For this 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation, Hendrickson Publishers is reprinting a wonderful selection of sermons from Martin Luther. So far there are three volumes of sermons for Advent and Christmas Day, the Sunday after Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Epiphany, and Lent and Easter, which also includes Ascension Day, Pentecost Sunday, and Trinity Sunday. I recently immersed myself in this final volume on a trip and want to commend it to you for three reasons—aren't I ever the preacher!
First, we need to tap into the well of historic Christian preaching. I say this not only that you will be able to quote lines from Luther in your sermons, but as a preacher, there are so many preaching textbooks available to us that the task can become formulaic. Reading Luther's sermons is reading a man who was undergoing similar pressures I undergo as a pastor and preacher, but doing so under the added weight of the world on his shoulders. In his preaching you hear how the Holy Spirit worked through him in his particular moment.
Second, sermons such as these help those of us who at least occasionally preach seasonal or festival sermons that highlight the work of our Lord. I’ve made the case elsewhere for an historic Reformed practice of the evangelical feast days (I'm not that Puritan), so I won’t do that here. What I want to say here is that as a preacher who has done this over the course of 17 years in one congregation, this practice can lead to panic and despair: “I’ve preached 10 Easter sermons; I have nothing else to say!” Have no fear, Luther is here! Reading such sermons would also be a valuable meditative practice for all Christians as well.
Finally, these particular sermons on the season of Lent and Easter, as well as the particular days of Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity are treasures. For example, his first sermon in Lent is on the fasting and temptation narrative of Jesus Christ from Matthew 4. After denouncing false fasting (trying to emulate Christ’s 40 days/night, doing it in a man-made way, and worst of all, as a good work before God), he says this: “It would have been better had people been drunk day and night than to fast thus” (2). Typical Luther! On the contrary, there are two kinds of true fasting: that which we voluntarily undergo and that which God imposes on us (2). It’s this first kind that he focuses in on for instruction and admonition. Matthew 4 is for our instruction: “we should know how Christ has served and helped us by his fasting, hunger, temptation, and victory; also, that whoever believes on Christ shall never suffer need, and that temptation shall never harm him (3). It’s also for our admonition: “that we may in the light of this example also cheerfully suffer want and temptation in the service of God and the good of our neighbor” (3).
Read Luther, not only the theologian, but the preacher. It is good for your soul.
In Oliver Heywood’s The Family Altar, he spends most of his time addressing the heads of household whom he presumed would institute family worship. However, not every 21st century household takes the same form as Puritan households in the 17th century. Indeed, it seems unlikely that even in that day and age every family had servants, as Heywood assumes, or that they enjoyed the presence of both a mother and father. We know that there are some households where, for any number of reasons, single mothers are left to raise the children, there are no children at all, or there is only a single person living alone. More to the point, there may be a male head of household who does not care about the things of God. What should be done in these situations?
I am not sure that Heywood can give us the answer to all of these questions, for he begins his task with the assumption that households consist of a patriarch, matriarch, children, and servants. Even so, there are some principles within the pages of The Family Altar that could be helpful for those living in situations that do not fit the norm, or at least what was perceived to be the norm in the 17th century. 
Heywood does address a few words to women, encouraging them to value the worship of God in their homes more than fine decorations. “This devotional altar will be the best ornament to your houses; no pictures, stately rooms or household goods will be such neat and splendid furniture as this worship of God; the finest hanging and most beautiful paintings, are but sordid and disgusting filth to this; it is this that renders a beggar’s cottage far more honourable than a prince’s palace without it.”
When it comes to women leading family prayer, Heywood is open to the idea if they are working under the leadership of the male head of household. However, he does not come to a firm conclusion on this particular point, leaving the door open without providing a ringing endorsement.
“Some have thought, that a wife in a family, may in some cases perform family duty, and that this honour may be given to the weaker vessel to do the office of religious exercise, as well as partake in the government of the family: doubtless she is to pray: and it hath been judged by learned men that she may and must pray in the family with her husband’s leave, and in her husband’s presence, only she should cover her face with a veil, in token of her subjection. This they think is meant by a woman praying or prophesying with her head covered, not in the church where she was not to speak, but in the family when she performed that piece of worship…But I am not positive herein, and leave it to the consideration of others.”
There are few of us today who would say that women must cover their heads while praying in their own homes, but Heywood does not come to a firm conclusion here as he does in some other areas. He sees the question as one that has not been definitively settled. Perhaps we should be more impressed by the fact that he suggests women can lead in prayer at all. But what about women in homes where the men are not behaving in a godly manner? Heywood clearly teaches that heads of household are not immune from the commands of God: if anything, their responsibility is greater.
“Rule your dependants with love, and they will obey in love; if you shew good-will to their souls, with good-will they will do you service, as to the Lord; holiness creates reverence; tenderness produceth ingenuous subjection; affection maintains authority more than domineering rigour; let it appear that you rule your families under God, and for God.”
Heywood also gives instruction to women and dependents in cases where the head of household is drunk or not leading worship properly. This could also be applied to any case where they are behaving in an ungodly manner or clearly failing in their duties to the family.
“Yet if thou art convinced that the party praying speaks nonsense or blasphemy, instead of praying, thou art bound in conscience to shew thy dislike of it, lest God be dishonoured and offended with the whole family, the man hardened in sin, thy own conscience defiled, and thyself in danger of playing the hypocrite, in pretending to join with what thy soul abhors; in this case thou must withdraw, and get alone, and mourn over it…And it is also thy duty, humbly and modestly to take a proper season to speak to thy master, as Naaman’s servants did to him, when they saw him wrong, and you know it did good; and Abigail told her husband Nabal of his fault and danger, and ‘his heart died within him.’ Who can tell what good such a word in season may do?”
If all this should fail, Heywood urges dependents, “See if any other member in the family will undertake that exercise, or whether the master will give you leave to pray in the family…If all this avail not for family worship, and necessity detains you there, as you love your souls, spend more time, and take more pains in secret…” Therefore, he considers prayer so important that it must be performed even if it is forbidden, but with as much respect for the head of household as possible.

Our friends at Eerdmans Publishing have given us two (2) giveaway copies of The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology. Deadline is Friday, August 18.

Enter here.

In this final installment of the series on union and communion with Christ, I will continue to consider practical benefits of this doctrine. More specifically, I will look at how we might use this doctrine to spur us on towards love and good deeds.
Thomas Lye, in his sermon entitled, The True Believer’s Union with Christ Jesus, said that our union with Christ should help us to reject “solicitations unto sin,” or to put it more positively, to be faithful to Christ. As every Christian knows, life is full of temptations. We might be led away from following Christ by people or things. Also, we might be enticed to be unfaithful by the remaining sinful desires in our own hearts. But when temptation comes to us “like a Potiphar’s wife, and offers deadly poison in a golden cup,” we should respond in faith by saying, “I would consent, but that I am united unto Christ…But now I cannot gratify this lust, but I must needs be disloyal to my Christ, my Husband to whom I am married.”
In the movie Die Hard 2, officer John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, is walking in Dulles international airport. A beautiful, young woman comes up to him and hits on him. McClane rebuffs her advances by lifting up his left hand and showing her the wedding ring on his finger. He is a married man. He already belongs to someone. And that means that he can’t embrace another. When someone or something hits on you and encourages you to forsake the Lord Jesus use your union with Christ in the same way that officer John McClane used his wedding ring. Remind yourself that you are married to Christ and therefore you can’t be disloyal to him.
Union with Christ is also a help to feed our faith and to strengthen us so that we might keep God’s commandments. When the race that God sets before us is hard we need to remind ourselves that in Christ we are not only justified but also sanctified. John Ball noted that “Christ himself cannot be divided, nor the participation of his benefits. If by communion in his death, we be delivered from the curse and malediction of the Law; by the power of his Resurrection, we are raised up to live unto God.” This means that we should be persuaded that God is working in us so that we might work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
In the Disney animation film, The Lion King, Simba is the heir of the Pride Lands, but living in self-imposed exile because he wrongly believes he was responsible for his father’s death. When he is confronted to return, Simba refuses because he is unsure of his right and ability to be king. Eventually, he changes his mind, returning to take his rightful place as the leader of the Pride Lands. The pivotal moment occurred when Simba’s Father speaks to him from the clouds: “Remember who you are! You are my son! You are the king!” Christian, remember who you are! You are united to Christ, you share in his resurrection life, so go and run with confidence the race that God has set before you.
Finally, union with Christ should encourage us to “walk lovingly, tenderly, toward believers (T. Lye).” We are united together in Christ, therefore, we should love one another and walk together in peace. In fact, it is to our own detriment if we don’t since we are one body. Lye rightly observed, “By your divisions, you do but dig your own graves.” Lye then wrote and with his words I will bring this series to an end:
I shall close all with that of the apostle in Eph. iv. 3-6, wherein he draws this arrow to the very head: ‘Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ Why? Because ‘there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.’ Let me add, You are one with Christ the head: it is your duty, therefore, and it will be your privilege, honour, safety, to be one with another.”
As the Thirty-nine Articles turn from the examination of our guilt, Article 11 comforts those humbled by Articles 9 and 10. These speak of the "fault and corruption of the nature of every man, wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God." Here is the good news of God’s grace: justification is not by works, but purely by the merits of Christ. It is also here that we have the first example of the relational character of the Anglican confession in our historical formularies where the article directs the Christian believer to the First and Second Book of Homilies (See also Article 35).
XI—Of the Justification of Man

We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
The doctrine of justification by faith alone lay at the heart of the Reformation and was promulgated as early as 1536 in the Ten Articles (Article 5) that preceded Cranmer’s 1553 Forty-Two Articles. 1553 was much shorter, more of a note pointing to the Homily of Justification (its proper title is A Sermon of the Salvation of Mankind by Christ Our Saviour, From Sin and Death Everlasting) to discover what the reformed Church of England understood on by justification by faith alone. It is clear that Archbishop Parker again drew from the reformed Württemberg Confession in writing a fuller definition here. 
For Cranmer and the Anglican divines that followed him, this is a first order doctrine. The explanatory Homily of Justification says that “this is the strong Rock and foundation of the Christian Religion… whosoever denieth, is not to be accounted for a Christian man” (Bray, Homilies 26). Any teaching that contradicts this article is heretical. A Christian must believe it. Notice also how the article says clearly that it is a doctrine, “very full of comfort.” The next time we will read this description is in article 17, Of Predestination and Election. The language is deliberate, as both underline the necessity of God’s grace alone for such truths to be possible for a lawless and rebellious humanity.
The Roman Catholic Council of Trent confused justification and sanctification. Rome taught that the grace of God, earned by Jesus, is infused into the soul of the believer at baptism. The believer then cooperates with God in living a holy life and thus, on the final day, the believer will be justified by God on the basis of the good works achieved in cooperation with grace: “[adults] may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace” (Session 6 Chapter 5). In contemporary Catholicism, justification is the forgiveness of sins, but also includes, “the sanctification and renewal of the inner man” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, rev. ed.; 2012 [paragraph 1989]). For the Roman Catholic, justification is a process that entails the ongoing appropriation of God’s righteousness by which one is continually justified: As the Catholic Catechism says, “Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life” (paragraph 2027). The glory of justification is human merit. It is the fact that God graciously provides his Spirit so that sinners can live lives that please God and establish merit, in other words, to enable them to live lives that are meritorious. 
But the article says the opposite: “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not of our own works or deservings." The ground of our justification is the external, forensic work of Christ alone. How opposed is the Anglican doctrine of justification from the Roman Catholic, and how opposed to the teaching of the Apostle Paul in Galatians, Romans, and in many other places in the Bible. We are justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ, based upon what he has done for us not what we do. Not by the works of the Law but by the hearing of faith. Our position is so certain that the future judgment has been declared now—and in declaring it so, God has made it so. We are his children; we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17-21). This is what the article means when it says that its doctrine is "very full of comfort." The believer can have total assurance of salvation before God. 
It is the pondering of depths of God’s gift of justification by the power of the Holy Spirit, that we produce the fruits of a saving faith. As Cranmer writes at the conclusion of his homily on justification:
And the said benefits of God deeply considered, do move us for his sake also to be ever ready to give ourselves to our neighbours, and as much as lieth in us, to study with all our endeavor, to do good to every man. These be the fruits of true faith, to do good as much as lieth in us to every man; and above all things and in all things to advance the glory of God, of whom only we have our sanctification, justification, salvation, and redemption. To whom be ever glory, praise, and honor, world without end. Amen. (Bray, 30).
Anglicans offer the true and full gospel that is the whole Christ. The sinner is not only not guilty, but we are perfectly righteous in Christ. He is also working in you to make you holy; he is sanctifying you that you will more and more die to sin and live to righteousness. 
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)
The family worship (see parts #1, #2) that Oliver Heywood envisioned contained three basic elements: reading scripture, singing Psalms, and prayer. To this we might add reading from works of great theologians or famous sermons, but only as a means for explaining Scripture. They would not be the sole point and purpose of worship. Within the pages of The Family Altar, Heywood gave numerous other instructions on how family worship should take place. Here are some of his suggestions.
1. When should families pray?
“1) You must be sure to pray for a blessing at meals, 1 Tim. 4:4, 5. 2) Take your family at meal time to seek God, and read his scriptures, to sing God’s praise, and to perform family duty, morning and evening. 3) Let it be a stated time, if possible, known to the family, that none may plead excuse for their absence: but that the whole family may attend. 4) Yet if some extraordinary accident intervene, you must not think yourselves so precisely bound to a time, as to be perplexed in conscience for omission, but take another more convenient time, which may more directly suit your occasions.” (Works, 4:407)
2. And what if someone cannot be there for family worship time due to travel or other activities?
“But if possible, so arrange your worldly concerns, as not to hinder your family exercise, prudent foresight may be of great service here: but if your calling be such, that this cannot be, do as the Israelites did, gather double the day or night before, two omers for a man or family, lay in for the day following, what may stand you in stead by pleading with God, for what you will need.” (Works, 4:407-408)
3. Make sure that you are hearing the Word of God preached properly in church, for that will benefit your family worship time.
“Attend upon a powerful ministry. There you will hear directions, motives, precepts, promises, scripture arguments to quicken and direct you in this practice; there you may gain knowledge of God the object of worship, of Christ the mediator and advocate, of the Holy Ghost that must assist you; there you will get a good understanding of God’s mind and will, which will furnish you with ability, and further your acquaintance with God.” (Works, 4:378)
4. If you are unsure how to pray or feel you are not good at it, you should pray even more, for “by running men learn to run, by writing they learn to write: so by praying you will best learn to pray.” (Works, 4:386)
5. By the same token, if you want to be a pious family, spend time with other pious families.
“Frequent Christian society; converse with pious, praying persons, this will help you in family exercises and worship, not only as it is a good example, but as it assimilates you to them, and also as it provokes to a holy emulation, it will make you shame with yourselves, that such as had no better assistance or higher education than you, have yet attained to such knowledge, gifts, and elocution; this will make you admire the grace of God in them, and think it not impossible, but that the same grace may do as much in you.” (Works, 4:383)
6. When you move into a new house, mark the occasion with prayer.
“Dedicate your houses to the Lord. So did God’s servants of old, when they had built a new house they dedicated it, Deut. 20:5; when they had been banished from it, and were restored, they again dedicated it as David did, when Absalom had polluted it.” (Works, 4:372-373)
7. Whenever God answers prayer with a blessing, do something to memorialize the occasion. Heywood says “when you experience signal mercies, set up an Ebenezer, and say, ‘hitherto hath the Lord helped us’…” (Works, 4:387)
8. It is alright to use set prayers, but one should not depend upon them entirely, for “every Christian, even the meanest and weakest hath the gift and spirit of prayer…” (Works, 4:411)
9. Prayer must not be merely an intellectual exercise or emotional exclamation, but something deeper. He writes “study not to speak fine but fit words, not many but weighty, proceeding from thy heart, directed unto God, and pertinent to the matter in hand.” (Works, 4:377)
10. Know the success or your family worship time does not ultimately rest in your own abilities, but the power of God.
“The weaker you think yourselves…the more likely you are to depend on the right means of your acceptance, that is, the Spirit of Christ for assistance, and the merit and intercession of Christ for acceptance.” (Works, 4:418)
In my previous post, I provided a sketch of Patrick Gillespie’s arguments for the distinction between the Covenant of Redemption and the Covenant of Grace. Yet some have objected to this distinction by appealing to Westminster Larger Catechism 31, which states, “The Covenant of Grace is made with Christ, as the Second Adam, and in him, with the elect as his seed.” The argument goes that Christ since Christ is the primary party in both covenants, there is one covenant instead of two, with eternal and temporal aspects. In light of this argument, Gillespie’s last chapter in his Ark of the Covenant shows how Christ is the sum of the Covenant of Grace without eliminating the need for the Covenant of Redemption. This material helps us better understand WLC 31 in its context and it directs us to look to Christ himself as the chief blessing and promise of the Covenant of Grace.
Gillespie began by citing Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8, both of which refer to God giving Christ as a covenant for the people (453). This involves summing up the covenant in him and committing the whole business of the covenant to him (454). Citing Ps. 89:19. Gillespie listed several reasons why Christ is the sum of the Covenant of Grace.
First, “all this covenant is comprised in Christ.” This means that Christ is the covenant “originally and fundamentally.” He is its ancient foundation from the beginning of the world. Citing Gen. 3:15. His is the eternal foundation of this covenant in the decrees of God. This point draws from the Covenant of Redemption and puts it forward as the foundation of the Covenant of Grace, highlighting Christ’s relationship to both covenants. Citing Tit. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:9. 2 (455). Christ is thus the covenant “primarily and by propriety.” The covenant was made with him as “the chief party” (456) Citing Ps. 89:3, 33; Is. 55:3 (mistakenly listing Is. 53). He is the covenant eminently as the chief blessing of the covenant. Jn. 4:10. Jn. 3:16. He is the covenant “comprehensively or summarily” (457). All the parties of the Covenant of Grace are comprehended in him. This is based on the union of Christ’s two natures in one person (which I plan to treat in the next post). His person is on both sides of the covenant (458) and “he contracts for both the parties” (458).
Gillespie’s second broad point as that, “the sum of all the articles of the covenant is in Christ” (458). While this appears redundant with the preceding point, he advanced his argument in the following ways. He noted that the sum of the covenant promises consists in God being our God and we being his people. Though Christ is not the cause of God’s covenant love he is the cause of God’s relation to us (459). Citing Ps. 89:26. God becomes ours only through union with Christ. We come to God in Christ and God comes to us in him. This includes every benefit of the covenant, such as justification, adoption, and sanctification (see WLC 69). His next four points were briefer.
Third, the sum of the mutual stipulation is in Christ. He obtains the consent of both parties. Citing Prov. 8:22-23, 30. He received the covenant to fulfill it on both sides (460). Citing Ps. 89:17, 19. Christ is the stipulation on both sides of the covenant, as given and received. The gospel covenant craves stipulations and duties from us, but “it filleth the hand with Christ” to make the payment of our rent.
Fourth, Christ is the sum of all of the blessings and promises of the covenant. Again citing Is. 42:6 and Gen. 3:15. (461)
Fifth, “Christ is the sum of all the properties of the covenant” (461). It is free in Christ. Citing Is. 53:10-12 (462). He is not the cause of the eternal transaction with the Father concerning the elect, but he is the cause of all covenant graces in the elect. It is everlasting because of Christ. Citing Prov. 8:23; Ps. 89:30-35; Is. 53:10 (463). The covenant is also well ordered in Christ. It is stable and sure in Christ (464). Citing Heb. 13:8. It is a perfect covenant by which we are made complete in our perfect Savior. Citing 1 Cor. 1:30.
Sixth, the transaction of the covenant is comprised in Christ. The covenant of grace is a “soul-satisfying covenant, and he is a soul-satisfying Christ” (465).
Seventh, “Christ is the sum of all covenant blessings.” Citing Col. 3:11, etc. In this way, Gillespie demonstrated why Christ was the sum of the Covenant of Grace without negating his prior arguments for a distinct Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son, which was the foundation of the Covenant of Grace with the elect.
While WLC 31 does not negate the need for the distinction between the Covenants of Redemption and Grace, noting that God makes this covenant with the elect in Christ teaches us something important. In his uses, Gillespie argued that we must not only come to God with Christ, but we must actually be in Christ (474). One difference between the Covenants of Redemption and Grace lies in their parties. The parties of the eternal covenant are God and Christ respecting the elect while the parties in the temporal covenant are God and the elect in Christ. Through saving union with Christ alone believers receive all of the benefits of redemption in communion with Christ (See WLC 65-90, which couches the application of the gospel to the elect in these terms). Gillespie added that while “temporary” believers come to Christ for salvation only, true believers find in Christ something better than salvation (475). In other words, true Christians must regard Christ himself as the highest blessing of the Covenant of Grace, since Christ is the sum and substance of God’s covenant with him. It is better to know Christ than to be justified, adopted, and sanctified, though when we receive Christ through faith we have all of these things and more in him.

As you may know, our friends at Reformation Heritage Books are currently typesetting, editing, and re-publishing the The Works of William Perkins. Thanks to them, we have one (1) hardcover set and one (1) ebook set of the first 4 volumes to give away.

If you are in the U.S., enter here for the harcover set.

If you are outside the U.S., enter here, for the ebook set.

The deadline to register is Friday, August 4.

In The Family Altar, the Puritan writer Oliver Heywood makes the case for family or household worship. We have already discussed Heywood’s belief that family worship is essential for the proper functioning not only of the family, but also the Church and wider society. We must now consider exactly what he meant when he spoke of a family altar: “By altar I mean (considered as an instance of synecdoche) all the worship of God to be performed in families” (The Whole Works of the Rev. Oliver Heywood, Volume 4:305). He also said: “Christian families are churches, and churches must have altars for God’s worship” (4:320).
Perhaps it sounds strange to refer to a family as a church. In fact, Heywood focused on three different spheres in which worship takes place: the congregation, the family, and in private. He never intended for worship at the family level to take away from the ministry of the Word to the congregation, and he used an analogy between the two to clarify that only certain families can be thought of in that way. 
“That is no church where there is no altar of God, but it is a synagogue of Satan. We cannot call every family a church, but a Christian pious family; and it is so called by the analogy or resemblance it bears to a church, from the worship of God maintained therein” (4:321). A truly religious family, according to Heywood, will “maintain God’s worship according to God’s institution, where the daily perfume of prayer ascends heavenwards” (4:319).
By family or household, Heywood meant all the people living under the same roof, whether or not they were related by blood. This would include the father, mother, children, and any servants. Nearly all of his book is addressed to men who were the heads of households. “But indeed the proper constituent, essential parts of a family are but these two, such as govern, and such as are governed. And ordinarily the person governing must set up this altar, and order the worship of God in his house or family together with the rest…” (4:309)
One of the chief biblical examples to which Heywood appeals is Jacob. He draws from this Old Testament patriarch to make the point that fathers serve as prophets, priests, and kings in their own household. “As holy Jacob, the famous patriarch, was a prophet to instruct his family in the true religion, and a king to govern them for God; so a priest to set up an altar, offer sacrifices and perform religious worship for and with his family: even the poorest man that has a family is to be a prophet, priest, and king in his own house.”
Once again, it may seem odd to speak of a father as being a prophet, priest, and king. Heywood certainly did not mean to imply by this that all heads of household receive the special gift of prophecy, that they ought to be offering up literal sacrifices, or that they were permitted to act as tyrants. He used this biblical model as an example for how husbands and fathers should take the initiative in instituting family worship and encouraging the spiritual development of the other members of the household. Importantly, he never saw this position as being one and the same with an ordained minister or usurping the ordinary means of grace in the church congregation.
“A master of a family should teach all under his charge as a master, yet not usurp the office of a minister, without a due call,” he wrote. “His teaching must not be in opposition, but in subordination to ministerial instruction; as families are subordinate to churches” (402-403). Here again, we see how Heywood viewed the different spheres of Puritan worship – congregational, family, and private – and wished for them to complement one another rather than being in opposition. He firmly believed that “the more a Christian is conversant with God and his family, the more will he prize and improve public ordinances” (4:308).
Even as family worship was a means to improve congregational worship, Heywood also taught that private prayer, often referred to as “closet prayer”, was an essential preparation for all other activities, including participation in household prayer. “Converse with God alone: first pray in your closets, and then you will be better able to pray in your families, both as to matter and manner: a frequent exercise of closet prayer will move you to converse with God: there you will find that God will suggest words to your minds, which you may employ in your families in prayer, and this course will embolden you before others…” (4:384)
We have now seen how family worship fits in with other forms of worship. In the next article, we will look at what Heywood believed should be the content of family worship times and some practical ideas for instituting this practice.
In this penultimate installment of the series on a puritan doctrine of union and communion with Christ, I want to consider the comfort “this glorious union with Christ” brings to dying saints and to “their surviving mourners” (Case).
Thomas Jacomb says that we have no reason to be afraid of death even though it is “the king of terrors (Job 18:14)” because it can’t dissolve our union with Christ. We remain in Christ in both life and death. Death is, indeed, a great destroyer. It dissolves the union between the body and the soul, and the union between husband and wife. It takes a parent from a child, a child from a parent, and a sibling from a sibling. However, death is not the ultimate destroyer because it can’t dissolve the union between Christ and the believer. Saints die in the Lord and they sleep in Jesus (Rev. 14:13; 1 Thess. 4:14). In fact, death works to the advantage of the believer because to live is Christ but to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).
In writing in the midst of his own personal grief, Thomas Case highlights the idea that Christ even remains united to our dead bodies. He notes that our “ashes are not laid up in the grave so much as in Christ.” And even though our bodies return to dust and may be scattered to the four corners of the earth, Jesus, who knows the stars by name, “knows every dust of [our] precious bodies, keeps them in his hand, and is as really united to them as to his own human nature in heaven.” Thus, Case encourages mourners to view their loved ones’ dust in an urn that Jesus himself is holding in his hands and “for which he himself will be responsible, and bring it forth safely and entirely in the morning of the resurrection [see also WSC 37].” Similarly, Jacomb wrote, “When the body of a child of God shall be no better than a rotten carcase, Christ will say, Oh yet this very carcase is precious to me, for it is in union with me!...The very dust of believers is valued by Christ, insomuch that he will not lose the least atom of it.”
This is indeed a comforting truth, not only because it teaches that our whole person is precious to Jesus, but it also reassures us of our own bodily resurrection. Eusebius tells us that the Romans would burn the bodies of Christians and scatter their ashes in the Rhone river in order to crush their hope in the future resurrection. But it doesn’t matter if our bodies return to dust in the grave or if they are burned and scattered in the wind so that all trace of them is gone. They are united to Christ and he will raise them from the dead and fashion them according to his own glorious body (Phil. 3:21). Since the head, that is Christ, is risen then it is sure that the members, that is believers, will rise also “by virtue of the union that is betwixt them (Jacomb).”