from anyone that is not contemporary. Since God is a God of order, He uses men of faith to teach the church. In this way, all the venerable dead that have gone before us, the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that died faithfully to the scriptures, have much to offer the church and we should pursue reading these men as time has tested their worth. In that vein of thought, we will attempt to address these men.

I will start out by writing a bit about what the term ‘Puritan’ means and then address some of their characteristics.

Puritans, the more extreme English Protestants who, dissatisfied with the Elizabethan Settlement, sought a further purification of the Church from supposedly unscriptural and corrupt forms along the Genevan model. [6]

Some believe that the term itself was taken from a 3rd century movement of Gnosticism called Catahrism or the Puritani. Of course, this terminology had a negative connotation. At the end of James’ the 1st reign, Arminianism began to rear its ugly head, the believers who held to the 5 points of Calvinism were then referred to as ‘doctrinal Puritans’[7], and the term was used in a negative light to refer to those who ‘accompany the minister with a pure heart , and who were remarkably holy in their conversations’. Ibid. These men were highly doctrinal in their approach to God’s word, prayerful and fully against to ceremonies that were against the authority of scripture.

In our age, we see the term ‘Puritan’ used generally in a positive note. We know that the Puritans were great men of faith, prayer and devotion to the scriptures. When we read their writings, we shrink in their shadows, given their piety. It is a high standard that all Christians should desire. Most all of their writings of the Puritans are in old English vernacular which lends to the idea that they were a staunch or formal group. The age and language lends an insight into an age where we can only wonder about. Their teachings are ageless. They are bountiful with great wisdom and character. If we were able to go back in time, this is not the sentiments of most in the Puritan age.

The Puritans were known for their precision; in fact, they were often called ‘The Precisionists’. The word ‘Puritan’ was a derogatory term given to these precisionists for their strict biblical handling and the way they lived their lives, which was scrupulous. Much like in our age, the Puritans were seen as fanatics.

In Leyland Ryken’s book, “Worldly Saints” he writes:

“No group of people have been more unjustly maligned in the twentieth century than the puritans. As a result, we approach the puritans with an enormous baggage of culturally ingrained prejudice” [8]

The term was first used in the 1560’s. As Joel Beeke puts it:

“…of those English Protestants who considered the reform of Queen Elizabeth incomplete and called for further purification” [9]

The characteristics of the Puritans:

  • Desired to rid the church of all idolatry, pomp and circumstance that could not be found in the scriptures.
  • The Puritans felt called of God in their purposes, both civilly and spiritually
  • Were less than tolerant towards anyone not of their ilk
  • Were strongly minded in regards to God’s regulative principle, His law and family catechism.
  • They were known to oppose the arts and found that any joy derived from the world to be sinful.
  • They held to Calvinist doctrine
  • They were strict Sabbatarian’s
  • Held to the Protestant view of the sacraments and the regulative principle of worship.
  • Were highly confessional and subscribed wholly to the documents.
  • They were joyous people in the Lord
  • They held to a high view of the marriage covenant

In many ways, I would, as many I know, be considered to be akin to the Puritans as I cherish the age, their writings and the love they had for the word of God. The Puritans had a high regard for scripture, living lives in pursuit of holiness and gospel outreach. In fact, they were often known as the ‘gospelers’. They were studious. Many were actual scholars. They loved doctrine and the application to living; they were big on church life and who the church was to Christ. They were devout in family worship and rearing their children in the ‘way they should go’. They understood that the church should be a light in a dark place and that the church and the Christian were not to conform to the image of the world. In many ways, they were separatists. There are too many Puritans to list. A few known names would be: William Perkins, Anthony Burgess, William Ames, David Clarkson, Jonathan Edwards, Stephen Charnock, to name a few. In essence, the Puritan movement was a movement supplanted in God’s word, fueled by the Holy Spirit in the grace of Christ to take the standard secular world view and transform it into a biblical worldview. Most all of these men died, faithful to this cause.

J.R. Green writes in his book, “A Short History of the English People”:

“No greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England during the years which parted the middle of the reign of Elizabeth to the meeting of the Long Parliament (1640- 1660). England became the people of a book, and that book the Bible.” [10]

Before the awakening of Puritanism, most people were quite ignorant of the scriptures. At the time, England had in place a law forbidding translating the bible into the local vernacular, which exacerbated the issue; If the typical person could not read the scriptures for himself, he was left up to the church’s interpretation on all matters. Rome embraces this idea to the day; it is better known as ‘implicit faith’. In the Latin, ‘fidem implicitam’.

Thomas Aquinas writes:

“Therefore, as regards the primary points or articles of faith, man is bound to believe them, just as he is bound to have faith; but as to other points of faith, man is not bound to believe them explicitly, but only implicitly, or to be ready to believe them, in so far as he is prepared to believe whatever is contained in the Divine Scriptures. Then alone is he bound to believe such things explicitly, when it is clear to him that they are contained in the doctrine of faith.” [11]

One can see the problem in this doctrine. On one hand, we know that scripture forbids ‘private interpretation’ 2 Peter 1:20 and on the other, to go on the direction of the church alone on all doctrinal matters, would be sinful. God has given his word to people. The church does have its hierarchy and that hierarchy has its place for sure, but to press its people to blindly agree with every jot and tittle as they understand it, would be criminal according to the freedom we have in Christ. The Apostle Paul speaks of these freedoms of conscience. We do not agree on all things. An excellent example would be the subject of eschatology. Some people are dispensational. Others hold to an amillenial view; others post millennial. A church cannot demand we take a particular stance based on their understanding. There is something to be said of the average church goer. Most of these people do just that. Disregard the differences in Rome’s church and the evangelical, protestant camps. Many Protestants do just this week after week. They never find a place to roost and just take for granted that their pastor is correct. This is not absolutely wrong mind you, but God has given us the spirit to assist in defining these terms and allowing us a certain amount of leverage so as we can eventually land on one of these doctrines as we study through them and read the dead guys I mentioned earlier. Most people never take a position outside of the main tenets of the faith. This is sad. To know the scriptures is to know God.

As mentioned earlier, Wycliffe was the first to get the ball rolling in regard to translating in his day. He was born in Hipswell, England, and became a seminary professor at Oxford. He dabbled in politics and was of course, along the same lines as Luther, against Rome’s abuses. In 1382 he translated the vulgate into the common language, better known as the ‘Wycliffe bible’.

Tyndale, commonly known as the ‘first puritan’ was the next person to push for getting the scriptures into the hands of the common folk. This push for translating God’s word was the same as the other reforming men of days passed, that being, the need to get information to the people of God so as that they could see themselves that Rome was abusive in so many ways and that much of their indulgences, etc. were not of God.

 A bit about William Tyndale:

Tyndale was born in 1485 in the town of Stinchcombe, England. He also went to Oxford, specifically, at Magdalen Hall. He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1512. In 1515 he was awarded the master of Arts and then pursued the study of God’s word. Soon after, he became a chaplain for a prominent man and schooled his children.

As mentioned previously, Church and state was ruled by Rome and so, all the clergy that held pulpits were in Rome’s pocket. No one wanted to go against the flow, risking losing their congregations. Tyndale was ultimately jailed for his pursuit, ultimately suffering under the hangman and finally, burned at the stake. Tyndale was successful in his endeavor as the whole bible was eventually translated and then smuggled back into his homeland. This translation was then approved by King Henry VIII, so this was a victory and evident that God’s hand was with Tyndale.  In 1534, King Henry declared himself to be head of the church of England; as history had it, the reasoning behind Henry’s declaration was directly related to Rome’s denial of an annulment with Henry’s first wife, Catherine. Subsequent to this declaration, the church of England separated from Rome and the Anglican church was birthed. Henry was then excommunicated by Rome. Following King Henry’s appointment as head of the Church of England, he also issued the *Act of Supremacy and the *Treasons Act to deal with future issues related to Rome.

  • The Act of Supremacy: An act reinforcing and continued establishment of Henry VIII and any future monarchs as supreme head of the Church of England.
  • Treasons Act: Rejection of the Act of Supremacy.

In 1534, Henry then dissolved all Roman Catholic Monasteries, furthering the severing of the ties. One can see that God was at work here, even using an adulterer to bring about a greater outcome.

 Foxes Book of Martyrs published in 1570

This book is a classic and I recommend it highly if you have never read it. This was one of the books I first read when I became a believer. Foxe’s book chronicles most of the integral saints in the gospel message being cultivated in the early church. You will be moved to tears as you walk through this time period with Mr. Foxe. Noted in it are the deaths of Tyndale, Huss, Luther, Hooper, Taylor, Ridley and Latimer, to name a few.

Earlier, I mentioned the deafening dumbness that has fallen on out present age; I compared it to the days of Amos; in this same way, God used this period of the Puritans to enhance their senses to His character, His word and holiness.  I see this as an abundant pouring out of God’s grace to these people. It reminds me of the scripture in the book of Jeremiah:

14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.

Oh that it would be the decree of God that He would affect the ears of my hearers in the same fashion as only God can attend to man like this. May it be that we all pray for this in our walks.

Moving on, further development occurred during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. In 1508 she was crowned. Elizabeth was in tune with her people. She understood that the camps were split in regard to Roman Catholicism and the protestant movement and found the balance to the issue would be to allow both to continue. Though it is said that Elizabeth sided more with the Protestants and her cabinet was mainly Protestant, she still heard the peoples cry and remained with one foot in the world and the other in the faith. In this time, there arose the Anabaptists as well. A number of them were persecuted and executed by rope or fire. Eventually, the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth, which caused certain unrest in England. At the time, Spain, which was Roman Catholic and based on a past political move by England earlier to assist the Dutch against Spain, Spain launched an attack on England in 1588 setting sail with 130 ships and to assist the transition back to Roman Catholicism. The Armada was eventually rendered destroyed and the remnant returned to Spain. The following year, England held a counter attack on Spain and lost to their fleet.

At the time, Thomas Cromwell was an English lawyer and statesman who was given the position of chief minister to King Henry the VIII. He was a strong advocate of the reformation and was responsible in assisting the king in finalizing the annulment to Henry’s wife, Catherine. As mentioned earlier, the Pope at the time, Pope Henry VII, refused the annulment and the church separated from Rome’s over sight. Subsequently, given the tenor, Parliament endorsed the separation and the rest is history.  In the midst of Henry and Catherine’s marriage was Anne Boleyn. Anne was a Maid of Honor in Catherine and Henry’s marriage. Henry was obsessed with Anne and began pursuing her, ultimately marrying her. At King Henry’s death, she became acting Queen of England.

Cromwell, given his attitude towards the reformation in the church, made many enemies; one being Anne Boleyn. In July 1540, the crown charged Cromwell with heresy and treason and executed him.

In 1599, the sister of Thomas Cromwell, bore a son by the name of “Oliver”. Oliver was converted to the faith in 1630. Oliver was a staunch Puritan and believed God had called him to a special purpose. In 1628 Oliver was elected to Parliament. He was a soldier in the English civil war and had great success in its pursuit, eventually becoming one of its main leaders. During one of the battles with the Irish, once England claimed victory, new laws were passed in relation to Roman Catholicism. Much of the land of the peasants were confiscated as a result. In 1653, Cromwell was given the title of “Lord Protector of England”.  The title was established in the absence of a ruling King for various reasons. Since church and state were one, the position was overseeing the ‘protection’ of the civil aspects of the kingdom and the spiritual. Cromwell held this title for 3 years. In the process of days, King Charles was charged with treason by Parliament and executed. It is at this time that England became a ‘commonwealth’. Further wars and feuds ensued, this to include Ireland, Scotland and France. Cromwell died in 1658 of Malaria. His son ‘Richard’ took over at his death.

 The Anglican Church is idolatrous

The reformation continued to grow in the 3 kingdoms. The Archbishop at the time was William Laud; Laud was sent by the King to visit all these small enclave churches to make sure things were in order. Upon his arrival, he found that much of the ecclesiastical rituals and property had been essentially thrown into a heap.  Confirmations, as prescribed by the Church of England had been abandoned. There was no true over sight of these small congregations and non-ordained men had been filling the pulpits. It was at this time that Laud made a proclamation for the local Justice of the Peace to arrest and jail all who were guilty of non-conformity to the  Church of England. If one was having a bible study, they were arrested; nothing could be done independently of the church. This effort to unify all to the Church of England was the Launchpad for the exodus to America and seek refuge there.

The Puritans 1620-1640

I want to now take the opportunity to address some of the things that made the Puritans so precise:

The Bible: The Puritans all agreed that the bible was the actual word of God. When the preacher read from the scriptures, the ears of the Puritans were in complete harmony with what was being proclaimed. They saw the scriptures as inerrant, perfect and complete for the man and woman of God to gain a holy walk with the Lord.

  • Doctrine: The Puritans were big on biblical doctrine and applied all doctrine to every aspect of their lives. One of the most prevalent ideas had to do with the Trinity. As well, they were Christians who subscribed fully to justification by faith alone. On one hand, they understood grace and on the other, were legalists in some ways. For example, there was very little room for individualism in their walks; the church functioned as a body of believers. One was never separate from the body. The church structure was primary even in a secular realm. For example, if you held a position which had little spirituality attached to it, you were to bring spirituality to that facet. You worked for God always. Jobs were gifts from the Lord and the Lord’s purpose behind you having that job was for His glory alone. Since England was a church state, unlike our age, sinners were ostracized publicly. Towns were much smaller and news traveled fast. Assaulting biblical doctrine and practice was tantamount to denying the faith.
  • The Church: Since England was an Anglican church state, most church doctrine affected the way men lived their lives; it was a crime to miss church. Depending on the time, it would have been wrong to keep idolatrous days, i.e. Christmas and Easter. Being caught stealing was dealt with in the church and then civilly. Divorce was only for biblical reasons. The polity was set up with Elders and Deacons. There remained, still levels of things that the puritans wished to quash, that being forms of idolatry and ritual. This was the cause of future unrest. The majority of the church state did not subscribe to the principals that the puritans did and hence, were mocked by the puritans and scathed for their time of recreation on the Sabbath or gambling etc.
  • The Sabbath Day: The day was subscribed to as the Old Testament prescribed. Most Puritans prepared meals the day before the Sabbath day so as not to work on the Lord’s day. They went to bed early so as to be fully rested for the coming worship service. They prayed fervently, preparing their minds and hearts for the word that was to be preached. They actively were involved in confession of sin and repentance. Their study of God’s word was always primary in their lives and the days leading up to the worship call, amplified.
  • The sacraments: The Puritan view of the sacraments was that Christ left two sacraments to the church, the Lord’s supper and baptism. Paedobaptism was practiced and this stemming from the perpetuity of the Abrahamic covenant and the command to Abraham to place the sign of the covenant on his children, ‘for all generations’. The preferred mode was sprinkling. Persons baptized were baptized in the Trinity, i.e. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The parents were commanded to rear the child in the way the child should go. The infrastructure of the church had a responsibility in the rearing as well. The child was always told to ‘improve’ upon the baptism and that Christ has marked out the child for holy purposes.  The Lord’s supper was for believers and members of the local church; it is not like today. The Puritans practiced a closed Lord’s Supper. That being, if you were not part of the local church you visited, you most likely would have not been welcome to eat at the Lord’s table unless there were letter sent well in advance from your local church to the church you were visiting. In some instances, tokens were given to the congregants that were able to partake. There was an exchanging of these tokens when the elements were passed. If you had a token, which were given to participants by the elders, you would exchange the tokens for the elements.
  • Worship: The Worship was governed by God’s word alone. The doctrine is known as the Regulative Principle of Worship. The idea is based on that which God has commanded, we do.That which God has not commanded, we do not do. [12] What I can tell, from my studies, the families stayed together as a group in worship. There was no such thing as Children’s church. The Father was the responsible party over the family unit based on his Federal headship. They did not use instruments in worship. They sang the Psalms as are commanded of God. Their liturgy was typical. There was always an official call to worship, prayer, a message given by the ordained man, more prayer and then the benediction.
  • Music in the church: The Psalms were sung, solely. No musical instruments were used except for the voices of the congregants; a cappella was the norm. When the puritans migrated to North America, they generally used the Ainsworth Psalter for singing in church; It was compiled by Henry Ainsworth for the dissenters. Ultimately it was replaced by the ‘Bay Psalm Book’ as the translations were said to be more faithful to the Hebrew language.
  • Attire: All dressed respectably. Woman used head coverings. The Puritans were not against good clothing and attire as some may say.

Ryken writers,

“The Puritans dressed according to the fashions of their class and time”. They wore black to church as it was seen as respectful and dignified. Daily dress was colorful. Ibid.

Ryken goes on to address recreation and the arts. He says that the puritans were active in sports like ‘fishing, hunting, archery, bowling, football’, to name a few. In regard to the arts, most of this misconception stems from their treatment related to church and worship. Pictures and musical instruments were forbidden and oft times, removed from the premises; however, it is said that Oliver Cromwell took the organ from his local church and had it delivered to his own residence to be used as enjoyment. At his daughter wedding, he employed a 48 member orchestra for the occasion. So, most of this mentality was skewed, given that they appreciated the arts. I have heard it said in some circles where some of the puritans did not like going to stage shows where actors played certain parts as they held to the idea that it was a break in the 9th commandment.

Schism: Not all schism is bad

There comes a time when a believer must seek separating from their local churches; if the practice of the church is contra biblical, if the worship is not directed to God, if practices done within the church services go against scripture, it may be time to remove your hat from where you sit. In regards to the Puritans, when they revolted against the Church of Rome and England, it was precisely for these reasons that they departed; many ministers were forced from their pulpits. Many found themselves in fields holding worship; others left for France and Germany. As the story goes, a few years later, ships set sail to America. There remained on these ships, some Presbyterian Covenanters and some Congregationalist puritans. From the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, the puritans that separated from them were schismatic. From a biblical standpoint, since God’s word trumps all things, they were far from schismatics and in fact, these churches were guilty of schism by departing from the word of God. Hence, it was them that separated and not the puritans.

The Westminster Confession of Faith

One of the most valuable document ever produced by the church is the Westminster Confession of faith. The confession is a summarized statement of God’s word for the church to use on most of the main tenets of the faith. Many see it as a commentary of sorts or a cliff notes version of God’s word. It is not equal to God’s word nor is it inspired.

The Westminster Confession included most of the prominent puritans of the day. In 1643, the English Parliament called upon these prominent theologians to pen the document. They met at Westminster Abbey which was formally known as Collegiate College of St. Peter at Westminster. Obviously, it was in Westminster, London. The main reason Parliament called the group was to create a document for the nations that addressed doctrine, theology, worship, ecclesiology and church discipline. The document was ratified in 1646. In 1647, Scotland adopted the document. In 1648 it was added to the Articles of Christian Religion. The main reason behind the production of this document was again, to continue to reform the church of England to the word of God.

If you recall earlier, I made mention that prior to the break from the Roman Catholic Church, there was no need for this document as they followed the rules of Rome. Issues arose and parliament decided to pen this confession so as things would be settled once and for all. Most Presbyterian churches in this age still hold fast this confession, showing its value. Many years have passed since the document has been penned and there has never been a need to revise it or add to it. The Baptists of the following ages used the Westminster Confession to pen the London Baptist Confession. The Congregationalists, the Savoy Declaration. Unlike our age, this document was a national document and was law.

The Solemn League and Covenant

Earlier in 1640, Scotland and Ireland were imbedded in a civil war and ousted all the Episcopalian bishops and reinstated Presbyterianism. Some of the commissioners involved with the Westminster Confession were Scottish. They agreed with the sentiments of the confession and agreed to unite under it as well. In 1647, they signed off on the document. In this overthrowing of Episcopalianism, The Kirk of Scotland drew up the Solemn League and Covenant. In doing so, the Church of England was required to abandon, wholly, Episcopalianism and to further fully subscribe to Calvinist doctrines. All the people of Scotland and England were required to sign off on this covenant. Keep in mind that the Westminster Confession of faith was not a covenanting document as the Solemn League was. The signees of this covenantal document agreed to all that was included in it. The signing of the document assured uniformity; One had to subscribe fully to the Westminster Confession-the Solemn league and covenant demanded that. What this meant was that you could not take exceptions, as many do today, to anything written.

One could not have any scruples on certain doctrines or principles. Many wars ensused between England and Scotland; Later in 1661, English Parliament passed the Sedition Act, which now declared the Solemn League and Covenant to be unlawful. All Englishmen we told to reject the document hence forth.

The Divines of Westminster, a title by which they are known by, included a total of 121 men of the cloth. Some of the most prominent men of that age were: Samuel Bolton, Cornelius Burges, Jeremiah Burroughs, Edward Calamy, Joseph Caryl, Thomas Goodwin, William Gouge, John Lightfoot, William Mew, Philip Nye and William Twisse, to name a few.

 The Savoy Conference

In 1661, after Charles the II was restored to power, a meeting was called to quell the unrest between the Puritans and the Episcopalian Church of England. Both parties had 12 representatives and 9 assistants attending the meeting. The main reason for the gathering was to talk about revisions that should come to the Book of Common Prayer. This book was created to make the church’s liturgy, uniformed. The Puritans were trying to remain within the Church of England and were seeking some renovation to the book based on their convictions. It is said that there were a number of agreements and concessions made, but they were within the realms of trivial issues only. The conference was not successful and the Puritans defected from the Church of England officially; again, seen as schismatic.

 The Great Expulsion- Black Bartholomew Act or Day 1662

In 1662, after the meeting of Savoy, The Church of England expelled all the puritan ministers who refused alignment with the church. This was an excommunication of sorts. In essence, the Act of Uniformity, which demanded uniformity in the Church of England gave the puritan pastors until St. Bartholomew’s day to submit or be deposed. Ironically, St. Bartholomew’s Day was a day to remember a day where a great massacre occurred in 1572; the St. Bartholomew’s massacre was a coup by the people against the protestors, specifically the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants) during the French wars of Religion. Estimates were 5000 men to 30,000.

In the ejection, most of these men went into hiding, many preaching in fields, etc. Many of the men I previously mentioned fell prey to this movement. Although, at the time, it would have been seen as a victory for the Church of England, it was not. God had different plans.

The Great Migration-The American Puritans and Pilgrims

In the 17th Century, the Puritans decided to migrate to a new land, that being North America.

The Mayflower embarked on its journey on September 6, 1620 with its final destination being Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The vessel carried approximately 102 passengers. Initially, there were two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. Early in the journey, the Speedwell began to take on water and had to return to port. The passengers of the Speedwell, squashed themselves into the Mayflower to continue on. It was not an easy journey. The season was a season of stormy weather and one passenger was swept overboard. Many had severe sea sickness. The Mayflower remained at sea for two months. When the vessel finally settled, it was discovered that the coordinates were off from the destination that Weston had decided on. They eventually came to be settled here and signed the Mayflower Compact. This document was very much like the laws of England with elected officials and laws that would govern. By the first Thanksgiving, almost half of the passengers and crew, expired from disease, malnutrition and exposure. It is said that there was an English-speaking tribesman from the Pawtuxet tribe who assisted. Without the help from the indigenous peoples, many more would have surely perished.

Most of the passengers of the Mayflower were average men and women and not at all considered wealthy people. Most did not have a high level of education. One might ask ‘how was the trip financed?’ As history shows, the Pilgrims went to local financier who was very wealthy to seek monetary help in the trip. This man’s name was Thomas Weston. These Pilgrims agreed to barter with Weston-they would provide services for a number of years to pay back the loan. Many of these puritans, as mentioned were farmers and laborers skilled in the trades like carpentry, fishing, etc. They planned to export these trades back to England and Weston. This caused some grief as the loan was high and to continue to flourish in this new land and as well, send back their wares, reduced their capacity to grow themselves.

Most of this migration occurred during 1630-1640 establishing the Plymouth Colony in Cape Ann. This migration had in mind, a refuge for these protestors. Initially, the Puritans saw great strife. It was not an easy change, by no means. Ultimately, the King of England cut of all emigration to the colony. By 1643, about 20,000 puritans embarked and settled here. Many people left England for Scotland; some to the Bahamas. Many of these Puritans that migrated to North America understood polity and remained faithful to the Church of England. Those who continued to reject the Act of Uniformity, were chided by those faithful as ‘schismatics’. There then commenced many growing pains in this regard. The trip itself was not the final answer to the issue as cultural norms followed them and many people rose up against them for good reason. The distinction between the Puritans and the Pilgrims deserve to be recognized. Both camps had issues with the Church of England. The differences were that the Pilgrims wanted to completely separate from the Church and Puritans wanted to ‘purify’ her. With the influx of all the Puritans, by 1630 about 10,000, many had to spread-out to other parts of new England, that being, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The rest is history.

I want to take some time in giving credence to some of the most prolific Puritans. This summary will contain both English Puritans and American Puritans.

 Jeremiah Burroughs 1600-1646

Burroughs studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1624 with a Master of Arts degree. Secondary to ‘non-conformity’, he was ultimately suspended from the school subsequently taking an administrative position at Tivetshall, Norfolk. Again, suspended for non-conformity. From Norfolk, he migrated to the Netherlands where he was allowed to teach the English church there, eventually returning to England in 1641. He was a Congregationalist and was one of the penners of the Westminster Confession, although disagreeing with the sentiments of the Presbyterians on a number of issues.  Some of the most distinguished calling were his being assigned to preach at the House of Commons and House of Lords. He went on into glory in 1646.

Some of Burroughs greatest works are:

  • Gospel Worship
  • The Saints Happiness
  • The Rare jewel of Christian Contentment
  • A Treatise on Eartky-mindedness

 Thomas Brooks 1608-1680

Thomas Brooks was a Puritan Divine who lived from 1608-1680. There is not a lot of substantial information on Mr. Brooks; most of the information has been gleaned from his writings alone. In regard to education, it is said that he entered Emmanuel College in Cambridge in 1625. We could not find any historic data on his ordination, but most felt that it was doubtless that he held an office and it is documented that this occurred somewhere in the year 1640. Prior to this appointment, it’s quite possible that Mr. Brooks was a chaplain at sea with the Royal Fleet while Henry the VIII ruled. Upon concluding his service, he may have been a minister with St. Thomas Apostle’s Church in London. He was eventually bestowed the title of ‘Preacher’ for the House of Commons, December 26, 1648. Following this assignment, he was transferred to a few different congregations and there arose some opposition to his fiery preaching.  Some of Brooks most famous writings were:

  • Precious Remedies Against Satan’s devices
  • A String of Pearls
  • The Unsearchable Riches of Christ
  • The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod

John Bunyan 1628-1688

Bunyan’s story is exceptional. Most everyone knows of his book entitled, ‘The Pilgrims Progress’. Bunyan hailed from the town of Elstow, England. He didn’t have as much formal academic training as the three men I spoke of earlier; He joined the Parliamentary Army, led by none other than Oliver Cromwell, when he was just 16 years old, just after his mother and sister passed away After leaving the army, he returned to Elstow and worked as a smith or Iron worker. His father was a metal fabricator and trained young John. In Joel Beeke’s book entitled, Meet the Puritans, He quotes from The Works of Bunyan:

“It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil at his will: being filled with all unrighteousness; that from a child I had but few equals, both for cursing, swearing, lying and blaspheming the holy name of God”[13]

Having heard from some locals, the gospel, he was wed (to an unknown woman) and joined a local congregation, eventually being allowed to preach there. It is well known in the Christian community that there are no records of Bunyan ever being officially ordained for the office of elder, but deacon, yet he was allowed to preach, eventually coming under attack from the Church of England. He was tried and jailed for 12 years. It is said that Bunyan was given liberty from time to time to preach to the other inmates. In the midst of this Paulian trial, Bunyan penned, “Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners”. Once released, he resumed preaching at Bedford, eventually dying at 59 years old.

Some additional Works of Bunyan are:

  • The Barren Fig Tree
  • The Strait Gate
  • The Doctrine of Law and Grace Unfolded
  • Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

 Anthony Burgess 1600-1663

Burgess was born in 1600 in Watford, England; he was the son of an educator. He had no relationship with the other puritans by the same name, i.e. Cornelius and John.  He was educated as well at Cambridge, specifically, St. John’s. During the same war that Bunyan enlisted, Burgess often could be found as a chaplain of sorts to the troops. Not much more can be found on Burgess.

Some works by Burgess include:

  • The True Doctrine of Justification Asserted
  • Spiritual Refining (120 sermons)
  • Expository Sermons (145 sermons on the book of John)
  • The Doctrine of Original Sin Asserted

 William Ames 1576-1633

Born in Ipswich, England in 1576; there is no mention that I can find in regards to his mother or father-he was raised by his uncle on his mother’s side, a ‘Robert Snelling’. In 1594 he entered Christ’s College at Cambridge. In 1598, Ames graduated with an Master of Arts. Soon after in 1601, was offered a fellowship at Christ’s College, to which he agreed. His preaching caused much unrest at his Alma Matter and eventually drew sneers. Valentine Carey met with Ames to rebuke him on his assault on the liturgical vestments and outward symbols the Church of England used, ultimately being called to the principal’s office by the Vice Chancellor of Christ’s College. Because of his stalwart position, the chancellor suspended Ames from any ecclesiastical duties and rescinded his degree. He never officially recovered from this fallout and eventually moved to various locations, ultimately spending his remaining days writing and debating against the Arminian heresies.

 Thomas Boston 1676-1732

Boston was born in Duns, Scotland. His parents, John and Alison were both strong believers and were considered ‘covenanters’. He went to college in Edinburgh and was ordained there. He was initially a teacher of children in a local schoolhouse. He then took the pulpit in Simprin that had a considerable sized congregation. Not much more can be found on Boston. He died in 1732.

Resources by Thomas Boston:

  • The Crook in the Lot
  • Am I really a Christian?
  • The Art of Man Fishing
  • A View of the Covenant of Grace

Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758

Jonathan Edwards is the most prolific American Puritan who ever lived. He was born in East Windsor, Connecticut. His father, Timothy Edwards, was a bi-vocational local minister, who had to tutor young children, part time to make a decent living. His mother came from a Christian family; her father was as well a minister in near-by Massachusetts. The couple had 11 children-Jonathan was the only male child. All of the Edwards’ children were home schooled, after all, it was what his father did. In 1716, Jonathan entered Yale College-he was a mere 13 years old. Jonathan was quite the cerebral. Many of his favorite books were deep thinking treatise. For example, many were philosophical. As a younger child, he studies the behavior of animals, specifically spiders, and even wrote a pamphlet on this study. He loved Isaac Newton’s works and wrote on light and optics! He was a gifted thinker. On a personal note, if you have ever read any of Edwards’ works, you can surely be witness of the idea that Jonathan was a deeper thinker than most; many a man has studied his works and walk away from the study a bit exhausted. In 1722, Edwards received his first assignment to fill a pulpit until the new pastor arrived in New York City. Upon completion of the assignment, the parishioners asked him to remain. To which, he refused. He was home sick so he returned to Connecticut. In 1727, Edwards was finally ordained in Northampton as an assistant to his grandfather, Samuel Stoddard. In 1751, in Enfield Connecticut, based on the unpopularity of the types of sermons Edwards preached, the congregation ousted Jonathan by vote; the count was 200 against and 23 for. He then took the pulpit in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Finally, in 1758, Edwards took his final call by acknowledging that he was in his final stretch of life and took a position as president of a New Jersey college.  Weirdly enough, small pox inoculations were being distributed and to be on the optimistic side of politics, Edwards took the inoculation, intending to push forward the idea to his students and died as a result of taking it. He died in 1758.

Some writings by Jonathan Edwards are:

  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
  • Freedom of the Will
  • Original sin
  • The Nature of true Virtue
  • Distinguishing marks of a Work of the Spirit of God

 John Flavel 1630-1691

John Flavel was the son of a prominent preacher of the day; unlike John, the senior Flavel had plenty of issues and his reputation preceded him in relation to his candor. He was known as a ‘painful and eminent minister’. Not much can be found on Richard. He was expelled from his pulpit eventually. Some say for holding the office illegally.  John was born in Bromesgrove, England. He attended University College, also in Cambridge. He was ordained in 1650 while still at college. He settled, once given a curacy in Dartmouth; he resided here until the Act of Uniformity took its toll and eventually ejected along with the rest of his colleagues that refused to repent and adhere and expelled from his pulpit. The Five Mile Act forced Flavel to settle in Slapton.  Flavel was forced out into the fields to teach and preach, much like many others. Occasionally, under darkness he would endeavor back to Dartmouth to preach occasionally. Interesting note on John, he was married four times. His first wife was Elizabeth Stapell, the second one is unnamed according to any research I was able to obtain, the third Ann Downe and lastly, Dorothy Jefferies who survived him. He died in 1691.

Some important documents written by John Flavel are:

  • The Method of Grace
  • On keeping the heart
  • The Fountain of Life
  • The Mystery of Providence

 Stephen Charnock 1628-1680

Like Burroughs, Charnock studied at Emmanuel College at Cambridge. During his studies, he was converted to Christ. After graduating from Emmanuel, he took a ministry position in Southwark for a short time ultimately getting an assignment as fellow in New College, Oxford. He was finally granted a position as Senior Proctor at new College. Not too long following this assignment, in 1656 Charnock relocated to Ireland and served as Henry Cromwell’s Chaplain, who at the time, was Governor of Ireland. At this time, Ireland was independent of English rule and so, Charnock was able to preach freely. In 1660, monarchy was restored in England, Scotland and Ireland and so, since Charnock was a dissenter, was expelled from any continuing service based again, according to the Act of Uniformity. It is said that he ministered unofficially in varied capacities during this time until; his death in 1680.

Some valuable resources of Stephen Charnock are:

  • The Existence and Attributes of God
  • Discourses on God’s Salvation of Sinners
  • Christ Crucified
  • A treatise on Regeneration

William Perkins 1558-1602

William was born to Thomas and Anna Perkins in the town of Bulkington, England. He studied at Cambridge in 1581-1584, receiving a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree. In 1584, after graduation, Perkins took a fellowship at Christ’s College at Cambridge. In 1585 he was often found preaching at St. Andrews Church in Cambridge. He remained there until 1594. He died in 1602 from possibly, kidney stones and hydronephrosis.

Some works by Perkins:

  • A Treatise on Vocation
  • The Art of Prophesying
  • The Golden Chain
  • A Salve for a Sick man

Concluding Remarks:

The reformation period is an epoch in time that stands out like no other when we speak of the church. One can see the peeling away of the onion skins as God purged error and reformed Christ’s bride back to a biblical church. The Puritans were tools in the hand of our great God.  They were men of conviction. Unlike many in all the ages passed, they landed on an idea and remained consistent with those convictions. They refused to waffle between two ideas and hypocrisy. When we read these men, we can see a devotion to scripture that is to be envied. In our age, we have so many distractions; consider entertainment and how prevalent it is. The Puritan age did not have televisions nor computers. They read voraciously. Their lives revolved around the scriptures, church life education and work. In that, those on the outside saw them truly as aliens. Like the scriptures tell us, our love, one for another should set us apart and the Puritans were true to this mandate. As the world looked in upon their rites and practices, they viewed the life of the puritans as a life of denial and restrictions and in many ways, it was. However, as believers know, we are not neglected nor are we restricted-we have been set free from life’s clinging vines of pain, suffering and self. Most of the world looked on the life of the puritan as jailing of sorts; they looked on the staunch Christian practices as a joyless world and mocked it openly. Eventually, the title ‘puritan’ was seen as negative moniker. Even in our age, given the false portrayals of these people in movies and contemporary writings, most see the term in a negative light. But, truth be told, nothing could be farther from the truth. Reading through men like Bunyan, Edwards, Baxter and Love, we get a glimpse of men whom had magnitudes more of love for the Lord, life and mankind than those outside of Christ. Consider the Apostle Paul’s and John Bunyan’s jailing. The writings of these men are filled with joy, mercy and tenderness.  Most studies on criminals have shown that they do not benefit in this fashion, but the opposite occurs. They become bitter men and women, many times much worse off than when they arrived to the jail system. Paul and John were in chains, yet more free than they ever were apart from Christ. Their writings are a testament to us and without their works, the church would suffer greatly. So, for me, reading through these men is more than just study, but a minute of peering into the minds of great men of faith; I have profited greatly from their works, more so than any contemporary author. Read the dead guys, and you will see.

 

Bibliography

  • The Character of an Old English Puritan, or Non-Conformist,by John Geree, http://www.reformedreader.org/character_of_an_old_english_puri.htm
  • Sketches from Church History, by Houghton, S. M., Banner of Truth Trust, 1995
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church, Doubleday, Ny, Ny., First Image books 1995
  • Foxes Book of Martyrs, John Foxe, Whitaker House, 1981
  • Martin Luther; Life and lessons, Larry D. Mansch, Curtis Peters
  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds.
  • The History of the Puritans; or, Protestant non-conformists, Neal, Daniel
  • Wordly Saints, Ryken, L., Zondervan Publishing House, pg 2
  • Meet the Puritans, Beeke & Pederson, 2006 Reformation Heritage Books
  • A Short History of English People, John Richard Green
  • Aquinas, T. Summa Theologiae2a2ae 2.5.
  • [1]The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).
  • Meet the Puritans, Beeke & Pederson, 2006 Reformation Heritage Books

Outline

  • Church History
  1. Prominent Christians prior to the reformation
  • The Puritans
  • The Pilgrims
  • The Anglican Church
  • Characteristics of the Puritans
  • Schism
  • Westminster
  • Solemn League and Covenant
  • Savoy
  • The Great expulsion
  • The great Migration
  • Prominent Puritans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Character of an Old English Puritan, or Non-Conformist, by John Geree (1601–1649)

[2] Houghton, S. M. Sketches From Church History, p. 10.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1471

[4] Foxes Book of Martyrs, ch 5, pg 113

[5] Larry D. Mansch, Curtis Peters, Martin Luther; Life and lessons. P 123

[6]  F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1360.

[7] The History of the Puritans; or, Protestant non-conformists; … v.1. Neal, Daniel, 1678-1743

[8] Wordly Saints, Ryken, L., Zondervan Publishing House, pg 2

[9] Meet the Puritans, Beeke & Pederson, 2006 Reformation Heritage Books, pg xv

[10] A Short History of English People, John Richard Green, page 460, Macmillan 1864, Great Britain

[11] Aquinas, T. Summa Theologiae 2a2ae 2.5.

[12]The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

 

[13] Meet the Puritans, Beeke & Pederson, 2006 Reformation Heritage Books

 

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