Christian zeal [is] indeed a flame, but a sweet one; or rather it is the heat and fervor of a sweet flame. For the flame of which it is the heat, is no other than that of divine love.
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 2: Religious Affections, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), 352.
Many churches today are looking less like armies engaged in war and more like people taking a nap. Who among us hasn’t seen this decay? Who cannot see a difference between the ancient church and us? In former days, a fire burned within Christians, but our hearts seldom, if ever, burn within us. Formerly, Christians seemed driven by a holy passion, but now little seems to motivate us. Christians of old were at war with their sin and strove for holiness by heavenly strength, but we seem to tolerate sin rather easily and are satisfied to do the minimum of what God requires of us. 
What has happened? God did not change; the power of salvation did not change; the call to holiness did not change; the threat of the enemy did not change. So why are so many Christians drowsy rather than being on fire for God? John Reynolds (1667–1727) once asked, 
How long shall we lie still under our formal complaints of the decay of Christian piety? How long shall we idly see the retirement of warm religion from the hearts and bosoms of its professors? Are we willing to yield to all the lukewarmness and degeneracy that has overspread us? [Even] the truly pious are dull and heavy in their religion, [and] march on wearily in their appointed race, as if either their Lord had lost His glory or His promise to them; or they [have lost] their faith and hope in Him.... Is it not time to proclaim among the churches, the message of the Mediator sent from heaven to the Church of Laodicea: Be zealous and repent?
—John Reynolds, Zeal a Virtue: Or, A Discourse Concerning Sacred Zeal (London: John Clark, 1716), 1-2.
Like the Laodicean church, too many of us have grown lukewarm. We are not zealous for the things of God. Where today do you find zeal for the honor and glory and holiness of God? Where do you see zeal to cut off the offending hand and pluck out the offending eye? Where is zeal for the advance of Christ’s kingdom, which overcomes all obstacles and perseveres to the end? Our lives are not marked by zeal, nor do they reflect the sacrifices necessary to strengthen and embolden true Christian zeal.
Our time is short, and the world around us pursues sin and selfish ambition with all its might. Will we then be cold for our Lord? Christ’s own example should motivate us. Zeal for His Father so consumed Jesus (John 2:17) that He took every opportunity in public and in private to speak of the salvation which He came to accomplish for His Father. Should we not do likewise? Peter tells us that Christ has left us an example so we might walk in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). If He is aflame with love for souls, with hatred for sin, with compassion for the hurting, with grief for the obstinate, should we not do likewise?  As Reynolds’s asked: 
Did He descend into our mortal flesh, that we should be unconcerned whether we be translated from the world, and go to His glory, or no? Did He abase Himself, and make Himself of no reputation, that we might be made indifferent towards His name and honor? Did He employ thirty years on earth, in an unwearied zeal for His Father’s glory, to excuse us from an emulous ardor [a burning desire to imitate him] in design and love? Did He lay down His life for our salvation, that we may be unconcerned, whether we are saved or no? Did He rise from the dead, and seat Himself in heaven, to excuse us from a solicitude about affairs, that are above, where He sits at the right hand of God? Has He told us of His resolution to return, and judge the world, that we may be secure, and negligent about the issue of that decisive Day? How contradictory to all His love and work is our lukewarmness in His ways? What ingratitude to Him is contained in the bowels of it? What contempt does it pour upon His blood and grace; upon His light and revelation; as if we looked upon them all as unnecessary, impertinent things? Most justly may He say to a lukewarm church, I will spew thee out of my mouth except thou repent.
—Reynolds, Discourse, 209–210.
Where then is your zeal? If you have read the Puritans, you may have noticed that their sermons, prayers, and writings encourage believers to “be zealous and repent,” to “put on zeal as a cloak,” to be “consumed with zeal for the Lord’s House and Name,” and to be “zealous for good works” (Rev. 3:19; Isa. 59:17; Ps. 69:9; John 2:17; Titus 2:14). From their sermons and writings, the series that follows will take a look at their vision for Christian zeal.
The best way to take down an opponent swiftly and decisively is to “go for the jugular.” This common idiom means to attack an enemy at his most vulnerable point and is derived from the fact that animals typically kill their prey by biting the jugular vein in the neck, causing the prey to bleed to death rather quickly. Like a roaring lion, Satan prowls around seeking to devour Christians (1 Peter 5:8). So where do you think Satan will try to attack them so that they will bleed to death?
Faith: The Christian’s Jugular?
The answer is faith. The Christian’s lifeblood is faith. He lives by faith. Puncture it and he will be in dire straits. John Ball in his excellent treatise on faith points out that Satan does all he can to keep the Christian from growing in faith because he knows that “faith is the band whereby we are knit unto Christ; the shield whereby we quench the fiery darts of the Devil, the ground-work of a godly life, and the safe castle of a Christian soul" (Treatise of Faith, 164-165).
The Love of God: Satan's Main Attack
Since saving faith believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word of God (WCF 14.2), there are many places where Satan may attack. But one place that he seems to zero in on is the love of God. This tactical move makes good sense. If we start believing that God is harsh and mean then we will begin to distrust him. If we think that God is waiting to pounce on us for the smallest infraction then we will begin to hate him. If we are convinced that God is out to get us then we will run from him instead of to him. Thomas Manton observed:
It is the grand design of Satan to lessen our opinion of God’s goodness…He seeketh to hide God’s goodness, and to represent him as a God that delighteth in our destruction and damnation, rather than in our salvation; as if he were inexorable, and hardly entreated to do us good. And why? That we may stand aloof from God, and apprehend him as unlovely. Or if he cannot prevail so far, he tempteth us to poor, unworthy, mean thoughts of his goodness and mercy.
Adam & Eve
Satan employed this strategy in the Garden of Eden to great success. He persuaded Adam and Eve that God did not have their best interest in mind and that he was holding them back from reaching their full potential. Despite the abundant evidence of God’s goodness, they believed the lie and rebelled against God by eating the forbidden fruit.
If such a plan could work in a perfect world, you can be sure that it will work in a fallen sin-cursed world where our trials, difficulties and hardships can be used by Satan to make us think that God does not truly love us. Israel is a case in point. The hardships they faced in leaving Egypt, in traveling through the wilderness, and in conquering the inhabitants of the land of Canaan led them to believe that God hated them and wanted to kill them (e.g. Deut. 1:27). And so they rebelled against him by deciding to elect a new leader and return to Egypt (Num. 14:4).
Faith, especially faith in the love and mercy of God, is your spiritual jugular vein. Satan will, therefore, go after it. He will try and convince you that God is after you or that he is fed up with you and that he wants nothing more to do with you. Do not believe his lies! Counteract them by feeding your faith with passages on God’s love for us in Christ Jesus such as Romans 8 or John 3:16. Manton rightly stated that one use of John 3:16 is to confute misapprehensions about the goodness of God “by due reflections on his love in giving his Son for the world.” That God gave his Son for sinners “showeth that he is fuller of mercy and goodness than the sun is of light or the sea of water.” Although there may be many reasons to doubt that God loves us in this sin-cursed world, Jesus overrules them all. He proves that God is full of mercy and goodness. He demonstrates that God is love.
Believe and you will quench the fiery darts of the wicked one (Eph. 6:16).
Welcome to Wednesdays @ Westminster as we exposit and apply the teaching confessed in the Westminster Larger Catechism. First up is a brief introduction.
A Meaty Catechism
When our spiritual forefathers gathered at Westminster Abbey in the mid-1640s to express the Christian faith, they labored to produce a suitable catechism to teach the people. After many dissatisfying efforts, the Assembly ended up agreeing to write two catechisms. George Gillespie reported to the Scottish General Assembly that they wrote a shorter catechism, “to condiscende to the capaities of the common & unlearned” as well as a larger catechism, “for those of understanding.” of which George Gillespie said it was “for those of understanding” [Bower, 11]. This pastoral reality of the people led Samuel Rutherford to say the reason for two catechisms was that it was “very dress up milk and meat both in one dish” [Mitchell, 418]. We still need this pastoral sensitivity to the people in our congregations. We need to be as “wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:16) when it comes to instructing inquirers, new converts, covenant children, young people, those who enter our churches from non-Reformed backgrounds, and those who have been members in our churches for years. The Larger Catechism is meaty, but that meat can also be served in bite-sized portions, as I hope to show in this series.
A Neglected Catechism
Despite the esteem of the Larger Catechism by those who wrote it and approved it, when we as Reformed believers today think of the faith of our Reformed and Puritan forefathers, we most likely think of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We have neglected the Larger Catechism. But it has been this way for quite some time. B. B. Warfield once said it “has taken a somewhat secondary place” [Warfield, 64]. In fact, there is no major commentary on it from the seventeenth century and only one from the eighteenth century—written by Thomas Ridgeley and entitled, A Body of Divinity (1731–1733).
Its neglect is one of the reasons I spent two years in my congregation’s evening service to preach through the doctrines contained in it (see here). If you are a pastor or teacher and have never taught through the Larger Catechism, it is a wonderful experience. The usefulness of it in our time and place cannot be underestimated. As Dr. W. Robert Godfrey once wrote,
Today the churches face a greater educational task than they have for several centuries. Doctrinal ignorance is widespread. Pastors and teachers are often looking for useful, effective study materials. In response to his need the church must reclaim its great educational resources from the past. The Larger Catechism is a neglected tool the church needs today to help believers develop vital and balanced Christian faith and life. [Godfrey, “An Introduction,” xviii]
An Outline of the Catechism
So what does the Larger Catechism teach? It teaches the height and depth, the breadth and length of the Christian faith as revealed in the Word of God. Having read it many times, but only just recently invested serious energy to study it and to present it to my congregation, I have come to see why it has been described as “a mine of fine gold theologically, historically, and spiritually” [Godfrey, “The Westminster Larger Catechism,” 129]. The basic outline of the Catechism is as follows:
Introduction (Q. 1–5)
Doctrine (Q. 6–90)
Duty (Q. 91–196)
As one used to the Heidelberg Catechism and its famous division into guilt, grace, and gratitude, I have found the Larger Catechism’s outline helpful as well. One with a keen historical sense notices right away the typical “Puritan” emphasis in this outline upon doctrine and duty, exposition and application. Our forefathers’ outline reminds us that our preaching and teaching must instruct the head, stir the heart, and move the hands in order for it be truly biblical as well as effective in the lives of our people. I look forward to exploring the details within this meaty, neglected, and helpfully outlined catechism with you in the series to follow.
Works Cited
John R. Bower, The Larger Catechism: A Critical Text and Introduction, Principal Documents of the Westminster Assembly (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).
W. Robert Godfrey, “An Introduction to the Westminster Larger Catechism,” in Johannes G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002).
W. Robert Godfrey, “The Westminster Larger Catechism,” in To Glorify and Enjoy God, ed. John L. Carson and David W. Hall (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994).
Alexander F. Mitchell, The Westminster Assembly: Its History and Standards (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1884).
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, “The Westminster Assembly and Its Work,” in Works, 10 vols. (1932; repr., Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000).
An awesome action pic! As I begin a mini-series on "Puritan Preaching," I want to begin with the image of the Puritan preacher from John Bunyan’s, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). This will serve as an enticing introduction to an approach that remains so relevant in the church today.
But first, I have a confession to make. I once said that I would never get on Facebook. I quickly realized one of the reasons Facebook is so appealing to so many is, well, the “faces.”  We love to look at pictures. I know that I enjoy seeing my friends, how the years have treated them, and how their children are growing. Hey, I like to see my new "friends" and become acquainted with them. 
So what does this have to do with Puritan preaching? I wonder what kind of pic you would share with other of your pastor as a preacher? I do not mean a digital image. The picture of which I speak is not a physical but a spiritual image. Such is portrayed in Bunyan’s classic allegory as he opened up the following scene in the Interpreter’s House involving the main character, Christian:
Christian saw a Picture of a very grave Person hang up against the wall, and this was the fashion of it, It had eyes lift up to Heaven, the best of Books in its hand, the Law of Truth was written upon its lips, the World was behind its back; it stood as if it pleaded with Men, and a crown of Gold did hang over its head.  Then said Christian, What means this?
The painting that the Interpreter as a spiritual guide showed Christian was a depiction of the pastor whose primary task was preaching. He stands before the face of God with his eyes fixed on Christ as he preaches the truth from the best (that’s no cheaply used superlative!) book there is—the Bible. The heart of the matter for him was that set forth by William Perkins in his Puritan manual on preaching, The Art of Prophesying (1592): “Preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ.” He is the sum and substance of, energy behind, and goal for all preaching as revealed in the Word. This preacher focuses not on fads, strategies, demographics, and seeker sensitivity. This does not mean that he ignores his socio-historical context, but that his controlling aim is to preach the Word of God alone.
We also discover that this preacher is a heavenly man living in yet not of the world. He is looking for another abiding city to come. He is not loaded down by the cares of this life and tied up in the stuff he can get from it. He remains a man with a heavenly calling not a earthly job. Using the words of John Piper, this preacher is no “professional.” Knowing the terror of God, he cries out to men, pleading with them about unseen things of eternal importance, of life and death, of heaven and hell. He himself looks to another day and another eternal golden reward that will never fade, something this life and no paycheck can offer. 
As you reflect of this image, does it characterize your pastor? If not, will you not take his image to the Lord for some genuine “photo-shopping”?  How about you preacher?  Do you have an awesome pic to upload?  May the Lord in his grace provide it for you.
Thomas Adams (1583-1652)
Thomas Adams graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1602) and from Clare College, Cambridge (M.A., 1606). Ordained deacon and priest in the Lincoln diocese in 1604, he served as curate of Northill, Bedfordshire from 1605-1611. When his new patron dismissed him, Adams’s parishioners signed a petition stating that he had “behaved himself soberly in his conversation, painfully in his calling, lovingly amongst his neighbors, conformable to the orders of the Church, and in all respects befittingly to his vocation” (J. Maltby, Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England, p. 78). In 1614, he became vicar of Wingrave, Buckinghamshire, and then moved to London in 1619, where he was given the rectories of St. Benet Paul’s Wharf and the small church of St. Benet Sherehog. For his first five years in London, he also held the lectureship of St. Gregory’s, a parish of 3,000. Later on, he preached occasionally at St. Paul’s Cross and Whitehall, and served as chaplain to Henry Montagu, First Earl of Manchester and Chief Justice of the king’s bench.
Adams was more of a Calvinist Episcopalian than a Puritan. He was not opposed to kneeling to receive communion and feared that the abolition of episcopacy advocated by some Puritans would lead to Anabaptism. Nonetheless, he is included here because, “Like Puritans he craved careful observation of the Sabbath and was deeply hostile to Rome, the Jesuits, and the papacy, as well as to idleness, over-indulgence in worldly pleasures, and conspicuous consumption in all its forms” (J. Sears McGee, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 1:261). These things, combined with his eloquent style of writing, led Robert Southey to describe him as “the prose Shakespeare of the Puritan theologians.”
In 1629, Adams organized his sermons into a massive folio, subsequently printed as three volumes in the Nichol’s series reprint: The Complete Works of Thomas Adams. Volume 1 contains his sermons on Old Testament texts, volume 2 contains his sermons on New Testament texts, and volume 3 contains the remaining corpus of New Testament sermons as well as meditations on the Apostles’ Creed and a fifty-page memoir by Joseph Angus. Adams’s sermons have been admired since their first printing; they “placed him beyond all comparison in the van of the preachers of England, and had something to do with shaping John Bunyan…. His numerous works display great learning, classical and patristic, and are unique in their abundance of stories, anecdotes, aphorisms, and puns” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1:181). James I. Packer writes: “His fondness for evangelical allegorizing and verbal pyrotechnics, however, makes his sermons lively rather than weighty. His doctrine is unambiguously Calvinistic, but with a pastoral rather than a speculative or controversial orientation.” (The Encyclopedia of Christianity, ed. Edwin H. Palmer, 1:63).
In 1633, Adams published A Commentary on the Second Epistle General of St. Peter, which was never included in any edition of his works. The work is exegetically reliable and stylistically adept. Much useful theological knowledge is conveyed in striking phrases. Spurgeon commented that this book was “full of quaintness, holy wit, bright thought, and deep instruction; we know of no richer and racier reading.”
Excerpted from Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 11–14.
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Welcome to Meet the Puritans, where the dead still speak (Heb. 11:4).
I'd like to thank all the faithful readers of the old Meet the Puritans site and for the Alliance in having the vision to make it new and improved. We have assembled a great lineup of pastors and scholars whose passion is to bring old truths to a new generation. Let me offer a brief intro to site:
Our purpose is to introduce the theology and piety of the seventeenth century English Puritans in particular and of sixteenth-eighteenth century Reformed orthodoxy in general by means of sharing original research, writing theological and devotional commentary upon the writings of the 16th–18th centuries, and recommending helpful print, audio, and video materials for your study of the Puritans and Reformed theology.
Our audience is threefold: first, Reformed Christians who need to reconnect with their heritage; second, evangelical Christians who need to be introduced to this heritage; and third, the world that needs the answer this heritage gives.
Our goals in doing this are instruction concerning “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8) found in the writings of the 16th–18th centuries so that a new generation would be filled with love for Christ and his historic church so that it might serve him in the world more effectively.

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Rev. Daniel R. Hyde, Editor