Philip McCosker and Denys Turner, eds., The Cambridge Companion to the Summa Theologiae, Cambridge Companions to Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). 368pp. Paperback. $34.99.

Regardless of one’s theological convictions, it is undeniable that the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas is one of the most influential books in the history of the Christian church, and even in western civilization. This means that it is important for students of every Christian confession to have some familiarity with this work. While the Summa marks only a part of Aquinas’ thought and influence, it is arguably the most influential and studied portion of his work. The Cambridge Companion to the Summa introduces readers to the flow of thought in the Summa in a way that will help them appreciate its historical context, continued influence, and contemporary use. This comprehensive analysis of a classic medieval text can serve students of Reformed theology in particular by helping them discover how Aquinas is part of their catholic Christian heritage.

One of the primary benefits of the Cambridge Companion is its comprehensive analysis of the Summa read in light of itself. Its authors note repeatedly that few students of the Summa read it from cover to cover (e.g., 171, 241, etc.). Historically, this stemmed partly from the fact that, prior to the printing press, people rarely transcribed the entire Summa in a single edition (293). At the present day, students and scholars often read the sections of the Summa that interest them rather than pushing through the work as a whole. The authors of this volume write under the assumption that failing to read the entire Summa often leads to distorting Aquinas’ theology (241). Gilles Emery’s chapter on the Holy Spirit illustrates this point clearly, since Aquinas did not devote a distinct section to the Spirit’s work in salvation even though the Spirit pervades the whole.

While the authors of the Cambridge Companion do not all agree regarding the method and structure of the Summa, the general consensus among them is that Thomas wrote his work to train Dominican preachers to present the gospel. As such, the Summa moves from God himself, to God relation to all things, to God’s act of saving and restoring humanity in Christ. Keeping this fact in mind undergirds the sections of the book that treat, respectively, approaches to reading the Summa, the topics treated in it, and its historic and contemporary use. This full-orbed approach makes this volume an insightful means of understanding the Summa better on its own terms.

The Cambridge Companion to the Summa Theologiae can be particularly valuable to those interested in Reformed theology. Many modern students of Reformed thought might be aware of the contents of the Summa only indirectly in relation to issues such as apologetic methods, the relationship between nature and grace, sacramental theology, and other controverted areas. However, while reading the Summa, it does not take long to see Aquinas’ hand of influence in Reformed orthodoxy at almost every point of the system of theology. This includes areas such as God as pure act (98), the way in which the church collectively reflects the triune God (118), the concurrence of providence with second causes (125), the necessity of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life (136), the centrality of the resurrection in salvation (170), the vital relationship between word and sacrament (270-271), and many others.

Perhaps one of the great advantages of the Cambridge Companion to those interested in Reformed thought is that, with the exception of one chapter, this work does not have Reformed thinking in view directly. One of the outstanding features of Reformed orthodoxy was its discerning catholicity. Few things illustrate this feature of Reformed thinking more clearly than the way in which theologians critically incorporated ideas from the Summa into their systems. One did not have to be a full-fledged “Thomist” to learn something from Thomas. This is still true. This fact is often underappreciated in modern Reformed theology.

The Cambridge Companion to the Summa is an excellent starting point for understanding one of the most important books written in the history of the Christian church. The fact that many Reformed theologians and pastors may not agree with everything that Thomas had to say does not give them the excuse to ignore him. The ultimate aim of this volume is to press readers to delve into the Summa for themselves. It does so admirably by providing readers with the tools needed to read a thirteenth-century text more profitably.

This review appeared previously in Puritan Reformed Journal, 10:1, 304-306.


Ryan McGraw (@RyanMMcGraw1) is associate professor of Systematic Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina.


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Article 37 introduces the final topic of the 39 Articles, the relationship between the Christian and the commonwealth. It is customary for North Americans to dismiss these articles as being very specific to England, but the same principle we have observed throughout our study continues here: the faithfulness of the Anglican articles to the principle of sola scriptura. Therefore, the principles underlined in the last three articles should be read closely rather than dismissed quickly. 

XXXVII — OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATES

The King’s (1662 – Charles II) Queen’s (1571) Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.

Where we attribute to the King’s (1662) Queen’s (1571) Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.

The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.

The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.

It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.

The article first appeared in this form through Archbishop Parker’s 1563 revision of the Articles. Cranmer’s original replacing a shorter and stark statement on the royal supremacy either of the Crown: “The King of England is supreme head in earth, next under Christ of the Church of England and Ireland” or of magistrates appointed by the Crown: “The civil magistrate is ordained and allowed of God; wherefore we must obey him, not only for fear of punishment but also for conscience sake.” Parker’s revision of Cranmer’s original with the “King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England… whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil…” broadens the principle and realigns it to reflect the Scriptures more closely. 

Article 37 alludes to Matthew 22.15-22 (paying taxes to Caesar), 1 Peter 2.13-17 and Romans 13.1-7 where the Apostle Paul certainly demands, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” And the Apostle Peter likewise writes to his readers that they, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” How then are we to understand the article in the light of Scripture? This is where the 1662 Book of Common Prayer helps us. Once again, we apply our principle that the formularies must be understood as a whole for its confessional application.

First, we should consider how the pastoral prayer for the church of Christ is introduced as the minister invites the congregation to pray in the Order for the Lord's Supper: “Let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here in earth.” Anglicans pray for the church of Christ here in earth. Anglicans affirm how Paul opens his epistles, "To the church of God that is in Corinth… To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints… To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus…" The formularies regularly affirm what is the doctrine of the church invisible and visible. There is no such category in the Scriptures or Anglican theology. We cannot escape God's grace exercised through the state. It is a retrograde step that most Anglican prayers for the church have excised Cranmer’s invitation to pray for the church here in earth. What we must, therefore unlearn is an understanding that the church and state are divided, making your spiritual life something of a private and individual concern. Far too much mischief and doctrinal error will certainly result!

Instead, the formularies make clear that there is a twofold understanding of God’s authority as exercised in the state and in the church militant here in earth. It is the government that bears responsibility for the ordering and shaping of society so that the gospel may flourish. The exercise of the church’s authority to preach the pure word of God and administer the sacraments according to Christ’s ordinance rests on the government's effectiveness in keeping the peace of the realm. Godly magistrates and princes establish the means for the visible church to complete its ministry. It is their God-given responsibility to ensure that true religion flourishes throughout the nation. 

Yet consider how this goal is realized. The theology of the various Prayer Book Collects for the Queen's majesty, and the Royal Family confirm the goal is not gained by a national agenda, but by the salvation of the magistrate’s or prince’s soul coram Deo. Consider the collect for the Queen’s majesty:  

O LORD, our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth: Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen ELIZABETH; and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may alway incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies; and finally after this life she may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Notice how the collect begins in adoration and acknowledgment that our heavenly Father is the Almighty One and the fountain of all grace. They continue in the invocation of the Holy Spirit for their sanctification and growth in holiness, ending with a hope of their eternal salvation. This is why the article makes this important distinction: we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word or of the Sacraments… This is allusion to article 20 that restrains an authority to God’s word written. The church militant serves the souls of the nation but cannot become a national church because the very authority the state applies is a derived authority from God as his word confirms. It, therefore, remains an authority that all believing Christians should honor. 

It is also the reason why the article underlines the scriptural foundation of the magistrates’ authority in what is lawful that is, conforming to God’s Word: It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars. The law that gives the magistrate the right to command men to bear arms is the law of God itself. The same reasoning must underpin the article’s belief that the government has the right to apply punishment for those offenses that overturn the peace of the commonwealth, up to the death penalty itself.

From time to time I am asked by younger ministers who have discovered the formularies for themselves how they are to “handle” the prayers and references to the Crown or what collect should they use if asked to open a local government assembly. I have found that my years keeping the Prayer Book daily offices have inculcated the theology of the prayers for the Crown so that I may pray extempore for a magistrate and commend the same points. The advice I have given is to study these specific collects, not abandon them. Understand them thoroughly, and you will discover the rich gospel foundation they have. The main things are the plain things within them. And it’s much easier to achieve than the “what Anglican text can I find/parrot” method – and safer than a sweep of resources that may cloud your thinking toward godliness in prayer for a person or persons of an assembly who so desperately need salvation.


 

Henry Jansma (@VicarsGarden) is rector of All Souls Anglican Church in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and canon theologian for the Diocese of the Living Word in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA)


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Meet the Puritans readers! This book is an excellent primer on an important article of the Westminster Confession. When the Westminster Confession says, "The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel...out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation," what does it mean? Enter for an opportunity to win a copy of this book to find out!




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Tyndale and Luther on Justification

His Theology of Justification Compared

We've considered William Tyndale’s doctrine of justification; now we'll compare him with Augustine and Luther. Particularly, we’ll view Luther’s prologue to Romans alongside Tyndale, since the latter depended much on the former for the flow and content of the preface. Next time, we will consider his Tyndale’s covenant theology, which played a vital role in his theology of justification.

As seen in our last post, Tyndale affirmed justification as the remission of sins through the blood of Christ and received by faith alone. Such involved a sinner being made righteous immediately—not progressively—through the Spirit’s renovative work on the heart, in which faith is the believer’s righteousness continually perfected through the ongoing cleansing by Christ’s blood.

As mentioned earlier, Tyndale’s Wycliffite connections brought him under the influence of Augustine’s theology of grace and justification. As Alistair McGrath argues, justification for Augustine “is fundamentally concerned with `being made righteous’” as an inherent process graciously initiated by God. A renewal or real change in being, not just status, takes place as the Holy Spirit transforms a sinner to saint as a new creation beginning and making progress to final perfection. The process of justification by faith working in love (not faith alone) commences at conversion and continues throughout life. Fallen man’s inability to do good demands the Spirit’s gracious operation to begin justification, and such finds its foundation in God’s predestinating grace (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 2005).

We hear the voice of Augustine clearly in Tyndale, though the latter clearly emphasized justification by faith alone, and not as a process but something immediate. Man’s fallen state necessitated the gracious work of the Spirit to transform the heart and work faith in it. McGrath rightly observes parallels between Augustine and Tyndale, but oddly claims that the Augustinian “emphasis upon the renewing and transforming work of the Holy Spirit within humans” in Tyndale “is quite distinct from Luther's emphasis upon faith.” Tyndale strongly emphasized justification by faith alone—and Luther, in his less mature convictions, did not deny justification as something inward and transformational. This leads me to believe that McGrath and Ralph Werrell (The Roots of William Tyndale’s Theology, 2013), who approves of such assessment, see too much distance between Luther and Tyndale with Augustine as a key factor in the analysis.

It is to Tyndale’s dependence upon and departure from Luther we will now turn, particularly by way of their prefaces to Romans.

Let’s begin with Luther’s position on justification, expressed in his 1519 sermon Two Kinds of Righteousness. Luther claims there that we are justified by faith alone through a righteousness “alien” to ourselves, that of Christ, which concerns his life, works, suffering, and death. In short, “he who trusts in Christ exists in Christ; he is one with Christ, having the same righteousness as he.” This righteousness is “instilled” in us, not imputed, and is not received “all at once” but “makes progress” as we drive away “the old Adam more and more” while receiving the new Adam, Christ, more fully.

Likewise, this righteousness “begins” inwardly by faith, as an “infinite righteousness” that “swallows up” all sin (in forgiveness) and grants us the “same righteousness” of Christ (though not fully) all “in a moment.” In other words, while the alien righteousness of Christ is instilled progressively, justification occurs immediately by faith. Thus, the beginning of Christ’s alien righteousness inwardly suffices to be declared infinitely righteous before God.

The lack of the forensic language of imputation and the presence of an instilled and progressive alien righteousness out of which our proper righteousness arises—yet has nothing to do with justification—may leave us perplexed. Still, Luther believed that to be united to Christ is to be declared forgiven and righteous through him totally. In this way, Luther seems to be moving toward a doctrine of imputation, even if the language is not clearly there.

Luther’s 1520 tract, The Freedom of a Christian, speaks of one who by faith has “sins remitted” and is “justified by the merits” of “Christ alone.” Likewise, as he did in his 1519 sermon, he evokes the image of Christ as a bridegroom to whom the “believing soul” is united and so possesses “all his good things” with sins “swallowed up” in him in whom the believer receives
“a righteousness which she may claim as her own.” While this may resonate with the language of imputation, there exists no evidence in the tract that Luther has moved beyond an alien-yet-instilled righteousness of Christ. In fact, he continues to speak of being justified “inwardly, and according to the Spirit.”

So, when we come to Luther’s 1522 preface to Romans, do we now find the language of imputation? Not clearly, as Luther still speaks of being “made righteous apart from all his works by faith alone” with good works (our proper righteousness) proving that one “is already inwardly just in the sight of God.” Again, Luther affirms immediate justification by speaking of one “already just” as he does in the next paragraph, “a person becomes just without works but doesn't remain without works once he has become just” (emphasis mine). A unique focus for Luther in this preface concerns the claim that God “reckons” faith “as justice for the sake of Christ our mediator.” God “gives” such faith, and through it a believer “becomes sinless and eager for God’s commands.” It appears that the use of “reckons” here is not imputation language; rather, Luther seems to see faith “as” our “justice” or righteousness, in that it unites with Christ who is our alien righteousness and becomes inwardly ours by that faith.

Let’s use this as a starting point for comparing Luther and Tyndale, whose preface (along with his other New Testament ones), just a few years after Luther, shows considerable dependence in terms of flow and content. As seen in the last post and in line with his Romans preface, Tyndale uses “reckon” to focus on faith being our righteousness in the sense of union with Christ who remits our sin and makes us perfectly righteous in the sight of God. For Luther, it lays hold of Christ whose alien righteousness (in addition to his forgiveness) becomes ours by that faith. For Tyndale, it lays hold of Christ whose blood is applied by the Holy Spirit to overcome our sin and make us perfectly righteous.

In their prefaces, we see the following agreement between them:

  1. Faith is a gift wrought by the Spirit and founded on God’s eternal predestination to such.
  2. Faith changes us inwardly and makes us new creations as the children of God.
  3. Faith lays hold of Christ and drives out the old Adam.
  4. Justification occurs immediately by faith alone apart from works.
  5. Sin remains in the justified believer, but not in the sense of standing before God.
  6. Christ is the foundation of our justification.
  7. Faith is “reckoned” as our righteousness though in terms of our union with Christ.
  8. Good works necessarily flow from faith as the evidence of justification. 

The main difference exists in that Tyndale more properly sees faith as our righteousness, while Luther more properly views the righteousness of Christ as that which justifies. In this way, I cannot agree with the substantial difference Werrell affirms between the two on justifying faith (“The Theology of William Tyndale,” PhD diss, University of Hull, 2001). Instead, Tyndale seems merely to expand on what Luther says about such in his preface.

Also, Werrell (The Blood of Christ in the Theology of William Tyndale, 2015) wants us to believe that the blood of Christ, while more ardently stressed in Tyndale, was not a focus of Luther, which seems incongruous with Luther’s own words:

They must, however, be justified through faith in Christ, who has merited this for us by his blood and has become for us a mercy seat . . .in the presence of God, who forgives us all our previous sins.

Christ’s blood was clearly a vital point for Luther, who viewed the remission of sin through the blood as part of our justification.

To be sure, Tyndale was not a Lutheran, and he differed with Luther in theological emphases. Likewise, Luther seems closer to the doctrine of imputation here than Tyndale. Still, for both, we are made righteous by Christ alone through faith alone as it unites us to him. Luther’s primary focus was on the alien righteousness of Christ making us righteous, while Tyndale’s was on the forgiveness of sins doing the same. In the process, they both showed dependence on Augustine’s concept of justification as being made inwardly righteous while departing from him on seeing justification as immediate.

Again—and this cannot be emphasized enough—both men wrote in the early stages of the Reformation. So, when we read them, we are times left wondering what they are saying in relation to justification in connection with regeneration and sanctification. Such concepts begged clarification. However, I would contend, they are both moving (Luther in a more pronounced manner) toward the theology of justification as an “act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q33). In this way, the similarities between them trump their differences.

Previous Posts:
  1. Life in England
  2. Life in Exile
  3. His Translation Work
  4. His Writings
  5. His Theology of the Word
  6. His Theology of Justification Considered

Bob McKelvey (@mckelvrj) is an OPC minister and serves as the Director of Research and Dean of Students at the Greystone Theological Institute. He is the author of Histories that Mansoul and Her Wars Anatomize: The Drama of Redemption in John Bunyan’s Holy War and a contributor to Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism. In connection with his Bunyan studies, he has written an allegory of his own, one for children: Nutonius of Acornshire.


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In a brief but hilarious reformation21 blog post, "Can You Speak Gospelese?", Paul Levy noted that the word “gospel,” had become “an adjective which if you want people to think you’re kosher in conservative evangelicalism you add it, seemingly, to everything.” Thus, there are churches, and there are gospel-centered churches. There is preaching and there is gospel-centered preaching. There is “gospel this” and “gospel that.”

Well, who doesn’t want to be kosher? So, let me say upfront that this website is a gospel-centered website, and this post is a gospel post.

In all seriousness, turning the gospel into a buzzword has its drawbacks, not the least of which is that it can obscure the meaning of the word. So, what is the gospel? Levy wrote: “the gospel is an announcement of news regarding the incarnate Son of God.” That is a fine definition. It becomes problematic, however, when we restrict it to that narrow definition, or set it in opposition to what we are called to do.

For example, Michael Horton has argued that the term “gospel” is a very precise term, a particular kind of word, or speech in the Bible. It is a victory announcement, and it refers to God’s promise of salvation in Christ. The gospel is not good advice, in that it never tells us something to do. The law tells us what we are to do, whereas the gospel tells us what has been done. Similarly, Tim Keller recently tweeted, “The Gospel is good news not good advice. Advice = what we should do. News = report of what was done for us.”

Many puritans, however, believed that the gospel could in fact be defined more broadly, so as to include what Horton and Keller refer to as “good advice.” Anthony Burgess argued that the gospel may defined “strictly” and “largely.” In the strict or narrow sense, the gospel is...

...a meere gracious promise of Christ to the broken heart for sin; and doth comprehend no more then the glad tidings of a Saviour…in a strict sense, it’s onely a promise of Christ, and his benefits [Luke 2:10].

But in a large or broad sense, the gospel...

...signifieth the whole doctrine, that the Apostles were to preach [Mark 1:1; 16:15].

This includes the commands to repent, believe and pursue holiness, as well as threatenings to those who do not obey the commands of the gospel. Samuel Rutherford wrote that the gospel as it contains the whole doctrine of grace and as it is taught by the prophets and apostles “is a promise of life eternall, made to Evangelike and unperfect doing through the strength of grace.” Although not a puritan, Herman Witsius noted in his book for puritans that,

...it is known to all who are acquainted with theology…that the gospel sometimes signifies all that doctrine which Christ and the Apostles delivered, in which are comprehended both commandments, and prohibitions, and upbraidings, and threatenings, Mark xvi. 15. compared with Matth. xxviii. 20. Rom. ii.16.

The puritans, I believe, are right to consider the gospel in this broad sense. Verses like  2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17 speak of obeying the gospel. How do you obey a report that only tells what has been done for us, and not also what we should do? We obey the gospel because the gospel commands. As the Reformation Study Bible says, “The gospel must be accepted, believed, and obeyed (1 Pet. 4:17). Its divine command is for absolute surrender to God through the peace made by Jesus Christ.”

Since the Bible doesn’t restrict the word “gospel” to a very precise meaning, we shouldn’t either. This is not to say that we can’t use the gospel in its narrow sense and distinguish between the gospel (what Jesus has done) and our response to the gospel (what we need to do). To do so is to distinguish between redemption accomplished and redemption applied, and that is a very helpful and necessary distinction. The point is that we shouldn’t oppose or separate them. The Bible binds them together and includes both under the term “gospel.”

Paul summarized the gospel he preached in terms of the death and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-5). But that is not all there is to the gospel, or even to the work of Christ. A summary of the gospel is just that—a summary—and it shouldn’t be set in direct opposition to its broader definition or fuller explanation.

There are some rather large problems that may arise when people limit the meaning of the gospel to its narrow sense. One potential problem is the unjust accusation of legalism or of mixing law and gospel. It is not necessarily legalistic to use phrases such as “living the gospel,” “obeying the gospel,” or “the conditions of the gospel.” But if you see what we do as only “law” and what Christ has done as only “gospel” then you will likely interpret the broad but biblical use of the term “gospel” as legalistic. Another potential problem is the minimization or outright denial of the conditions of the gospel, which is what the puritans called antinomianism.

What is the gospel? You can give a short or long answer to that question. You can answer it in terms of what Christ has done, or you can add what Christ requires of us in order to partake of what he has done. Here’s a brief example of the latter: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”


D. Patrick Ramsey (@DPatrickRamsey) is pastor of Nashua Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Edinburg, Pennsylvania. He is a co-author (with Joel Beeke) of An Analysis of Herman Witsius's The Economy of the Covenants and author of A Portrait of Christ.


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The doctrine of Scripture has often been the battleground on which the fate of true and false religion is decided. In the seventeenth-century, Roman Catholics taught the authority of Scripture, while denying its sufficiency and clarity. Socinians taught the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture, while restricting their reading of Scripture by the dictates of human reason. A spectrum of views on Scripture has persisted to the present day. Some deny the verbal inspiration of the Bible while maintaining its experimental power in the lives of believers. Others outright deny its unique status as the Word of God. Still others argue that only some books in the standard Protestant canon of Scripture are genuine, usually recognizing only those that they can accommodate to a particular theological hypothesis. What is often missing in older and contemporary debates about Scripture is a careful study of the Bible’s self-evaluation and the multi-faceted attributes ascribed to Scripture in its pages.

Peter van Mastricht’s treatment of the eight properties of Scripture is valuable in this regard. His teaching both took the Bible’s view of itself seriously and, as a result, it was multi-faceted. His view was largely representative of classic Reformed theology. Building on the premise that because true theology was supernatural (“the doctrine of living for God through Christ”), he concluded that the rule, or first principle (principium), of theology must be supernatural as well (113). In this sense, Scripture is “our axiom” (117) and Scripture is the doctrine of living for God as it is set forth in books (119). While revelation is a broader category than Scripture, God chose to reveal himself to mankind through Scripture due to the increasing brevity of human life, the increasing number of people on earth and the size of the church, the liability of oral tradition to corruption, “the weakness of human memory,” for “the stability of heavenly teaching,” and against “the perversity of heretics” who abuse unwritten traditions (119). The entire Trinity is the author of Scripture, from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit (125) as God communicates through Scripture his will towards human beings for their salvation. Mastricht’s treatment of the eight properties of Scripture, which I will summarize below, can help us gain a fuller picture of the Reformed doctrine of Scripture and its relevance today. Due to the depth of the subject, I will summarize rather than present all of Mastricht’s arguments:


1. Scripture possess divine authority (126) 

Authority comes first because all other attributes of Scripture reflect this one. Reflecting the independent God, Scripture authority is “supreme and independent,” depending on God alone. He added that, according to 1 Peter 1:20, this is the “first article of faith” because without God speaking with authority in Scripture there could be nothing for faith to rest on. The power of Scripture comes from its authority. It decides controversies, directs our lives, and judges us all, “just as if God himself was speaking” (126).

2. Scripture is divine truth 

Scripture can neither deceive nor be deceived. This means that doctrinal and historical aspects of Scripture correspond to the facts, practical statements agree perfectly with the will of God, prophecies, promises, and threats agree with future events, etc. (127). These things make Scripture preferable to every other form of divine revelation (citing Lk. 16:31; Gal. 1:8). The full canon of Scripture has also superseded them.

Third, Scripture has integrity.

This includes freedom from corruption and providential preservation (127). While Mastricht was aware of textual variants and diverse manuscripts, integrity meant for him what later authors would call the verbal inerrancy and infallibility of the original autographs of Scripture as well as the divine preservation of the text through transmission up to the present time (124).

4. Scripture possess sanctity, or holiness (127) 

It is pure in itself and it is the source of our holiness through the Spirit’s blessing. This points out how Scripture reflects the character of God, who is its author. God has authority, he is the truth, he is sovereign, and he is holy. Therefore, Scripture bears the marks of its author.

5. Scripture is perspicuous (128) 

This is why Scripture is called light, clear, and luminous. Perceived obscurities in Scripture are our fault rather than its fault. When we face difficulties in interpreting passages that appear obscure to us, then we must compare less clear texts with clearer parallel ones (analogia scripturae). This assumes that the Scriptures can be harmonized because the God of truth is their single author, even though he used a variety of inspired men with differing styles and personalities to write the biblical books.

6. Scripture is characterized by perfection (128) 

It lacks nothing that we need to live to God, nor anything necessary for our salvation (2 Tim. 3:15-16). This included, in his view, both the closing of the canon and the content of the books within the canon. Scripture teaches these things explicitly and implicitly. Reason confirms this idea, as well, because Scripture could not be the rule of faith and morals unless it was perfect. It is perfect as the principiumof our faith; it is perfect in the whole because it is so in its parts; and the perfection of individual books points to the perfection of all of them considered together (128). The perfection of Scripture includes its sufficiency for everything that must be believed and done as well as for the edification of the church (129). This includes what the Bible teaches by implication, or, as WCF 1.6 put it around the same time period, “by good and necessary consequence.” While the sufficiency of Scripture has become a category of its own today, older authors enveloped it under the perfection of Scripture.

7. Scripture is necessary (129) 

It is necessary for the true knowledge of the true God. The church and its members neither would nor could exist without Scripture. Keep in mind that this does not deny other forms of divine revelation prior to Scripture. Yet Mastricht gave several reasons why Scripture was superior to them all and why God chose to reveal himself in Scripture instead (130).

8. Scripture is effective (130)

This is why the Bible attributes power to Scripture. It is compared to things like a hammer, a two-edged sword, and thunder. Contrary to Lutheran opinion, which ascribed inherent power to the Word of God, Scripture is a moral instrument of the Holy Spirit with no independent power. He then listed ten ways that the Bible ascribes efficacy to itself, which readers can consult with much profit. In addition to the church fathers, Luther, and the Reformers, “a thousand other” believers have known the power of Scripture in their experience as well (131).


Mastricht’s treatment of the properties of Scripture is full and balanced. Note what appears to be missing, however. In modern debates about Scripture, infallibility has often taken pride of place, yet Mastricht does not name it explicitly. Yet infallibility is not excluded, if we understand the term rightly. Infallibility, in its modern senses, overlaps at least with “integrity” and “efficacy.” Many who deny infallibility treat it as a synonym for verbal inspiration. Others affirm infallibility by separating it from verbal inspiration, making it synonymous with providential preservation. Both options detract from Mastricht’s overall treatment of Scripture, which is representative of classic Reformed theology. We need a Bible that speaks to us with divine authority reflecting its divine author. It must be true in order to lead us to the God of truth. It must have integrity so that we can trust the God who gave it and who preserves it. It must be holy so that the Spirit can use it to make us holy. It must be perspicuous so that, with the Spirit’s help, we can understand it clearly for our salvation. It must be perfect and complete so that it is all we need for salvation through faith in Christ. It is most necessary because in it and through it alone that we hear Christ’s saving voice. It must be an effective instrument of the Spirit for our salvation; otherwise Christ’s voice will not penetrate our impenetrable hearts. Perhaps many false views of Scripture result from stressing one property of the Bible to the neglect of others. Mastricht gives us a wide picture of what Scripture is that is simultaneously biblical, Reformed, and refreshing.


Ryan McGraw (@RyanMMcGraw1) is associate professor of Systematic Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina.


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His Theology of Justification Considered

In our last post, we looked at William Tyndale’s foundational theology of the Word of God. In this post, we make a start on his theology of justification. Next time, we will consider his dependence upon and departure from both Augustine and Luther on this key doctrine. 

Let’s review what I mentioned in earlier posts: First, Tyndale believed that we are justified by faith in Christ alone apart from good works. Second, we are justified through the blood of Christ who makes “amends” for our imperfect hearts. Third, justification occurs through the work of the Spirit, which entails a renovative or transformative view of justification. Such thoughts need considerable clarification.

We begin with a key summary statement on justification in Tyndale’s Testament of William Tracy Expounded(1535): “Faith justifieth thee; that is, bringeth remission of all sins, and setteth thee in the state of grace before all works, and getteth thee power to work before thou couldst work.” Let’s open this up!

First, justification can be summed up as the “remission” or the forgiveness “of sins.” This sounds like he limits justification to a declarative pardon or what theologians call the non-imputation of sin, a view common in the early stages of the English Reformation. Indeed, Tyndale equates justification with pardon when he says that Christ came to “justify us, or purchase us pardon of our sins” (Prologue upon the Three Epistles of St John, 1526). Still, for Tyndale, this does not denote a forensic declaration founded on the substitutionary work of Christ. 

Tyndale, like Augustine and early Luther (not without differences), refers to justification as being “made righteous.” In The Exposition of the First Epistle of Saint John (1531), Tyndale speaks of one “made righteous” or “born anew in Christ,” the Spirit having “healed his heart.” For Tyndale, faith (as a gift of the Spirit) “is our righteousness” (The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, 1527), which does not mean faith is reckoned or imputed as righteous. Instead, faith is our sufficient justifying righteousness by way of a graciously and Spirit-renovated heart. By faith, then, remaining sin is continually remitted through the blood of Christ in the justified-forgiven believer. Tyndale gives priority to the work of the Spirit who makes us righteous through faith and by the cleansing blood of Christ. 

We find such themes coming together in a key passage in The Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Chapters of Matthew (1532), which by no means clears up uncertainties about Tyndale’s position:

[W]hen I say faith justifieth, the understanding is, that faith receiveth the justifying. God promiseth to forgive us our sins, and to impute us for full righteous. And God justifieth us actively: that is to say, forgiveth us, and reckoneth us for full righteous. And Christ’s blood deserveth it; and faith in the promise receiveth it, and certifieth the conscience thereof . . . Now at the first covenant-making with God, and as oft as we be reconciled, after we have sinned, the righteousness cometh of God altogether. But after the atonement is made and we reconciled, then we be partly righteous in ourselves and unrighteous; righteous as far as we love, and unrighteous as far as the love is unperfect. And faith in the promise of God, that he doth reckon us for full righteous, doth ever supply that unrighteousness and imperfectness, as it is our whole righteousness at the beginning.

If we took this passage by itself, we might conclude that Tyndale affirms forensic justification by claiming God imputes or reckons us as “full righteous” on the basis of justifying faith. Yet, in the one “reconciled” or justified, remaining sin is overcome by the righteousness that “cometh of God altogether” by Christ’s satisfaction through faith. Such faith “is our whole righteousness at the beginning” and not simply that which is declared our righteousness. Thus, it does not appear that Tyndale uses the terms “impute” or “reckon” forensically. Instead, faith, as Christ’s Spirit-wrought gift, is constitutively our ongoing perfect righteousness continually cleansed of unrighteous imperfections by the blood of Christ. As Ralph Werrell clearly attests in The Roots of William Tyndale’s Theology (2013) and The Blood of Christ in Theology of William Tyndale (2015), Christ’s blood provides the key to understanding Tyndale’s views on justification.

By way of this Spirit-instilled faith-righteousness and the distinct partial-yet-overcome righteousness developing out of it, I hear echoes of Martin Luther’s early sermon Two Kinds of Righteousness (1519) where he makes a distinction between the “instilled” (yes, non-forensic!) and “alien righteousness” of Christ received by faith alone “not all at once” (yes, he says that!) and the proper yet imperfect righteousness of believers arising out of it. Yet, some key differences emerge, which we will discuss more in the next post. For now, we should note that, for Tyndale, this Spirit-wrought justification occurs instantly, not progressively, at the moment of saving faith. For example, in the same passage cited above from Mammon, Tyndale sees works as fruits in those who “were justified” already, a theme highlighted in several of his writings. 

Second, coming back to The Testament, justification occurs by faith alone “before all works.” While the “alone” is not explicit here, it is implied, and clearly stated elsewhere. For example, in his prologue to the Johannine epistles, Tyndale speaks of being justified by faith and foundationally by Christ through “his works only, and with his blood-shedding, without and before all our works.” It should be noted, that in calling attention to Christ’s works, Tyndale does not allude to the active obedience of Christ but a life that is ultimately related to the work of satisfaction for sin as a perfect sacrifice. Also, in his Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (1531), Tyndale defends justification by “faith alone” against More’s distortion of the Reformation position. Thus, Tyndale is quick to affirm that “alone” does not mean “without all other company” in terms of God’s Spirit and the virtues that attend his work. 

Third, and arising out of what we just observed, Tyndale says in The Testament that faith apart from works gets us “power to work.” This fits with the idea that faith is our righteousness from which all other righteous works flow. So, Tyndale attests in Mammon, “Neither do our works justify us: for except we were justified by faith, which is our righteousness, and had the Spirit of God in us, to teach us, we could do no good work freely.” These works flow necessarily from faith, which is “shewed” by the works. Thus, by works we “justified before the world” or affirmed as those “justified before God” (Prologue of James, 1526). Tyndale states the link between faith and works quite pungently in Mammon, where he asserts, “if works follow not, it is a sure and an evident sign, that there is no faith in the heart; but a dead imagination and dream, which they falsely call faith.”

In the end, Tyndale’s views on justification remain a little murky, with regeneration and justification and (to some extent) sanctification—later that century so carefully distinguished among the Reformed—somewhat conflated. Still, at some points, it seems like a forensic view on justification, at least in relation to the passive obedience of Christ, wants to break through. Furthermore, I believe that Tyndale’s emphasis on foundational role of Christ’s work of satisfaction contributes to the emergence of the mature Westminster doctrine of justification by faith alone expressed in the following century. Remember, refined theological distinctions did not take precedence in early Reformed thought. Likewise, he was denied further deliberation when his life came to an abrupt end in 1536, with the English Reformation only in its early stages. One hears the voice of both Augustine and Luther in Tyndale, but not without the English reformer's unique contribution. Such dependence and departure we will consider in the next post.

 
Previous Posts:
  1. Life in England
  2. Life in Exile
  3. His Translation Work
  4. His Writings
  5. His Theology of the Word

Bob McKelvey (@mckelvrj) is an OPC minister and serves as the Director of Research and Dean of Students at the Greystone Theological Institute. He is the author of Histories that Mansoul and Her Wars Anatomize: The Drama of Redemption in John Bunyan’s Holy War and a contributor to Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism. In connection with his Bunyan studies, he has written an allegory of his own, one for children: Nutonius from Acornshire.

Before she was twenty, Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) made a long and treacherous voyage to the New World with her husband and family. She would become America's first published poet; she would also endure a number of physical and spiritual harships. Through it all, her poetry showed a continual dependence upon the Lord. Bradstreet composed one such poem after surviving an affliction of tuberculosis:


Upon a Fit of Sickness
Twice ten years old not fully told 
    Since nature gave me breath, 
My race is run, my thread is spun, 
    Lo, here is fatal Death. 
All men must die, and so must I, 
    This cannot be revoked; 
For Adam's sake this word God spake 
    When he so high provoked. 
Yet live I shall—this life's but small— 
    In place of highest bliss, 
Where I shall have all I can crave; 
    No life is like to this. 
For what's this life but care and strife? 
    Since first we came from womb 
Our strength doth waste, our time doth haste, 
    And then we go to tomb. 
O bubble blast, how long can'st last 
    That always art a-breaking?
No sooner blown but dead and gone, 
    Ev'n as a word that's speaking. 
Oh, whilst I live this grace me give, 
    I doing good may be, 
Then death's arrest I shall count best, 
    Because it's Thy decree; 
Bestow much cost there's nothing lost, 
    To make salvation sure; 
O great's the gain, though got with pain, 
    Comes by profession pure. 
The race is run, the field is won, 
    The victory's mine, I see, 
For ever know, thou envious foe, 
    The foil belongs to thee.*
*As published in The Writing of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet (The Duodecimos, 1897), 267-8.

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The doctrine of salvation (Soteriology) is necessarily intertwined with the doctrine of God (Theology Proper). Your understanding of what God does and how he saves will affect your understanding of who God is, and vice versa. The puritans faced this issue in their debates with the so-called Antinomians. As I noted in previous articles here and here, the Antinomians argued for their doctrine of justification before faith on the basis of God’s immutability, simplicity and impassibility. Their belief that faith was not a condition in any sense of justification shaped how they understood God’s immutability with respect to his interaction with the world. 

Covenant theology bears a similar relationship to Theology Proper. How we understand God’s interaction with Israel in the Old Testament will shape our understanding of what God is like, and vice versa. The puritan John Ball seems to have understood this. In his treatise on the covenant of grace, Ball argued that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of grace. He provided many reasons for his position, one of which was the preface to the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6). The heart of the covenant of grace is captured by the oft-repeated refrain, “I will be your God and you shall be my people.” Hence, when God said to Israel that he is their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, he was saying to them that he is “their King, Judge, Saviour and Redeemer: Spiritual Redeemer from the bondage of sin and Satan, whereof that temporall deliverance was a type (see also Westminster Larger Catechism, 101).” Since God redeemed Israel, it is implausible, in light of who God is, that he would bind them to a covenant of works in the land of Canaan. Would God deliver Israel out of bondage only to curse them by placing them under a covenant of works? Would he deliver them from the frying pan, only to throw them into the fire? Ball certainly didn’t think so. He wrote: 

God never commanded his people, that he might set them on high above all people of the earth, and that they might be an holy people unto him and to avouch him to be their God by a Covenant of works: Moses would never have exhorted the people by Oath to bind themselves unto the Lord in a Covenant of Works: for that had been to bind themselves unto the most dreadfull curses, whereas they were to enter into the Covenant that they might prosper in all that they doe. That Covenant is of Grace, wherein the good things promised are all free and gracious: but it was of grace that God promised to be the God of Israel: and therefore the Lord, when he keepeth Covenant with Israel, is said to keep the mercy which he swore unto their Fathers, and when he established them for a people unto himselfe, and is their God, he is said to performe the Oath, which he swore unto their Fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob (A Treatise on the Covenant of Grace, 107).

By contrast, consider what T. David Gordon, a professor at Grove City College and proponent of a modern-day version of the doctrine of republication, had to say in his essay in the book The Law Is Not of Faith. He argued that the covenant God made with Israel after the Exodus was a works covenant, which cursed and enslaved them (TLNF, 251). Israel, therefore, went from bondage to bondage; from a hard taskmaster to a “frightening deity.” This is why Gordon concluded that the Mosaic covenant was no bargain for Israel and that they were justified in wanting to go back to Egypt. In other words, Israel was on the right track when they began to doubt’s God’s love for them by thinking that God had brought them out of Egypt in order to kill them in the desert. Gordon wrote:

If this [Sinaitic covenant] doesn’t sound like a bargain, recall that the original Israelites did not consider it a bargain either, and they resisted Moses’ efforts to engage them in it. All things considered, many of the first-generation Israelites, who received this covenant while trembling at the foot of a quaking mountain and then wandered in the wilderness, preferred to return to Egypt rather than to enter the covenant with a frightening deity who threatened curse-sanctions upon them if they disobeyed. I do not blame them; their assessment of the matter was judicious and well considered, albeit rebellious. The Sinai covenant-administration was no bargain for sinners, and I pity the poor Israelites who suffered under its administration…I would have resisted this covenant also, had I been there, because such a legal covenant, whose conditions require strict obedience (and threaten severe curse-sanctions), is bound to fail if one of the parties to it is a sinful people (TLNF, 251).

The theological and pastoral implications of this view of the Mosaic covenant are enormous. Unless we are willing to argue that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament, we need to ask: what does this view of the Mosaic covenant teach us about God? What does it say about his goodness and love, and the way he treats his people, whom he considers the apple of his eye? What does this view teach us about the law of God? How will it affect the way we think of and relate to God?

Covenant theology and Theology Proper are joined at the hip. They will shape and inform each other. That is why it is important to get both correct. If your covenant theology paints a perverse portrait of God, it's time to go back to the drawing board. 


D. Patrick Ramsey (@DPatrickRamsey) is pastor of Nashua Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Edinburg, Pennsylvania. He is a co-author (with Joel Beeke) of An Analysis of Herman Witsius's The Economy of the Covenantsand author of A Portrait of Christ.

 

Reformed, experiential Christianity birthed the pioneer missionary efforts of men such as John Eliot (1604–1690), David Brainerd (1718–1747),William Carey (1761–1834), Adoniram Judson(1788–1850), and John G. Paton (1824–1907). This mission effort was small and struggling until it exploded into the modern missionary movement begun by Carey at the end of the eighteenth century. Persecution from Roman Catholic authorities in Europe, numerous wars, the need to first evangelize homelands in Europe and North America, the deaths of missionaries by disease and martyrdom, and the slowness of the church to respond to the Great Commission all hindered the development of Reformed missions. However, from the start, Reformed and Puritan Christians fervently prayed for worldwide evangelization and revival. In some respects, the Great Awakening and today’s missionary movement may be regarded as an answer to centuries of persevering prayer. What motivated the Reformed and the Puritans to pray for the world? What guided their prayers for missions? This series seeks to provide answers to these questions.


The Method of Missionary Prayer

 

In all their ways, the Puritans were orderly, that is, they governed their lives by principles. This was so even in their prayers for the spread of the gospel in the world. While the Puritans resisted prescribed forms and relied on the Holy Spirit’s help for prayer, they also embraced methods of promoting and guiding such prayer. 

 

A Passionate Missionary Tradition: The Westminster Standards

The first Puritan method was to build missionary prayer into the public worship of the local church. The Westminster Assembly, famous for its Confession of Faith and two catechisms, also produced the Directory for the Public Worshipof God(1644). The Directoryinstructed that the minister, prior to delivering his sermon, was to lead the people in prayer to confess sins and to pray for grace through Christ Jesus. He was also instructed

to pray for the propagation of the gospel and kingdom of Christ to all nations, for the conversion of the Jews, the fullness of the Gentiles, the fall of Antichrist [the Roman Catholic papacy], and the hastening of the coming of our Lord; for the deliverance of the distressed churches abroad, from the tyranny of the Antichristian faction, and from the cruel oppositions and blasphemies of the Turk [the Muslim power]; for the blessing of God upon all the Reformed churches, especially upon the Churches and Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland…and for our plantations [colonies] in the remote parts of the world.[1]

The Puritans were thus concerned that public worship regularly include prayer for the cause of Christ throughout the world, including world missions and the relief of the persecuted church suffering in Europe under Roman Catholicism and in the Middle East under Islam. Similarly, the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647) in its exposition of the Lord’s Prayer (Q. 191), said, “In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan; we pray, that the kingdom of sin, and Satan, may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in.[2]The Westminster Standards shaped the piety of generations of British, North American, and Australian Reformed Christians, leading many into intercession for the world.

Thomas Boston (1676–1732) preached a series of sermons on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. In his sermon on “Thy kingdom come,” Boston echoed the language of the Directoryand the Larger Catechism. He said this petition in the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that the duty and disposition of God’s children is to desire His kingdom to come in, destroying the power of sin and Satan over men’s hearts. “Every saint prays it down,” he wrote. He said we are to pray for “the conversion of sinners to God, 2 Thess. 3:1, ‘Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified.’ Converts are the church’s children, for which she travails in birth, in her ministers and members, as naturally longing for the conversion of souls, as a travailing woman to see the fruit of her womb.” This petition also requires us to pray for God to overcome Satan’s opposition to the preaching and power of the gospel “and make the gospel triumph over them all.” Likewise, Boston said, God’s children must desire and pray for “the propagation of the gospel through the world, that it may be carried through all nations…that Christ may be King in all the earth.[3]

This pattern of praying was not merely a public formality, for it engraved itself upon the hearts of the people. The last words of English housewife Elizabeth Heywood (d. 1661) were a prayer “for the church of God, that the Jews might be converted, and that the gospel might be preached to the remainder of the Gentile nations.[4]May God make prayer for the nations so integral to our church’s worship that it will even be included among our own last wishes.

 

A Divine Missionary Book: The Holy Scriptures

The second Puritan method for praying for world missions was teaching people to pray the Scriptures. Matthew Henry wrote Method for Prayer(1710),[5]which followed the Westminster Standards in providing prayers for “the lost world,” specifically for the spread of the gospel to foreign nations, the growth of the church by many conversions, the salvation of the Jews, the relief of the Eastern churches from Islamic oppression, and the blessing of the churches in English colonies such as America.[6]

The key to Henry’s method was putting the words of Scriptures into the mouths of God’s people. Henry wove together the words of the Bible to impress upon the hearts of Christians in prayers such as these:

Let the people praise thee, O God, yea, let all the people praise thee.

O let thy salvation and thy righteousness be openly showed in the sight of the heathen, and let all the ends of the earth see the salvation of our God.

O give thy Son the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession; for thou hast said, It is a light thing for him to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel, but thou wilt give him for a light to the Gentiles. 

Let all the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Christ.

O let the gospel be preached unto every creature; for how shall men believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without preachers? And how shall they preach except they be sent? And who shall send forth labourers, but the Lord of the harvest?

O let the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.[7]

As these selections indicate, the Psalms contain many expressions of God’s dominion over all the earth and the future reign of the anointed King over the nations. According to the design of the Holy Spirit, the Psalter is a missionary hymnal and prayer book. Calvin and the Puritans loved the Psalms and sang from the Psalter every day. 

The call of the gospel sounds forth in the version of Psalm 2 that appeared in the Psalter of Sternhold and Hopkins (1560), used in Britain and North America for many generations:

Now ye O Kings and Rulers all,

    be Wise therefore and Learn’d:

By whom the matters of the World

    be Iudged and discern’d.

See that ye serve the Lord above,

    in trembling and in feare:

See that with reuerence ye reioyce,

    to him in like manner.

 

See that ye kisse and eke [also] embrace,

    his blessed Sonne, i say:

Lest in his wrath ye suddenly,

    perish in the mid way.

If once his wrath neuer so small,

    shall kindle in his brest:

Oh then all they that trust in Christ,

    shall happy be and blest.[8]

New England’s Bay Psalm Book(1640) celebrates the triumph of the gospel over all the earth in this version of Psalm 98:

Sing to the Lord a new song: sing

    all the earth the Lord unto:

Sing to Jehovah, bless his name,

    still his salvation show.

To the heathen his glory, to all

    people his wonders spread.

For great is the Lord, much to be praised,

    above all gods in dread….

Ye kindreds of the people all

    unto the Lord afford

Glory and mightiness also

    give ye unto the Lord. [Ps. 96:14, 7][9]

Likewise, the Scottish Psalter of 1650 foresees a world redeemed by Christ, renewed by the preaching of the gospel, and rejoicing in God, in its famous version of Psalm 100:

All people that on earth do dwell, 

Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;

Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell, 

Come ye before Him and rejoice.[10]

The greatest means the Lord uses to teach His people to pray for the world is the Word of God. If we want people to be faithful in praying for the spread of the gospel throughout the world, we should fill our worship services with the words of the missionary book. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The practice of singing the Psalms in public and family worship would help turn the church’s inward focus outward to a world that desperately needs to worship the true God.[11]

 

Conclusion: “Walk over the vast ocean”

William Gurnall (1616–1679) asked, “Is there none, O man, that needs the mercy of God besides thyself?” In contemporary language, is there no one else that you want to be saved besides yourself? God gives us permission for our love to begin at home. So pray for your family. After that, consider what is happening in your neighborhood. Then pray for your community. Go on to pray for your nation, but do not stop there. As Gurnall said,

Let thy prayers walk over the vast ocean…. Visit the churches of Christ abroad; yea, the poor Indians and other ruins of mankind that lie where Adam’s sin threw them with us, without any attempt made as yet upon them by the gospel for their recovery, and carry their deplored condition before the Lord. Our Drake is famous for compassing the earth with his ship in a few years; thou mayst by thy prayers every day, and make a more gainful voyage of it too than he did.[12]



[1]. “A Directory for Publique Prayer, Reading the Holy Scriptures, Singing of Psalmes, Preaching of the Word, Administration of the Sacraments, and other parts of the Publique Worship of God, Ordinary and Extraordinary,” in The Westminster Standards: An Original Facsimile(1648; reprint, Audubon, N.J.: Old Paths Publications, 1997), 10.

 

[2]. “The humble Advice of the Assembly of Divines…Concerning a Larger Catechism,” 62, in ibid. 

 

[3].The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston(1853; reprint, Stoke-on-Trent, England: Tentmaker Publications, 2002), 2:57880.

 

[4]. Murray, The Puritan Hope, 99.

 

[5]. See chapter 8 of this book.

 

[6].The Complete Works of the Rev. Matthew Henry(1855; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 2:48–49.

 

[7]. Ibid.

 

[8].The Booke of Psalms, collected into English Meeter, by Thomas Sternhold, Iohn Hopkins, and others: conferred with the Hebrew, with apt Notes to sing them withal(London: for the Company of Stationers, 1628; reprint, Columbus, Ohio: Lazarus Ministry Press, 1998).

 

[9].The Bay Psalm Book(1640; reprint, Bedford: Applewood Books, 2002), 185–86.

 

[10].The Psalms of David in Metre, according to the Version Approved by the Church of Scotland, and Appointed to be Used in Worship (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, n.d.).

 

[11]. For a modern edition of the Psalms for church worship, see The Psalter(Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1999). On the historic practice of Psalm singing, which has largely fallen out of favor in the contemporary church, see Joel R. Beeke and Anthony T. Selvaggio, Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twenty-First Century(Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).

 

[12]. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour(1662–1665; reprint, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 2:524–25. Francis Drake (1540–1596) was an English sea captain who circled the earth 1577–1580.