One of the best ways we help our children appreciate what they have is to take something away for a time only to restore it later. In a similar way, one of the best ways for us to appreciate what we have in Jesus Christ is to think about what Adam took away from us by his disobedience. He took away true knowledge of God. Now we are born blinded by sin. He took away fellowship with God. Now we are born at enmity with God. He took away delight in serving God. Now we are born unable to serve him. But Jesus Christ restores these lost aspects of our relationship with God. As a priest he removes our enmity with God, as a king he removes our inability to serve the Lord, and as a prophet he removes the blindness of sin.
 
It’s this prophetic office of Christ that we read about in Matthew 17:1–13. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the great prophet who “reveal[s] to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and Word, in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 43). This passage describes what we call the “transfiguration,” that is, Jesus’ outward change or transformation as his face and clothes were transformed into heavenly glory before the disciples. The beautiful thing about Jesus is that he also inwardly transforms us by the renewing of our minds into his image (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18). What is most important for us in terms of his prophetic office is the heavenly Father’s word concerning his Son: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” In the traditional language of the Geneva Bible (1599) and King James Bible (1611), we are to “Hear him” (Matt. 17:5).
 
Him Whom We Are to Hear
Why is it so important to know the “him” whom we are to hear? Imagine your favorite cable news show, talk radio show, or even a group conversation you’ve been involved in recently. There were lots of voices, weren’t there? And when a host has two or three other guests at the same time, there is that phenomenon of them all speaking and sounding like a buzz of sound, with no distinguishable voice. Now, realize that this is the same thing that we have in the world. There are so many noises and voices, so many ideologies and philosophies, so many self-proclaimed gurus and prophets all vying for our attention. Jesus himself warned that this would be the case in the world (Matt. 24:23–26).
 
Because of this we need to be able to discern his voice so that we can hear him amid all the chatter of ideology, philosophy, and religion. We can do this by discerning his dignity. He is the Son of God: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 17:5). We can do this by discerning his dearness to the Father: “My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” We can do this by discerning his distinctness from all other prophets. Jesus is the culmination of all that the law and the prophets spoke. On the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus were Moses—the giver of the law—and Elijah—the great prophet of Israel. And on the testimony of two or three witnesses everything was established. Here are two testimonies while the third is added for final confirmation—the voice of the Father himself.
 
So if Jesus is the eternally beloved Son and the culmination of the prophets, what did he say that is so urgent for us to hear? Hear him speak in his Word the truth about how sinners like you are saved from the wrath of Almighty God and brought into his everlasting kingdom. Hear him speak in his Word the truth about how you as a member of his kingdom are to be edified. Hear him.
 
Hearing Him Who Speaks
The Father’s words in Matthew 17:5 also teach us to hear him who speaks. Thomas Manton once illustrated this when he said there is a distinction between mere hearing of the sounds of Jesus’ words in the ear, which the animal kingdoms can do, understanding the meaning of Jesus’ words, which human beings can do, and finally assenting to what Jesus’ words mean, which is what his disciples alone do (Manton, Works 1:395). The Father wants us to hear his Son, our great prophet, in this way as his disciples, not mere animals; as friends, not his enemies.
 
But where can we go to hear him when he is now at the right hand of God in heaven? We hear him in his Word written but especially in his Word preached. In Hebrews 2:1–3 the writer speaks as a second generation Christian, as one who knew the voice of our great prophet through his apostles but also that same voice through the proclamation of his words. Thus he says, “we must pay closer attention to what we have heard” through the means of ministers of the gospel. Hence Paul could say in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”
 
We need to hear with urgency, as the imperative mood implies: “Hear him!” Recall what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4. We know the famous line, “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2), but we do not know what he goes on to say: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3–4). In the midst of the chatter and noise in our time we need to urgently gather to ourselves not teachers to tickle our ears, but teachers to tell us the truth.
 
And how are we to hear our great prophet’s words? We need to hear with devotion, as Peter and the disciples did. After Jesus asked them, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter said on their behalf, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67–68). And this devoted hearing of him must lead to obeying him: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas. 1:22).
 
Yet our Bibles gather dust. Yet our minds are filled with the images and self-gratification of the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter. Yet more time is spend in front of video games than in front of the face of the Lord. Yet our attention is so easily grabbed by the Super Bowl, by birthday parties, by weddings, by social events, by the lure of money in working on the Lord’s Day. How quickly we hear the world’s words and believe. How easily we are seduced by the devil. How weakly we put up a fight with our sin natures.
 
Hear him.

We have three (3) copies of Lee Gatiss' book, John Owen: The Genius of English Puritanism, to give away. Deadline is this Friday, April 28.

Enter here.

In the last article, I noted four points regarding a puritan doctrine of union and communion with Christ. Continuing that discussion, a fifth point is that communion is communion in what Christ himself possesses. The saving benefits that we receive in union with Christ are properly Christ’s own benefits. Christ doesn’t give us something that doesn’t already belong to him or that isn’t already true of him. Everything that we need in order to experience the promised salvation, Christ must first possess, including justification, adoption and sanctification. In other words, believers commune in Christ’s justification, adoption and sanctification.
 
Richard Sibbes said that “All the promises are made to Christ first, and all good things are his first.” Christ is pre-eminent in all things and so “nothing can be ours but it must be Christ’s first,” including our election, justification, resurrection and ascension. With respect to justification, Sibbes wrote: “Our justification is in Christ first. He is justified and freed from our sins being laid to his charge as our surety, and therefore we are freed.”
 
Samuel Rutherford wrote that the promises “flow from God to us but all along they fall first on Christ.” The promises are of two sorts, some only to Christ while others to Christ and his people. The promises to Christ and his people are also divided into two kinds: general and special. The general promise is “I will be your God.” Although Christ has “God to his Father by eternal birth-right,” he took a “new covenant-right to God for our cause.” The special promises, which “are first made to Christ and then by proportion to us” are a new heart and a new spirit, justification, victory and dominion, the Kingdom and glory, and resurrection from the dead. Concerning the promise of justification, Rutherford wrote:
Justification is promised to Christ, not personally, as if he needed a pardon for sin, but of his Cause, there is a cautionary or Surety-righteousness due to the Surety when he hath paid the debt of the broken man, and commeth out of prison free by Law, so he came out of the Grave for our righteousness, but having first the righteousness of his Cause, in his own person, Isaiah 50.8. He is neer that justifieth me (saith Christ) who shall contend with me? 1 Tim. 3.16. Justified in the Spirit. So have we Justification of our persons, and Remission in his blood, Eph. 1.7. and that by Covenant, Jer. 31.32.33.
More particularly, Edward Reynolds said that what Christ possesses becomes ours in communion with him. Even as Rutherford distinguished between promises to Christ alone and promises to Christ and his people, so Reynolds distinguished between privileges of Christ that are personal and incommunicable and privileges of Christ that are general and communicable. The communicable benefits and privileges that flow from Christ to us in communion with him include “the death and merit of Christ,” “the life of Christ,” “the Sonship, and, by consequence, inheritance of Christ,” “the kingdom of Christ,” “Christ’s victories,” and “[Christ’s] holy unction, whereby we are consecrated to be ‘kings and priests.’” The first three of these pertain to justification, sanctification and adoption respectively.  
 
Of particular interest in the above list of benefits and privileges is the sonship of Christ. It might seem strange, even heretical, to suggest that the sonship of Christ becomes ours in any sense because he is the eternal Son of God. But Reynolds, of course, did not suggest any such thing. He carefully distinguished between Christ’s “personal sonship by eternal generation” from the sonship he received at his resurrection. Citing a number of biblical references (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:2,5,6; Acts 13:33; Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5), Reynolds said that Christ became a son at his resurrection in the sense of the “dignity and honour which he had as the first-born over every creature, and heir of all things.” Believers “in [their] measure” partake of this sonship of Christ (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:29). Consequently, Christ and his church “do interchangeably take one another’s names,” including the name, son of God (1 John 3:1). Moreover, in sharing in Christ’s sonship, believers have “fellowship with the Father, access and approach with confidence for all needful supplies, assurance of his care in all extremities, interest in the inheritance which here serveth for his children, confidence to be spared in all our failings, and to be accepted in all our sincere and willing services.”
 
In expounding upon the meaning and biblical basis of a puritan doctrine of union and communion with Christ, I have noted five points:
  1. an actual union 
  2. a spiritual union that binds the believer to Christ 
  3. union with Christ is by faith 
  4. communion follows union 
  5. communion in what Christ himself possesses.
In the next article, I want to consider some theological and pastoral uses of this doctrine with respect to faith, justification, atonement and assurance.
Article 5 of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion is another example of the need to read these articles as a whole. One of the new articles added by Archbishop Matthew Parker (1504-1575) in 1563, this article contains an explicit statement on the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son (filioque in Latin). The synod in Dublin (1615) adopted this article as it stands for the Irish Articles. Although there is no comparable chapter in the Westminster Confession (1647), each phrase on the Holy Spirit is present in Westminster Confession of Faith 2.3.
 
Depsite being straightforward as well as the second shortest of the articles, article 5 remains one of the most controversial articles among Anglicans today.
 
V—Of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.
 
Archbishop Parker adopted the language of the Augsburg Confession (1530), which had also been done by Johannes Brenz (1499-1570) in the Wüttemberg Confession of 1552. The Wüttemberg Confession was presented to the Council of Trent in the same year as a statement of unity among Protestant churches and in their solidarity with the catholic creeds.
 
Article 5 is not the only place in the Articles that affirms the double procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. We read in Article 8 on the Creeds how the doctrines contained in the Apostles, Athanasian, and Nicene Creeds of the Book of Common Prayer are to be thoroughly believed and received because the doctrines of these creeds (both have the filioque) contain the teachings of the Scriptures. Thus linking Article 5 through Article 8 to Article 6 on the sufficient Scripture being the final authority on all matters of faith.
 
In the West, this short phrase "and the Son" (filioque) has not been controversial since the eleventh century and most accepted it long before then. By the early sixth century, it is found in the Athanasian Creed. And the doctrine had been developed as early as Augustine of Hippo in his book on the Trinity (De Trinitate). Augustine taught that God is a Trinity of love, the Father is the one who loves, the Son the beloved, and the Spirit the bond of love that unites them. For love to be perfect, it must be equal to the Father and the Son. This means the bond of love must proceed from the Father as his love for the Son and from the Son in his responsive love for the Father. In the East, this phrase was never accepted and continues to cause strain in the relations between our churches. Gerald Bray suggests that there are two different models of the Trinity which are incompatible on this point. The Eastern model logically excludes the double procession because of its view of the Father as the only source of divinity, while the Western one requires balancing the love of the Father and the Son for each other (Bray, The Faith We Confess: An Exposition of the 39 Articles38).
 
The Western church resolved the problem at the 1439 Council of Florence (which the Anglican Church has never renounced) that declared that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. This wording keeps the primacy of the Father that is so important to the East and retains the procession from the Father and the Son that takes into account the Bible passages referring to the relationship between the Spirit and Son. Offered as a compromise to the Eastern churches but rejected, little has changed since then.
 
Why did the Anglican divines hold to the decree of the Council of Florence and guarantee a sound doctrine of the Spirit in all the historic formularies? They saw that to eradicate the connection between the consequent work of the Spirit in relation to the Son and the Son's relationship with the Father is to eradicate the person and ministry of the Spirit rediscovered in the Reformation. A doctrine, which suggests that it may be possible to go to the Father in the Spirit without reference to the Son, removes the objective reality of the cross and the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as the central to the believer. The Holy Spirit is the bond that unites us to Christ and by whom we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits.
  
In recent years, however, Anglicans have been tempted to delete the filioque from the Nicene Creed and to ignore the Athanasian Creed altogether. The proposed liturgies of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) have bracketed the words [and the Son] in the Nicene Creed. Such brackets signal to the minister that the omission of the filioque is permitted. The explanation given in the 2013 resolution that accompanied the proposed liturgies is that the omission may be allowed on the relatively weak argument that the original Greek translation of the Creed omits the phrase. Thereby bypassing the significant doctrinal position taken by the historic formularies (the Articles and the Book of Common Prayer) and the essential Reformational character of the Anglican Church.
 
The bracketing of the filioque clause in the proposed liturgies speaks more of the disproportionate influence of Anglo-Catholic and philo-Orthodox thinking within the ACNA's leadership. Interest in the topic has always been high among these groups who for the last 150 years have sought to justify a non-Roman type of Catholicism by an appeal to the Eastern church and to marginalize the Reformation. Indeed, four months have passed at the time of this writing into 2017 and the ACNA has yet to mention this 500th anniversary year by website, episcopal communiqué, blog post, special prayer, collect and thanksgivings, or in notification of conferences and research papers! Therefore a bracketing of the filioque signals a symptom to the discerning Protestant that Anglicans hold differing and irreconcilable views on essential doctrines. For the present, the ACNA College of Bishops resolution is to “seek advice” of the Theological Commission of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON). One might also suggest that the Commission also address the underlying issue in the authoritative nature of the historical formularies themselves that GAFCON member provinces profess. 
 
Article 5 may be the second shortest of the all the articles but it is no less important when taken as part of the larger theological narrative of the formularies. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit rests among all the other key doctrines and teachings of our confession.
 
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)
Up to this point it has been shown that, for John Knox, the Lord’s Supper is ordained of God; Christ is truly, but spiritually present; and it is a great blessing, but a blessing that is reserved for God’s own people. Knox’s hatred (and that is not putting it too strongly) of the Mass has also been considered. However, an examination of Knox’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper would be incomplete without considering briefly some practical aspects. Knox’s convictions regarding the regulative principle of worship, and his position that “The Table of the Lord is then most rightly ministered, when it approaches most nigh to Christ's own action…” carried with it a number of practical implications. (Knox, “First Book of Discipline” in Works, 2:187)
 
First, only ordained ministers could administer the sacraments: “The sacraments be rightly administered … by lawful ministers whom we affirm to be only they that are appointed to the preaching of the Word…” (Dennison, Reformed Confessions, 2:202-203. Cf. also Knox, “First Book of Discipline” in Works, 2:186)
 
Second, the sacrament is under the authority of the Word, and not to be separated from it: “To Christ Jesus his holy Evangel truly preached, of necessity it is, that his holy sacraments be annexed, and truly ministered, as seals and visible confirmations of the spiritual promises contained in the word…” (Knox, “First Book of Discipline” in Works, 2:186) Thus the marks of the church are the preaching of the word, the right administration of the sacraments - and in that order. The sacrament, great blessing though it is, is added to the Word, and confirms the Word, not the other way round. Thus Knox could state to one of his correspondents that “Where Christ is not preached, (mark well that I say, preached), that there hath the Sacrament neither life nor soul…” (Knox, Works, 6:14)
 
Third, frequency of observance was a matter of liberty. In the Book of Common Order, and in the Order of the English Church of Geneva Knox specified that: “The day when the Lord’s Supper is ministered, which commonly is used once a month, or so oft as the Congregation shall think expedient…” (Knox, “Of the Lord’s Supper” in Works, 4:191) Conversely the First Book of Discipline specified quarterly observance, stating that “four times in the year we think sufficient to the administration of the Lord's Table, which we desire to be distinct, that the superstition of times may be avoided so far as may be…” (Knox, “First Book of Discipline” in Works, 2:239) In summary, Knox held that “We do not deny but that any several church, for reasonable causes, may change the time, and may minister oftener; but we study to suppress superstition.” (Knox, “First Book of Discipline” in Works, 2:240)
 
Conclusion
There are two points I want to close with, drawn from Knox’s teaching of relevance for today.
 
First, is his high view of the Supper. In the Supper Christ is present. In a spiritual, but real, way believers do feed on Christ’s body and blood. As such, for believers to neglect the Supper is to do unspeakable hurt their own souls. But, more positively, the real presence of Christ in the Supper demonstrates in the words of Form of the Confession of Faith of the University of Geneva that “the holy Supper, according as Jesus Christ ordained it, is our singular and inestimable treasure.” (Knox, Works, 6:367) We should live our Christian lives believing this is so.
 
Second, is his teaching on the unity between believers which the Supper should demonstrate. This is a challenge to the broken and divided state of the Reformed Church. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one Lord’s Table. And yet in practice often this is not so. John Calvin wrote that “This other thing also is to be ranked among the chief evils of our time, viz., that the Churches are so divided, that human fellowship is scarcely now in any repute among us, far less that Christian intercourse which all make profession of, but few sincerely practise … Thus it is that the members of the Church being severed, the body lies bleeding. So much does this concern me, that, could I be of any service, I would not grudge to cross even ten seas, if need were, on account of it.” (Calvin, Tracts and Letters, 5:347-8) Each celebration of the Lord’s Supper surely calls us to desire that the divisions in the Reformed church might be healed.
Covenant theology is a vital and distinctive part of Reformed theology, both past and present. The Covenant of Works, which is questioned by some today, gradually became an essential component of the Reformed presentation of the gospel by drawing parallels between Adam and Christ, as the Second Adam. In order to evaluate this important doctrine, it is important first to understand its general contours.
 
Patrick Gillespie (1617-1675), brother of the more famous Westminster divine George Gillespie (1613-1648), wrote two important works on covenant theology. The Ark of the Covenant, treats the eternal Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son, followed by a lengthy treatment of Christ the Mediator. The Ark of the Testament, which is not yet available to those without Early English Books Online (EEBO), addresses God’s covenants with mankind, namely, the Covenants of Works and of Grace. Since the Covenant of Works and its implications for important theological questions, such as the Law and the Gospel, is such an important issue today, I have provided an annotated outline below of his treatment of this covenant. Original page numbers are in parenthesis, while my comments are in [brackets]. While I do not endorse every argument in Gillespie’s outline (though I do most of them), his treatment helps clarify the Reformed development of this covenant and its importance in Reformed theology. For those who can obtain the work, I highly recommend reading it. For those who can’t yet obtain it, EEBO is gradually making their entire database available for free online, which means that you can get it…eventually.
 
The following outlines are drawn from The Ark of the Testament, pages 177-219. This post, and the subsequent ones in this series, will present a portion of this outline with my running commentary on it in brackets, followed by some concluding analysis of his material. This first post sketches Gillespie’s six components of covenants in general and his application of his criteria to the Covenant of Works.
 
Before launching into Gillespie’s outline, it is important to introduce his six criteria of identifying covenants in general in order to understand how he applied this criteria to the Covenant of Works. While Gillespie accepted the general notion of covenants as contracts or agreements between at least two parties, he argued that God’s covenants with man were free on God’s side, but that they required consent on man’s side (100). He argued that the name and rites of a covenant combined help us define what a covenant is (49). He listed six parts:
  1. There must be at least two parties.
  2. “It is the very nature and essence of all covenants, that they must be agreements” (49. Citing Amos 3:3, among other passages).
  3. All covenants include “mutual conditions,” entailing promises and duties on both sides (50, citing John Ball). Not all covenants have “conditions of the same nature,” depending on whether they are between superiors, inferiors, or equals.
  4. All covenants must have mutual obligations. In covenants between God and human beings, God’s promise infers that he is indebted to himself rather than to us.
  5. “It is the nature of all covenants to be leveled at the good of the Confederates” (51).
  6. All covenants have binding force and they are inviolable. He argued that this obligation is so strict that it cannot be disannulled. It cannot be broken without “the highest breach and violation of the Law of God” (51). While several of these aspects of covenants are implicit only in his treatment of the Covenant of Works, they enable us to how Gillespie used them in identifying the existence of a Covenant of Works between God and Adam.
 
Outline
I. That there is a covenant of works (177)
 
A. By necessary consequences [See Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6].
 
1. God did not give Adam a mere command but he expressly added a threat and a promise. Gen. 2:16-17. (178). [The threat of the Covenant of Works is explicit in the text, while the promise of eternal life was implied by the Tree of Life].
 
2. The sacramental or symbolic use of the trees of the knowledge of good and evil shows that there was a Covenant of Works [see pp. 43-48 for sacramental signs and seals]. This was not a nudum pactum, but it was a covenant with seals.
 
3. Romans 5 shows that just as the elect are in Christ by a federal agreement, so all men are in Adam by a federal Agreement. (179)
 
4. We see the existence of the Covenant of Works from the fact that Adam’s posterity is guilty of Adam’s sin. Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22. (179-180). This cannot be the case by natural necessity (Ezek. 18:20). It is possible by covenant only (180). [See WCF 7.1, which argues that a covenant was necessary by “voluntary condescension” on God’s part in order for man to have fruition of God as his blessedness and reward].
 
B. Express testimonies of Scripture proving the substance of the Covenant of Works
 
1. Rom. 10:5: There is a righteousness that comes by the law (180). 
 
2. Gal. 3:10-12: “We find another way of righteousness and life described, than is now a possible way of attaining it.” 181). [In relation to both points, Reformed authors argued that while the Covenant of Works was abrogated as a way of life after Adam sinned, the Scriptures sometimes held forth the promises of that Covenant either to condemn sinners and drive them to Christ or to show the promise that Christ obtained for believers through his obedience and suffering].
 
C. An Express testimony of the name and thing together
 
1. Gal. 4:24: “There are two covenants, name and thing, expressly spoken of, the one whereof is the Covenant of Works.” (181).
 
a. Gradual administrations of the covenant of grace cannot be spoken of as two covenants (182).
 
b. These two covenants are directly opposed in their subjects, natures, operations, and effects. (182).
 
c. Both of these covenants were in force then and now, but the old and new covenants were not and could not both be in force at the same time. Heb. 8:13 (182).
 
d. None of the children of the bond-woman partook of the inheritance. Gal. 4:30. This was not true of the saints who lived under the old covenant, who partook of the blessings of the Covenant of Grace (183).
 
Summary
Putting the pieces together from this first part of Gillespie’s outline, he argued that the covenant of works had parties (God and Adam), agreement between God and Adam (with Adam under obligation to accept its terms), “mutual conditions” (Adam’s duty to obey and God’s promise to reward him with eternal life), mutual obligations (in which both parties should fulfill their particular conditions), an aim for the good of the confederates (promoting Adam’s well-being and God’s glory), and inviolable force (resulting in condemnation to Adam and his posterity, in this case). While not answering all questions and objections regarding the Covenant of Works, this sketch at least gives insight regarding how Reformed authors identified this arrangement between God and Adam as a covenant. This gives us a good starting point to address the nature of this covenant, which subsequent posts address.
Without a doubt, the political event that had the greatest impact on the life of Anne Bradstreet was the English Civil War that began in 1642 and effectively ended with the execution of King Charles I in 1649. In her poem “Of the Four Ages of Man”, an elderly man laments,
“I’ve seen, and so have you, for ‘tis but late,
The desolation of a goodly state,
Plotted and acted so that none can tell
Who gave the counsel, but the prince of hell,
Three hundred thousand slaughtered innocents,
By bloody Popish, hellish miscreants:
Oh may you live, and so you will I trust
To see them swill in blood until they burst.
I’ve seen a king by force thrust from his throne,
And an usurper subtly mount thereon.
I’ve seen a state unmoulded, rent in twain,
But yet may live to see’t made up again.
I’ve seen it plundered, taxed, and soaked in blood,
But out of evil you may see much good.”
This description is intriguing because it allows us to see the conflict that Bradstreet felt regarding the momentous events of those days. A devoted Puritan herself, she was opposed to the form of High Church Anglicanism that came to be most exemplified in William Laud, the archbishop of Canterbury whose opponents linked him with Arminianism and even Roman Catholicism. However, the eventual downfall and beheading of the anointed king of England apparently did not sit well with Bradstreet, and as seen in the passage above, she seems to refer to Oliver Cromwell as a “usurper.” At the very least, this shows us that Puritan feelings at the time were not as uniform as might be expected given the traditional association of Cromwell with Puritanism.
 
The best expression of Bradstreet’s thoughts on these issues comes in her poem “A Dialogue between Old England and New; Concerning Their Present Troubles, Anno, 1642.” This was written during the first year of the war and presents an imagined conversation between the mother country and the new colonies in America. In one section, “Old England” explains the origins of the conflict.
“Before I tell th’ effect, I’ll show the cause
Which are my sins, the breach of sacred laws.
Idolatry, supplanter of a nation,
With foolish superstitious adoration,
Are liked and countenanced by men of might,
The Gospel trodden down and hath no right;
Church offices were sold and bought for gain,
That Pope had hope to find Rome here again.”
This disdain for anything remotely “Roman” was certainly common among the Puritans, and it provides the impetus for some of Bradstreet’s most biting comments in print.
“These are the days the Church’s foes to crush,
To root out Popelings head, tail, branch, and rush;
Let’s bring Baal’s vestments forth to make a fire,
Their miters, surplices, and all their tire,
Copes, rochets, crosiers, and such empty trash,
And let their names consume, but let the flash
Light Christendom, and all the world to see
We hate Rome’s whore with all her trumpery.”
Yet, even in the midst of such a polemic, Bradstreet expresses her hope that England will be restored to peace and true religion…with Charles I as a righteous king.
“These, these are they I trust, with Charles our King,
Out of all mists such glorious days shall bring;
That dazzled eyes beholding much shall wonder
At that thy settled peace, thy wealth and splendor.
Thy Church and weal established in such manner,
That all shall joy, that thou displayed’st thy banner;
And disciplined erected so I trust,
That nursing kings shall come and lick thy dust.”
Bradstreet seems to have viewed things in Old Testament terms. The nation had fallen into idolatry, and thus was reaping divine punishment. However, the anointed king must not be harmed. Thus, her poem “David’s Lamentation for Saul and Jonathan II Samuel 1:19,” an otherwise unremarkable piece of literature, takes on new meaning when one realizes it was written just after the execution of Charles I. The opening lines exclaim, “Alas, slain is the head of Israel, / Illustrious Saul, whose beauty did excel,” and she later writes, “There had his dignity so sore a foil, / As if his head ne’er felt the sacred oil.”
 
It is interesting to see how Anne Bradstreet, a Puritan layperson living in a far-flung colony on the edge of the world, reacted to these events in her home country. She was forced to balance her religious ideals – most particularly the desire for the purification of the church from idolatry and false doctrine – against the desire to avoid violence and civil dissension. The overthrow of the man seen to be God’s anointed seemed to be a step too far for this particular Puritan, while others were able to justify it. 
 
Amy Mantravadi holds a B.A. in Biblical Literature from Taylor University. She is an active member of Patterson Park Church in Beavercreek, Ohio. You can read her blog at www.amymantravadi.com or follow her on Twitter @AmyMantravadi.
Articles 3-4 of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion continue to build on the narrative of the passion and triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ, on which Article 2 concluded. The eternal Son, who took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, "truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried" (Art. 2), we now confess as having "went down into hell" (Art. 3) rising again, ascending into heaven, sitting at the right hand of God, and will return to judge (Art. 4).
 
When we take Article 2 with Articles 3-4 as a unit, we can see how they are built upon the doctrine that Jesus is "of one substance" with the Father, and he is also "of one substance" with humanity: truly God and truly man. This Chalcedonian distinction-in-inseparability of the two natures in Christ is usually summarized in the Latin phrase distinctio sed non separatio, "distinct yet not separated." The person of the incarnate Son means that he never ceases to be God when he takes on our flesh, but neither is he anything less than authentically human by reason of his divinity—he really is God, and he really is human at one and the same time in his one person two natures: without confusion, change, division and separation.
 
III. Of the Going Down of Christ Into Hell 
As Christ died for us and was buried, so also it is to be believed, that he went down into Hell.
 
This is the shortest of the Articles; however, from its original composition to its final edition, it received the most significant revision. The source of the original article is the Apostle’s Creed, but with an additional sentence that said Christ’s body lay in the tomb for three days but that his Spirit went to preach to the spirits in prison, or in hell, as 1 Peter 3:18 says. This sentence was dropped in 1563 either in committee or at the convocation of bishops leaving us with the fact of descent but without an explanation of how he descended.
 
The concept of Christ’s descent remained a point of Christological debate throughout the period, and I think ultimately led to its revision. Daniel Hyde lists four views of the period given by Anglican William Perkins (1558-1602):
  1. Christ descended locally, as the 1553 original affirmed. 
  2. Christ’s descent is a synonym for his burial, the view of Martin Bucer and Theodore Beza.
  3. Christ’s descent is a metaphor for his sufferings occurring together with the death and burial of his body, the view of John Calvin.
  4. It refers to all the spiritual suffering of Christ’s passion and death and, of his continuing under the curse of death. (Hyde, In Defense of the Descent, 19)
What is significant in the formation of the Article by the 1563 convocation is the removal of the sentence that taught a local descent of Christ's soul into a place called hell or Hades and the teaching that he entered hell to preach salvation to the patriarchs or men from the age before Noah, thus first avoiding any reference to the Roman Catholic doctrine of a state of limbo or purgatory (later condemned in Article 22), or suggesting the possibility of a "second chance" after death. 
 
The Article secondly affirms how according to his human nature Christ has experienced the fullness of the curse that was the result of Adam’s covenant apostasy. There is not one aspect of death as we experience that he did not share to gain victory over it. The Lord Jesus Christ is truly man. Because of the integrity of his human nature, Christ's body descended into the state of death, and his soul suffered the agonies of hell. Jesus took a human body to save our bodies. And he took a human mind to save our minds. Without becoming man in his emotions, he could not have rescued our hearts. And without taking a human will, he could not save our broken and wandering wills. In the words of Gregory of Nazianzus, “That which he has not assumed he has not healed.” I want to suggest that the shortening of the article strengthens the integrity of Christ’s human nature in the person of the Mediator. The same focus will help us understand how the resurrection, ascension, and session of Christ at God’s right hand are explained in Article 4. 
 
IV. Of the Resurrection of Christ 
Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.
 
Interestingly, there is nothing corresponding to this article in the Augsburg Confession, and unlike Article 3, Article 4 is virtually unchanged from 1553. But like Article 3, Article 4 underlines the integrity of the two natures in that Christ’s resurrection was physical. Its purpose, therefore, is to underline the truth of the resurrection and to safeguard the humanity of the Lord Jesus against what had become known as the Lutheran view of the ubiquity of Christ's body. The Anglican divines rejected the Lutheran view because it denied that the ascended Christ retained the natural properties (including occupying one space at one time) of a human body. To gain a clearer understanding of the impetus behind the wording of the Article 4, here is Chapter 4 “Of the two natures of Christ after the resurrection” from Cranmer’s Reformatio Legum Eccleiasticarum written in the same period as our article:
Likewise it is to be believed that our Lord Jesus Christ, even after the resurrection, had a double nature; one divine, incomprehensible, unlimited and infinite, which is everywhere and fills all things, and one human, finite and defined by the limits and bounds of the human body, in which, after he had purged our sins, he ascended into heaven, and there he sits at the right hand of God in such a way as not be everywhere, since it is necessary for him to remain in heaven until the time of the restoration of all things, when he shall come to judge the living and the dead, in order to reward each one according to his works.
Article 4 thus anticipates the later Article 29 on the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. It is important to understand Article 29 in light of Article 4 because in the Eucharistic controversies of the time the Lutherans claimed that Christ’s “ubiquitous” body could be present “in, with and under” the elements of bread and wine, but in a “heavenly and spiritual manner”, in other words, not transubstantiation. The Anglican divines instead claimed with other Continental reformers that the presence of Christ in the sacrament was spiritual only.
 
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)
So far we have seen Knox’s rich and positive understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Now we turn to consider Knox’s view of what he called “that Papisticall abomination” – the Mass. 
 
Knox understood the central place that the Mass occupied in the theology and piety of the Roman Church. He stated that “I know that in the Mass hath not only been esteemed great holiness and honouring of God, but also the ground and foundation of our [former] religion. So that, in opinion of many, the Mass taken away, there resteth no true worshipping nor honouring of God in the earth.” But in opposition to this Knox held that the Mass was “idolatry before God, and blasphemous to the Death and Passion of Christ.” (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:34) Four key strands of Knox’s opposition to the Mass are now considered.
 
First, it is important to consider Knox’s fundamental disagreement with the Mass understood as a propitiatory sacrifice. Knox asked “Of what spirit is it invented that the Mass shall signify a Sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead?” (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:47) In the Mass the Priest “as mediators betwixt Christ and His kirk do offer unto God the Father a sacrifice propitiatory for the sins of the quick and the dead.” (Dennison, Reformed Confessions, 2:204) This, Knox held, “is blasphemous to Christ Jesus and making derogation to the sufficiency of His only sacrifice once offered for purgation of all those that will be sanctified, we utterly abhor, detest, and renounce.” (Dennison, Reformed Confessions, 2:204) He sought to prove this by showing how the New Testament knew nothing of this teaching. Knox took up the words of Hebrews in opposition to the Mass: “Paul sayeth, By one Oblation hath he made perfect for ever them which are sanctified; and also, Remission of sins once gotten, there resteth no more Sacrifice." (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:55) There was no escape as “They will not avoid Paul’s words, although they say Paul speaketh of the Levitical sacrifice. No, Papists! he excludeth all manner of sacrifice, saying Nulla amplius restat Oblatio, No more Sacrifice resteth." (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:55) Further, there was the testimony of Jesus Christ, “upon the cross, saying, Consummatum est [It is finished]; that is, whatever is required for pacifying my Father’s wrath justly moved against sin; whatever is necessary for reconciliation of mankind to the favour of my Eternal Father; and whatever the purgation of the sins of the whole world required, is now complete and ended, so that no further sacrifice resteth for sin.” (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:55)
 
Knox responded to more refined Roman arguments. He knew they believed that they did not offer a new sacrifice but simply that in the Mass the one same sacrifice was renewed and re-presented. However, Knox argued, “the words of Paul bind you more strictly than that so ye may escape: for in his whole disputation, contendeth he not only that there is no other sacrifice for sin, but also that the self-same sacrifice, once offered, is sufficient, and never may be offered again.” (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:56) Indeed, to maintain that Christ’s sacrifice can be “represented” at all is “extreme blasphemy; for that were to impute imperfection thereupon, contrary to the whole religion, and the plain words of Paul.” (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:56)
 
In summary Knox held that “And herein is the Masse blasphemous unto Christ and his Passion. For in so far as it offereth or permitteth remission of sins, it imputeth imperfection upon Christ and his sacrifice; affirming that all sins were not remitted by his death.” (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:66)
 
Second, Knox opposed transubstantiation. He was insistent that “we [do not] imagine any transubstantiation of bread in Christ’s natural body and of wine in His natural blood (as the papists have perniciously taught and damnably believe)”. (Dennison, Reformed Confessions, 2:201) This was because “the Scripture maketh no mention of conversion or transubstantiation of bread in Christ’s natural body, but witnesseth that bread remaineth bread”. (Knox, “The Reasoning Betwixt the Abbot of Crossraguell and John Knox Concerning the Mass” in Works, 6:174)
 
Third, Knox opposed the idolatry of worshipping the elements in the Mass. He insisted that “we will not worship the signs in place of that which is signified by them”. (Dennison, Reformed Confessions, 2:202.) In contrast the Romanists idolatrously held “that they [the elements] should be kept to be worshipped and honoured as God …” (Dennison, Reformed Confessions, 2:203)  Thus Knox referred to the Mass on occasion simply as “that abominable Idol”. (Knox, “An exposition of the Sixth Psalm of David” in Works, 3:154)
 
Fourth, Knox abhorred the withholding of the cup from the congregation. He stated that “In the Supper of the Lord all were equally participants: The bread being broken, and the cup being distributed amongst all, according to his holy commandment. In the Papisticall Masse, the congregation getteth nothing except the beholding of your jukings, noddings, crossings, turning, uplifting, which all are nothing but a diabolical profanation of Christ’s Supper.” (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:67) He held that “as touching the damnable error of the Papists, who can defraud the common people of the one part of that holy sacrament, to wit, of the cup of the Lord's blood, we suppose their error to be so manifest that it needs no confutation”. (Knox, “First Book of Discipline” in Works, 2:187)
 
In summary, for Knox, “The Mass is an abominable idolatry, blasphemous to the death of Christ, and a profanation of the Lord’s Supper.” (Knox, “History of the Reformation in Scotland” in Works, 1:194) He therefore concluded his opposition to the Mass with the following exhortation: “For so odious and abominable I know the Masse to be in God’s presence, that unless ye decline from the same, to life can ye never attain. And therefor, Brethren, flee from that Idolatry, rather than from the present death.” (Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” in Works, 3:70)

As you know, Meet the Puritans is proud to announce its first published book by our own Dr. Ryan McGraw: Knowing the Trinity: Practical Thoughts for Daily Life. In connection with this book, we present to you the following 2-part interview with Dr. McGraw on practical Trinitarianism:

Part 1 of his interview on Iron Sharpens Iron with Chris Arnzen

Part 2 of his interview on Iron Sharpens Iron with Chris Arnzen