Happy New Year! Let's kick it off Puritan style with a free book giveaway. Our friends at Latimer Trust in the U.K. have given us two (2) 3-book bundles to give away: Chad B. Van Dixhoorn, A Puritan Theology of PreachingPeter Adam, 'To Bring Men to Heaven by Preaching': John Donne's Evangelistic Sermons, and Martyn Cowan, Portrait of a Prophet: Lessons from the Preaching on John Owen (1616-1683).

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In this second post (see #1 here) on the heavenly man, I want to open up Christopher Love’s meditations on heaven from Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1653). The Puritans focused much on the glories of heaven, and that in a Christ-centered manner, which encouraged them greatly during the challenges they faced during much of the seventeenth century. With hearts raised up to heaven, they possessed a firm hope of experiencing full communion with the Lord.
Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror contained 10 sermons by Love on heaven glory with Colossians 3:4 as the key text: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Love challenges Christians to seek the “things above” in heaven, as those dead to the world. The crucified and risen Savior alone is the author of such a life, one we must pursue as we leave behind the trivial pursuits of this life. Christ is not just the author but also the finisher of it. His appearance in glory at the Second Coming will be glorious like “the sparkling of a diamond before the Sun.” Indeed, he will come with authority, majesty, and equity surpassing “all the glory of the world” and bringing salvation and judgment in their fullness. At that time, Christ will fully glorify his resurrected (bodies united to souls forever) saints granting to them the “most blessed, and unchangeable estate which God of his free grace through Jesus Christ, hath provided for his elect in heaven.” In such a state, saints will experience the total perfection of all graces and total freedom from sin.
Love tells us that heaven, the place where believers experience this glory, is a kingdom of God beyond any in this world. This paradise becomes an eternal and glorious habitation and a place of joy. We learn that Love does not accept the idea of a new heavens and new earth, but instead argues for a three-tiered heaven (a standard Puritan position and, in Love, likely influenced by Robert Bolton) with saints and angels occupying the third and highest level with Christ. While we may disagree with Love’s position, we do well to hear his challenge that the glory of heaven demands leaving off: “looking after your pompous and glorious houses, that shall one day not have one stone left upon another, and that shall one day be laid level upon the ground; do not for your earthly houses here, lose that eternal house which lasts forever in the Heavens.”
Love also considers what happens to the souls of believers when they die before they experience the resurrection of their bodies at the Second Coming. Rejecting the idea of a mortal (capable of dying) soul and purgatory, Love maintains that the soul at death continues to live and goes directly to the Lord in heaven. Meanwhile, our bodies stay in the grave until the day of resurrection. 
Love then discusses the final state of our dead bodies, which will arise and be glorified. He refutes those who deny a bodily resurrection by calling attention not only to standard texts affirming such but also to the capabilities of an omnipotent and triune God. For him, the argument for such bodily resurrection may be “above reason,” but it is definitely not “against” it. 
Love argues that those attaining this eternal glory will show the following marks. These saints will: (1) be new creations in a state of grace, (2) be made like Christ in holiness, (3) seek to glorify Christ in this life with a view to eternal glory and worship, (4) have consciences powerfully convicted and enlivened by the ministry of the Word, (5) will long for Christ’s coming in glory, (6) experience a burning love for Christ now in this world, (7) manifest the power to put sin to death, (8) do well in spite of the sufferings endured in this world, (9) experience a progressing sanctification, and (10) seek to live blamelessly on the way to glory. May the Lord wonderfully and graciously work these in us!
Love encourages us to consider that such a hope of glory comforts those who suffer in this world. Furthermore, some saints live in “a mean and obscure condition” and suffer greatly for Jesus Christ now in this life. For those who know the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, they will indeed experience the power of his resurrection. This gives courage and hope in a world with constant troubles physically, financially, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Let us then meditate upon, long for, and journey towards the matchless glories of heaven in Christ. 
John Owen is ranked not only among the most significant Puritan theologians, but also among Reformed theologians generally in the seventeenth-century. He is one of the greatest Reformed thinkers of all time and he always ministers to both our hearts and minds. However, it is also well-known that Owen has a reputation for being hard to read. People can leave conferences excited to start reading him, only to get discouraged when they begin.
Owen did a lot of writing. The twenty-three volumes of the Banner of Truth edition of his Works (16 "Works" + 7 "Hebrews") look large and imposing. They are actually even larger than they look. The small print and the dense content mean few will ever read and master his works in their entirety. The volumes of the Works do not contain all that he wrote. The Banner of Truth edition excludes the material he wrote in Latin, which made of most of volume 17 of the nineteenth-century William Goold collection. Stephen Westcott has loosely “translated” this material under the title Biblical Theology. Several decades ago, Peter Toon also published a translation of Owen’s Oxford Orations and a collection of his surviving Letters. The question is where to begin reading and which books to prioritize.
Why Is Owen Hard to Read?
In order to answer the question where to start reading Owen, it is helpful to ask first why his writings are difficult to read. Some have blamed Owen’s difficult style on his Latinized grammar. This is plausible, since he spent all of his education and a large part of his adult life speaking, teaching, and writing in Latin, which was virtually his first language. A proposed remedy to this problem has been to read Owen out loud. This is good advice, and it does help readers’ comprehension by increasing their concentration and keeping them moving through the text. However, there are other reasons Owen’s works are hard to read, and why some of his books are harder to read than others.
As with many modern authors, Owen did not always write for the same audience. His writing aimed at audiences as wide and varied as students at Oxford, members of Parliament, fellow pastor/scholars, heretics, people in the pews, and teenage university students. Typically, a work bearing a Latin or Greek title offers a clue that it will be harder to read than others. William Goold has provided useful introductions to each volume of Owen’s Works in which he outlines the historical context and purpose of each book. These are included in the Banner of Truth reprint of this edition. Make good use of this material. As an illustration of the diverse character of his books, Owen wrote the Mortification of Sin for teenagers at Oxford, and he preached the sermons in volume 9 for his congregation. However, he preached the sermons in volume 8 to Parliament, and Adminadversions on Fiat Lux to refute a modern threat from Roman Catholicism. The latter works are more demanding than the earlier ones listed here.
The character of his books differ widely as well. A few volumes in his Works represent massive-scale book reviews. For example, Vindiciae Evangelicae (volume 12) was a roughly five-hundred page line-by-line refutation of the Socinian Raccovian Catechism as well as John Biddle’s anti-trinitarian catechisms in English. In addition, his work on the perseverance of the saints (volume 11) responded to Redemption Redeemed by the English Arminian John Goodwin (1594–1665). Even the well-known Death of Death in the Death of Christ (volume 10) resulted from responding to someone else’s teaching. Other books, such as Justification by Faith, are mixed in this regard. He had planned to write this book for some time, but when he finally did, he did so largely in response to the false teaching of another author that had come to his attention in the process. Such works can give readers the sense they are jumping into the middle of a tense theological conversation as third-party observers. This does not mean that these books are not profitable. I have gleaned some of my most valuable theological and pastoral insights from reading them. However, knowing the nature of what you are reading may help you know what to expect and to narrow down where you want to start reading.
In the next post, I will walk through some of his Works to help readers navigate them.
[This post is edited and adapted from the Appendix to my The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. Used with permission]
This Christmas Eve will be my congregation's fifteenth annual Festival of Lessons & Carols service. I know, that sounds so positively Puritan! We use a slight adaptation of the renowned “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” first used in 1918 at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, and now heard every Christmas Eve over BBC radio.
In the tradition in which I minister—Dutch Reformed—Christmas morning services are the norm. But since I minister in my native Southern California beach culture, Christmas Eve services are the norm. The point being that such a service can be adapted to fit local needs even as I know some congregations use a service like this on a Sunday evening.
If you're familiar with the Lessons & Carols service you know that there is no sermon. So what I have done is to add a narrative throughout the lessons as a means of proclamation of the Word. I'd like to share that here:
The Narrative
Abraham Kuyper once lamented that “at no christian feast is the glory of God so little remembered, as at the commemoration of Jesus’ birth” (Keep Thy Solemn Feasts, 15). As we gather again to hear the story of our Savior’s birth, let us cast away all earthly thoughts of family, food, and friends, and instead lift up our hearts and minds to the God who displays his glory by promising to send his eternal Son in the humility of human flesh that he might die the humiliating death of a cross so lowly sinners like you and me may be brought into his eternal kingdom.
We begin after the first light of human history has dawned, in a garden, in a land called Eden. There, God made the pinnacle of his creation, Adam and Eve, distinguishing them, and all humanity, from everything else by creating them in his own image to reflect his glory. As the Heidelberg Catechism says, this was so “that [they] might rightly know God [their] Creator, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal blessedness” (HC, Q&A 6). As image-bearers of God, Adam and Eve were made in a special relationship with their Creator. Tragically they broke that bond of fellowship by transgressing God’s law not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And so, the Lord God came to judge Adam, Eve, and the tempter for what they had done. Yet in the midst of sin, disobedience, and the pronouncement of a curse, we hear a promise of the advent of our Savior. For the first time God announced the news of a coming Savior in the first gospel: from woman would come one to crush the serpent’s head and the sin and death he brought about upon the human race.
The First Lesson: Genesis 3:8–15
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
The plot of this advent unfolded throughout subsequent generations in the godly line of this promised seed, which began with Abel the first martyr, was renewed with the birth of Seth, was dramatically saved from the Flood of judgment in Noah, and had multiplied in the families of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons. The Lord was then pleased to choose one of Shem’s descendants through whom to bring this one promised seed of the woman—Abram. Abram’s blessed seed would bless not only Abram’s family for generations to come in the nation known as Israel, but would bless the families of the all the people’s on the face of the earth.
The Second Lesson: Genesis 22:15–18
Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord
But after showing generations upon generations his steadfast love, which endures forever, the people of God rebelled, like their first father Adam. Abraham’s great-grandchildren, the sons of Jacob, sold their brother Joseph into slavery; yet the Lord used Joseph in Egypt to preserve Israel from famine, and thus to preserve the line of promise. Two ungrateful Israelites in Egypt caused Moses to go into exile in Midian for forty-years; yet he was the Lord’s anointed one who displayed signs and wonders and led the people out of Egypt. Millions of Israelites, stuck between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s chariots, forgot the Lord’s power to save; yet in his power and grace he split the sea in two and caused them to pass through on dry ground while destroying Pharaoh’s armies in the sea. The people complained about not having bread, water, or meat in the wilderness; yet the Lord sent them manna from heaven, water from a rock, and more quail than they could digest. The people grew impatient at the Lord’s perceived slowness of action and built a golden calf to worship instead of the glorious God who appeared on Sinai; yet the Lord forgave their sin. The spies into the Promised Land did not believe they could overcome the merely mortal inhabitants of the land as the Lord promised; yet the Lord later led them in through Joshua to destroy those very enemies. Generation after generation rebelled until the Lord had enough and allowed his people to be enslaved again in a foreign land by their enemies; yet the Lord delivered them through many judges. 
And so we come to the seventh century B.C. when the people that God took as his own had broken their covenant with the Lord—again. The ten northern tribes of Israel were excommunicated from the presence of the Lord into Assyria and the two southern tribes of Judah would be next, going into Babylonia. It was on the eve of exile that the Lord promised to disbelieving King Ahaz that he would climactically save his people once again—this time by coming himself to his people.
The Third Lesson: Isaiah 7:10–14
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Immanuel, “God with us,” was to be the name of the virgin woman’s son. Greater than the signs in Egypt, greater than the signs in the wilderness, and greater than the signs at Sinai, this surely was to be the Lord’s greatest and most mysterious sign and wonder he would do in the eyes of his people. So what would the birth of this Son mean to the faithful remnant among the people of God? What would the Desire of nations mean to God-fearers outside Israel, who dwelt in the darkness of ignorance, idolatry, and unbelief?
The Fourth Lesson: Isaiah 9:2–7
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
The offspring of Eve, of Sarah, and of the virgin would be a king. This king’s kingdom would be known as a kingdom of peace, as he would end the serpent’s reign over his people even as he ended the reign of Pharaoh over his people. Yet where was this king to be born? As humanity in its natural wisdom looked for him to be born in the palatial palaces of princes, royalty and aristocracy, God’s wisdom announced another location.
The Fifth Lesson: Micah 5:2–5a
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Promises, promises—so many precious promises. And those we’ve just read are just the beginning. Yet for languishing Israelites and godly Gentiles the question was this: after so many generations where was this promise of God coming in the flesh? Where was this seed of the woman to crush the serpent? Where was Abraham’s offspring who would bless? Where was the virgin’s son, the king upon David’s throne who was to sit there forever? Where was this Lord of whom Israel sang, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me?” (Ps. 23:1, 4) You see, after Isaiah’s and Micah’s powerful and prophetic preaching, the faithful still lived in a state of expectation for another seven hundred years without their prophecies coming to pass! Yet now the strife between serpent and son is ended! Now the wait it over! Now God is no longer silent! O Israel of God, cry out with the Psalmist: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance” (Ps. 42:5). Friends, lift up your hearts and heads, hear the long-expected words of fulfillment.
The Sixth Lesson: Luke 1:26–38
Sing Out, My Soul, with Praise 
In the wondrous providence of God, the very year in which Mary was to give birth to the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, Caesar Augustus called for a taxation of the Roman Empire, including Palestine. And in order for this to be pulled off, everyone had to return to their own hometown. For Joseph and Mary, this meant returning to Bethlehem, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. With this, the stage was set. As one commentator said:
Throughout the centuries God had so led the course of history that everything was now prepared for the coming of His Son. The preparatory Old Testament revelation had been completed long ago; the weary, longing spirit of mankind was in dire need of His coming; His forerunner, John, had already been born; the ‘fulness [sic.] of time” had arrived. And at last, the promised Redeemer, whose coming had been looked forward to with so much heartfelt yearning, is born. In a few verses – written simply, in a matter-of-fact and natural way – Luke here relates the tremendous and all-important event. The extreme simplicity of the narrative forms the strongest contrast to the stupendous significance of the occurrence that is recounted (Norval Geldenhuys, The Gospel of Luke, 99).
The Seventh Lesson: Luke 2:1–7
What Child Is This
After this stupendous wonder of God was accomplished in the birth of Jesus, who is Immanuel, God with us, we see the true nature of Jesus Christ’s kingdom revealed in those who first beheld him and in what state he was found. He was not adored by throngs of millions, thousands, or even hundreds, but by some shepherds who just happened to be in an adjacent field. He was not at first visited by the powerful, by the influential, by the important in the eyes of the world, but by the ordinary men of this world. And when the angel told them where to find this child, it was not on a throne in a palace, but as wrapped in the “royal” garb of the swaddling cloths of an ordinary baby and “enthroned” in an animal trough! Truly, as Paul said, “though [Jesus] was rich [being the eternal Son of God], yet for your sake he became poor [being born a man], so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
The Eighth Lesson: Luke 2:8–16
While Shepherds Watched
Now after Jesus was born, he was visited by three Magi. These were studious men from the east who studied the stars to determine God’s course of human history. What is important is that in the Scriptures, to go east is to go “east of Eden,” that is, away from the presence of God. And which way are these Magi traveling? They are coming from the east to west. Why? Because they are approaching the very Holy of Holies that dwelt in the temple, but instead, was now found in the person of the baby Jesus, in whom Paul said the “whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). Yet while being worshipped, the age-old strife between the two seeds, the woman and the serpent, Christ and Satan, the godly and the ungodly, is active. Thus we see the reason he came in John’s words: “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
The Ninth Lesson: Matthew 2:1–12
We Three Kings
What an amazing wonder God has done! He has sent his eternal Son to become a man, yet all the while remaining God. The apostle John gives us the maturest theological reflection on the incarnation, that is, the birth of God in the flesh. For here we see that the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the son of the virgin, the son given unto us, the one who was to be a ruler from Bethlehem, was in truth, God in the flesh. As we will sing, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail the Incarnate Deity!”
The Tenth Lesson: John 1:1–14
And that fullness of grace that alone can forgive the sins of a misspent past, the rebelliousness of the present, and the certain disobedience against God in the future, is offered to all of you tonight. How does it become more than an offer but a possession? Turn away from yourself, and turn to Jesus. Repent of your sins and self-righteous attempts to save yourself. Become as helpless and naked as a newborn child. Then come to Jesus in faith with an empty, open hand. Believe that the humiliation, lowliness, suffering, and shame of him who came from heaven to earth will lead you from earth to heaven. Amen. Thanks be to God!
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. (Ps. 69:6 KJV)
Local Anglican pastor John Oldfield is next in our reading of the Puritan Paperback, Sermons of the Great Ejection. “The Great Ejection” was the expulsion of nearly 20% of Anglican ministers from their cures in the 1662 Act of Uniformity. Oldfield was a northerner, born, raised, lived and died in Derbyshire, leaving only for his grammar school education. He never attended university. In 1649 he was appointed the pastor of St. Margaret's, Carsington where he served until ejection. He led a local pastor's conventicle or what we would call a "small group" today for seven years. He was said to be a moderate spirit and spent considerable time in serious consideration and prayer before he decided he could not conform. After ejection, he attended a nearby parish church and remained active in a “small group” ministry. Twice married, he had four sons follow him into holy orders, the eldest serving in the Church of England.
Oldfield's concern in his sermon is twofold. The first is pastoral. He wants to prevent observers drawing the wrong conclusion concerning the suffering he and other ministers are about to undergo. The second is apologetic. He gives a defense and contextualization concerning the Act of Uniformity and a minister's conscience. Of all sermons in the series, Oldfield's gives an insight into his heart and conscience. He takes Psalm 69:6 as his text for his final sermon. After setting the exegetical and theological boundaries of the text, Oldfield gives the general spiritual reasons that observers may stumble in a failure to apply the fullness of the gospel of God. They have forgotten his work and his purpose in salvation and sanctification.
His defense of his ministry is in his application. Being a deposed minister of the American Episcopal Church for the sake of conscience, I could readily identify with his godly seriousness as described his ministry: “Beloved, think not that I or my brethren make it a light matter to lay down the exercise of our ministry (I say the exercise; for as to the office itself, none on earth can deprive us of it).” Oldfield then addressed the question of reordination at the hands of a bishop:
How can I, who have exercised the office of minister these fourteen years and upwards, now take a new ordination in a way (to say no more it) that supposes me no minister till then without notorious dissembling both with God and man? Should one of yourselves among whom I have exercised, urge on me this dilemma: ‘If you were no minister before, why did you exercise that function? Why did you preach, pray, and administer the sacraments as a public officer in the church? How can you justify the baptizing of our children and administering to us the Lord's supper? If you were indeed a minister, why do you now seek a new commission?' …I seriously profess, beloved, should I submit in this particular, my mouth would be stopped; I should have nothing to say against such an argument. …Besides that, it is a tacit condemning of the minister of the Reformed churches as no ministers because they lack Episcopal ordination; and (which is not the least mischief) it gives, or it may give a just occasion to our people to question the validity of all our ministerial actings. And will say this is no hurt?
Oldfield has Article 23 of the Thirty-Nine Articles in support of is position. Here it is in updated English:
It is not right for a man to take upon himself the office of public preaching or of administering the sacraments in the congregation before he has been lawfully called and sent to perform these tasks. The lawfully called and sent are those who have been chosen and called to this work by men who have had public authority given to them in the congregation to call and send such ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.  
Oldfield was certainly “lawfully ordained.” To deny such a person is absurd, and goes against the spirit of this Article, which does not specify that “lawful” must be interpreted as “episcopal” and does not even mention bishops at all. Bishops are fine in their place, but they too are servants of the church sent to minister in the Lord’s vineyard, not theirs. And in that vineyard all the laborers are fundamentally equal. 
John Knox gave significant focus to the Lord’s Supper through his life, and there is much in Knox’s teaching that provides fruitful material for theological reflection. As such a series of posts will follow on various aspects of Knox’s understanding of the Lord Supper. However to set the scene some of the high level debates on the Lord’s Supper at the time of the reformation are sketched below.
But as we live in days when the sacraments are undervalued it is worth remembering that in the sixteenth century the doctrine of the sacraments, and in particular the Lord’s Supper, was felt to be so important that is formed the crux of the dispute between Rome and the Reformers, and also soon divided the Reformers. As V.E. d’Assonville notes the sacraments “became the ‘shibboleth’ of every dogmatic system, because it was in the sacraments themselves that the principles each party stood for materialised into the life of the church in practice.” (V.E. d’Assonville, John Knox and the Institutes of Calvin, Drakensberg Press, 1968, 6) The importance of the Lord’s Supper can be seen in four disputes.
Disputes 1 & 2: The Presence of Christ
First, is Christ physically present in the elements, the bread and wine, of the Lord’s Supper? Does the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ? Or to put it more generally—how is Christ present in the Lord’s Supper? To state the matter simply Rome (and to a degree Lutherans) said, yes, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. The Reformed denied this while refusing to reduce the bread and wine to be “bare signs.” The Reformed generally held that Christ was really and truly present, albeit spiritually and sacramentally, not physically.
Second, and related, the question was debated between Lutherans and Roman Catholics: Does any other substance remain after the consecration apart from the body of Christ? That is, after the pronouncement of the words “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24) is the bread so transformed that it is no longer the substance of bread, but the very body of Christ which is offered to the communicants. This is the Roman Catholic position. Or does Christ’s body and blood coexist “in and under the bread and wine?” This is the Lutheran position. This may appear a rather fine distinction but in any case the Reformed repudiated both options. (For later reformed thought, see Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 19.28.2. On Luther, see Bernhard Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology: Its History and Systematic Development, 306-313)
Dispute 3: A Sacrifice?
Third, is there a propitiatory sacrifice in the mass for the sins of the living and the dead? Or to draw on a later framing of the question from Francis Turretin, in the sacrament is there “a true sacrifice … external corporeal and propitiatory, in which under the species of the bread and wine Christ is daily offered by a priest to God the Father, as a victim for the sins of the living and the dead”? (Institutes, 19.29.3) This Rome affirmed, but here the Protestants said with one voice no, and decried this suggestion as blasphemy against the once for all sacrifice of Christ. Thus Richard Kyle claims that “the average person [i.e. Catholic] knew that it meant Calvary’s sacrifice was insufficient to satisfy God for humankind’s sin.” (Kyle, The Ministry of John Knox, 132-133)
Disputes 4: Adoration of the Elements
Fourth, there was the question of whether the elements of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper were to be worshipped? The Protestants said, no, Rome said yes. Again according to the later theologian Francis Turretin, this worshiping of the sacramental elements was “the greatest proof of their [Rome’s] Antichristian idolatry”. (Institutes, 19.30.1)
These questions regarding the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, the relationship of the Lord’s Supper to the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, and the question of the worship of the elements were the central questions debated concerning the Lord’s Supper. (There were of course other questions, for instance, was the cup or the wine, to be partaken of by the congregation?)
Again we can take Francis Turretin’s later summary as the general Reformed attitude to Rome’s stance on the Lord’s Supper: “It was indeed a grievous crime, that not content with the spiritual presence they [Romanists] introduced a corporeal [presence] … they foisted in the fabrication of transubstantiation, by which they feigned that Christ is present by a conversion of the bread into the body of Christ. It was a more grievous crime that from the sacrament they made a propitiatory sacrifice properly so called. But it was the most grievous, that they have elevated this sacrifice into an idol…” (Institutes, 19.30.1)
In my previous article, I discussed one of Stephen Marshall’s arguments for infant baptism: infants of believers (covenant children) should be baptized because they partake of the spiritual realities signified and sealed by baptism. This is not to say that all covenant children partake of the inward grace of baptism but that they are capable of it and some do experience it, as is the case with adults. One of the counter-arguments that Marshall confronted—and one that paedobaptists continue to face today—is that he should have also embraced paedocommunion. Paedocommunion is the practice of serving the Lord’s Supper to covenant children on the basis of their baptism or covenant membership and thus before they are able to understand and make a profession of faith. Marshall stated the objection thus: “But if their being capable of the spirituall part, must intitle them to the outward signe, why then doe we not also admit them to the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, which is the seale of the Covenant of Grace, as well as the Sacrament of Baptisme?”
The Argument of Paedocommunion
In a nutshell, the counter-argument is that (most) paedobaptists are inconsistent. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are both signs and seals of the covenant of grace. If covenant infants are worthy recipients of the one, then it follows that they are worthy recipients of the other. If faith is not necessary for baptism, then faith is not necessary for the Lord’s Supper. Indeed, the very same arguments that support paedobaptism simultaneously support paedocommunion. Children of believers should partake of the covenant meal because they are covenant members and experience covenant blessings. All paedobaptists, therefore, need to bite the bullet and either embrace paedocommunion or reject infant baptism.
Stephen Marshall's Response
Marshall, of course, was not the first one to address this objection and his answer was in tune with those who had gone before him. He noted that it was illegitimate to argue from baptism to the Lord’s Supper because the two sacraments are not identical. In other words, comparing baptism with the Lord’s Supper is like comparing apples with oranges. Yes, both apples and oranges are fruit, but they are significantly different kinds of fruit. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are both sacraments of the new covenant but they differ in important respects so that only the former is suitable for infants.
Baptism is the sacrament of our entrance into the covenant and the Lord’s Supper is the sacrament of our “growth, nourishment and augmentation” in the covenant. Scripture tells us that infants are capable of the grace sealed in baptism; but Scripture is “altogether silent” with respect to their ability to partake of the grace sealed in the Lord’s Supper. Marshall wrote:
I answer, Answ. that Infants are capable of the grace of Baptisme we are sure, not sure that they are capable of the grace signed and sealed in the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, for though both of them are seales of the new Covenant, yet it is with some difference; Baptisme properly seales the entrance into it, the Lords Supper properly the growth, nourishment and augmentation of it; Baptisme for our birth, the Lords Supper for our food; now Infants may be borne againe while they are Infants, have their Originall sinne pardoned, be united to Christ, have his image stampt upon them, but concerning the exercise of these graces and augmentation of them in Infants, while they are Infants, the Scripture is altogether silent…
Marshall’s colleague at the Westminster Assembly, the Scottish Commissioner Robert Baillie, made a similar point except that he was clearer about the infant’s inability to partake of the grace signified and sealed in the Lord’s Supper. A passive participant, as is an infant, is capable of participating in the grace signified by baptism because “as the body may be washed without any action of the party who is washed: so the virtue of Christ’s death and life may be applied in remission and regeneration, by the act of God alone to the soul as a mere patient without any action from it.” However, a passive participant is incapable of the inward grace of the Lord’s Supper because “the thing signified there is not the Lord’s body and blood simply, but his body to be eaten, and his blood to be drunken, by the actual faith of the communicants.” Or as Ursinus once put it: “Infants are not capable of coming to the Lord’s Supper, because they do not possess faith actually, but only potentially and by inclination.”
The arguments for paedobaptism, therefore, do not logically lead to paedocommunion. In fact, it is fallacious to argue from one to the other because of the differences that exist between them. The Lord’s Supper—the sacrament of growth in Christ—requires the participant to exercise actual faith whereas baptism—the sacrament of regeneration—does not.  For further reading on this subject, please see my article "A Pastoral Letter on Paedocommunion." 
Edward Taylor (c. 1642–1729), a pastor, physician, and poet of Puritan New England, wrote, “A curious knot God made in Paradise…. It was the true-love knot, more sweet than spice” (“Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children,” in The Poems of Edward Taylor, ed. Donald E. Stanford, abridged ed. [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963], 344). The writings of the Puritans are sprinkled with declarations of the sweetness of marital love. By “sweet” and “sweetness” they meant to describe “a pleasant or gratifying experience, possession or state; something that delights or deeply satisfies” (Webster’s Dictionary). They delighted in the love of God and in every form of love commanded by God among mankind. In particular, they rejoiced in the love shared by husband and wife, and called married couples to love each other romantically, wholeheartedly, and perseveringly.
This may come as a shock to twenty-first-century minds; not many people today would use “Puritan” and “love” in the same sentence. Though evangelicals have become much more aware of the positive heritage of the Puritans, thanks to scholars such as J. I. Packer and his book, A Quest for Godliness, and literature produced by publishing houses such as Banner of Truth Trust and Reformation Heritage Books, the common cultural perception of the Puritans remains negative, a perception informed only by what the Puritans opposed. One prominent dictionary defines the noun “Puritan” first as “a member of a Protestant group in England and New England in the 16th and 17th centuries that opposed many customs of the Church of England,” and second, “a person who follows strict moral rules and who believes that pleasure is wrong.” We are quick to overlook that fact that perhaps the most well-known sentence ever written by the Puritans is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 1).
The Puritan view of marital love was overwhelmingly positive because it was informed by the Bible, the written Word of the God who instituted marriage at the time of our creation and regulated it by His commandments. As Packer says, “They went to Genesis for its institution, to Ephesians for its full meaning, to Leviticus for its hygiene, to Proverbs for its management, to several New Testament books for its ethic, and to Esther, Ruth and the Song of Songs for illustrations and exhibitions of the ideal” (A Quest for Godliness, 263). They let the practices, duties, and ethics of marriage flow out of Scripture. 
All duties of a married couple were to be performed devotedly, kindly, and cheerfully (William Gouge, Of Domestical Duties, 85). In particular, the Puritans emphasized that love was the mutual duty of both husband and wife, indeed, the foundational duty of marriage. William Gouge (1575–1653) wrote, “A loving mutual affection must pass betwixt husband and wife, or else no duty will be well performed: this is the ground of all the rest” (Of Domestical Duties, 163). “As for love,” said William Whately (1583–1639), who wrote two books on marriage, “it is the life, the soul of marriage, without which it is no more itself, than a carcase is a man; yea, it is uncomfortable, miserable, and a living death.” Whately described marital love as “the king of the heart,” so that when it prevails, marriage is “a pleasing combination of two persons into one home, one purse, one heart, and one flesh” (A Bride-Bush, 7).
Whately observed, “Love is the life and soul of marriage, without which it differs as much from itself, as a rotten apple from a sound [one] and as a carcass from a living body; yea, verily it is a most miserable and uncomfortable society, and no better than a very living death” (Whately, A Bride-Bush, 31). Likewise, Henry Smith (1560–1591) declared, “Unless there be a joining of heart and a knitting of affections together, it is not marriage in deed, but in show and name, and they shall dwell in a house like two poisons in a stomach, and one shall ever be sick of another” (Works, 1:22). “Without the union of hearts,” George Swinnock (c. 1627–1673) wrote, “the union of bodies will be no benefit” (Works, 1:472). William Secker (d. c. 1681) quipped, “Two joined together without love, are but two tied together to make one another miserable” (“The Wedding Ring, A Sermon,” 263). Henry Scudder (c. 1585–1652) therefore advised those who were married to “love each other as [their] own souls with a Christian, pure, tender, abundant, natural, and matrimonial love” (The Godly Man’s Choice, 72). In order to survey Puritan teachings on marital love, we will consider three basic emphases: love must be spiritual, superlative, and sexual.
Those familiar with the Puritans may have heard the posthumous praise given of Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) by Izaak Walton (1594-1683) who claimed, “Of this blest man, let this just praise be given, Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.” This encomium could be restated to say that the “heavenly Doctor” (called such for his preaching and life) Sibbes’ heart resided in heaven before he entered its presence at death. A Puritan with a similar spirit was Christopher Love (1618-1651), who was known for his heavenly contemplation, especially through his collection of 17 sermons (published after his death), Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1653). At his execution (1651; more on this later!), one of the officers at the Tower of London, exclaimed, “The Lord strengthen you in this your hour of temptation!” To this Love replied, “Sir, I bless God, my heart is in heaven. I am well.” With his heart already in heaven, Love could face death with courage knowing that soon enough he would reside there fully.
In my next two posts, I will focus on this work related to the themes of heaven and hell. For now, I want to focus on the life of Christopher Love, who truly was (like Sibbes) a “heavenly man.” In the preface to Love’s sermon treatise, his friends challenge us to meditate on heaven and hell, a discipline that he knew well as seen in his writings and life. Not only did he preach and write on heaven and hell, he suffered and died as a Puritan fully convinced of their reality. However, his execution occurred at the hands of other Puritans. He was accused of treason under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and related to his attempt (the so-called “Love’s Plot”) to restore the exiled  Charles II to the throne. This was not a good time for a Presbyterian to claim the divine right of kings and decry the injustice of dethroning and executing Charles I (d. 1649). Love admitted involvement along with others such as Thomas Watson and Thomas Case, but he was accused of being the mastermind behind the plot, which included financing and conspiring with the Scots to use force for the restoration of Charles. 
Love’s involvement on such a level, remains questionable due to insufficient evidence and unconvincing witnesses. Still, he was convicted and beheaded on London’s Tower Hill as a traitor. On some level he was guilty, but some have called the execution unjust and tyrannical.  For example, Richard Baxter complained how cruelly Love’s executioners removed such a worthy man and “cut off so much excellency at a blow.” Love’s final letters to his wife Mary, who unsuccessfully sought his release, reveal his conviction in the covenant mercies of God. Love died with the firm assurance of the glory of heaven, of which he so fervently wrote. 
In my next post, I will focus on the theme of heaven as set forth by Love. For now, I want to challenge us as Christians to consider how little we tend to think upon heaven and hell. This remains amazing given that these eternal destinations make anything we could enjoy or suffer in this life nothing.  To focus more on them will lead us increasingly to seek and rest in Christ alone as the only one who can give us life in heaven later and a heavenly life now. We do well to start with the simple prescription of Puritan John Dod (1549-1645). He exhorts us to consider daily: “1. I must dye. 2. I may die ere night. 3. Whither will my Soul go, to Heaven or to Hell?”  When is the last time you even considered the real possibility that, before this day ends, you could be dead and in the place of eternal bliss or torment?

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