Reformer of the Day: Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Happy Reformation Day to all! While this post is normally dedicated to a Puritan of the Week, it seemed wrong to overlook one pivotal individual, Martin Luther, who laid the foundation for much of the Puritan writings. It was on this day in 1517 that Luther hammered his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, and began the Reformation. Luther was influential in re-asserting the doctrine of justification as a doctrine by faith alone and not faith plus works. He also was burdened to see that the scriptures be in a common language that could be read by all, and worked to translate it into German. Another of Luther’s famous works is The Bondage of the Will. A must read on his life is by Bainton and is entitled, Here I Stand. More modern, John Piper did an overview of Luther’s life back in 1996 at his pastor’s conference.

One a lighter side, in my Google of Reformation Day I ran across a list of ideas on how to celebrate Reformation Day. I am not endorsing this list nor suggesting one actually do them, but it made me laugh a few times. Here are a few of my favorite:

  • Make a “Diet of Worms Cake” and bring it to your office or school – recipe found here.
  • Play “Pin the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door”
  • Run a “Throw Indulgences in the Trash” relay
  • A beef barbecue, also known as a Papal Bull Roast.

Indulgence Relays in my office at noon!

Puritan of the Week: Matthew Poole (1624-1679)

Known best for his commentary on the whole bible, of which Charles Spurgeon said,

“If I must have only one commentary, and had read Matthew Henry as I have, I do not know but what I should choose Poole. He is a very prudent and judicious commentator… not so pithy and witty by far as Matthew Henry, but he is perhaps more accurate, less a commentator, and more an expositor.”

Poole was also very outspoken about the dangers of Roman Catholicism.  He preached for only a few years before being removed from the puplit for nonconformity.   From that time on he dedicated himself to writing.  Due to his writings against the Pope and Roman Catholocism “his name was added to the list published in 1679 by Titus Oats of those that Rome wished to destroy in the Popish Plot.” (MTP pg 486)  Soon after he was ambushed at night while on his way home.

One the way home, in a narrow lane, two men were waiting to ambush him.  When one cried out, “Here he is!” the other responded, “Leave him alone, for someone is with him.”

Realizing his life was in danger he moved to the Netherlands, but died soon after, “possibly from being poisoned.”(MTP pg 486)

In the United States there is so much ecumenical thinking and political correctness that we find it hard to imagine such actions in a civilized society.  Or maybe it is that religious conviction is considered relative, thinking that our beliefs are only personal and simply important for us.  For fear of social rejection, few consider taking such a stand to say that there is but one way and that a way that diverts from the true path is wrong.  Souls are at stake though!  Any gospel or religion that does not rest wholly upon Christ for justification before God endagers souls for all eternity.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Poole saw the dangers of a distorted gospel as part of the demands of the cross.

Puritan Of the Week: David Brainerd

Not my regular Puritan of the Week post, but one of our children had to go to the hospital and have stitches today ( she is fine).  David Brainerd is of the Puritan Mindset and is worth learning about.  What better way to learn than a free audio book?! is offering his biography by Jonathan Edwards as a free download this month.

America’s greatest Theologian, Jonathan Edwards, had a heart for missions. And Edwards deeply respected David Brainerd, who gave his life for missions to Native Americans. The Life of David Brainerd is an inspiring tale of one of the most notable missionaries in American history.

Use the coupon code OCT2007 to receive the Download Format of The Life of David Brainerd for free in the month of October.

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(HT:  Justin Taylor)

Puritan of the Week: John Bunyan (1628-1688)

While John Owen and Jonathan Edwards may have been two of the greatest minds of the Puritan movement, John Bunyan impact is felt in his ability to make simple foundational biblical truths. Although He was not a well educated young man and was far from a Christian as a youth, Bunyan is a testimony to understanding and grace. In his autobiographical writings it reads:

It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil at his will: Being filled with all unrighteousness; that from a child I had but few equals, both for cursing, swearing, lying and blaspheming the holy name of God.”

It is refreshing to hear one write of such a life as sinful and captivated by the devil. So little is thought of cursing and using the Lord’s name in vain in our culture. These are the least of offenses in our minds, and yet Bunyan in his understanding of the Word of God and sensitivity to it states it simply, it is allowing oneself to be captive by the will of the devil. It is to disregard God and his way and follow darkness. Sin is so rarely spoken of, therefore it is becoming more difficult to detect. We put things in terms of discernment, good and best, rather than veiwing them from the spiritual relm of right or wrong before God. This was the brilliance of Bunyan, he was able to see the spiritual relm, the invisible, clearly. John Piper writes of him,

In 1672, about 50 miles northwest of London in Bedford, John Bunyan was released from twelve years of imprisonment. He was 44 years old….He looked back over the hardships of the last 12 years and wrote about

how he was enabled by God to survive and even flourish in the Bedford jail…

He quotes 2 Corinthians 1:9 where Paul says, “We had this sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not

trust in ourselves, but in God that raiseth the dead.” Then he says,

By this scripture I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon every thing that can be properly called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyment, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them. The

second was, to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

The phrase that I have fastened on for the title and focus of this study of Bunyan is the phrase, “to live upon

God that is invisible.” He discovered that if we are to suffer rightly we must die not only to sin, but to the innocent and precious things of this world including family and freedom. We must “live upon God that is invisible.” Everything else in the world we must count as dead to us and we to it. That was Bunyan’s passion from the time of his conversion as a young married man to the day of his death when he was 60 years old.

In Bunyan’s most famous work, Pilgrim’s Progress, the church is left with a treasure which unveils the invisible. Derek Thomas encouraged the Pastors at Basics 2007 that it was already May, if we had not read through Pilgrim’s Progress this year, there was still time! It is that kind of a book. One that should be read over and over.

Puritan of the Week: James Durham (1622-1658)

James Durham is called “one of Scotland’s brightest lights” by Meet the Puritans.   His biographical information draws focus upon the providence of God and the preciousness of Christ.

The providential hand of God was clearly upon Durham to save him, sustain his life, and call him to preach Christ.  Durham was unconverted at the time of his marriage to wife Anna, but it was through the influence of her family, shortly after their marriage, that he attended the preaching of God’s Word and was drawn to the preciousness of Christ.   From there he was called to serve in the Scottish Army during their Civil War.  It was during that time that God providentially spaired his life:

Durham’s life was remarkably spared, first, when his horse was shot and killed from under him, and second, when an English soldier who was about to kill Durham saw him dressed in black clothes and, thinking he was a minister, spared his life.

Little did that man know that God was calling Durham to the gospel ministry.  As a minister Durham was known for his ablility to dealve into the inner most parts of man and to bring salvation very low for man to cling to.  He was also know for his humility.  There was one occassion where Durham and a pastor friend were walking together to go preach at seperate services.  They both noticed that more of the hearers were heading toward the building where his friend was to preach.  Durham’s response was:

I rejoice that Christ is preached and that His kingdom and interest is getting ground, and that His honor and esteem doth increase though my esteem in people’s hearts should decrease; for I am content to be any thing, or nothing, so that Christ may be all in all.

Puritan of the Week: Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Of all the Puritan there may be none better known today than the last great voice of the puritan movement, Jonathan Edwards. Rather than my writing much I want to point to other writings and sermons. There are numerous resources that can be found, but I only want to list a few:

Desiring God Conference on Edwards (Piper had done so much to draw attention to the thoughts of Edwards, but I would draw great attention to the video by Ian Murray).

Ian Murray’s biography of Edwards

John Piper’s biography of Edwards

The Works of Jonathan Edwards

Some of his works can be read online

Edwards dedicated his life to exalting Christ. He saw difficult days and controversies, including times of depression, but also saw great revival in The Great Awakening. He left a legacy through his mission work to the indians. His children and grandchildren went on to become college presidents and influential citizens, and greatest many became citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Murray states in his address at the Desiring God Conference:

If you take eternity out of Jonathan Edwards life you could read it as a story of little success. What a disappointment. It said when he died most of the American papers only gave him one sentence, many of his books were not read. He left a great church for a tiny church in the corner of New England. Was it a failure? No. Edwards says, “I acted against all influence of worldly instrest because I greatly feared to offend God.” In other words he was living for eternity.

Murray goes on to state what Edwards would warn as the greatest danger facing the church today, pride. Ian Murray then went on to state the dangers of pride and sum up Edwards life:

“Pride is the greatest of all temptations and the most subtle…Ministers can idolize congregations, congregations can idolize ministers. Pride in any form destroys, mares the work of God. The scripture says, cease from man…Whatseoever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God…all is given that we might be humbled and that God would be all in all.

Puritan of the Week: Ralph Robinson (1614-1655)

Meet the Puritans offers little in the way of biography for Ralph Robinson. He was ordained at the age of 29 and was arrested 8 years later for his ministry and imprisoned. The brief biography states that he was held in the Tower of London during this imprisonment.

Though he returned to pastor St. Mary Woolnoth, ne hever recovered fully from the effects of imprisonment.

He died at the age of 41. We are only left with one published work, Christ All and In All. It examines the sufficiency of Christ and our own insufficiency apart from Him. For Robinson, he lived a short live, but he gave up what was insufficient, his life, for the only thing that is sufficient, Christ. Christ is worth our all. Few would choose to live only 41 years, but better to live a short time with Christ as our priority and focus than to live a long life focused on that which is insufficient, self or the here and now. I am struck by how many of the Puritans had a relatively short ministry, but left a profound mark upon other’s lives. This can only be done by viewing Christ rightly and living fully for him. I was also reminded to be prayerful for my own life and other ministers.  His biography concludes:

Robinson was a dedicated preacher, a faithful husband, and a devoted father.

He was a man who had his priorities in order, Christ’s first, so he gave himself to the church.  Husband next, so he loved his wife as Christ loves the church.  Father third, and so he ordered his home well and with love.

Puritan of the Week: Thomas Gouge (1605-1681)

Having money or wealth is not a bad thing, loving money or wealth is. This is a trap for all, because not everyone has money, but you don’t have to have money to love it. Posessions and money can be viewed rightly, if they are seen as a blessing from God and to be used for His glory. Thomas Gouge demonstrated this during his life. He was known for his generosity and charity throughout his ministry and one of his greatest contributions was his sermon on charity. At the age of 57 he was removed from his pulpit for nonconformity and spent his latter years in “evangelism and acts of charity.”

He was known for his faithful attendance of the sick and his generosity to the poor, distributing alms among them once a week. He provided hemp and flax for the unemployed to spin, and even sold their products for them!…Gouge lost many possessions to London’s Great Fire, but he bore the loss with patience and humility. He had a large estate from his father, which he used to help the poos. After giving portionsof the estate to his children, he was left with and income of 150 pounds per year (roughly $40,000 per year by today’s standards). Of that amount, he gave two-thirds to charity and lived on 50 pounds (around $13,000 per year by today’s standards).

Again, having wealth is not bad but can be good, the love of money is what is wrong. Many of us are richer than we realize. We have more money than we need to supply our needs. Even many who have debt and do not feel financial freedom, have this debt because of extra wants and not basic needs. Some may think they do not struggle with the issue of wealth because they don’t have much, but seated deep within the love of money drives them. Learn from Thomas Gouge that our riches are increased by giving.

Puritan of the Week: Thomas Boston (1676-1732)

Thomas Boston is a fairly well know puritan because of his writings. His biographical information is convicting and should bring joy to any believer’s heart. Thomas did not have a life of ease, free from pain. His trials tested the root and practice of his faith. As a young boy his father was put in prison for some time for his faith, even though he was not a minister. “One of Thomas’s earliest memories was visiting his father in prison.” Eventually Presbyterians were allowed to legally meet in homes. The Bostons would walk 5 miles each Lord’s Day to go to hear the preaching of God’s Word. Saved when he was 11, Thomas remembers making this walk in his youth regardless of the weather and sometimes by himself “to obtain food for his soul.”

“In the winter sometimes it was my lot to go alone, without so much as a horse to carry me through Blackadder water, the wading whereof in sharp frosty weather I very well remember. But such things were then easy, for the benefit of the Word, which came with power.” (from Meet the Puritans, quoted from Memiors, p.10)

His hunger for the word, and counting trials and hardships as joy did not change as he grew older.

“Boston did not have an easy life. He lost his mother at age 15 and his father a decade later…Thomas married Katharine Brown…in whom Boston saw “sparkles of grace.” Boston considered his marriage a gift of the Lord, even though his wife suffered repeated bouts of depression and insanity. From 1720 on, she was often confined to an apartment which she called “the inner prison.” She spent months and years without relief…Boston had to bury six of ten children…Then, too, Boston himself was not a healthy man. He struggled often with pain and weakness…Boston viewed these trials as discipline from his heavenly Father’s hand. He continued to describe his wife as “a woman of great worth, whom I therefore passionately loved, and inwardly honored”

He wrote, “It is a very sweet view of affliction, to view it as the discipline of the covenant; and so it is indeed; and nothing else to the children of our Father’s family. In that respect it is medicinal; it shines with many gracious purposes about it; and, end as it will, on may have the confidence of faith, that is shall end well.”

Puritan of the Week: Nicholas Byfield (1579-1622)

Beeke writes:

Byfield was a moderate Puritan and “a nonconformist at heart who conformed for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the church, disapproving of the contentious zeal of those who make needless rents in the church, and advising his parishioners to conform as long as the required ceremonies and customs were not in opposition to the word of God.”

I am not sure if being a moderate Puritan was right or wrong, but there are some important lessons to be learned from Byfield’s position.  Even great catalysts for change in the church like Martin Luther and John Gresham Machen had such deep respect and love for the church that they remained under bad authority and were forced out rather than jumping ship.  Leaving a church should not be over preference but for the sake of the gospel.   As Byfield taught, even if there are things you don’t like, do them unless they are in opposition to the word of God.  In this we show that we are not our own authority, but are under God’s, Christ’s, and the Church’s.