Sinclair B. Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers: Reflecting a Biblical Vision of What Every Minister Is Called to Be. Banner of Truth, 2017. 796pp. Hardcover.
Interest in Puritanism has gained traction in the past fifty years or so. This has had mixed results. On the one hand, the resurgence of Puritanism has resulted in greater spiritual depth and devotion for many believers. On the other hand, some have tried to regurgitate the seventeenth-century instead of learning how to adapt its lessons for our own times. Sinclair Ferguson shows us by example how to benefit from the best literature from the best periods of the church by digesting and adapting them for modern people in modern times. This makes this book valuable, both in terms of what Ferguson has to teach us and with respect to how he teaches it to us.
Almost half of Some Pastors and Teachers is about John Calvin, John Owen, and English Puritanism. The remainder of the volume is devoted to various theological themes as well as to topics related to preaching. These represent Ferguson’s collected writings, most of which he produced while laboring in pastoral ministry. His Christology and Trinitarian theology are the great themes permeating the entire volume. These themes are the key to understanding his work as a whole and, as he illustrates well, they are the primary missing ingredients in contemporary evangelical Christianity. In particular, Ferguson argues consistently that believers must draw everything from Jesus Christ throughout the Christian life, from the new birth to the resurrection of the dead. Few Christians actually know what this looks like in practice. Ferguson leads us step by step as we learn to think Christologically and devotionally in all things. While some of the citations from his favorite authors become a bit repetitive at points, the quality of the material more than compensates for this fact.
Ferguson’s material on Calvin and the Puritans is most relevant to the audience of this site. His treatment of Calvin includes themes such as Calvin’s piety, the importance of the incarnation, the value of his commentaries, the Holy Spirit, and the Lord’s Supper. Ferguson illustrates his skill as a conveyor of classic Reformed ideas particularly in the last of these sections. While many have regarded Calvin’s view that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper in both natures by Spirit’s power as unclear, if not suspect, Ferguson explains it and recommends its merits with exceptional theological balance and clarity. His treatments of Owen occupy most of the space that he devotes to Puritanism. As with the section devoted to Calvin, this material draws most of our attention to Christological, Pneumatological, and Trinitarian themes. While Owen has a reputation for being difficult, Ferguson has a reputation for being accessible. He includes insightful chapters on John Flavel on providence and on Puritan views of preaching the law of God as well that will interest many readers. Those looking for professional-level contextualized historical theology will not find what they are looking for in these essays. However, all who are interested in understanding profound theological and practical insights more clearly and more profitably will not be disappointed with what they find.
Since this site is dedicated to Puritanism, it is fitting to conclude this review with Ferguson’s summary of why it is worth reading the Puritans:
To turn to the works of the Puritans today, against the background of contemporary popular Christian literature, is to enter a markedly different order of reality. For those unacquainted with their writings, a first encounter with their literature can be like entering a world where people seem bigger, wiser, and years older. To read and study the Puritans is akin to standing in a familiar house and noticing there is an extra door one had never noticed. Press it open and a large basement full of unimagined resources comes into view. Here one may linger often, and from here Christians – and not least pastors – may return to the world of their daily service with renewed vigor, and with greater sense of the gospel and its power, deeply challenged to live for their chief end: ‘to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever’ (167). 
Some Pastors and Teachers has much more to offer than the sections on Calvin and Puritanism. Yet these sections alone will make readers glad that they bought the book. Especially if you have not cut your teeth on reading the Puritans before now, then you should read this book in order to discover what you have been missing.
The exposition on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper turns to reform of the Roman Mass. Tracking the confession from article 28, Anglicans insist that the elements of the Supper are signs that signify Christ, but are not Christ himself, thereby denying the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Then article 29 more precisely denies any sense of a local presence of Christ in the elements, instead arguing that those without faith who partake in the Lord’s Supper are not participating in Christ, and bring condemnation on themselves. Article 30 gives instructions of how the Lord's Supper is to be offered or administered to the congregation. It sets out that both elements, particularly the cup, are to be served to the congregation.
XXX — Of Both Kinds

The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people; for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.
Article 30, new in 1563, was written by Archbishop Parker and remained unchanged in 1571. The correlation of historical evidence suggests that this article was the Anglican response to the canons of Session 21 of the Council of Trent July 16, 1562:
  • Canon I. – If any one saith, that, by the precept of God, or, by necessity of salvation, all and each of the faithful of Christ ought to receive both species of the most holy sacrament not consecrating; let him be anathema. 
  • Canon II. – If any one saith, that the holy Catholic Church was not induced, by just causes and reasons, to communicate, under the species of bread only, laymen, and also clerics when not consecrating; let him be anathema.
  • Canon III. – If any one denieth, that Christ whole and entire -the fountain and author of all graces-is received under the one species of bread; because that-as some falsely assert-He is not received, according to the institution of Christ himself, under both species; let him be anathema.
There are several hypotheses as to why the practice of withholding the cup arose in the Middle Ages. One possibility is that due to issues around hygiene it was not right to drink from a common cup. Another is that due to local presence theology the elements were to be so revered that they were to be kept from human contamination. A third would be the erosion of a right understanding of Christ's completed high priestly work that changed the role of the minister to a sacerdotal priest-representative. Whatever the case, it resulted in the bread placed directly upon the tongue of the recipient and the cup withheld.
Again the primacy of Scripture is the Anglican standard for doctrine in article 30. Parker rightly alludes to article 19's "Christ's ordinance and commandment" definition of the right administration of the sacraments. When the Lord Jesus Christ established what the formularies call the Lord's Supper, he invited all the disciples (Judas having departed in betrayal) to the bread and to drink the cup in remembrance of him (Matthew 26.26-30, Luke 22.19-22). The bread broken and shared, the single cup shared among them. Paul instructs the church in 1 Corinthians 11.23-27 about the correct manner in which they were to come to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it’s clear the expectation was that people would be eating the bread and drinking from the cup, linking the practice of the Corinthians to the night before Jesus’ death.
Why did our Anglican forebears insist on this to such an extent that it required an article in the confession? It is their fidelity to sola scriptura. Its testimony is of a single cup given to the communicant member. One of the most poignant Old Testament images of God’s judgment is the Cup of Wrath. This imagery is widely used in the Old Testament prophets (See Jeremiah 25.15–27; 29.12; 51.7; Lamentations 4.21; Ezekiel 23.32–34; Obadiah 16; Habakkuk 2.16). All the Old Testament descriptions are of a single cup. We can, therefore, understand the significance of singularity when the gospels witness the climax of God's judgment in the singular Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ who freely drinks this cup of wrath (Matthew 26.42) to satisfy God's punishment for our sins. By taking this judgment on himself, Christ then offers a new cup of wine symbolizing the new covenant (Luke 22.20,42; 1 Corinthians 11.25–26, see Ray Dillard’s sermon, "The Other Cup"). When Christ comes again in judgment, the cup of God’s wrath is transposed to the impressive reality awaiting those who remain in hard-hearted rebellion. What Christ experienced on the cross for believers in drinking this cup is reserved at the final judgment for nonbelievers (Revelation 14.9–10).
Jesus distributed a single cup (the third cup poured or the “cup of blessing” according to the Passover ritual) and, in accord with the blessing, commanded that his disciples drink from it, saying: “This is my blood, covenant blood, (to be) poured out for many” (Mark 14.24 [= Matt 26.28]; cf. Luke 22.20 [= 1 Corinthians 11.25]). This scripturally charged language, by its allusions to Exodus 24.8, Jeremiah 31.31, and Isaiah 53.11–12, interpreted Jesus’ imminent death as both an expiatory offering and a sacrifice sealing God’s covenant with all who would enter the new Israel. In immediately following his words on the bread and, again, immediately following his words on the wine, Jesus gave the same bread and the same wine to his disciples to be eaten and drunk. This act of giving signified that by their eating and drinking they shared in the atoning power of his death and the new covenant that his death would seal. The combination of these signs thus defined Christ’s disciples as the beginnings of a renewed eschatological Israel that has now spread over all the earth.
Archbishop Parker and the other divines concluded that there is a logical priority to the theology of the Lord’s Supper revealed in its distribution. The common cup is a sign of our communion and fellowship in the one body, one baptism, and one faith of Jesus Christ. Just as Christ has not authorized individual loaves of bread to be given to each communicant, so he has not allowed individual cups to be given to each communicant. We who come to the Lord's Table express by our use of one bread and one cup our oneness in Christ and by logical consequence our unity with each other in faith and love by the Holy Spirit.
It is significant that article 28 clearly states that the sign of the Lord's Supper is not only a sign of love that Christians should have one to another, but it is instead a sacrament of our Redemption, emphasizing the unique mediation of the Lord Jesus and the singular communion the believer has with his/her Savior. Article 30 references explicitly the single cup of blessing. The Book of Common Prayer Exhortations emphasizes the individual's sharing in Christ, as does the Westminster Directory for Public Worship. Anglicans should respect the single cup rather than confuse the connection between word and sacrament by the use of small individual cups. There is no real evidence for individual cups before an 1892 article for the Annals of Hygiene that first suggested their use for sanitary reasons. We must not allow concerns for hygiene (misplaced, since there is no recorded instance of worse health among the vast majority who have always used a single cup through the centuries) to take precedence over a biblically faithful theology of distribution.

Meet the Puritans is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting us.

For previous articles in this series, see:
  1. Introduction
  2. One God in Trinity, Trinity in Unity (Art. 1)
  3. The Incarnation and Atonement (Art. 2)
  4. The Work of Christ (Arts. 3-4)
  5. The Holy Spirit (Art. 5)
  6. The Rule of Faith: Part 1 (Art. 6)
  7. The Rule of Faith: Part 2 (Art. 7)
  8. The Rule of Faith: Part 3 (Art. 8)
  9. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 1 (Art. 9)
  10. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 2 (Art. 10)
  11. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 3 (Art. 11)
  12. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 4 (Art. 12)
  13. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 5 (Arts. 13-14)
  14. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 6 (Art. 15)
  15. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 7 (Art. 16)
  16. Grace Alone! (Art. 17)
  17. Christ Alone! (Art. 18)
  18. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 1 (Art. 19)
  19. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 2 (Art. 20)
  20. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 3 (Art. 21)
  21. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 4 (Art. 22)
  22. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 5 (Art. 23)
  23. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 6 (Art. 24)
  24. The Sacraments: Part 1 (Art. 25)
  25. The Sacraments: Part 2 (Art. 26)
  26. The Sacraments: Part 3 (Art. 27)
  27. The Sacraments: Part 4 (Art. 28)
  28. The Sacraments: part 5 (Art. 29)


The Christian’s hope at death is that he won’t have to cross Jordan alone. Christ by his Spirit will be with him every step of the way. The Christian’s hope after death is twofold. Death brings an end to evil and misery and is the door to a far better life with Christ in heaven. But what hope do we have after that? Life in heaven, as good as it will be, is not our final hope. God has something much greater in store for those who are in Christ Jesus. What is that? What is the Christian’s hope for all eternity?
One aspect of our hope is the resurrection of our bodies. The personal pronoun “our” is key here. Our body will be raised from the dead, not some other body. The very concept of resurrection presupposes this. If we were given a different body, then it wouldn’t be a resurrection. A new creation, perhaps, but not a resurrection. Paul says that the Spirit will give life to your mortal body and that we wait for the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:11, 23). Thomas Case rightly wrote in his book Mount Pisgah that “the saints shall rise with the very same body they lay down with in the graves.”
Since our bodies will disintegrate completely, we might well wonder how this is possible. We might even begin to doubt the resurrection when we think that when our bodies turn to dust, that dust will be, as Thomas Case noted, “possibly, mixed with the dust of wicked men, or of the brute creatures; it may be, dispersed into the remotest parts of the world.” Eusebius wrote that the Romans would mock the Christian hope in the resurrection by burning the bodies of Christians and scattering their ashes in the Rhone river so that all trace of them would be gone forever.
How then can we receive again that which has been so thoroughly destroyed? The answer is, of course, God. God who made all things is certainly able to re-assemble all things. God who made us from the dust is certainly able to raise our bodies from the dust. As Paul said in his defense before Agrippa, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raised the dead (Acts 26:8)?” Case wrote, “Christ by his mighty power shall command the bodies of his saints to come forth, shall unite dust to dust, every dust in its own proper place and form it into the same body it was when it was dissolved and laid down in the grace.” Don’t, therefore, let the destruction of our bodies diminish your hope in the resurrection of your own body or of the bodies of your loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Trust in the power and promise of Almighty God.
Although it will be our body that we will receive at the resurrection, it will be a new and improved version. It will be glorious, spiritual, immortal and incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:35-49). Indeed, it will be like Christ’s resurrected body. Paul proclaimed that Jesus will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body (Phil. 3:21).” Thomas Case said that our new body will be “made up into a beautiful structure, more beautiful than ever it was in its first creation.” 
One of the enormous benefits of our new bodies is that they will be free of all defects and blemishes. Case put it this way: “The infant shall rise a man of perfect age, the lame shall rise sound, the blind shall rise seeing, the deaf shall hear, the dumb shall be able to speak, the resurrection shall take away all defects and excesses of nature, the deformities of the saints shall not be raised together with their bodies; yea, deformities shall be turned into comelinesses and beauties.”  
Case was also quick to point out that these differences do not substantially change the person or his body. He wrote: “and yet all these alterations do no more change or destroy the individuality of person, than youth doth make the person numerically different from what it was in infancy, or old age from what it was in youth; or as it was in the persons of all sorts, which Christ healed in the day of his flesh; they were the same individuals after cure, as they were before; cure makes not another individual man of a cripple nor health of the sick; so shall it be in the resurrection, the bodies of the saints, shall be the same for substance and matter; but wonderfully changed for form and supernatural endowments and qualities.”
One aspect of the Christian’s hope for eternity is that his body will be raised from the dead and it will be beautiful, glorious, incorruptible and immortal. In the next article, Lord willing, we will explore the life that Christians will enjoy with their resurrected bodies.
Life in England
Recently, I have been immersing myself in the life and work of William Tyndale (c.1494–1536). Some time ago on this blog, I considered his biblical exegesis and called him (in agreement with many others) a proto-Puritan, which simply identifies him as an “early-stage” (a prototype!) Puritan decades before the term even arose. My current study convinces me even more of this idea especially with his convictions on Scripture and covenantal formulations. So, this will be the first of a five-part series where we consider this idea through his life in England, his time and death in “exile,” his Bible translation, his works, and his theology. 
Tyndale was an Oxford man in terms of university education but not regarding his convictions on the Bible. Born in Gloucestershire, which borders south-eastern Wales, he studied at Oxford’s Magdalen College for a Bachelor’s degree in 1512 and a Master’s in 1515, the same year he was ordained as a priest. Most important to his later work, Oxford schooled him in grammar, logic, rhetoric (the art of persuasion), Latin, and some Greek. Yes, he also learned theology, though later complaining that students were discouraged from independent Scripture study and expected to receive church doctrine without challenge. Christian Humanist John Colet was an exception at Oxford (and during Tyndale’s years there) with his Bible teaching and ‘heretical’ challenges to the church. Likely, Tyndale came to Oxford already embracing a grassroots Lollard tradition descending from John Wycliffe, which encouraged biblical teaching and Christian piety. He was known for both at Oxford.
With little to go on up to 1522, Tyndale possibly studied Greek at Cambridge, no doubt catalyzed by the Cambridge teaching tour (1511–1514) of Erasmus, who shortly afterwards published his Greek New Testament (1516). This work (especially the 1522 edition) was essential to Tyndale’s formation as a translator. Luther’s teaching on justification was also stirring up Cambridge by then, and if there, Tyndale would have been affected. He also got to know some Cambridge Protestants (most notably John Frith and Miles Coverdale), though we can only speculate about his presence at the White Horse Inn (“Little Germany”) discussions on Luther at the time. For the most part, England under King Henry VIII remained staunchly Catholic, though that soon changed (1534) especially due to Henry’s condemned push to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Still, this was a time when Luther’s writings were forbidden (to own or even read) and the translation of the Bible into English was illegal (since 1408). This was a time when six people were burned at the stake (1519) in the town of Coventry for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments in English, which left their kids as orphans.
Tyndale returned to Gloucestershire in 1522 to tutor the two young sons of the prominent Sir John Walsh and his wife, Anne. This move gave him a comfortable living with minimal responsibility and much time for study. He also gained a reputation for being quite the preacher. He also had a place at the Walsh dinner table, allowing lots of chats with prominent church officials who came visiting. The table talk thrust Tyndale into the public eye and under scrutiny as he zealously and skillfully defended his arguments from the Bible alone. Tyndale likely raised John and Ann’s eyebrows at times, but when he translated Erasmus’s Latin, Enchiridion militis Christiani (1503, ‘Handbook of a Christian Knight’), into English for them, they saw the sanity of Tyndale’s no-nonsense approach. Like Erasmus, he wanted to point people to the teachings of Christ and away from the externalism and superstition of the Catholic church, though Erasmus did not do so in a gospel-centered manner. Also, unlike Erasmus (who saw the need), Tyndale was proactive about getting the teachings of Scripture into the hands of the common people. 
The dinner guests were no match for Tyndale, and they responded by labeling him as a rabble-rouser. The local clergy (many of whom were quite ignorant of the Scriptures and even Latin) brought him in under accusations of heresy. Thought the chancellor “reviled” him like a “dog” by (notes Tyndale), none of the charges stuck. In one famous disputation Tyndale had around this time, his opponent claimed that we are better off  “without God’s laws than the pope's.” Richard Webb bears testimony (according to Foxe in Acts and Monuments) to Tyndale’s most fitting and famous reply to such nonsense: “‘I defy the pope, and all his laws’; and added, If God spared him life, ere many years he would cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than he did.” Tyndale certainly sensed the danger he faced and knew it was time to leave the comfort and security of the Walsh home. 
Tyndale left for London (1524) yet with the purpose to get the Bible translated into English. He knew of and sought out Cuthbert Tunstall, the bishop of London, a friend of Erasmus and even provided an assistant for the second edition of his Greek New Testament (1519). Besides Tyndale’s mucky reputation likely proceeding him, Tunstall was far too prominent to get his fingers sticky helping to illegally translate the Bible into English. He brushed Tyndale off assuring that he was sure to find someone else in London. He did not, and was brought to the realization that there was “no place to do it in all England.” After a year in London (again known as quite the preacher) and in the home of cloth merchant Sir Humphrey Monmouth (a smuggler of illegal books, like those of Luther, in bales of cloth!), he saw that his only hope for a printer was in Europe where printing was more plentiful and less restrictive. Off to Germany he went. With England ever on his heart, little did he know that he left England forever. 

What is the minimum requirement for a sound Christian profession of faith? The answer to this question is as difficult as it is important. Some churches have tried to push back to “the fundamentals” in order to stem a rising tide of liberalism. Others have reacted to strict creedal subscription in favor of a “mere Christianity.” Elders interview people pursuing church membership in order to see if their confessions of faith in Christ are genuine. We often meet people who say they are Christians and we find ourselves wanting to know what they believe about God and Christ. In all of these cases, we are asking, “What are the fundamental articles of the Christian faith?”


The existence and nature of “fundamental articles” was important in classic Reformed theology. This topic became a standard feature of Reformed theological Prolegomena, or first principles. Francis Turretin (1623-1687) treated the issue of fundamental articles clearly, primarily in response to seventeenth-century Socinianism (Unitarianism) and to Roman Catholicism. He illustrates that the Scriptures distinguish between foundational articles of faith and things that do not strike at the foundation of biblical religion. He did so by stating the question clearly, by proving his position from Scripture, by showing the criteria for fundamental articles, and by addressing the number of fundamental articles. His treatment provides us with wise counsel to navigate questions that we all have to ask on some level.


The first thing that Turretin said about fundamental articles is that the question is “difficult and important” (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Giger Translation, 1.14.1). Errors can exist both in defect and in excess. Socinians and Arminians err in defect by excluding things like the Trinity from the fundamentals. Roman Catholics err in excess by making “whatever the Romish church teaches” necessary for salvation (1.14.2). Even Lutherans, who “turn almost every error into a heresy,” err in excess at times, preventing unity among Protestants. In contrast to both, “the orthodox” (by which he meant the Reformed), “neither restrict them too closely nor extend them too far” (1.14.3). He likened fundamental articles to a foundation on which the entire house must be built (1.14.4). Christ is the foundation of the house of Christian theology (citing Matt. 16:18; 1 Pet. 2:6-7; 1 Cor. 3:11), but fundamental articles can also refer to “the first rudiments of the Christian religion” (citing Heb. 6:1-2). Turretin noted that historically, fundamental articles revolved around the Decalogue, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the sacraments and power of the keys, insofar as they were foundational to catechesis in the Christian faith (1.14. 4). He restricted fundamental articles further to those things which people must believe and cannot deny “without peril of salvation” (1.14.4).


In addition to Hebrews 6:1-2, Turretin next argued that the Bible distinguished between fundamental and non-fundamental articles (1.14.5). Paul distinguished the foundation of doctrine in Christ and the things built on that foundation (citing 1 Cor. 3:11-13). Denying or altering some doctrines overthrows the faith (citing Gal. 1:8) while weaknesses in other areas merely constitute a weak faith (citing Rom. 14:1; Phil. 3:15-16). There is a difference between doctrines needed for the being of faith and for its well-being; some things pertain “to the production of faith others to its perfection” (1.14.6). Pastors and those charged with teaching others have a higher responsibility in this regard than those who are taught (1.14.7). Incidentally, this would allow for a higher standard of creedal subscription and doctrinal unity among ministers and elders than it does among church members. The questions facing elders admitting members to the church usually relate to fundamental articles, while question related to unity among officers necessessarily go beyond them. By analogy, people leading any organization are expected to know more about that organization and its principles than those joining it. In line with Turretin’s teaching, the church is no different.


In Turretin’s view, then, how do we determine which articles are fundamental and which ones are not? First, he noted that some doctrines were primary and immediate while others were secondary and mediate (1.14.8). Secondary and mediate doctrines are built on primary and immediate ones, which include things like the Trinity, Christ’s role as Mediator, justification, etc. Shifting the analogy, he observed that, “As all truths are not of the same necessity, so all wounds inflicted upon the truth are not therefore deadly, nor is every error capital” (1.14.9). Errors can be against the foundation or simply about and around the foundation. The latter can still overthrow the foundation, however, as do the Roman Catholic doctrines of the Mass, purgatory, merit, and other things that overthrow the perfection of Christ’s work (1.14.10). Some errors are also verbal rather than real, meaning that they use the wrong words to describe the right things (1.14.12). This recognizes that some people may technically say false things without intending to deny fundamental articles. In this author’s experience, this is common among many Christians today in relation to how they speak about the Trinity. Their faith is basically sound, but their expressions and understanding are faulty. Privation of the means of salvation is also a defect, while contempt for those means is fatal (1.14.14). Others may hold the substance of a fundamental article while being faulty in “its mode or circumstances” (1.1.15). He gave the Eastern church’s denial of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed as an example.


While it is beyond the scope of a short post like this one to sketch all of Turretin’s counsel regarding how to determine fundamental articles, readers should begin to get a feel for his wisdom by these examples. He concluded this section with the following summary principles: first, the nature of the doctrines themselves makes some articles fundamental to the faith (1.14.20). Applying these principles to the Trinity, he wrote, “Hence as the grace of God by which we are elected, the merit of Christ by which we are redeemed, and the Spirit by whom we are sanctified are the principle causes of salvation and faith the instrumental (Jn. 3:16-17), repentance and conversion to God the necessary conditions (Heb. 6:1; Matt. 3:2), we say that all these doctrines are fundamental” (1.14.20). Second, Scripture itself declares some things to be fundamental to our salvation, of which he gives a partial list (1.14.21). Third, the Apostle’s Creed was traditionally used as a summary of fundamental articles, which includes the proper sense of the Creed rather than its words alone (1.14.22). Ultimately, fundamental articles are both theoretical and practical.


Lastly, what is the number of fundamental articles? The important point is that while “the orthodox” differ in how they number them, they agree in principle on their substance. They include,


The doctrines concerning the sacred Scriptures as inspired…being the only and perfect rule of faith; concerning the unity of God and the Trinity; concerning Christ, the Redeemer, and his most perfect satisfaction; concerning sin and its penalty – death; concerning the law and its inability to save; concerning justification by faith; concerning the necessity of grace and good works, sanctification and the worship of God, the church, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment and eternal life and such as are connected with these. All these are so strictly joined together that they mutually depend on each other. One cannot be withdrawn without overthrowing all the rest (1.14.24).


Several things are noteworthy about this list. First, it includes Protestant distinctives, such as the sufficiency as well as the authority of Scripture. Second, it generally follows and reflects a proper understanding of the Apostle’s Creed. Third, the doctrines listed are specific enough to be Protestant, but not so specific as to exclude believers with immature understandings at points. Fourth, the fundamentals are intertwined and inextricable from one another. He concluded by noting that the precise number fundamental articles is not all that important so long as we learn to apply biblical criteria in determining what is consistent with and what strikes at the foundation of faith in Christ (1.14.25).


We can now draw some lessons from Turretin’s treatment of this issue. Though the question of what constitutes a minimum for a confession of faith is legitimate and necessary, it can become unhealthy as well. What true believer could ever be content with the barest minimum knowledge of his or her Savior? Is there not something inherent in the new birth and in the nature of faith, hope, and love that drives us to grow continually in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we might walk worthy of him (Col. 1:9-14)? Do we not long to know him as we are known and to see him as he is so that we might be made like him (1 Jn. 3:1-3)? It should be clear as well that fundamental articles are not the issue we should be addressing when considering confessional unity among church officers. Officers should be united around more than the mere fundamentals so that they can be united as they teach Christ’s people to observe all things that he commanded (Matt. 28:19-20; Eph. 4:11-16). Fundamental articles exist. They may even increase over time as the church’s light and responsibility grow. The Bible and its teachings do not change, but we are more responsible to be sound Trinitarians now that we have Nicaea, to be solid in our Christology after Chalcedon, and to be clear about Justification by faith after Trent and the Protestant responses to it. It may be impossible (and even undesirable) to make a decisive list of fundamental articles. However, the fact that they exist should make us charitable and forbearing even as we continue pursue good things, both for ourselves and for others (1 Thess. 5:15).

The certain hope that Christians have at death is that they will not be alone. Christ by his Spirit will be with them. But what hope do we have after death? What do we have to look forward to after we die? Death is gain for believers in at least two respects.
First, death puts to death everything bad in a Christian’s life. Death kills all misery and suffering. Thomas Brooks observed that even the best man in the world is too often like Noah’s dove that found no rest. You may experience the best this world has to offer and suffer the least, but you will still be restless and suffer to one degree or another. You will lack “some external or internal mercy.” Death, however, brings all misery to an end. It is, therefore, “another Moses: it delivers believers out of bondage, and from making brick in Egypt.” Thomas Watson rightly said that death is the funeral of all of our sorrows.  
Death also kills that which is mortal and corrupt. God has promised us eternal glory in Christ. But in order to experience the fullness of that eternal glory, we have to put off the mortal and the incorruptible. Thomas Manton described our present body as “a mass of flesh dressed up to be a dish for the worms.” We can’t live forever with a body like that. We need to put it off and death is the way we do it. This is why Thomas Case wrote, “Death serves the saints now for no use, but to kill mortality, and to extinguish corruption.”
Still further, death puts sin to death. The battle against sin and temptation is one that the Christian engages throughout his life. The struggle, as every true Christian knows, is real and relentless because sin never gives us. Death, however, brings our war with the world, the flesh and the devil to an end. When we close our eyes for the last time, the final bell rings. The fight is over.  
In a sermon entitled "Death’s Advantage," Edward Reynolds highlighted five ways that death frees us from the evil and toilsome labors that we were subjected to by the curse of sin. Believers find rest in death from 1) the toilsome captivity and tyranny of sin, 2) the buffets and temptations of Satan, 3) the cares, sorrows, snares, toils, temptations of the world, 4) the difficulties of duty itself, 5) the evils to come.
Similarly, Thomas Boston said that death brings a perfect freedom from sin. More specifically, we are freed from all commission of sin, from the very inbeing of sin, and from the possibility of sinning. Although sin no longer has dominion over a believer in this life, it “still abides as a troublesome guest; but at death it is plucked up by the roots.” God, therefore, turns the tables and uses the wages of sin to destroy sin.  
Second, death is gain for the believer because he immediately goes to be with Christ, which is far better. The Bible doesn’t tell us everything we might want to know about life after death, but it does tell us what we need to know. And it tells us that when we die, our body returns to dust, and our soul or inner person lives on and goes to be with Christ in heaven. Jesus told the converted thief on the cross that he would be with him in paradise that very day. Paul says that to be away from the body means that you are at home with the Lord, and that to depart this life is to be with Christ. The day we die is the day we go to be with Christ. Indeed, the very moment we die is the very moment we are with our Lord. Thomas Case says, “it is but winking, and he is at home; as soon as the eye of the body is closed here, the eye of the soul is open there.” This is why my predecessor at Nashua OPC, Steven F. Miller, told his congregation that he wasn’t going to die. He was going to go from life to life. A believer doesn’t cease to exist at death. He doesn’t enter into judgment or condemnation. He goes to be with Christ in heaven. Life to life.
Since Jesus is in heaven, that is where we go. Heaven is God’s special dwelling place. It is where Jesus in his glorified body is right now. We can’t see it or take a rocket to get to it. It is not like it is on the other side of the moon or by the planet Mars. Nonetheless, it is a created place where humans are able to go and live, and it is where the souls of departed Christians go.  
The apostle Paul says that to be with Christ in heaven is far better than life on earth. That might be hard for us to understand or imagine because life on earth is all we know. We might be willing to put up with the miseries of this life as long as we can continue to enjoy the delights of this world. But the best this world has to offer doesn’t compare to life with Christ in glory. And we know that to be true because God has told us that it is better, and not just better, but far better.
This is why Thomas Brooks entitled his funeral sermon, "A Saint’s Last Day Is His Best Day." The last day is the believer’s “coronation-day” and “marriage-day.” It is the day he exchanges earth for heaven, a wilderness for a Canaan, an Egypt for a land of Goshen, and a dunghill for a palace. It is the day he enters into “Abraham’s bosom, into paradise, into the ‘New Jerusalem,’ into the joy of his Lord.”
Although death is the chariot that takes us to heaven, it is still not a pleasant ride. Death, after all, is our enemy and part of the wages of sin. As Brooks put it, death is the “dark, dirty lane” that we need to take to the glorious city above. But it is a road that believers will be more than willing to take because it will take them home. Brooks wrote, “Every man is willing to go to his home, though the way that leads to it be never so dark, dirty, or dangerous; and shall believers be unwilling to go to their homes, because they are to go through a dark entry to those glorious, lightsome, and eternal mansions that Christ hath prepared for them? surely no.”
Christians have great hope not only at death but also after death. The moment they die, they find rest from all evil and sin and they go to be with Christ in heaven. They go from life to life. Indeed, they go from life to a far better life.
Previous Posts in this Series
Richard Baxter felt the unwanted invasion of deep heartache that only death can deliver when his beloved wife Margaret passed away.  He described his experience as being “under the power of melting grief.”  J.I. Packer noted in his book A Grief Sanctified that Baxter’s use of the word “melting” perfectly captures the effect of being grief-stricken. Packer explained, “The capacity for initiative and enterprise melts-dissolves- away, and so does the power of empathy with and response to others.  A half-numb apathy, frequently alternating with bouts of tears, sets in.”
Grief, even the power of melting grief, afflicts Christians when their loved ones fall asleep in Jesus. But we do not, as Paul says, grieve as other people do because we are able to grieve as those who have hope.
Hope. Hope in the midst of death. The Christian’s hope. That will be the subject of this article, and, Lord willing, that of the next two articles. This article will look at what some puritans had to say about the Christian’s hope at death and the next two will cover the hope we have after death and for all eternity.  
Hope in the biblical sense is different from how we typically use the word today. We often use the word in reference to something that we want but may never experience. Hope in this sense is equivalent to wishful thinking. I hope that my favorite sports team wins the game means that I want them to win or expect them to win but it doesn’t mean that they will definitely win. Biblical hope is different. It is used with reference to what will definitely happen because God has told us that it will definitely happen.
So then, what biblical hope do Christians have for themselves and their loved ones in the Lord at death? Our hope is that we will not be alone when we die. Thomas Brooks, in a funeral sermon entitled "A Believer’s Last Day is his Best Day," urged his audience to consider “that the Lord will not leave thee but be with thee in that hour.”
One of the most common exhortations that God gives to us in the Scriptures is “Do not fear.” Over and over again we are told to not be afraid. One contemporary author has said that this is by far God’s most frequent command. The reason we don’t have to be afraid is because God promises to be with us always. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Brooks notes that there are in five negatives in the Greek text of Hebrews 13:5 “to assure God’s people that he will never forsake them,” and that Scripture renews this promise five times so “that we may press it till we have pressed the sweetness out of it.” 
God will always be with us. The moment we die is, of course, no exception. It is not as if Christ by his Spirit is with us in life but then forsakes us when it comes our turn to die. No! Not at all. Brooks pointed to Psalm 23:4, which says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Our good Shepherd will be with us and he will hold our hand when we take our last breath. There is, therefore, no need for us to fear death. As Brooks rightly asked, “Why should that man be afraid of death, that may be always confident of the presence of the Lord of life?”
Christ is more than able to help and guide us in and through death because he tasted death in its fullness. He knows experientially what it is like to die. He took a last breath  His body stopped working. His human soul departed from his body and went to heaven. Jesus walked through the door of death. Richard Baxter wrote, “Christ leads me through no darker rooms Than he went through before.” Christ, therefore, is able to walk you through the same door.
In fact, simply knowing that Christ has experienced death brings us “strong consolation.” In the middle of his own personal grief, Thomas Case, a Westminster divine, wrote:
Another word of comfort is, that our gracious relations are not alone in their death.  The captain of their salvation marched before them through those black regions of death and the grave, Jesus died; this is implied in the following words, “If we believe that Jesus died.” This is an argument that carrieth in it strong consolation. Our christian relations in dying run no greater hazard than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did; no greater hazard than all the patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles did, for they all in their generations died. Yea, what shall I say? They run no other hazard than the Lord of all the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles did, for Jesus died; this is wonderful indeed; the Lord of life yielded up the ghost; the eternal Son of God was laid in the grave!
Christ has gone through the black regions of death and the grave. He leads his people through those same black regions every step of the way. But that is not all, according to Thomas Manton. He argued, on the basis of Luke 16:22, that angels are present with the saints at death in order to carry them straightaway to heaven. Christians are truly never alone at death. That is the certain hope we have. Thomas H. Ramsey (1905-1997) captured this wonderful and comforting truth in his hymn "I Won’t Have to Cross Jordan Alone."
When I come to the river at the ending of day
When the last winds of sorrow have blown
There'll be somebody waiting to show me the way
I won't have to cross Jordan alone
I won't have to cross Jordan alone
Jesus died all my sins to atone
In the darkness I see
He'll be waiting for me
I won't have to cross Jordan alone

The first trailer for the upcoming movie Puritan is now online here.

The counterpart to (English) Antinomianism, which I considered last time, is Neonomianism. People today typically use the term “Neonomian” to depict views that they consider to be legalistic or moralistic. Historically, however, it was coined and employed by English Congregationalists at the end of the 17th century to label the perceived Arminian views of the moderate English Presbyterians.
The Congregationalist Isaac Chauncy was the first one to use the term. Shortly after Tobias Crisp’s sermons were reprinted, the Presbyterian Daniel Williams published a book excoriating Crisp for his antinomianism. His book was really a thinly veiled critique of many Congregationalists. Chauncy was more than a little offended, and wrote voluminously against Williams and charged him with what he called Neonomianism. Over against the charge of Antinomianism, the retort of “Neonomianism” is, one must say, a stroke of linguistic and rhetorical genius. Certainly, it is better than the riposte of Arminianism, which Robert Traill had done in a published letter.
What did Chauncy mean by his term “Neonomianism”? Essentially, Chauncy believed that Williams taught that Christ’s death satisfied the old law, namely the Covenant of Works, and procured a new law of repentance, faith and sincere obedience. By keeping the new law, the sinner becomes inherently righteous, which in turn becomes the ground for his justification. The sinner therefore is not justified by Christ’s righteousness but by his own righteousness. Christ’s righteousness, or rather the effects of his righteousness, must be received in order to avoid being judged by the old law and be eligible to be saved by the new law. But the righteousness of Christ does not play a direct role in justification. The sinner’s own righteousness, according to the new law, comes to the fore in justification as a sinner is pardoned on the grounds of his faith and repentance. In short, when the sinner believes, the effects of Christ’s righteousness—not Christ’s righteousness itself—are imputed to him to free him from the Covenant of Works (legal righteousness), he becomes truly righteous on the basis of the new law (gospel righteousness), and so is justified. Such a scheme, argued Chauncy, is intrinsically meritorious. Moreover, it is both antinomian and neonomian or legalistic. There is first the “Abrogation of the Old Law,” which is the epitome of antinomianism; and secondly, there is the “Erection of a new Law of Works for our justification, which is Neonomianism.”
This “Neonomian” role of faith in justification is akin to the Arminian view. The problem, however, was that moderate Presbyterians like Williams weren’t Arminians, or Neonomians, as defined by Chauncy. This is not to say that they didn’t have their own unique formulation of justification and related doctrines. The issue was that their formulations were easily misunderstood and confused with Arminianism/Neonomianism, especially by people who were seated across the aisle. Although they unequivocally rejected the term, the name has stuck as a label for their views, at least in the academic world. David P. Field has identified the following as Neonomians to one degree or another: John Howe, William Bates, Daniel Williams, Richard Baxter, Joseph Alleine, and Matthew Henry. Consequently, it is necessary, as it is with Antinomianism, to distinguish between types of Neonomianism.  
If you are interested in learning more about Neonomianism from a historical standpoint, then you may want to consider reading the article I co-authored in this forthcoming volume, A New Divinity: Transatlantic Reformed Evangelical Debates during the Long Eighteenth Century.
Joel R. Beeke, Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2017). 202pp. Paperback.
Being assured that we belong to God in Christ and that his Spirit dwells in our hearts is vitally important. Assurance that we are true Christians is a biblical duty (2 Peter 1:10), it is the lifeblood of holiness and perseverance (1 Jn. 3:1-3), and at least one epistle in the New Testament is devoted almost entirely to the subject (1 Jn. 5:13). 
Yet assurance of faith is also a long-standing problem in the church. Part of the problem is that many today do not recognize that it is a problem. One the one hand, not all who profess faith in Christ possess faith in Christ and “many” will be surprised at the Last Day to hear Christ say that he never knew them (Matt. 7:23). On the other hand, in some circles, Christians believe that living in perpetual uncertainty regarding their eternal welfare is a mark of genuine faith and humility. Joel Beeke leads people of various spiritual conditions by the hand through what the Bible teaches about this important topic, employing the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Puritans to help him do so. The result is a solid book on assurance that is marked by biblical fidelity and pastoral sensitivity that will like finding rich treasure for everyone who reads it.
The author is particularly suited to write this book. Having wrestled with the question of assurance from his teenage conversion, through his doctoral studies, and with roughly fifty years of experience, he treats the subject with gentleness and care. He begins by treating what assurance is and why many people lack it, showing why assurance should be the normal experience of believers (chapters 1-3). Taking the lead of Westminster Confession chapter 18, he then argues that God assures believers through his promises, from the evidences of grace in them, and by the Spirit’s testimony and witness (chapters 4-6). He argues that the promises of God are the primary ground of our assurance of salvation, since the promises bring us directly to Christ, who is the ground of all assurance. Seeing evidences of the Spirit’s work in us as well as the Spirit special testimony, by which he brings Scripture truths home to some occasionally with extraordinary power, are secondary to and flow from being assured by resting on Christ through divine promises. He next expands the issues of cultivating assurance and addressing fluctuations in our assurance (chapters 7-8). An exposition the Spirit’s role in assurance in light of Romans 8 comes next (chapter 9), followed by his resolution of five common questions about assurance (chapter 10) and his experimental and evangelistic conclusion of the whole (chapter 11). This approach is well-ordered and easy to follow. It is also theologically balanced in that every problem related to assurance is resolved in the work of the triune God, particularly directing readers to seek all that they lack from Christ. 
This is the book that this reviewer has been looking for since he became a Christian. Many modern treatments of assurance tend to mute the evidences of the Spirit’s work in believers in favor of the promises of God. Some older treatments of assurance unintentionally make our evidences the object of faith rather than Christ himself. Beeke revives the use of such evidences by attaching them to God’s promises to us in Christ and the Spirit’s work in us. This means that Beeke’s book recognizes that not all professing Christians are genuine Christians without falling into the pitfall of a kind of introspection that moves us further from the Savior rather than towards him. This volume provides the kind of pastoral realism and theological balance that is so desperately needed in treating a topic in which the personal stakes are so high. Read this book for yourself, regardless of where you are in your Christian walk. Give it to those struggling with assurance who should not as well as those who never struggle with it yet should. Lend it to those who don’t believe in Christ so that they can learn what they are missing. Above all, don’t pass it by and digest it prayerfully.