We all have some idea of what zeal is, for to a certain degree we are all zealots. The question is not whether we are zealous but what we are zealous for. Zeal runs in our veins for what we love and against what we hate. We so passionately love some things, such as family, careers, and houses, that we are willing to make considerable sacrifices for them. Conversely, we hate oppression, a bad political decision, or gross injustice. Zeal is a two-way street. 
 
But the Christian isn’t simply called to generic zeal. What is missing today in churches is godly or sacred zeal. William Fenner (1600–1640) wrote, “Zeal is the fire of the soul…Every man and woman in the world is set on fire of hell or of heaven…Zeal is the running of the soul. If thou be not zealous for God, thou runnest away after the things of this world.” (A Treatise of the Affections [London: A. M. for J. Rothwell, 1650], 132–133). John Reynolds defined this zeal as “an earnest desire and concern for all things pertaining to the glory of God and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus among men.” (Zeal a Virtue: Or, A Discourse Concerning Sacred Zeal [London: John Clark, 1716], 18) You see, zeal is not just one characteristic or attribute. Rather, as Samuel Ward (1577–1640) said, zeal is like varnish, which does not add color but gives gloss and luster to whatever it is applied to. (Sermons and Treatises [1636; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1996], 72.) Fenner wrote, “Zeal is a high strain of all the affections, whereby the heart puts forth all its affections with might.” (A Treatise of the Affections, 118). Ward wrote, “In plain English, zeal is nothing but heat…. It is a spiritual heat wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Ghost, improving the good affections of love, joy, hope, etc., for the best service and furtherance of God’s glory.” (Sermons, 72). Think of zeal as a flame that brings a pot to a boil—it brings our affections for God’s cause to a boil. It enlivens and compels, stirs and empowers, directs and governs us as it sets our affections ablaze for the glory of God and the good of His church. Think of zeal as something that involves every duty and affection in the Christian life. 
 
This is the type of zeal that is lacking in our churches and hearts today. We may occasionally be zealous, but far too many men, women, and children do not have hearts ablaze for the glory of God. Given the lukewarm temperature of the church today, we could safely assume that most Christians have decided that holy zeal is not necessary. Friends, are you as zealous about God’s glory as you are about your reputation? Are you as zealous about church as you are about playing or watching sports? Are you as zealous about communing with the Holy Trinity as you are about talking to your friends? Are you as zealous about spiritual fitness as you are about physical fitness? Are you as zealous about reading and meditating on sacred Scripture as you are about watching a two-hour movie? Christopher Love (1618–1651) said many people “pant after the dust of the earth” (Amos 2:7): they are so eager in their pursuit of the world that they almost run out of breath (Ps. 59:6). By contrast, our attitude toward the things of eternity is more like Stoics without passion. We are “as hot as fire for earth and as cold as any ice for heaven,” Love said. “Oh, how many pant after the earth who have no breathing after heaven!” We are zealous about many things but not for the things of God.
 
 
Several years ago a controversy erupted concerning the doctrine of sanctification. One of the key participants emphasized that Christian obedience is “faith-fueled.” This important point, of course, was not in itself controversial and was wholeheartedly affirmed by everyone involved as far as I know. Christians run the race that God sets before them by faith. Faith is the foundation of obedience. Hebrews 11 makes that quite clear. The kind of faith that fuels obedience, however, is all-encompassing. It is not enough to believe in Christ for our justification. We also need to trust in Christ for our sanctification as John Ball (1585-1640) helpfully pointed out in his book on faith (Treatise of Faith, pp. 237-248).
 
Take for example a man whose marriage is in trouble. He knows that God commands him to love his wife but he is at his breaking point. He doesn’t think he can go on. How will he, on the one hand avoid an unbiblical divorce, and on the other hand, follow the Lord by learning to love his wife? According to Ball, at least part of the answer is by believing that God will enable him to love his wife. For as Ball perceptively observes, “If Christians be not persuaded that God will mortify their corrupt affections, and build them forward in holiness, they shall very much stagger, coldly set upon the practice of Christianity, be off and on, unstayed, often fainting at the difficulty of the work, dismayed at their manifold flips, strong corruptions, and little prevailings against them.” But on the other hand, if they are convinced that God will sanctify them and if they are “assured of victory from God in the end,” then they will be encouraged “to go about the practice of mortification with much readiness” and to “fight manfully against his lusts, and continue in the combat against them.” 
 
Doubt concerning the sanctifying power of God is a spiritual killer. If a marathon runner doubts he will be able to make it to the finish line then there is a good chance he will quit the race when it is hard. Likewise, if a Christian husband doubts he can love his wife, then there is a good chance that he will eventually give up trying. Faith in Christ for sanctification needs to kick into high gear when running the Christian race is hard. Christians need to believe that they are able to obey the Lord in order to obey the Lord.
 
Why should Christians believe that they can obey the Lord? John Ball provided a number of reasons:
  • First, the promises of salvation from sin include deliverance from “the power of sinne.”
  • Second, God promises in the covenant of grace to give his people a new heart and to put his Spirit within them so that they might be able to keep his commandments.
  • Third, Christ by his blood has purchased for his people “all spiritual blessings in heavenly things even all things that pertaine…to live godly in this present world.”
  • Fourth, God commands us to obey and “in the covenant of Grace, God giveth what he requireth.” Since God has promised sanctification, Christ has purchased sanctification, and God gives what he requires, the Christian has a right, even a duty, to believe that God will work in him and enable him to obey. In fact, “it is necessary a Christian should believe” because justification and sanctification go hand in hand. “If by communion in his death, we be delivered from the curse and malediction of the Law; by the power of his Resurrection, we are raised up to live unto God.”  
Christians are therefore able to obey the Lord Jesus. That is why the phrases “I can’t” and “that’s impossible” do not belong on a Christian’s lips. As Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) said in his sermon on Colossians 3:1, "The Power of Christ's Resurrection":
Therefore let none say, he cannot…unless thou wilt deny thyself to be a Christian at the same time. He that will be a Christian must pretend no impossibilities herein. Art thou risen with Christ? Then thou hast power to seek those things that are above, to be heavenly minded. A Christian or no Christian! God doth not as Pharaoh, bid us do our work, and we must gather straw ourselves; but he bids us do, and quickens us by his Spirit, and enables us to do. He fits us for such actions; he gives us power to do them. (Works 5:200).
So the next time you find it hard to obey the Lord, believe. Even as you believe in Christ for justification so believe in him for your sanctification.
"Can I know God exists?" This is what militant atheism of the Richard Dawkins stripe has stridently sought to convince us the answer is "No!" For a god they deny exists they sure do spend a lot of time talking about him! As we continue through the Westminster Larger Catechism, question and answer 2 gives us an answer:
How doth it appear that there is a God?
The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.
We exist to glorify and enjoy God. But that begs the question of whether there are reasons for belief in a god in the first place. There are three offered in Q&A 2: the light of conscience, the light of creation, and the light of the canon.
 
Let me say a word about using the so-called proofs for God’s existence. They serve a twofold purpose. First, they are meant to bolster our own faith. We believe in order to understand, as ancient Christians used to say. We believe God exists and then we come to know that truth more and more over the course of our lives. Second, the proofs can certainly be used in witnessing to unbelievers, but in doing so, our expectation should be that they can only show that our faith is reasonable; they should not be expected to “prove” God outright. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
 
Light of Conscience
How can I know God exists? The light of conscience, or, as the Catechism calls it, “the light of nature in man,” which is within me testifies that he exists. Humanity naturally knows that God exists. For example, as Paul passed through Athens and went up to the Areopagus to testify to Greek philosophers, they had idols for every god. And just in case they missed one, they had one with this inscription: “To the unknown god” (Acts 17:23). Why would these great philosophers create idols? It was because God has set eternity in their hearts (Ecc. 3:11). They intuitively knew that there was something greater than them.
 
Because of this Paul’s words in Romans 1 take on significance. The fact that people deny God exists or do everything in their life to life as if he did not exist is evidence that on our consciences is the knowledge of God. Why would people need to go to such lengths if God did not exist? In our sinfulness we want to suppress the knowledge of God. But trying to do this is as effective as pushing down all the bubbles in a jacuzzi.
 
Light of Creation
How can I know God exists? The light of creation testifies that he exists. As with conscience, the Catechism says “the works of God declare plainly that there is a God.” In Psalm 19 David likens the heavens to a preacher, constantly proclaiming their Maker: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims his handiwork, day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1–2).
 
This is exactly what Paul says in Romans 1. God is knowable in creation. It is plain or evident to us. In the things God has made all humanity from the creation onward has testified of his creation. In fact, again Paul proves the positive by the negative. Because humans create idols according to their own image this proves that God exists, for where did the idea to make a god come from in the first place?
 
Light of the Canon
How can I know God exists? The light of the canon, the Word of God, testifies of his existence. The Catechism sets this final reason apart from the previous two by using two adjectives: “But his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.”
 
While conscience and creation reveal the existence of God, only the Word of God does so sufficiently. In Paul’s words, conscience and creation can only leave people “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). They can only testify that there is a God, while in the Word alone we have all that we need for a saving knowledge of God.
 
While conscience and creation reveal the existence of God, only the Word does so effectually. Only the Word, joined together with the Spirit of God, can bring us to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Psalm 19 compares and contrasts creation and the canon. While creation proclaims the glory of God, the law of the Lord revives the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, and endures forever.
 
But it is not just the bare Word that does this. The Word is the instrumental cause of salvation, that is, it is the means by which the Lord brings us to faith. But the efficient cause, that is, the power that actually does the work, is the Holy Spirit alone. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2, “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (v. 4). As Paul went on to speak of the glories of eternity, he said, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (v. 10a), and, “we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (v. 12).
 
In saying this the Catechism reminds us that in all our evangelism, witnessing, testifying, and apologetics, we must reply upon the power of the Holy Spirit to use his Word to bring the world to faith in Christ. For what is the use of arguing over issues of the conscience and ethics or over issues of creation and teleology unless these lead people to encounter Christ himself in his Word?
"Preach it, brother!" We've all heard the exhortation. But what does it mean to preach? And how should one preach? In part 1 of my series on Puritan Preaching we looked at John's Bunyan's, The Pilgrim's Progress. Here I want to draw out the principles on preaching from the Westminster Assemby's (1643-1648) A Directory for the Publick Worship of God published in 1645. This guide to worship was meant to replace the Church of England’s mandatory Book of Common Prayer, yet without being imposed on churches.
 
In its fourth major section, “Of the Preaching of the Word,” the Directory called preaching, “the power of God unto salvation, and one of the greatest and most excellent works belonging to the ministry of the gospel.” This being the case, the preacher should perform it as a workman in such a way that he need “not be ashamed, but may save himself and those who hear him.” The one called to preach should do so with the following characteristics:
 
  • Painfully, not negligently. Preparation for and the actual act of preaching requires diligence and exertion. Preaching is costly in preparation and delivery. There’s no place for slackers in the pulpit.
  • Plainly, that the "meanest” (most common uneducated) person may understand. Why are we trying to impress people with learning that often goes over their heads? Also, we must not forget to address even the young children in the congregation. As one homiletician once said, give your people a K.I.S.S.—Keep it simple stupid!
  • Faithfully, for the honor of Christ and the spiritual good of the people not our own gain or glory. We must humbly tell them what they need to hear without fear of even the biggest financial giver. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 is very informative here: “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (ESV).
  • Wisely, unfolding the sermon in such a manner as may be most likely to prevail. We must give careful (not slavish) thought to how we say what we say for the greatest impact on all the hearers. This relates to both content and application. We cannot spend all of our time preparing the content of the message without concern for its structure and delivery. Fine cuisine does not belong on a paper plate.
  • Gravely, as becometh the Word of God, shunning anything that would leave people disgusted with us. For example, we can use humor appropriately without acting like a clown; speak plainly without being a trash-mouth; effectively use expressions and emotions without being a dramatist; and share personal experiences without speaking excessively and proudly of ourselves.
  • With loving affection, that people may see a godly desire to do them good. In Christ, lovingly plead with them for the good of their souls. Do our people come away with the conviction that we really care about them when we preach? Or, do they get the idea that we just want to beat them over the head with our big Bibles?
  • As taught by God, “and persuaded in his own heart” of the truth of Christ proclaimed. By all means, preach the whole truth, but also “earnestly” practice it “before the flock.” Great preaching is so easily undone by our failure to own it (not perfectly but truly) in an exemplary way.
While the Directory was not intended to be an exhaustive guide to homiletics (the art and science of preaching), it still provides helpful guidance for the preacher in the twnety-first century. Preach it, brother!
Richard Alleine (1611–1681)
 
Life
The uncle and father-in-law of Joseph Alleine, Richard Alleine was born in Ditcheat, Somersetshire, where his father was rector of the parish church for more than fifty years. His father served as his tutor, preparing Richard to go to Oxford University at age nineteen. He completed a B.A. in 1631 at at St. Alban’s Hall and an M.A. at New Inn College in 1634. Alleine was ordained priest in the diocese of Salisbury on March 2, 1634. The following year he was appointed chaplain to Sir Ralph Hopton. Already before the civil war, Alleine began assisting his aged father at Ditcheat. In 1642, Richard Alleine moved to Batcombe, Somerset, where he ministered effectively for more than twenty years. He soon declared himself a Puritan by subscribing to the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, and then, five years later, to a local confession, “The Testimony of the Ministers in Somersetshire to the Truths of Jesus Christ.” Alleine was much loved in Batcombe for his preaching and his tender care of souls as evidenced in a collection of his sermons, Godly Fear (1664). Alleine was ejected from his parish in 1662 for Nonconformity. The passing of the Five Mile Act compelled him to take refuge in the neighboring village of Frome Selwood, where he continued to preach in private homes until his death in 1681. He was fined on several occasions for holding conventicles in other villages also, but due to his popularity, the magistrates dared not imprison him. 
 
Works
 
In Heaven Opened: The Riches of God’s Covenant, Alleine discusses the nature and blessings of God’s covenant with His people. Alleine outlines in great detail the roles of God, Christ, the Spirit, the earth, the angels of light, the powers of darkness, death, and the kingdom in the covenant. Then he speaks of the fruits of the covenant in the believer’s life. The book begins: “Good news from heaven! the day-spring from on high hath visited this undone world! After a deluge of sin and misery, behold the bow in the cloud! the Lord God hath made and established a new covenant, and this is it that hath cast the first beam on the dark state of lost and fallen man, and hath brought life and immortality to light. This covenant is the hope of sinners, and the riches of saints, the Magna Charta of the city of God. The forfeited lease of eternity renewed; God’s deed of gift, wherein he hath, on fair conditions, granted sinners their lives, and settled upon his saints an everlasting inheritance.”
 
Instructions About Heart-work is a little-known treatise that gives an extensive exposition of Proverbs 4:23: “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” The author aims to teach readers the proper way to keep their hearts, stressing what is to be done on God’s part and on the believer’s part. The goal throughout is that believers may grow in exercising grace and in embracing full assurance of salvation. Like John Flavel’s Keeping the Heart, which is also on Proverbs 4:23, Alleine’s work is packed with practical, spiritual instruction. No sin is left unexposed; no hypocrite is left excused. It is a most searching treatment of practical godliness that bears the mark of one personally sifted by God.
 
The World Conquered by the Faithful Christian usess the Pauline military motif of Christian warfare, viewing the believer’s existence in this world as a continual battle against evil within and without. He explains the believer’s armor, the believer’s enemies, and the believer’s victory. Most of the book focuses on how to obtain victory in spiritual warfare—victory in contentment, in a steady mind despite outward changes, in a willingness to die, in living by faith, in being crucified with Christ, in being sealed by the Spirit, in looking to the reward, and in heavenly joys. This book encourages battle-weary saints to stay the course, looking to Jesus. Alleine considers Sabbath observance and frequent attendance at the Lord’s Supper to be the Christian’s strength in a fallen world. In explaining proper self-examination for the Lord’s Supper.
 
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.
 
**Support our ministry by purchasing this book from us at the "lower than Amazon" price of $20.
From time to time I am asked why as an Anglican I include reading the Puritans as a discipline in my daily office of prayer (Anglican clergy take an oath to pray through Morning and Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer). Many are scared off from reading the Puritans thinking they are too difficult to read. Others hear the echoes of a college lecture on the Puritans or Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter warning them away. Others have a simple view of early Anglican history, thinking the Puritans were something other than Anglican. Thus most Anglicans (I can add Reformed and Presbyterians here!) combine all three to relegate the Puritans to "something Presbyterians and Baptists do.” Nothing can be further from the case! My role here at Meet the Puritans is to especially encourage my dear Anglican brothers and sisters to read the Puritans.
 
The Banner of Truth has done a great service for us through its Puritan Paperbacks series making their works accessible and readable. A good launchpad for Anglicans into the Puritans is to read Sermons of the Great Ejection. This little book is a collection of nine sermons preached in August 1662, the last Sundays before the new Act of Uniformity took affect. It recalls one of the great turning points in English Christianity—when nearly two thousand ministers left the established Church for conscience’ sake in what was called “The Great Ejection” into “non-conformity”. If the previous Act had remained in place (more about that later) these non-conforming ministers would have remained in their Church of England parishes.
 
I usually recommend this starter text for Anglicans for four reasons. 
  1. The first is that it is a fine introduction to Puritan preaching. Nothing is more important than to hear these ejected pastors speak for themselves. You will read an urgency in their preaching that we lack today. Their watchword was that of Richard Baxter’s: I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men. 
  2. The second is that you get a range of different Puritans rather than one. And for Anglicans especially, eight were Anglican priests (read: presbyters/pastors) themselves, lawfully ordained in the Church of England. They are our heritage, don’t you think we should reclaim them?
  3. The third is that the sermons give you a sense of their heart before the Lord. This is the last opportunity these godly pastors will have to preach to the people for whom they have prayed, loved, and cared for over many years. You will be humbled by what you read. No calls of injustice or criticism of the government, but a solid and vital exhortation to the criticial doctrines of salvation. And for those of us who have paid the price of conscience for the sake of the gospel when were compelled to do the same, the former Episcopal Church bishop or rector who has been inhibitied and deposed will find comfort here.
  4. The fourth is that the issue of their day are directly relevant to our own: conformity. In a recent speech concerning the availablity of reproductive healthcare for women in the United States, a presidential candidate said, “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed." When we proclaim the sovereignty of God, the elites of modern American society hear what they call “totalitarian thinking” that must be isolated and excised. Like the ejected of 1662, what it means to be a faithful believer before God and a faithful citizen of the commonwealth has changed. 
May this little book be an encouragement to people of gospel truth and integrity everywhere. I hope you will join me as we meet the Puritans in its pages over the coming months.
People are familiar with the English Puritans, but what about thier Scottish contemporaries? With this post I hope to begin a small series of posts on one of the great Scots theologians, James Durham (1622-1658). Whilst the name James Durham is relatively unknown today, he is one of the outstanding Reformed theologians of the Puritan age. In this post I give a brief sketch of Durham’s life and significance; in future posts I will unpack some of his teachings.
 
Durham’s Conversion
Durham was born in 1622 in the best of all countries (!), Scotland. However, as a young man he "did not stand well affected to the presbyterial government." Indeed, it was not until he was persuaded by his wife’s family to go and hear the minister Ephraim Melvin that he came to know Christ. Melvin preached on 1 Peter 2:7, "Unto you therefore which believe he is precious" (KJV) and it was said that the minister "so sweetly and seriously opened up the preciousness of Christ, and the Spirit wrought so on his spirit, that in that sermon he first closed with Christ."
 
Upon his conversion Durham’s life changed. Before he lived with all the leisure of young a country gentleman. Now it was said, "The young laird made no secret of his convictions whether in public or private, was zealous in personal devotion and conscientious in family worship, and now interested himself keenly in the welfare of the Church."
 
Durham’s Life in the Ministry
Durham’s life overlapped with many significant ecclesiastical and political events. He was involved in the Scottish army’s engagements during the English Civil War. After leaving the army he was ordained the year the Scottish Church adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) having been persuaded by David Dickson (Professor of Divinity in Glasgow University) to devote himself to the ministry.
 
After an initial pastorate, Durham was successively called to be Professor of Divinity in Glasgow University, chaplain to Charles II during his ill-fated initial period as King of Scotland, and after Charles’ flight into exile, Durham was again a Pastor in Glasgow. Durham also sat on many key committees of the Scottish Church and was instrumental in trying to hold the Church together through the disaster of the divisive Protestor/Resolutioner controversy. Durham died in 1658 at the young age of 36. Samuel Rutherford said that his death was a "real loss to the church of God."
 
Durham’s Significance
As can be seen from the positions the Scottish church called him to Durham was deeply respected in his day. William Blaikie rightly said, "It is certain that of all the outstanding preachers and theologians of that age none was spoken of with more respect and reverence by his contemporaries." These comments are borne out by the words of Robert Baillie, a member of the Westminster Assembly, and one of the Presbytery who ordained Durham, who said: "I did live to the very last with him in great and uninterrupted love, and in an high estimation of his remarkable accomplishments, which made him to me precious among the most excellent divines I have been acquainted with in the whole Isle." Such testimonies could easily be further multiplied, not least from John Owen and John Flavel.
 
Durham’s Writings
Durham’s biographer stated: "For six generations after Durham’s death his sermons, expositions and devotional writings were a delight and a strength to the religious of the land." It is to our detriment his writings are not better known today. A number, however, have been reprinted by Naphtali Press, Soli Deo Gloria, and the Banner of Truth. Stay tuned as over the coming weeks I hope we will be acquainted with a number of them on this blog.
 
Some of his key works are:
Why do I exist? This is what the opening question of the Westminster Larger Catechism is all about:
What is the chief and highest end of man?
Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever. (Q&A 1)
Our Ultimate Question
“What is the chief and highest end of man?” This is our ultimate question and should be the heartbeat of who we are, thinking of it daily. This is what it is all about as a Christian. To have a “chief end” means that we were made for something, that we have a main purpose in life. And we have a “highest end,” among the many goals and accomplishments of our lives.
 
The Larger Catechism speaks of our chief and highest end as being twofold: “to glorify God” and “to enjoy God.” This is what Peter meant when he said that we are “being built up as a spiritual house, to be a priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5) and when he said “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
 
Our Ultimate Goal
This is also our ultimate goal. Our forefathers were enlivened by the phrase soli Deo gloria—to God alone be the glory. What it says to the question of “why do I exist” is that we do not exist for ourselves—our needs, our pleasures, or our desires.
 
We exist to glorify God even before we have received anything from him. This is what Psalm 29 teaches when it says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name” (v. 2a). Literally this phrase in Hebrew is “the glory of his name,” but all translations say “the glory due his name” because that is an accurate interpretation of what is being commanded.
 
But what does it mean to “glorify” God? The Hebrew word kavod most often means heavy, or weighty. The weightiness of gold, for example, comes to mean that it is honored. To glorify God, then, is to consider the supreme worth of who he is, then to magnify and exalt his name above all others as the way to honor the excellent dignity of his greatness. We are called to hallow, honor, and lift up the name of the Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
 
We are to glorify God in our thoughts. Peter says to us, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded” (1 Peter 1:13). Our glorifying of God begins with the head, trickles down to the heart, and then moves out to the hands. David says, “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate” (Ps. 145:5). How often do you think about God? Do you stop and think what he has done much?
 
We are to glorify God in our words. The work of Christ has made us a a royal priesthood for this purpose: “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
 
We are to glorify God in our deeds. In Ephesians 2:10 we read: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Our heavenly Father has taken us, lifeless lumps of clay, and molded us into a masterpiece to bring him glory. Paul speaks of our deeds being for the glory of God when he says, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). Peter says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). Notice that, as we glorify God in our deeds God uses these fruits of the Holy Spirit to cause the world to glorify God.
 
Our Ultimate Enjoyment
This is also our ultimate enjoyment. To “enjoy” God means to have fellowship with him. The Larger Catechism does not just say that we are to enjoy God, but that we are “to fully enjoy him forever.” As the great Benefactor of the covenant of grace, God gives us himself with all his benefits for our enjoyment. We enjoy him in this life by faith and in the life to come, in the fullness of sight and experience. We enjoy God in our present state of grace as in a glass dimly, but we will enjoy him in the future state of glory face to face. Now is the age of pilgrimage; then is the age of eternal rest. 1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
 
Why do I exist? I exist to give the God who made me glory with my whole being because he has given himself wholly to me. I also exist to enjoy this Triune God in this life by faith but in the life that is to come in fullness of sight and experience. As John Calvin said, “We are God’s; therefore, let his wisdom and will preside over all our actions. We are God’s; to him, then, as the only legitimate end, let every part of our life be directed” [Institutes, 3.7.1]

In 2016, every two months (Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec) we will be producing a Meet the Puritans Resource, which you will be able to find linked under Our Resources. These will be classic texts with introductions, footnotes, and modernized language. The purpose is to introduce you to the treasures of the Reformed tradition.

February's Resource is John Geree's once popular tract, The Character of an Old English Puritan:

George Swinnock, The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith, ed. J. Stephen Yulie (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009). 170pp.
 
When it comes to old books, I am a purist. Ordinarily, something is lost along the way in translations or abridgments. However, as a pastor, I have come to recognize that most Christians do not have adequate time or dedication to become familiar with the language of older authors. This means that a rich treasure of unparalleled Christian literature is lost to vast body of believers today. Reformation Heritage Books has sought to remedy this problem with the series, Puritan Treasures for Today. The books in this series are neither translations nor abridgments. Instead, the publisher has sought out authors who are familiar with the Puritans in order to smooth out difficult language for contemporary readers. The language is updated with great care in such a way that the original thought remains intact. Moreover, they have selected books that are short in length and that address issues of contemporary importance. The result is a series of small, inexpensive, and easily accessible books that bring the wisdom of the Puritans to a contemporary world. These small works encapsulate warm-hearted practical theology that is so rare in our age and that most church members do not know what they are missing.
 
The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith by George Swinnock is the first installation in this series. This book is based upon his sermons on Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” In typical Puritan fashion, Swinnock begins with an overview of the Psalm in context, which gradually narrows to a brief exposition of his selected text. The subject matter is roughly divided into two parts. First, the concept that our flesh is fading and that we must consider death as an inevitable reality (chapters 1-8). Second, the glorious consideration that God alone is suitable to satisfy man’s soul (chapters 9-20). The book as a whole reads as an extended evangelistic tract that drives people to the conviction of their sins, faith in Christ, and the necessity of repentance. The most delightful part of the argument resides in the manner in which the author entices his readers by mediations upon the all-satisfying nature of God, so that every other means of satisfaction appears as dust and ashes by comparison. While it is true that sinners do not love God by nature, it is true as well that most people have never considered what the Bible says about the beauty and glory of the Lord. In chapter seventeen (“Choose God as Your Portion”), Swinnock becomes so enraptured with the pleasure that he finds in God that he bursts forth into exuberant doxology. In modern theology, this is often regarded as poor scholarship. In Swinnock’s time, it was treated as the apex of true theology.
 
Because the language of the book has been updated, you could even give this book to an unbeliever as an evangelistic tract and they would likely understand it. The only significant flaw in this work is an under-emphasis on the Holy Spirit. It is surprising that while the Father and the Son predominate in the author’s meditations on God’s glory, the Spirit is mentioned rarely if at all. Just like modern pastors, not all Puritans were created equal. Some were better systematic theologians (e.g., Owen, Goodwin, Manton, etc.) than others (e.g., Watson, Baxter, etc.). That caveat aside, this book is a feast for the soul. Swinnock’s use of illustrations rivals even Thomas Watson and the overall tone of the work is very comforting.