In relation to this week's "Meet a Purtian," you can download a 5-part mid-week teaching series I did through William Bates' treatise, The Divinity of the Christian Religion. You can download the audio and .pdf outlines here.

William Bates (1625–1699)
William Bates was one of the most popular and esteemed preachers among the Nonconformists. A master of the Puritan "plain style" of preaching, his stress on piety earned him the name “silver-tongued.” He graduated from Queen’s College with a B.A. in 1645 and a M.A. in 1648. The following year he became vicar of Tottenham, Middlesex, and a few years later succeeded William Strong as vicar of St. Dunstan-in-the West. Like other Puritans, Bates often lectured at the famous morning exercises at Cripplegate Church.
According to Richard Baxter, Bates played a major role in negotiating for the restoration of Charles II. As a reward, he was appointed royal chaplain in 1660. That same year he was appointed as a commissioner for the approbation of ministers by the Rump Parliament and was given a doctorate in divinity from Cambridge University by royal mandate. The following year he represented the Presbyterians as a commissioner at the Savoy Conference, of which one purpose was to review public liturgy. 
In 1662, Bates was one of 2,000 ministers ejected by the Act of Uniformity. Yet he did not take offense. In his farewell sermon to the St. Dunstan’s church, he made no mention of the coming ejections, other than to say rather mildly in his conclusion that his Nonconformity was motivated only by his fear of offending God. He then added, “If it be my unhappiness to be in an error, surely men will have no reason to be angry with me in this world, and I hope God will pardon me in the next” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 4:327). Bates labored for the next ten years in a variety of ways, often with men like Thomas Manton, Edmund Calamy, Richard Baxter, for the inclusion of Nonconformists within the Anglican church and for toleration of other churches. On two occasions, he addressed William III and Mary on behalf of his fellow Nonconformists. After his ejection, Bates often preached in the vicinity of St. Dunstan’s, most commonly at the house of the countess of Exeter and in a room over Temple Bar Gate, beside his old church. From 1669 onward he apparently served as one of the lecturers at a dissenting congregation at Hackney. In 1672, he was licensed as a Presbyterian teacher and was appointed to lecture at Pinner’s Hall (later called the Ancient Merchants lecture). When Daniel Williams was expelled from this lectureship in 1694, Bates surrendered his lectureship as well and founded the Salters Hall lecture, where he drew large crowds. Bates remained a leading Puritan until the end of his life in 1699, often being invited to preach at the funerals of close Puritan friends, including Richard Baxter, Thomas Manton, Thomas Jacomb, and David Clarkson.
The Complete Works of William Bates. Bates’s writings were first collected in a 1700 and in 1815 they were printed in four volumes. All of Bates’s writings convey good scholarship, wide reading, and careful writing. John Howe called Bates a “devourer of books,” and one who yearned to study about God and set forth His love and mercy: “Into what transports of admiration and love of God, have I seen him break forth,” Howe said (Works of Bates, 1:xviii). Bates' works are succinctly written and packed with edifying material. If you are looking for a Puritan who always writes well, is both practical and heavenly, and is never tedious, purchase Bates’s Works.
  • The Harmony of the Attributes of God (1674). His chapters on the mercy of God are some of the finest ever written on this precious subject. Here are four practical inferences Bates draws from reveling in the infinity of divine love:
  1. Redeeming love deserves our highest admiration and most humble acknowledgments.
  2. The love of God discovered in our redemption, is the most powerful persuasive to repentance.
  3. The transcendent love that God hath expressed in our redemption by Christ, should kindle in us a reciprocal affection to him.
  4. What an high provocation is it to despise redeeming mercy, and to defeat that infinite goodness which hath been at such expense for our recovery?” (1:329-340). 
  • The Four Last Things (1691). Some consider this Bates' greatest work. It is a short, poignant treatment on death, judgment, heaven, and hell.


*Free Resource

In 2011 Danny Hyde did a 5-part mid-week teaching through Bates' treatise, The Divinity of the Christian Religion. You can download the audio and .pdf outlines here.

Thanks to our friends at Crossway, we have one (1) copy of J.I. Packer's, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life.

The deadline for entering is three weeks from today, Friday, March 25. The winner will be announced Monday, March 28.

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In our continuing series on the Puritan vision for Christian zeal (part 1, part 2), we now take up how they described its characteristics.
False Zeal
First, they described authentic zeal over against false zeal. Oliver Bowles (d. 1674) exhorted to be diligent that zeal has the right stamp since, “as every [other] grace, so zeal may and often does have its counterfeit” (Zeal for God’s House Quickened, London, 1643, p. 27). John Flavel (1628–1691) warned that an abundance of souls perish in the way because of false zeal (“Pneumatologia: A Treatise of the Soul of Man,” in The Works of John Flavel, repr. 1997, vol. 3:214). False zeal is such a grievous error threatening the church that its danger cannot be underestimated. Jesus teaches us that we can know the nature of a tree by its fruit (Matt. 7:20). So let us consider some of the signs of false zeal.
  1. It is the hypocritical zeal of Jehu who, in 2 Kings 10:16, boasts about seeing the glory of the Lord, but really has his eye on his own gain in the kingdom. It is Demetrius who cries out in praise of Diana but really cares only for her silver idols from which he makes money (Acts 19:23–28). Counterfeit zeal pretends to be pursuing God’s glory while it is really pursuing a selfish end. Just as in these cases we see only the image of faith, so we merely see the show of zeal without its true essence (2 Tim. 3:5).
  2. It is turbulent zeal, which is really bitter envy or jealousy (James 3:14). This zeal is a wildfire that transports men beyond all bounds. It is no longer a good servant but rules as an ill master (Samuel Ward, Sermons, p. 76). Richard Sibbes (1577–1635) wrote, “There is no true zeal to God’s glory but it is joined with true love to men; therefore let men that are violent, injurious, and insolent, never talk of glorifying God so long as they despise poor men.” (The Works of Richard Sibbes, repr. 1984, vol. 7:187).
True Zeal
The heavenly fire of Christian zeal is so different from the strange fires of false zeal that Ward said, “The true zealot, whose fervency is in the spirit, not in show; in substance, not in circumstance; for God, not himself; guided by the word, not with humors [emotions]; tempered with charity, not with bitterness: such a man’s worth cannot be set forth with the tongues of men and of angels” (Sermons, p. 77). True zeal is the divine grace that inclines all affections for God. There are many branches upon which this root bears fruit and many marks that indicate its true nature:
  1. God-centered zeal. Because the author and object of zeal is the living God, the zealous Christian has a fervent love for God and craves His presence. He grieves when God’s name suffers injury and is angry when His honor and cause are obstructed. Titus 2:14 says that Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” William Fenner commented, “Thou cannot possibly be one of God’s people, if thou be not zealous for God” (A Treatise of the Affections, p. 124). Zeal is inseparable from love for God because God is so glorious. Richard Baxter (1615–1691) wrote, “To love God without zeal, is not to love him, because it is not a loving him as God” (“A Christian Directory,” in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, repr. 1990, vol. 1:383)
  2. Biblical zeal. In contrast to the false zeal that Paul refers to in Romans 10:2, sacred zeal is according to knowledge, meaning it is confined by the rules of Scripture. Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) wrote, “Zeal is like a fire: in the chimney it is one of the best servants, but out of the chimney it is one of the worst masters. Zeal kept by knowledge and wisdom, in its proper place, is a choice servant to Christ and saints” (“The Unsearchable Riches of Christ,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, repr. 2001, vol. 3:54–55).
  3. Self-reforming zeal. Brooks said zeal “spends itself and its greatest heat principally upon those things that concern a man’s self” (Works, vol. 3:55). Richard Greenham (c. 1542–1594) said, “For never can that man be zealous to others, which never knew to be zealous to himself” (“Of Zeale,” a sermon on Rev. 3:19, in The Works of that Reverend and Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ M. Richard Greenham, repr. 1973, p. 118).
  4. Active zeal. Having knowledge of God, whom we love, we are zealous in devoting ourselves to the duties required of us in the gospel. We are busy and active, continually involved in holy exploits and executions. Sin deadens the heart to religious operations, for as the apostle says, “when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Rom. 7:21). But, as Brooks notes, “the zealous soul is continually saying to himself, What shall I render to the Lord?” (Works, vol. 3:58–59) The zealous Christian is ready to perform whatever duty God places upon him (William Ames, Conscience With the Power and Cases Thereof, 3.6), whereupon he trusts in the Lord to bring strength out of his weakness. “Christian zeal is not to be confined at home, to our own personal goodness; but has a still wider scope,” John Evans said (“Christian Zeal,” in Practical Discourses, vol. 2:330).
  5. Consistent zeal. The bodies of cold-blooded animals take on the temperature of their environment. Warm-blooded animals have bodies which strive to maintain a steady temperature. The zealous Christian is a warm-blooded creature, resisting both the lethargy of cold-heartedness and the fever of fanaticism. Unlike that blind fury that caused Nebuchadnezzar to heat a furnace seven times hotter than normal, the zealous believer is not to be hot by fits, nor start out hot only to end up cold (Gal. 3:3), but must keep a continual temperature from beginning to end (Heb. 3:14). (Ames, Conscience, 3.6; Greenham, p. 116). John Reynolds quipped, “It may meet with storms, and stones, and stumbling blocks in its way; but its design and temper is to hold on, and march through all to the end” (Zeal a Virtue, p. 67)
  6. Sweet and gentle zeal. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) said that we must learn what it means to be a bold warrior for God from the Captain of all God’s armies: Jesus Christ. Christ boldly spoke against sin, hypocrisy, and false teaching. Yet, Edwards reminded us, when Christ was surrounded by enemies like “roaring lions,” He showed his strength “not in the exercise of any fiery passions; not in fierce and violence speeches,” but in “patience, meekness, love, and forgiveness.” (Edwards, Works, vol. 2:351) 
These are the ways to discern between false zeal and the holy zeal that the Holy Spirit ignites in our hearts for the things of God. We must be on guard to notice the difference. What makes counterfeit money dangerous is its close likeness to real money; only a trained eye can distinguish the authentic from a superior counterfeit. Likewise, counterfeit zeal closely resembles true spiritual zeal. We must have a discerning eye to determine what is false from what is real.
Understanding the relationship between believers and the promises of salvation is not too difficult. The same cannot be said, however, with respect to the many warnings found throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. Do the curses, threatenings, and warnings apply to Christians or not? If so, how do they apply? Is it really possible for a Christian to take the threatenings of damnation seriously in light of Romans 8:1? May a Christian be assured of his salvation and at the same time tremble at the warnings of apostasy? Once again I will turn to John Ball for help in navigating the way through this challenging issue (Treatise of Faith, 64-66, 421-425).
Ball notes that we must believe the veracity of the warnings because they are part of Scripture. Even as we believe the promises of salvation because they come from God speaking in Scripture so we are to believe the threatenings. Furthermore, Christians don’t just believe that the warnings are true for unbelievers. They are to believe that they are true for them too because all Scripture, including the warnings, were written for their learning and instruction (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6). This means that a Christian who is sure of his salvation due to God’s promise, also knows for certain that “he should be damned, if he should go on in sin without repentance, and shall taste of much bitterness, if he grow indulgent to his corruptions.”
Since by true or saving faith a Christian “acts” upon “whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein (Westminster Confession of Faith 14.2),” it is appropriate to inquire about the “acts” of faith with respect to the threatenings. In other words, how should or rather how will the warnings impact us if we truly believe them? Ball mentions five acts of faith, all of which are worthy of further study (see pp. 423-425). I would like, however, to focus on the most obvious fact that we will “tremble at the threatenings (WCF 14.2),” and so be careful to pursue holiness. True faith, says John Ball, “worketh an holy fear and reverent awe of God in respect of his judgments.” “The threatenings are strong bridles to keep from naughtiness,” and the godly man believes them “to prevent falling into sin, and so into condemnation.”
Not everyone, however, agrees with the sanctifying use of the threatenings. There are some people who have argued that fear of punishment is not a sound motivation to Christian holiness. There is a plausibility to this position because the Bible also says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). What have Christians to fear if they are no longer condemned? Ball answers by noting that this argument only applies to final damnation. A justified Christian may experience fatherly correction in the form of temporal threats and punishments. He, therefore, ought to be motivated to holiness by fear of temporal punishments. But a justified Christian who is assured of his salvation in Christ Jesus ought also to have a healthy fear of the warnings against apostasy and thus final damnation. As Ball notes, it is possible to fear that which you are “infallibly assured to escape.” “The godly man’s assurance of God’s favour will stand well with reverence of his Majesty and fear of…the torments of Hell.” This is so in part because God’s sovereignty in salvation does not diminish our responsibility. We still need to persevere to the end in order to inherit the promises. And so the fear we have is not a “distrustful” fear that we will fall away and be damned but “a watchful fear of shunning and shrinking all means leading thereunto.” We fear “the torments of Hell, not as an evil [we] shall fall into, but which [we] shall escape by the constant study and practice of holiness.”
One last but by no means unimportant point on this issue. The warnings should never be considered apart from the promises, and vice versa. The two need to be mingled together and served together in order “to keep the heart in the best temper.” On the one hand, we will “grow overbold with God” if the threats do not make us tremble. On other hand, we will soon be “dejected” if the promises do not uphold us. Christians who continue to wrestle with sin require the sweetness of the promises and the tartness of the warnings to run with endurance the race that is set before them. As Ball says, “sour and sweet make the best sauce.”
If I asked you the name of Noah’s wife, would you answer, "Joan of Ark?" Sadly, many would today. The level of biblical illiteracy today among the professing Christian church is sad. Recently arch-atheist Richard Dawkins commissioned his foundation to survey those who claimed to be Christian in the 2011 census in England. One of his questions was which was the first book in the New Testament. Only 35% chose Matthew while 39% chose “Don’t know.” We often shudder at the so-called one thousand year old “Dark Ages,” but is it any different today? When the prophet Amos said the Lord was sending a famine he said it was not of bread or water “but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). One wonders if he didn’t foresee our day.
This is why Q&A 5 of the Westminster Larger Catechism is so vital. It is short but sweet:
What do the Scriptures principally teach?
The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
Note well that adverb, “principally.” The divines drew from their academic theological vocabulary and the concept of principia. These are fundamental principles. In Reformed Scholasticism there were two principia theologiae (foundational principles of theology): Scripture and God. But what are the foundational themes of Scripture? What we are to believe (Q&A 6–90) and what we are to be (Q&A 91–196). In other words, faith and obedience, grace and gratitude, gospel and law, theology and practice.
There are so many things found in the Bible and each of those details can consume us until eternity. But in order to give us the panoramic view of Scripture, the Catechism divides up the Word in a helpful summary. In his final epistle, Paul exhorted Timothy to follow (2 Tim. 1:13) and to guard (2 Tim. 1:14) “the pattern of sound words you have heard from me.” And Timothy was to do so “in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
What We Are to Believe
What’s in the Bible? First, what we are to believe. Hebrews 11:6 states this point so well, when it says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seeks him.” In terms of what we are to believe, the Bible proclaims that we must believe that God is and that God rewards those who seek him.
We are to believe God exists. Recall what Q&A 2 has already said. There are three reasons we believe in God: creation, conscience, and the canon. These evidences are used by the Holy Spirit to lead us to a certain faith in God. Believing in God leads us to believe he is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Gen. 1:1). As those created, we also recognize that something is terribly wrong with us, and the world God created. That something is sin. And our sins cause in us the sense that God is also the Judge (Gen. 3). His perfect justice means that we are distant from him, that we are separated from him who is our life.
This is why we are also to believe God rewards those who seek him. But how can we seek him in our sinful state and how can we expect God to reward us? The answer is that God is not only Creator, Sustainer, and Judge, but that he is also Redeemer. He graciously draws us into his reward, which is a repaired covenantally intimate relationship with him. He does this by the power of the Holy Spirit who leads us to Jesus Christ who leads us to the Father (Eph. 2:18).
What We Are to Be
What’s in the Bible? Second, what we are to be. What we believe about God causes us to be a certain way for God. When we read the Bible we learn about “what duty God requires of man.” This “duty” is in no way to be understood as an overly legal way of conceiving of the Christian life. Because of what Jesus has done for us both to justify and to sanctify us (Rom. 5–6), we willingly submit to this duty. Because of what we believe about God we understand what we are to be because we have been liberated from being “slaves of sin” to being “slaves of obedience” (Rom. 6:16), to being “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18), and to being “slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22). In the words of the Book of Common Prayer, we are now obedient to the God “whose service is perfect freedom.”
What are we to be as slaves? What is our service? It is a loving obedience to God as outlined by the Ten Commandments (Q&A 91–153). We are to love God above all else and love our neighbor with an equal love as we love ourselves. It is also diligent use of God’s outward and ordinary means of grace. We are to have a jealous devotion to the Word of God (Q&A 154–160). We are to have a thankful reception of the sacraments (Q&A 161–177). And we are to be committed to offering up our desires to God in prayer (Q&A 178–196).
The Bible is a big book, but we need not remain in the dark as to what is in it. Take it up and read, always asking yourself two questions: “What does this passage say about what I am to believe? What does this passage say about what I am to be?”
Imagine your pastor announcing from the pulpit, “I want you to know that I regard myself as a prophet.” Don’t you think this would raise a few eyebrows? In this third of five parts on Puritan preaching (part 1, part 2), I will discuss lessons on preaching from a book in which William Perkins refers to preachers as “prophets.” Perkins, a converted drunk, became one of the most famous Puritans ever through his teaching at Christ’s College Cambridge. He did much to further the cause of preaching among Puritans through his book, The Art of Prophesying (Latin, 1592; English, 1606).
In his Preface, he tells us that preaching gets its value from its role in gathering the church and driving away “wolves from the folds of the Lord.” It remains so important that Perkins calls it the most excellent of the spiritual gifts (see 1 Cor. 12:31). “Preaching the Word,” he argues, “is prophesying in the name and on behalf of Christ.” Thus, the preacher speaks to the people on behalf of God. This goes hand-in-hand with prayer, in which the pastor speaks to God on behalf of the people. Preaching does not give some new truth but simply opens up what God has already revealed in the Word. In this way, preaching the Bible possesses “power to penetrate into the spirit of man” and so the “ability to bind the conscience.”
As the book unfolds, Perkins proposes a contextual, prayerful, and devotional interpretation of the Bible, which emphasizes letting Scripture interpret Scripture. Our interpretation leads to dividing the passage (see 2 Tim. 2:15) “into its various doctrines,” which must always come right from the passage. We then must apply these teachings as “uses” or “ways which are appropriate” to contemporary hearers. In this book, then, Perkins sets forth the standard Puritan approach to preaching as explaining the text, setting forth the doctrine, and applying the truth.
In connection with his tendencies towards preparationism (for more on this, see here), yet helpfully reminding us that not all hearers are the same, Perkins tells us to apply the text according to the different people present:
  1. Ignorant and unteachable unbelievers we should challenge;
  2. Teachable but ignorant unbelievers we can instruct;
  3. Knowledgeable but impenitent unbelievers we need to stir to repentance;
  4. Soundly or superficially humbled hearers to whom we can apply the balm of the gospel;
  5. Believers we can teach the fullnes of the gospel and the law  as a guide for new obedience;
  6. The backslidden in faith and life we must motivate to new faith and obedience;
  7. The mixed congregation we may teach any doctrine from the law or gospel, so long as we do so from the text.

Preachers today should note well the attention we need to give in reflecting on the different hearers to whom they minister.

Much more could be said, but I will focus on just a few items including Perkins’s counsel against laborious and anxiety-inducing word-for-word memorization of sermon manuscripts and support for “hiding . . . human wisdom” and seeking the “manifestation of the Spirit.” So, prepare well, but remember that preaching is a live experience that becomes effectual only through the work of  the Spirit. Contrary to what some may think, we must make room for some in-the-pulpit edits and “off-the-cuff” comments. Perkins also expressed aversion for specialized vocabulary, languages, and expressions, which distract hearers and hinder understanding. So, as my Greek teacher used to say, “Gentlemen, study the Greek but keep it out of the pulpit.” Perkins also pushes for gracious (not harsh) speech that manifests a loving concern for hearers. We may have some strong things to say, but they must be said without abusing people. In what we have discussed, II hope that you will agree that this book remains very relevant today.
William Ames (1576-1633)
William Ames was born in 1576 at Ipswich, Suffolk, then a center of the robust Puritanism. Ames’s father was a well-to-do merchant with Puritan sympathies; his mother was related to families that would help to found Plymouth Plantation. Since both parents died when he was young, he was reared by his maternal uncle, Robert Snelling, a Puritan from nearby Boxford.
Ames’s uncle sent him in 1594 to Christ’s College, Cambridge University. He graduated with a B.A. in 1598 and in 1601 with a M.A., after which, was elected Fellow at Christ’s College and ordained to the ministry. He underwent a dramatic conversion under the “rousing preaching” of William Perkins. Following his spiritual transformation, Ames declared that “a man may be bonus ethicus—a moral person in outward religion—and yet not bonus theologus—a sincere-hearted Christian (Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies, 1:131).
Ames quickly became the moral compass and conscience of the College. But this was short-lived. King James’s edict at the 1604 Hampton Court Conference strengthened the conviction that any Puritan activity at the colleges that involved criticism of the Church of England must be suppressed. Puritan spokesmen were soon stripped of their degrees and dismissed. The process culminated in 1609 with the appointment of Valentine Cary, who hated Puritanism, to the mastership rather than William Ames. On December 21, 1609, when Ames preached a stinging sermon on St. Thomas’s Day—an annual festivity at Cambridge which had become increasingly raucous over the years—and denounced gambling, administering the “salutary vinegar of reproof,” the college authorities had him taken into custody and suspended him from his academic degrees and ecclesiastical duties. After a brief period as city lecturer in Colchester, Ames was forbidden to preach by George Abbott, Bishop of London. In 1610, Ames decided to seek the freer academic and ecclesiastical climate of the Netherlands where he remained for the rest of his life.
Ames first went to Rotterdam where he met John Robinson, pastor of the English Separatist congregation. Some of the congregation’s members were soon to establish Plymouth Plantation. Ames could not persuade Robinson to abandon his Separatist sentiments that the Puritan churches should separate “root and branch” from the Church of England, but did succeed in tempering some of his more radical views. Following a brief stay in Rotterdam and Leiden, Ames was employed from 1611 to 1619 by Sir Horace Vere, commander of English forces stationed at The Hague, to serve as military chaplain. Here Ames presided over a small congregation, acted as spiritual counselor to the Vere family, ministered to the troops during military campaigns, and wrote four books against Arminianism. Ames’s skill as a theologian won him considerable acclaims as the “Augustine of Holland” and “the hammer of the Arminians” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 1:943). Eventually, the Arminian issue was addressed at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619). Because of his expertise in addressing issues of the Arminian struggle, Ames, while a non-voting member of the synod, was called to be chief theological advisor and secretary to Johannes Bogerman, the presiding officer. An anti-Arminian purge in academic circles left a professorship vacated at Leiden University. Ames was elected to fill the chair, but the long arm of the English state prevailed. Ames, recently dismissed from his post in The Hague under pressure from the English authorities, found the post at Leiden University closed to him as well. To support his family, Ames turned to private lecturing and tutoring university students for three years, running a private “house college” at Leiden, where students lived in Ames’s home as he taught them theology. He later developed some of these lectures into his famous Marrow of Theology
In 1622, officials at relatively new institution, Franeker University, ignored the English authorities and appointed Ames as professor of theology. On May 7, 1622, Ames gave his inaugural address. Four days later he received the Doctor of Theology degree upon successfully defending 38 theses and four corollaries on “the nature, theory, and practical working of Conscience” before Sibrandus Lubbertus, senior professor on the faculty. In 1626, he was appointed Rector Magnificus, the highest honorary academic office in the university. During his eleven-year tenure at Franeker, Ames became known as the “Learned Doctor” who tried to “puritanize” the entire university. Ames acknowledged the university was orthodox in doctrine, but did not feel that a majority of the faculty and student body were sufficiently Reformed in practice. Therefore, Ames once again organized a kind of rooming house or “college” in his house within the university where tutorial sessions, lectures, and numerous theological discussions took place. Students came from all over Europe to study under him with his most famous pupil being Johannes Cocceius, who would later develop covenant theology beyond Ames. Yet some students and faculty members did not appreciate Ames’s efforts to achieve further reformation. A clique of professors, led by Johannes Maccovius, sabotaged Ames’s efforts.
In 1632, Ames accepted an invitation from his friend Hugh Peter to join him in co-pastoring the church of English refugees at Rotterdam. Ames was attracted to the post because of Peter’s vision of a covenant-centered congregation that strove for a purged membership of regenerate believers who truly practiced their faith. He was desired to help the church develop a Puritan college in Rotterdam. In late summer, 1633, Ames finally headed south to Rotterdam. In the fall, the Maas River breached its banks, and Ames, already unwell, became even more ill after his house was flooded. He died of pneumonia on November 11 at the age of fifty-seven in the arms of Hugh Peter. To the end, he remained firm in faith and triumphant in hope. Shortly before his death, Ames seriously considered joining his friend John Winthrop in New England. Four years after Ames’s death, his wife and children went to live in the Puritan settlement of Salem, Massachusetts. They brought Ames’s library with them, which formed the nucleus of the original library for Harvard College, though fire later destroyed most of the books.
Ames’s influence was perhaps greatest in New England, where his Marrow became the primary text at Harvard and was often and read and quoted throughout the colonies. Then, too, his writings on church issues laid the groundwork for non-separating Congregationalism in New England, a movement that maintained that the Congregational churches of Massachusetts Bay Colony ought to support the further reformation of the Church of England rather than separation from it. The Cambridge Platform of 1648 in particular reflects Ames’s thought. Cotton Mather called Ames “that profound, that sublime, that subtle, that irrefragable—yea, that angelic doctor.” Ames’s influence was also great in the Netherlands, where he became known for his opposition to Arminianism. He influenced Dutch thinking in many ways, especially in his development of casuistry, that is, how to deal with specific “cases of conscience.” Gisbertus Voetius, professor at Utrecht, was profoundly influenced by Ames’s ideas. Petrus van Mastricht also drew heavily on Ames, particularly his covenantal thinking and casuistry. Nearly all of Ames’s books were printed in the Netherlands, many in Latin for the international scholarly community. The Marrow of Theology and Conscience with the Power and Cases Thereof were soon both translated into Dutch and reprinted at least four times in the seventeenth century. Ironically, Ames was least influential in his homeland of England, although there, too, he was considered Perkins’s most important disciple and heir. Ames’s major works were widely circulated, and influenced Calvinistic theology in England throughout the seventeenth century. His Marrow was particularly highly esteemed by the Puritans. Thomas Goodwin said that “next to the Bible, he esteemed Dr. Ames, his Marrow of Divinity, as the best book in the world.”
Conscience, with the Power and Cases Thereof (Latin, 1630; English, 1639). Harvard historian Samuel Morrison describes this important manual as “one of the most valuable sources of Puritan morality.” It passed through nearly twenty printings in less than thirty years. Ames mentions in the preface how he listened to William Perkins expound the Puritan way of handling cases of conscience, which profoundly impacted him, and directed the course of his life and ministry. Conscience naturally flows from and serves as a commentary, as it were, on Book 2 of the Marrow. Ames himself stated as much: “If there are some who desire to have practical matters better explained, especially those of the latter part of this Marrow, we shall attempt, God willing, to satisfy them in a special treatise, which I mean to write, dealing with questions usually called ‘cases of conscience.’” A collection of five books, Conscience moves from a theoretical treatment of the nature of conscience to very practical applications. Richard Baxter, who built his own Christian Directory on Ames’s casuistry, said that Perkins did valuable service in promoting Reformed casuistry, but Ames’s work, though briefer, was superior: “Ames hath exceeded all.”
  • Book 1 defines conscience as “a man’s judgment of himself, according to the judgment of God of him.”
  • Book 2 describes what a case of conscience is: “a practical question, concerning which, the Conscience may make a doubt.” This section explains sin, entry into the state of grace, the ongoing battle between flesh and spirit, and conduct in the Christian life.
  • Book 3 is titled, “Of Man’s Duty in General,” asks about “the actions, and conversation of [man’s] life.” Ames says the sign of true obedience is submissively placing God’s will ahead of the will of the creature, even when that will does not appear to work towards the creature’s advantage. This is accomplished by exercising the disciplines of an obedient life—humility, sincerity, zeal, peace, virtue, prudence, patience, temperance—and by avoiding practices that hinder an obedient walk, such as drunkenness, sins of the heart, and sins of the tongue.
  • Books 4 and 5 ask how cases of conscience are to be adjudicated. The answer is by proper understanding and application of the moral law. Ames goes on to elucidate the moral law regarding one’s duty toward God and one’s neighbor. Man’s duty to God covers the entire spectrum of the obedient Christian walk, from love towards God in public and private worship to the keeping of the Sabbath. Ames discusses general topics such as the church, but he also covers specific topics such as prayer and singing. He properly prepares the reader for Book 5 on interpersonal relations by first settling any uncertainty the believer may have about his relationship to God. Book 5 is twice as long as book 4 as Ames discusses cases of conscience that might come up in interpersonal relationships. He grounds all his teaching in the last six of the Ten Commandments.
The Marrow of Theology (Latin, 1627) was the standard theological textbook for New England Puritans for over a hundred years. It was generally regarded as the best succinct summary of Calvinistic theology ever written. Thomas Hooker and Increase Mather recommended the Marrow as the most important book beyond the Bible for making a sound theologian. Mather said it was the only book other than the Bible that was a necessary prerequisite to entering the ministry. Ames’s work was replaced eventually by Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology and Charles Hodges’s Systematic TheologyThe theology of this book is all about practical Christianity—a Christianity of the whole man, not just the intellect, will, or affections. It demonstrates Ames’s passion that thought and life should represent a single system of practical, vital Christianity. Ames tried to show that theology does not deal primarily with statements about God, but rather with knowledge of how to live to God, i.e., “in accord with the will of God.” Ames held to the primacy of volition. Faith involves “an act of the whole man—which is by no means a mere act of the intellect,” he wrote, but the act of the will in believing the gospel is that which, by the Spirit’s grace, makes knowledge saving. Saving knowledge, therefore, differs from mere knowledge by involving the wholehearted commitment of the will. Ames writes, “Although faith always presupposes a knowledge of the gospel, there is nevertheless no saving knowledge in anyone ...except the knowledge which follows this act of the will and depends upon it” (1.1.3-4). By focusing on the will as the center of faith, Ames wanted to demonstrate that true piety takes place in a covenant relationship between the sinful creature and the redeeming Creator. Faith as an act of the will is a true mark of covenant obedience as the creature is asked to respond with faith and obedience to the covenant promises offered freely in Christ. Covenant theology is the heart of Ames’s theological system. The Marrow is organized according to the Ramist system of dichotomies in which the theme is pursued that theology, the doctrine of living to God, consists of “faith” (Book 1, chapters 1-41) and “observance” (Book 2, chapters 1-22). Such works flow from and add life and meaning to faith. Those two major categories—faith and observance—comprise the fountainhead from which Ames’s entire theological system flows. 
  • Book 1 defines faith as “the resting of the heart on God” and sets forth faith as an act of the whole man. Ames discusses the object of faith, which is God. Following his teaching on the knowledge and essence of God (Book 1, chapters 4-5; hereafter, 1.4, 5), Ames sets forth God’s “efficiency,” which he defines as the “working power of God by which He works all things in all things (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 11:36)” (1.6). He then discusses God’s decree as the first exercise of God’s efficiency (1.7). He establishes that everything happens because of God’s eternal good pleasure as demonstrated in His creation and providence (1.8, 9). God’s preserving grace extends over the created order, while the special government that God exercises toward humanity, the “intelligent creature,” is the covenant of works (1.10). By violating this conditional covenant, humanity tragically fell into sin. That fall had serious and eternal consequences, including spiritual and physical death and the propagation of original sin (1.11-17). But there is still hope. Condemnation is overturned by restorative grace through redemption. Through the person and work of Christ, fallen humanity can have renewed fellowship with God. All of this happens solely for God’s good pleasure and out of His “merciful purpose” (1.18-23).  In chapter 24, titled “The Application of Christ,” Ames’s covenant theology becomes more obvious. The means through which the covenant of redemption between God and Christ comes to fruition is the covenant of grace, which the Scriptures call the “new covenant.” In other words, the “application of Christ” is administered covenantally. After explaining how the new covenant differs from the old, Ames asserts that the essence of the covenant of grace continues through different historical dispensations until, finally, in the last day, believers will be swept up into glory, and the covenant of grace inaugurated at the fall will finally be consummated. Ames places the doctrine of predestination as part of the doctrine of assurance (1.25). For Ames, assuring grace belongs with his examination of the order of salvation, before moving through “union by calling,” justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification (1.26-30). Ames then devotes two chapters to the subject of the application of redemption, the church (1.31-32), then addresses the way or means of the application of redemption, devoting chapters to Holy Scripture (1.34), the ministry (1.33, 35), the sacraments (1.36, 41), and ecclesiastical discipline (1.37). Finally, Ames explains how God administers the covenant of grace (1.38, 39, 41). 
  • Book 2 offers the observance or obedience that accompanies faith. Obedience is accomplished through virtue and good works, and is manifested in religion (love to God) as well as justice and charity (love to neighbor). Here Ames explains how the first table of the law and its theological virtues are the foundation of religion and worship of God, while the second table of the law and its charitable virtues constitute the paradigm for interpersonal behavior. This blueprint for the Christian life is expressed by acting toward God and each other as the Ten Commandments prescribe (2.1-22). Ames worked out Book 2 in detail in his Conscience.
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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This Monday, February 29, is your final opportunity to download a free .pdf of "The Character of an Old English Puritan" by John Geree. This is a classic text in modernized English, footnotes, and an "Introduction" by Daniel R. Hyde.

Last time I encouraged you (especially my fellow Anglicans!) to join me in reading the Puritan Paperback, Sermons of the Great Ejection. This title is a collection of nine sermons recalls one of the great turning points in English Christianity—when approximately two thousand ministers were deposed from the established Church in what was called “The Great Ejection.” These men were unable for the sake of their conscience to conform to a series of Restoration Parliament laws of The Clarendon Code.
The first sermon in this collection is one preached by Edmund Calamy on December 28, 1662, three months after the new laws took affect. Calamy rejected the doctrine of church government known as episcopacy as he believed a heirarchy of superior ministerial offices lacked biblical foundation. Because of his understanding of the equality of bishops with presbyters, he was a member of the network of like-minded men who were labelled “presbyterian” and was a member of the Westminster Assembly.
As a testimony to Calamy’s integrity, he was one of a number of Church of England clergy that opposed the execution of King Charles I and was one of the ones who took the initiative to invite his son, Charles II, to return to England after the death of Oliver Cromwell. He turned down several bishoprics and had hoped of a settlement and attended the Savoy Conference in 1661. His hopes were dashed at the result and he was duly ejected the following year. He continued to attend his old parish church of St. Mary’s Aldermansbury in London where he ministered as parish priest for 23 years. The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Devestated at its loss, elderly and in frail health, he died soon after and was buried in the ruins of the church near where the pulpit stood.
Calamy was already deposed and sitting as a member of the congregation when he was asked to preach because the scheduled minister did not arrive. Preaching unprepared from 1 Samuel 4:13, he was later arrested for preaching, then ordered released by the King after a riot broke out when word of his jailing spread.
The sermon follows the pattern of the majority of Puritan sermons of the period. The text is analysed so that the plain and simple meaning is clear to the congregation. The biblical doctrines that are either clearly stated in the text of may be deduced from the text are then explained. The sermon concludes with a series of “usuages” or what we would understand as the application of the scriptural principles to the congregation.
What is impressive in Calamy’s exegesis and doctrinal analysis is the depth of his understanding of God’s providence. He sees the work of God in a nuanced way that brings judgment upon unbelief and sanctifying trial to believers who have trusted in Christ. They cannot be separated. Calamy speaks to us today in his call to us from God’s Word that we must strive to holiness in the face national trouble.
He is concerned that they do not abandon their gathering together under God’s ministry, nor try to usurp the proper place of preaching through the Lord's called ministers. He calls the congregation to a more faithful trust in what God is doing in their lives by exhorting them to not look to the politics of their time or to lament the failure of their duty to the gospel in past generations, but to study in God’s Word and to devote more time to prayer and holiness of life so that they may trust our heavenly Father ever more deeply in what were testing times.
This is the great temptation, isn’t it? It is the temptation to consider that our heavenly Father is not to be trusted.