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Sunday, September 23, 2012

To The Glory of God.

That phase in Christian life we call Puritan Christianity was the product of the Holy Spirit responding to the Church of England having succumbed to a corrupt ministry. Puritanism is most identified with the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century.

Rev J. I. Packer once said "the Puritans were strongest just where Protestants today are weakest, and their writings can give us more real help than those of any other body of Christian teachers, past or present, since the days of the apostles."

The Puritans were concerned for the glory of God in all aspects of life. Rev Packer went on to say "They yoked their consciences to His word, disciplining themselves to bring all activities under the scrutiny of Scripture, and to demand a theological, as distinct from a merely pragmatic, justification for everything that they did. They applied their understanding of the mind of God to every branch of life seeing the church, the family, the state, the arts and sciences, the world of commerce and industry, no less than the devotions of the individual, as so many spheres in which God must be served and glorified."

In a paper presented to a conference at Westminster Chapel, Buckingham Gate, England, in 1958 to remember the work of the Puritans, Evangelical Pastor Paul Cook said, among other things, " Puritan thought on this [the office of a Minister], as on all other religious matters, was consciously based on and controlled by the Bible. It is essential for a right appraisal of the Puritans to realize that, for all their often immense learning, they depended for their guidance wholly upon the infallible revelation of God's will recorded in the Scriptures."

At the same conference Rev J. I. Packer presented a paper on "The Puritans as Interpreters of Scripture" in which he said "To the Puritans, Scripture, as a whole and in all its parts, was the utterance of God: God's word set down in writing. His mind opened and His thoughts declared for man's instruction. The content of Scripture is God's eternal truth, for the historical process which the Bible records and interprets is just the temporal outworking of God's eternal plan, formed before the world was.", and "To the Puritan Bible student, it was God who had uttered the prophecies, recorded the histories, expounded the doctrines, declared the praises, written the visions, of which Scripture was made up; and he knew that Scripture must be read, not merely as words which God spoke long ago, in the actual inspiring of the biblical books, but as words which God continues to speak to every reader in every age.''

A subject so controversial today, as it has been in times past, and which Puritans had to bring light in their time, is that task of Interpretation of Scripture. Again, Packer informs us of the approach of the Puritans - "The Reformers had insisted, against the Mediaeval depreciation of the 'literal' sense of Scripture in favour of the various 'spiritual' (allegorical) senses, that the literal - i.e., the grammatical, natural, intended - sense was the only sense that Scripture has, and that it was this sense that must be sought in exposition through careful attention to the context and grammar of each statement. The Puritans fully agreed. 'If you would understand the true sense ... of a controverted Scripture, then look well into the coherence, the scope and the context thereof (W. Bridge, Works, 1845, I. 454) .''

Packer commented that there were some places such as "Song of Solomon" where an allegorical reading had merit but he puts forward the qualification of James Durham, circa 1840, who, in speaking of the approach of the Puritans, said "there is a great difference between an allegorical exposition of Scripture and an exposition of allegorical Scripture."

Packer said the Puritans interpreted Scripture consistently and harmonistically and "If Scripture is God's word, the expression of a single Divine mind, all that it says must be true, and there can be no real contradiction between part and part." To demonstrate this point Packer again quotes William Bridge who, advises us of a helpful principle when considering external contradictions and occasions of seeming internal contradictory passages of Scripture: "When he [Moses] saw two men fighting, one an Egyptian, and another an Israelite, he killed the Egyptian; but when he saw two Hebrews fighting, now, saith he, I will go and reconcile them, for they are brethren; why so, but because he was a good man, and gracious? So also it is with a gracious heart; when he sees the Scripture fighting with an Egyptian, an heathen author, or apocryphal, he comes and kills the heathen ... the Egyptian, or the apocrypha: but when he sees two Scriptures at variance (in view, though in truth not), Oh, saith he, these are brethren, and they may be reconciled, I will labour all I can to reconcile them; but when a man shall take every advantage of seeming difference in Scripture, to say, Do ye see what contradictions there are in this book, and not labour to reconcile them; what doth this argue, but that the corruption of a man's nature, is boiled up to an unknown malice against the word of the Lord; take heed therefore of that (I. 459)."

Packer notes there a striking thought and an acute diagnosis.

I could go on citing other Puritans to substantiate my case but space prevents. That which I would have readers draw from this essay is that those today who are feted as evangelical scholars but who reinterpret Scripture in Genesis 1 to justify an external proposition on Origins are in breach of principles the Puritans laid down for interpreting Scripture. The absolute consistency between Genesis, Exodus 20:11 and 31:17-18 stands as a bulwark against that infidelity which interprets Genesis 1 as conveying any other view of God's creative activity but that which occurred over six days each of approximately twenty-four hours duration and all of which occurred only thousands of years ago.

The Puritans, aided by God's Holy Spirit, redirected the Church's attention to the glory of God and left a legacy of doctrine and means to interpret Scripture which stands the test of all ages. An age today when degenerate theology is overturning all that is good from the Church's past is an age in which faith in God's Word is widely undermined and the glory of God concealed.

Sam Drucker

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