Puritan Priorities – A Passion for Souls continued…

Joseph Alleine urges repentance and faith in Christ

Joseph Alleine urges repentance and faith in Christ

Joseph Alleine, one time Chaplain of Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford, pleads with believers and non-believers alike. He urges believers to share the good news with those around them who as yet don’t understand the truth of the gospel. To those not yet safe, not yet at peace with God, he urges them to awake and seek God for His mercy in Jesus Christ.

It’s been a long time since a hero from Oxford sounded such a clear and distinct call. These quotes give us a good sample of Puritan Passion.

On the importance of Evangelism
‘Would it not grieve a person of any humanity, if in a time of raging plague,
he should have a remedy that would infallibly cure all the country
and recover the most hopeless patients,
and yet his friends and neighbours
should die by hundreds around him,
because they would not use it?’ (p.101)

On the need for a decision about whether to follow Christ
‘Set the world, with all its glory, and paint, and gallantry,
with all its pleasures and promotions, on the one hand;
and set God,
with all His infinite excellencies
and perfections on the other;
and see that you do deliberately make your choice.’ (p.108)

On Hell, and our need to escape it by trusting Christ
‘O how fearful would the cry be if God
should take off the covering from the mouth of hell,
and let the cry of the damned
ascend in all its terror among the children of men!

And of their moans and miseries,
this is the piercing, killing emphasis and burden:
‘For ever! For ever!’

As God liveth that made your soul,
you are but a few hours distant from this,
except you be converted.’ (P.132)

Next time we will hear from the great Puritan Pastor and physician of souls, Thomas Brooks.

(All quotes are taken from Joseph Alleine, ‘Alleine’s Alarm’, Banner of Truth Edition, 1978)

Read the next post, ‘The Puritan Call to Holiness’
You can Purchase Alleine’s Alarm, now titled ‘a Sure Guide to Heaven’, here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Puritan Priorities – A Passion for Souls

St Mary Magdalene, Taunton, where Joseph Alleine served

St Mary Magdalene, Taunton, where Joseph Alleine served

Inspirational Quotes from Puritan Works
I propose, over the next few posts to quote from those puritan authors who have had an impact on me.  This merely serves as an introduction and is by no means exhaustive.

Spurgeon’s description of the works of Puritan pastor Thomas Watson is in many ways characteristic of much Puritan literature:

‘There is a happy union of sound doctrine, heart-searching experience and practical wisdom throughout.’ (Introduction, A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson, Banner of Truth)

And the mighty Evangelist of the 18th Century, George Whitefield, wrote in 1767, ‘For these thirty years past I have remarked that the more true and vital religion hath [increased] either at home or abroad, the more the good old Puritanical writings…have been called for.’
(Quoted in J.I Packer, A Quest for Godliness, The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, p.46 )

Joseph Alleine
Alleine (1634-1668) was chaplain of Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, and later served as assistant Pastor in Taunton, Somerset, England. He was also a keen evangelist. As with about a thousand other faithful Puritan pastors, he was fired and turned out of the Church of England in 1662, and was later imprisoned for continuing to preach the gospel. He died aged only 34.

These quotes are taken from his incredible book, ‘An Alarm Call to the Unconverted’ (BOT edition), which has recently been republished as ‘A Sure Guide to Heaven’. You can certainly feel his evangelistic passion in these few quotes, and they also provide a good example of puritan thinking and style.

Man like a choice instrument
‘Unconverted man is like a choice instrument that has every string broken or out of tune.’ (p. 52)

On the futility of religion to appease God
‘You can no more please God than one who, having unspeakably offended you, should bring you the most loathsome thing to pacify you; or having fallen into the mire, should think with his filthy embraces to reconcile you.’ (p. 55)

On continuing in sin
‘If you have a false peace continuing in your sins, it is not of God’s speaking, and therefore you may guess the author.’ (p.56)

‘To save men from the punishment, and not from the power of sin, were to do His work by halves, and be an imperfect Saviour.’ (p.65)

‘You cannot be married to Christ except you be divorced from sin.’ (p.107)

On the spiritual condition of those not yet made alive in Christ
‘In a word, he carries a dead soul in a living body, and his flesh is but the walking coffin of a corrupt mind that is twice dead.’ (p.82)

On preaching about Hell
‘I would not trouble you, nor torment you before the time with the thoughts of your eternal misery, but in order that you may make your escape.’ (P.100)

Read the next post here

You can purchase ‘A Sure Guide to Heaven’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Mighty Outpourings of the Spirit – Puritanism in Ireland

Carrickfergus, the home town of James Glendinning

Carrickfergus, the home town of James Glendinning

The breakout of passionate evangelistic preaching in the 1620’s in Ireland was accompanied by the power of the Spirit.

The ‘least gifted’ minister sparks a revival!
The eccentric puritan James Glendinning began preaching in Ulster and God seemed to touch the peoples’ hearts. The people began to respond despite Glendinning’s rough style (his sermons, we’re told, tended to focus primarily on the judgement and wrath of God).

One rather uncharitable author writes,
‘God often works by weak instruments, that the glory may be all His own. Of the ministers who had settled in Ulster, James Glendinning was the least gifted, yet God made use of him to begin the revival.’ (Matthew Kere, The Ulster Revival of the Seventeenth Century, 1859)

Glendinning was encouraged to relocate to a more remote place, and went to Oldstone near Antrim.

Andrew Stewart, an eye-witness of the awakening, described the preacher and the work in this way:

‘He was a man who would never have been chosen by a wise assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation in this land, yet this was the Lord’s choice to begin with him the admirable work of God, which I mention on purpose that all men may see how the glory is only the Lord’s, in making a holy nation in this profane land, and that it was not by might, nor by power, nor by man’s wisdom, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’ (quoted by Kere)

‘Behold the success!’
Iain Murray also quotes the eye-witness Andrew Stewart’s report:
‘Behold the success! For the hearers finding themselves condemned by the mouth of God speaking in His word, fell into such anxiety and terror of conscience that they looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned;

and this work appeared not in one single person or two, but multitudes were brought to understand their way, and to cry out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?’

I have seen them myself stricken into a swoon with the Word; yea, a dozen in one day carried out of doors as dead, so marvelous was the power of God smiting their hearts for sin…

And of these were…some of the boldest spirits, who formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market town in a fray; yet in defence of their stubbornness cared not to lie in prison and in the stocks.’ (Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, Banner of Truth, p.30)

‘The people had a vehement appetite for the Word…no day was long enough, no room large enough!’

Robert Blair, another contemporary witness wrote,
‘So mightily grew the Word of God, and His gracious work of conversion was now spread beyond the bounds of Down and Antrim, to the skirts of neighbouring counties, whence many came to the monthly meetings…

The Lord was pleased to bless His Word, the people had a vehement appetite for it that could not be satisfied: they hung upon the ministers, still desirous to have more; no day was long enough, no room large enough.’ (ibid. p.31)

These eye-witness testimonies show us that although the puritan movement was concerned with personal holiness, it was intentionally evangelistic. It was a ‘revival’ movement. In fact it was the fruit of Holy Spirit empowered evangelism that created sanctified lives.

The Christian preaching that laid such significant cultural foundations in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 17th Century was preaching accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Their goal was not only the individual sanctification of those already converted, but the transformation of the nation through gospel preaching, ie, through actually communicating convincingly with the non-believer.

Any impulse that over-focusses on sanctification to the detriment of actual evangelism is already adrift of the missional impulse of both Reformers and Puritans.

And the gracious Head of the Church, while changing us by grace, is still recruiting us into His mission to ‘seek and to save that which is lost.’ (Luke 19:10)

Read the next post, on ‘Shaping the Culture – the literary legacy of the Puritans’

You can purchase Iain Murray’s ‘The Puritan Hope’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Pentecostal Power of the Puritan Movement

The Church Building in Irvine, where Calvinist David Dickson ministered in the power of the Spirit

The Church Building in Irvine, where Calvinist David Dickson ministered in the power of the Spirit

Demonstrations of the Spirit’s Power
The central role of the power of the Holy Spirit was a key factor to the growth of the Evangelical Churches of the Puritan era.

This shouldn’t surprise us when we consider that Paul himself said, ‘My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.’ (1 Cor 2:4-5 NIV)

The power of the working of the Holy Spirit has always been God’s means of authenticating His gospel to the hearts of those who hear.

What is truly amazing for anyone who examines the statements of those who witnessed the immense popularity of the ‘new’ puritan movement is the similarity of the scenes with – wait for it – early Salvationism, or early Pentecostalism.

Evangelistic Orthodoxy
Although we understand that the activity of the Third Person of the Trinity is promised and therefore to be expected, His immediacy – when He breaks in – His breathtaking glory and descending power, amaze us and delight us and surprise us!

As we shall see in future posts about the 18th century, God seems to delight in pouring out His mighty Spirit in the evangelistic arena, thereby causing His word to triumph and large numbers of men and women to come to faith in Christ!

And, indeed, we’ll see that the power of the Spirit becomes a prominent and normative feature in the subsequent global spread of Christianity – and He still is, even today!

Robert Traill

Robert Traill

Puritanism in Pentecost!
Writing in 1682, Puritan preacher Robert Traill says,

‘Formerly a few lights [preachers] raised up in the nation did shine so as to scatter and dispel the darkness…in a little time;

yet now when there are more and more learned men amongst us, the darkness comes on apace?

Is it not because they were men filled with the Holy Ghost and with power; and many of us are only filled with light and knowledge…?’
(From Traill’s Works Vol 1, p.250, quoted by Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, Banner of truth, p.2)

An outpouring of the Spirit in Irvine, Scotland under the ministry of David Dickson was described by locals as ‘the Stewarton Sickness’ as people were filled with the Spirit of God.

Robert Fleming, an eye witness, writes,
‘It was most remarkable, where it can be said (which diverse ministers and Christians yet alive can [testify to]) that for a considerable time, few Sabbaths did pass without some evidently converted, and some convincing proofs of the power of God accompanying His word;

yea, that many were so choked and taken by heart…the Spirit in such a measure convincing them of sin, in hearing of the Word they have been made to fall over, and thus carried out of the church, who after proved most solid and lively Christians…

Truly, this great spring–tide…was not of a short time, but for some years…[and] did advance from one place to another, which put a marvellous lustre [ie, brightness, glory] on these parts of the country, the savour whereof brought many from other parts of the land to see the truth of the same.’ (ibid p.28)

This kind of statement is absolutely typical of true revival. But I must pause for fear of writing too much.

There’s more. Read the next post, Mighty Outpourings of the Spirit in Puritan Ireland

You can purchase Iain Murray’s ‘The Puritan Hope’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Birth of Modern Revival – Puritan Preaching in Scotland

16th Century Scottish Reformer, John Knox

16th Century Scottish Reformer, John Knox

Iain Murray, in his classic, ‘The Puritan Hope’, points out that the Puritan era was a period of many local revivals. He writes,

‘Following as it did so closely upon the Reformation it is not surprising that the Puritan movement in England believed so firmly in revivals of religion as the great means by which the Church advances in the world.’ (The Puritan Hope, Iain Murray, Banner of Truth, p.3)

16th Century Breakthrough

In 1559 a general revival broke out in Scotland. The conversions were so rapid that John Knox wrote, ‘God did so multiply our number that it appeared as if men had rained from the clouds.’ (ibid p.5)

Describing the spiritual hunger of the Scottish people he adds, ‘Now forty days and more, hath God used my tongue in my native country, to the manifestation of His glory…The thirst of the poor people, as well as of the nobility here, is wondrous great…’ (ibid p.5)

One Scottish church historian writes ‘in Scotland the whole nation was converted by lump; and within ten years…there were not ten persons of quality to be found in it who did not profess the true reformed religion, and so it was among the commons in proportion. Lo! Here a nation born in one day!’ (James Kirkton, The Secret and True History of the Church of Scotland, p.21-22)

The promise of Revival in the Seventeenth Century

This amazing receptivity of the people to powerful gospel preaching did not die out in the century to follow. A fairly compelling example of what we might call ‘revival’, or at least ‘revivalistic, is captured by a description of a powerfully anointed sermon from 1630.

Arthur Fawcett quotes James Robe as saying,

‘The omission of our worthy Forefathers to transmit to posterity a full and circumstantial account of the conversion of 500 by one sermon at the Kirk of Shots in the year 1630…I have heard much complained of and lamented.’ (Arthur Fawcett, The Cambuslang revival, Banner of Truth p.5)

Clearly Scotland, in the generation following the mighty John Knox and the many other ‘Scots Worthies’, was ripe for the gospel. Multitudes were swept into the Kingdom of God and the culture of the nation was definitively shaped by the Bible.

For more on Revival click here

Read the next post, The Pentecostal Power of the Puritan Movement

You can purchase Iain Murray’s The Puritan Hope’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Steering clear of pulpit nonsense: Lost for Words, a Book Review

lost-for-words1

In order to achieve optimal outputs, the bottom line is we need to step up to the plate, raise the bar, push the envelope and think out of the box 24/7! It’s a no-brainer!

If you’ve either been impressed or nauseated by hearing someone speak like that then this short but punchy book by John Humphreys will help!

For the full review click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Amazing Power of a Testimony – Bilney and Latimer

Thomas Bilney

Thomas Bilney

Hugh Latimer was one of the shining lights at Cambridge University in the early 1500’s. He was intelligent, articulate, influential – a born leader.

But he was both alarmed and repulsed by the new Lutheran teachings that were slowly pervading the intellectual discussions of the University.

Speaking against the Reformation

When he graduated as Bachelor of Divinity in 1524 he was required to speak at a public lecture on a theological theme.

Biographer Robert Demaus wrote that, ‘With the characteristic zeal of an ardent lover of the Church, indignant at the success of the heresy which was everywhere finding disciples, he directed his whole oration against Philip Melancthon, the eminent German Reformer, who had recently impugned the authority of the school-doctors, and had maintained that they must all be tested by the supreme standard of Holy Scripture.’ (Robert Demaus, Hugh Latimer, A Biography, Religious Tract Society, London 1904, p.45)

Latimer even said that the reading of Scripture was dangerous! But there was someone in the crowd that day whose heart and mind had already been transformed by the ‘heresy’ of an open Bible. His name was Thomas Bilney.

Bilney was very clear that Luther had been correct, and that Scripture was our only true guide. Our justification before God was not on the basis of our good works, or of obedience to church ritual, but rather through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But how was he to convince such an important and formidable opponent as Latimer?

He who is wise wins souls!

Being a wise soul winner, Bilney sought to speak to Latimer directly. Latimer had already been ordained and was therefore able to hear confessions. Bilney considered that he had a particular confession that he wanted Latimer to hear.

And so, Latimer, no doubt expecting that his stinging sermon had turned Bilney back to the old ways, agreed to a private meeting where he would hear Bilney’s confession.

For something like two hours, Thomas Bilney, on his knees, faithfully told the story of his desperate attempts to please God and how, through faith in Jesus, he had experienced a breakthrough at last. He emphasised the vital role the Bible had played in his relationship with God as opposed to the scholars of his day.

Latimer said, ‘To say the truth, by his confession I learned more than before in many years.’ (Demaus p.45)

As JH Merle d’Aubigne writes, ‘It was not the penitent but the confessor who received absolution. Latimer viewed with horror the obstinate war he had waged against God; he wept bitterly; but Bilney consoled him.

‘Brother, said he, ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.’
These two young men, then locked in a solitary chamber at Cambridge, were one day to mount the scaffold…’ (The Reformation in England, Banner of Truth, Vol 1 p.204)

Latimer and Ridley, standing together to the very end

Latimer and Ridley, standing together to the very end

They did indeed, both giving up their lives as martyrs in Oxford, being burned at the stake. You can see the place today, marked by a small cross in stone on the ground. In the end, Latimer gave everything he had for Jesus Christ.

The testimony of a changed life is powerful.

From the day a man said, ‘One thing I know, I was blind but now I can see!’ (Jn 9:25) to Bilney reaching the hard heart of Latimer, to you in your situation.

Be encouraged! What God has done for you, by forgiving your sins through Christ, is powerful – even before those with greater influence or learning or who seem resistant.

Don’t be silent. Find a way to graciously and appropriately share the good news of God’s amazing love with someone.

Latimer went on to be one of the English Reformation’s great heroes, preaching before the king and in many circles of influence. Who knows what God might do through you, and those you speak to?

You can purchase JH Merle d’Aubigne’s ‘The Reformation in England’ in two volumes here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Private Correspondence between Calvin and other Reformers

Fascinating remarks by the Reformer to Cranmer, Knox and Luther himself.

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, England

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, England

Like many other influential servants of God, John Calvin was a true man of letters. He was constantly preaching, teaching, writing pamphlets, treatises and debating.

But he also spent time writing to other influential Christian leaders and heads of state during the 16th Century.

He was a keen encourager of those who were seeking to restore the church to a more Biblical pattern.

A selection of these letters have been published and include some absolutely fascinating private correspondence between Calvin and some of the great Reformers.

On the procrastination that softened the impact of the Reformation in England: a piercing critique written in season – To Thomas Cranmer, 1552
‘I, for my part, acknowledge that our cause has made no little progress during the short period the Gospel has flourished in England.

But if you reflect on what yet remains to be done, and how very remiss you have been in many matters, you will discover that you have no reason to advance towards the goal with less rapidity…lest after you have escaped danger, you should become self-indulgent.

But to speak freely, I greatly fear, and this fear is abiding, that so many autumns will be spent in procrastinating, that by and by the cold of a perpetual winter will set in…for external religious abuses have been corrected in such a way as to leave remaining innumerable young shoots, which are constantly sprouting forth.

In fact, I am informed that such a mass of Papal corruptions remain, as not only to hide, but almost to extinguish the pure worship of God.’ (Letters p.141)

A criticism of the use of crucifixes in Church services – to John Knox, 1555
‘Certainly no one, I think, who is possessed of a sound judgement, will deny that lighted tapers, and crucifixes, and other trumpery of the same description, flow from superstition.

Whence, I lay it down for certain, that those who from free choice retain these things, are but too eager to drink from polluted dregs.

Nor do I see what reason a church should be burdened with these frivolous and useless, not to call them by their real name, pernicious ceremonies, when a pure and simple order of worship is in our power. But I check myself, lest I should seem to stir up a new strife…’ (Letters p. 174)

To Martin Luther
Writing to Luther in January of 1545, he says:
‘Would that I could fly to you, that I might even for a few hours enjoy the happiness of your society; for I would prefer, and it would be far better, not only upon this question, but also about others, to converse personally with yourself; but seeing that it is not granted to us on earth, I hope that shortly it will come to pass in the kingdom of God.

Adieu, most renowned sir, most distinguished minister of Christ, and my ever honoured father. The Lord Himself rule and direct you by his own Spirit, that you may persevere even unto the end, for the common benefit and good of his own church.’ (Letters p.73)

On the need identify ourselves as followers of Christ – to Martin Luther, 1545
‘How, indeed, can this faith, which lies buried in the heart within, do otherwise than break forth in the confession of the faith?’ (Letters p.71)

Read John Calvin’s Deathbed Confession

All quotes from ‘Letters of John Calvin’, Banner of Truth (1980 edition)

© 2009 Lex Loizides

John Calvin and Church Planting

john_calvin1

We have seen how John Calvin was not passive about the Great Commission.

Calvin  commissioned four church planters to go and preach the gospel to the Indians in Brazil (Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, p. 67). Yep, that’s right! John Calvin!

As Luther and other Reformers were struggling to establish the rediscovered truths of Scripture in heir own nations, Calvin was propelled into mission.

France
From exile in Geneva, he sent over 100 church planters to France. In fact, on the basis of his outreach to France, one could argue for Calvin as a genuinely apostolic church planter. In 1555 he planted his first Church in Poitiers.

Over the next 7 years there were 1,750 ‘Calvinist’ Churches planted in France. Not only were Calvin’s hundred there, but others were raised up to lead this new church movement.

The Protestant population increased rapidly! Loraine Boettner, in an article called ‘Calvinism in History: Calvinism in France’, writes:

‘So rapidly did Calvinism spread throughout France that Fisher in his History of the Reformation tells us that in 1561 the Calvinists numbered one-fourth of the entire population. McFetridge places the number even higher. ‘In less than half a century,’ says he, ‘this so-called harsh system of belief had penetrated every part of the land, and had gained to its standards almost one-half of the population and almost every great mind in the nation. So numerous and powerful had its adherents become that for a time it appeared as if the entire nation would be swept over to their views.’ [Nathanial McFetridge, Calvinism in History, p. 144]

Smiles, in his ‘Huguenots in France,’ writes: ‘It is curious to speculate on the influence which the religion of Calvin, himself a Frenchman, might have exercised on the history of France, as well as on the individual character of the Frenchman, had the balance of forces carried the nation bodily over to Protestantism, as was very nearly the case, toward the end of the sixteenth century,’ (Samuel Smiles, Huguenots in France, p. 100).

Not only Calvin, but many others spurred on to mission

A very large number of the 18th and 19th Century pioneering missionaries considered themselves to be ‘Calvinists’.  As we read their biographies we find that it was often their belief that God was Sovereign and had already planned to save many that enabled them to press through the most disheartening circumstances and discouragements.

These missionary heroes did not give up until the Christian faith was securely planted in other lands.
For example, William Carey (to India), David Brainerd (to the native Americans), John Elliot, Henry Martyn, Alexander Duff, Robert and Mary Moffat (to South Africa), J. Hudson Taylor (to China). The list goes on.

John Calvin, speaking of the gospel, said in 1536:

“Our doctrine must stand sublime above all the glory of the world, and invincible by all its power, because it is not ours, but that of the Living God and His Anointed, whom the Father has appointed king that He may rule from sea to shining sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth.”

Read John Calvin’s Private Correspondence to other Reformers

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Calvin and the Great Commission

John Calvin was far more committed to world mission than most people realise.

As we look across church history since the Reformation it’s possible to detect apathy for mission by those who have sometimes called themselves Calvinists.

An emphasis on the sovereignty of God, on the doctrine of Election and on total depravity has sometimes been blamed for a lack of zeal in evangelism. Calvinists have been accused of holding a position which says, ‘If God has chosen upon whom He will have mercy, and if they are awakened only by His effectual call, and repent as a result of His working, then what is the point of evangelising? After all, unless He calls no-one can respond.’

But have you ever heard anyone actually argue this way? Even if we found someone foolish enough to argue in this manner I would be inclined to think that they were merely using good doctrine as a bad excuse for not reaching out to serve others by sharing the gospel with them.

Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that William Carey experienced something of this. Charles Finney was certainly keen to tell us that it was Calvinistic thinking that led to apathy for revival and evangelism.

So let’s look at Calvin. Was he laid-back about mission to other nations? Was he fatalistic? Did he even consider the importance of church planting or was he merely busying himself with trying to fathom the mysteries of God’s eternal decrees?

The simple fact is, that of all the well known Reformers, Calvin was by far the most focussed on missions and church planting. He eagerly sent church-planting pastors and evangelists to other nations.

Most of the reformers were contending for the faith in their own nations. Luther certainly was. This is, of course, perfectly understandable given the nature of the battle in which they were engaged.

But Calvin also believed the gospel would triumph across the world, and he acted on that belief.  He was, in a sense, forced into the nations, being exiled from France. He was therefore eager to send preachers and pastors from Geneva to reach his own nation.

And he sent wave after wave of church planters to France. In fact, THL Parker points out that ‘between 1555 and 1562 over one hundred ministers were sent into France.’ (THL Parker, John Calvin, Lion 1975, p.174)

There’s a story to tell: Read about John Calvin and Church Planting

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Luther on Anxiety, Studying and the Restoration of the Church

martin_luther_31

This will be our last visit inside the Luther household. Reluctantly, we must take our leave. And here, Luther gives us some parting wisdom regarding anxiety, study, preaching, the purpose of the church and on reaching our friends and neighbours with the good news of Jesus Christ.

On Anxiety
‘Time heals many things but worrying about them does not.’ (p.200)
‘Nothing has hurt me more than worrying, especially at night.’ (p.234)

On the need for diligent study
‘God’s gifts are boundless. He heaps upon us all things at once in the greatest profusion. He gives us the liberal arts and languages. The choicest books are to be had for a song. But woe to our sloth!’ (p.169)

On not preaching ‘over peoples’ heads’
‘In my sermons I do not think of Bugenhagen, Jonas and Melancthon, for they know as much as I do, so I preach not to them but to my little Lena and Hans and Elsa. It would be a foolish gardener who would attend to one flower to the neglect of the great majority.’ (p. 192-193)

‘Let all your sermons be very plain and simple. Think not of the prince but of the uncultivated and ignorant people. The prince himself is made of the same stuff as they! I preach very simply to the uneducated and it suits everybody. Though I know Greek, Hebrew and Latin, these languages I keep for use among ourselves.’ (p.193)

On the best result of good theological study

‘The best thing that theology can teach us is to know Christ. Therefore Peter says: “Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”’ (p.171)

On the Restoration of the Church
‘Building a church is not instituting ceremonies…but freeing consciences and strengthening faith.’ (p.227)

On bringing the gospel to the world
‘The first and greatest commandment requires faith and fear of God, the second [requires] love to one’s neighbour, which means we ought to preach to and pray for them and not flee into corners.’ (p.153)

(All references are from Table Talk, Smith and Gallinger edition 1915. Modern paperback edition published 1979 by Keats, USA)

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

‘Here I Stand!’ – A defining moment in world History

 

The Papal Bull excommunicating Luther

The Papal Bull excommunicating Luther

Before Luther’s greatest moment of public clarity and integrity came an act of defiance. Following the debate with Eck in Leipzig the Pope excommunicated him.

This was publicised in a ‘Papal Bull’ (a letter or decree with the Papal Seal or, ‘bulla’) largely written by Eck and distributed throughout Germany with an additional command that Luther’s works to be burned.

Luther’s response was to burn a copy of the Bull itself, along with the books of Catholic Canon Law. This act of defiance was witnessed by an excited crowd of Wittenberg residents and many students who sang praises to God as the papers burned.

Eck, the Bull and a Diet of Worms!
The various names and terms have a comic quality about them now but Luther was nearing the most dangerous part of his career yet. Luther was both vulnerable and heroic.

‘I will enter Worms under the banner of Christ against the gates of hell!’ Luther said.

The ‘Diet of Worms’ (or, The Imperial Assembly in the town of Worms) took place in 1521.

The famous John Eck was sent to question Luther and conclusively prove him to be a heretic.  The crowds were immense and it was with great difficulty that Luther and his team entered the hall.

A great gathering of nobles and church officials were there including the 21 year old Emperor Charles V, six electors of the empire, 24 dukes, 8 margraves, 30 archbishops, bishops and abbotts, 7 ambassadors, papal nuncios etc.  All in all 206 of the leading political and religious figures of the day.  It was an intimidating sight.

To Luther’s surprise, there was no debate but simply a command for him to repent of the things he had written, to recant. Eck asked Luther to acknowledge that the books piled on the tables were his. Luther said yes.

Eck then asked him to withdraw and reject the teaching that the books contained.  Sensing the gravity of the situation, Luther asked for time to reflect on the question in order that he might act wisely and in accordance with God’s word.  The meeting was adjourned till the following day.

Luther prayed, ‘There is no strength in me. This is Your cause, O God, not mine.  On you I rely, not on man.’

The next day when Luther was again asked to retract the doctrines he gave a speech, first in Latin then, true to form, he gave it again in German.

'Here I stand! I cannot do otherwise!'

'Here I stand! I cannot do otherwise!'

He ended with these famous words:

‘Unless I am convinced by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot withdraw, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the word of God.

It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience.

Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise.  So help me God.’

The meeting closed with the Emperor storming out and later said, ‘How can a single monk be right and the testimony of a thousand years of Christendom be wrong?’

Luther returned in safety and spent a period in hiding, but his influence – and the influence of the word of God – was felt all across Europe. He published many books and sermons and translated the Bible into German.  Churches were reformed, many preachers raised up and large numbers turned to the Lord.  A new era had begun.

Here I stand – trusting in Your Word
Here I stand – needing the intervention of God to vindicate His gospel
Here I stand – knowing that Truth cannot be suppressed forever
Here I stand – on behalf of my generation and the generations to follow
Here I stand – for the the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ
Here I stand – where else can I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life! (John 6:6)

References: The Reformation – Owen Chadwick (Pelican), Luther the Reformer – James Kittleson (IVP), Sketches from Church History – SM Houghton (Banner of Truth)

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Faith Under Fire – Luther in Leipzig

Johannes Eck - Luther's most challenging opponent

Johannes Eck - Luther's most challenging opponent

In 1519 in Leipzig a debate took place between Luther and the academic papal heavyweight, John Eck.

Eck scored a huge point by making Luther concede that he agreed with some of the teachings of the hated ‘heretic’ John Huss.

Luther: ‘Among the condemned beliefs of John Huss and his disciples, there are many which are truly Christian and evangelical and which the Catholic church cannot condemn.’ (quoted in The Reformation, Owen Chadwick, Pelican p.50)

Luther caused a sensation at this debate by declaring that the supremacy of the Pope was unknown in the Scriptures, that it was a fairly recent historical development (only 400 years old) and that the General Councils were in error by giving their support to it.  Christ, and only Christ, was the head of the Church.

Luther returned from the debate with his 200 bodyguards (loyal University students) and Melanchthon, who later succeeded him as the widely acknowledged leader of the German Reformation.

Luther enjoyed growing, and carefully thought through, political support as did other emerging Reformers in Europe.  Spiritually and politically, it was time for Europe to break free from Rome.

And Luther’s most famous trial and his most robust declaration of personal integrity was still to come…

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

On Defending the Faith – Luther in Augsburg

Luther comes under fire for his faith

The sale of Indulgences

The sale of Indulgences

Luther was initially surprised to find that he was considered a dangerous voice of rebellion against Rome. He had not intended to be. Perhaps he was naive. Perhaps he had not initially realised how far reaching his re-discovery of justification by faith actually was.

But his opponents seemed to pick up on it immediately. And so did his supporters, including the influential sovereign, Frederick, one of the Roman Empire’s electors (a member of a select and highly influential group who elected the Emperor).

The sale of indulgences were widely considered as a means of drawing of huge amounts of money from Germany to Rome. While Luther’s revulsion was theological and moral, Fredericks was also political.

What began in private study of Scripture soon led to his posting objections to indulgences on the Witenberg church door. This in turn created a very public debate.

The Pope called Luther to recant.  Luther refused.  The Pope pressurised Frederick to deliver ‘this child of the devil’ to Rome. But Frederick urged the Pope to consider academic hearings instead.

Luther appeared in Augsburg in 1518 to face the learned Cardinal Catejan. Luther was ready but nervous. He knew that Huss had gone to a similar hearing with the promise of safety, only to be arrested and killed.

Kittleson writes, ‘When he entered Augsburg on October 7, his stomach was so upset and his bowels ran so freely that he could no longer walk.’ (Luther the Reformer, Kittleson p.121)

Catejan’s objective was simply to get Luther to recant and promise not to upset the peace of the church. The debate lasted several days and ended in Catejan shouting at Luther to get out and only appear before him when he was ready to recant! Luther had escaped.

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Advice to Preachers from Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his classic, ‘Preachers and Preaching’ (Zondervan), gives refreshing and brilliant advice to preachers on just about every aspect of preaching.

Some might be surprised to learn that he also advises about knowing your own temperament, time management (so you don’t ‘fritter away the morning’), what to read and even comments on the pleasure of enjoying good music.

Of course Lloyd-Jones wasn’t the first great preacher to instruct others about the act of preaching. The greatest of the English speaking preachers, CH Spurgeon had done so at the end of the 19th Century (‘Lectures to my Students on the Art of Preaching’, Christian Focus). And before him, Martin Luther himself had given advice.

Here are a few incisive comments from the great Reformer which will help and challenge every public speaker.

On long Sermons
‘To me a long sermon is an abomination, for the desire of the audience to listen is destroyed, and the preacher only defeats himself.’ (p.188 )

‘Every priest must have his private sacrifices. Therefore Bugenhagen  sacrifices his hearers with his long sermons, for we are his victims. He did it finely today!’ [Bugenhagen was the parish priest of Wittenberg, Luther’s home town] (p.193)

How to be a good preacher

‘A preacher should have the following qualifications:
1. An ability to teach
2. A good mind
3. Eloquence
4. A good voice
5. A good memory
6. Power to leave off!
7. Diligence
8.Whole-souled devotion to his calling
9. A willingness to be bothered by everyone
10. Patience to bear all things.
In ministers nothing is seen more easily or more quickly than their faults. A preacher may have a hundred virtues, yet they may all be obscured by a single defect.’ (p.189-190)

On Sturdiness!
‘Melancthon is lighter than I and therefore more easily moved if things don’t go his way. I am heavier and stupider and am not so much affected by things I cannot remedy.’ (p.200)

On Dieting and Hygiene
‘It is true that good diet is the best medicine for anyone who can stand it, but to live hygienically is to live miserably!’ (p. 235)
Page references refer to Table Talk, Smith and Gallinger edition 1915. Modern paperback edition published 1979 by Keats, USA. The headings have been added.

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Luther wrestles with God – Through Anger, Guilt, Revelation and Forgiveness

When Luther returned to Wittenberg he began teaching and expounding the Scriptures and his thirst for truth intensified.

He writes:
‘I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans.  I did not have a heart of stone, but to that moment one phrase in chapter one stood in my way.

I hated the idea, ‘in it the righteousness of God is revealed’ …according to which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.

I lived without reproach as a monk, but my conscience was disturbed to its very depths and all I knew about myself was that I was a sinner.

I could not believe that anything I thought or did or prayed satisfied God.  I did not love, nay, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.

Certainly, and with intense grumbling (perhaps even blasphemy), I was angry with God and said, ‘As if it were indeed not enough that miserable sinners who are eternally lost through original sin and are crushed again by every calamity through the Ten Commandments, God Himself adds pain to pain in the gospel by threatening us with His righteousness and wrath!’

At last, meditating day and night…by the mercy of God, I gave heed to the context of the words, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’

Then I began to understand that the righteousness of God is…a gift of God, namely by faith…

Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.

An entirely new side of the Scriptures opened itself to me…and I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the loathing with which before I had hated the term ‘the righteousness of God’.

Thus, that verse in Paul was for me truly the gate of paradise.’

Luther wrestled with God! Next time we’ll see how he wrestled his generation and began a reform movement that took on the world!

(The quote is from Luther’s Works, Vol 34, p.336-338 Fortress Press,and quoted in Luther, the Reformer by James M. Kittleson, IVP)

For the next part of the Martin Luther story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Dear Medieval world – meet Martin Luther

luther
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was born to a poor family in Eisleben, Saxony, Germany.

He was a bright scholar and entered the University of Erfurt when he was eighteen.  While there, for the first time he saw a Bible and was greatly challenged by the passage in which Samuel was called to be a prophet to Israel.

It wasn’t, however, until he was 22 and had left his studies that he began seeking God.  A combination of traumatic events (including nearly being struck by lightning) culminated in his promising to become a monk which, after a rollicking farewell party to the world, he did.

As a monk he was very diligent, following the strictest rules and trying to make peace with God.  He appealed earnestly to every saint he could think of for help including Mary, but no help came.

Once for a whole fortnight he didn’t eat or sleep.  He was desperate to find peace and yet held under a terrifying expectation of God’s righteous anger against him.

In 1510 he had the rare privilege of visiting Rome.  He had high expectations but was utterly shocked at the lawlessness he saw there.  Nevertheless he said many masses and visited many churches.

Of this trip he says:

‘At Rome I wished to liberate my grandfather from purgatory, and went up the staircase of Pilate, praying a pater noster on each step; for I was convinced that he who prayed thus could redeem his soul.  But when I came to the top step, the thought kept coming to me, ‘Who knows whether this is true?’’ (S.M. Houghton – Sketches from Church History (Banner of Truth) p.84)

Next time we’ll see what happened when Luther began reading and preaching from Erasmus’ recently published Greek New Testament.

For the next part of Luther’s story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Sarcasm and Scholarship – How to Start a Reformation

Erasmus


Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)

Along with Savanorola of Florence, the Dutchman Erasmus, from Rotterdam, was one of the shining lights of the Renaissance. The Renaissance (from the French – ‘re-birth’), was a movement seeking to throw off the ignorance produced in large measure by the exclusivity of the clergy, and which drew inspiration from classical literature and art for inspiration.

Erasmus attended several of the universities of Western Europe including Oxford where he began to turn his attention to Biblical studies.

He made two important contributions to the Reformation. Firstly, he wrote extensively against the corruption and abuses by both priests and monks (e.g., his book ‘In Praise of Folly’).  His style was sarcastic, witty, dismissive. His was a daring, sharp and hugely popular way of pointing out the tragic failings of the Mediaeval church, although he never left the Catholic Church and hoped for an internal reformation.

But in his criticisms he was aiming for genuine devotion:
‘No veneration of Mary is more beautiful than the imitation of her humility. No devotion to the saints is more acceptable to God than the imitations on their virtues.

Say you have a great devotion to St Peter and St Paul. Then by all means imitate the faith of the former and the charity of the latter. This will certainly be more rewarding than a dozen trips to Rome.’ (Quoted in The Protestant Reformation of Europe, Andrew Johnston, Longman, UK)

The Greek New Testament in print

Erasmus' Greek and Latin Parallel New Testament

Secondly, he edited and published the first printed Greek New Testament in 1516. The New Testament immediately drew attention to the obvious differences of the state of the Roman Church and the church in the Scriptures themselves.

The doctrines of Grace, hardly anywhere to be seen in Erasmus’ pre-Reformation Church, were everywhere in the Scriptures, and the nature and practices of the early church made the differences all the more obvious.  It was now just a matter of time.

Erasmus opened the door for the clear testimony of truth to impact both church and society. When his critics complained that he had laid the egg that Luther hatched, Erasmus defended himself with good humour, saying that he had expected a different kind of bird to emerge!

NB. A point of interest: Andrew Johnston is not only the author of The Protestant Reformation of Europe but now pastors a church in the UK

© 2008 Lex Loizides

The Bonfire of the Vanities – The Amazing Story of Savonarola

Savonarola

Girolamo Savonarola of Florence (1452-1498), Italy, was a preacher who powerfully denounced the corrupt lifestyles of the clergy, and urged the vast multitudes who came to hear him to repent.  He preached from the book of Revelation during the 1480’s and a genuine pre-Reformation moral revival broke out there.

His boldness and his outspoken preaching created both repentance and hostility.  Preaching directly from Revelation and then later adopting an apocalyptic preaching style, he made predictions about coming events which astonished the people. God seemed to be speaking through him. Crowds of up to 10,000 would come and listen.

The French invaded Italy in 1494, and such was his reputation that Savonarola successfully negotiated a peaceful outcome for Florence.  Whilst not actually having political power, he was able to influence lawmakers to produce a more compassionate government providing help for the poor in many ways.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Such was his popularity that some 6000 of his teenage and young converts turned from troublemaking to marching through the city singing hymns! And on two occasions this ‘youth army’ collected items from peoples’ homes, cosmetics, pictures or books considered ungodly, which the citizens freely gave them as a sign of their change of heart. They made two colossal bonfires in the middle of town where all these collected items were burnt. This was the famous  ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’.

However, a combination of strict legislation against both obvious sin and lesser social sins caused a sharp decline in his popularity.  His constant preaching against Rome (calling the church ‘the Beast’) and his increasingly biting criticism of the Pope took its toll. He was finally excommunicated and sentenced to death by burning.

‘Your instructions,’ said Pope Alexander, ‘are to put this man to death. If you find him to be a new John the Baptist, still you are to put him to death.’  (Quoted by Leigh Churchill, p.288)

He was severely tortured for more than a month. The descriptions are difficult to read. This good man went from preaching repentance to amazed multitudes to the disgusting darkness of the torture chamber. Truly, he was a second John the Baptist, making way for the reformation.

During this period of torture he wrote devotional works on two of the Psalms which Luther later published. What an astonishing prophetic character was Savonarola!

He finally found peace on May 23rd 1498 after they had hanged and burnt him to death, carefully removing his remains so as not to allow any of his followers to collect them as ‘relics’.

After his robes had been removed, the bishop approached him and said, ‘I separate you from the church militant and from the church triumphant.’

Savonarola replied, ‘You have no power to separate me from the church triumphant to which I go!’ He died age 45.

Sources:
SM Houghton – Sketches from Church History (Banner of Truth)
Ken Curtis – Christian History Magazine, Glimpses #92
Leigh Churchill – The Age of Knights and Friars, Popes and Reformers (Authentic)

© 2008 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

The Printing Press

Technology and Truth shaping the Soul of the West

As the year 2000 rolled by, western social historians were reflecting that the greatest invention of the previous thousand years was surely the printing press.

And there is little doubt that the printing press inaugurated a new era of learning that birthed modern western civilisation. The invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the early 15th century has had an almost unfathomable impact on the modern world.

Gutenberg’s Bible, the first book to be printed from the modern press, is described by the British Library as ‘a work of exceedingly high quality which set standards for book production which in many ways are still unsurpassed today.’

An Earlier Printing Press

But interestingly the British Library’s Online gallery also has an exhibit from China, printed in 868. This ancient document was the Buddhist work, ‘The Diamond Sutra’ (see here for both exhibits).

The Diamond Sutra

In other words, Chinese technological brilliance had already produced a printing press centuries before Gutenberg’s, during the first millennium. So why did Gutenberg’s press have such wide-ranging impact, and why didn’t the earlier one?

With characteristic insight and authority, Indian scholar and author Vishal Mangalwadi makes the point:

‘One fundamental difference between the West and the East is whether words have meaning or not. Your social historians were saying…that the greatest invention of the last millennium was the printing press…they were all wrong. The Chinese had invented printing 800 years before Gutenberg. Koreans had invented movable metal fonts 500 years earlier. [But] printing had not brought about a Renaissance or Reformation in Asia.

At the end of the first millennium Chinese, Koreans, Tibetans had developed the concept of salvation through rotation…we had great universities, great literature, Buddhist literature,…but what these professors and these monks in the monasteries were doing, they put these books on these rotating shelves and they were sitting and rotating those shelves, not reading those books.

Why? Because [they believed] words have nothing to do with truth. Ultimate reality is silence…‘shunya’, void, emptiness, nothingness. Words or sounds become mantra. When you separate sense from sound. You meditate on sound.

And when you’ve been rotating these shelves for two or three hours your mind begins to go in circles and becomes empty, content-less, void, ‘shunya’, and you have the mystical experience of an altered state of consciousness .

So printing, books [and] literature ceased to have any meaning, great universities disappeared, time froze in Asia.

Words have Meaning

The reason [Gutenberg’s] press began to create the modern world was because behind the printing press, behind those books was an idea that the ultimate reality was not ‘shunya’ or emptiness, nothingness, but ‘logos’, ‘In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.’ (John 1:1)

Words are real because there is a personal God who exists.’
(from a lecture entitled, ‘Time and Eternity’ from his series ‘The Book of the Millennium’. To hear the lecture go here )

The Rediscovery of Truth

In other words, it wasn’t the invention of the technology itself that ushered in the new era of reform – it was the truth that the technology conveyed. It wasn’t the press itself, but the gospel of grace that was published on it.

Jesus said, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NASB)

As the Scriptures were printed, as Reformers began to make their message known, scholars and preachers had an authoritative standard by which to measure the church, and they had a living word to preach. Great change was on its way, freedom from centuries of superstition – indeed a Reformation and the birth of the modern era.

For more on Vishal Mangalwadi, and details of his superb books, visit http://www.vishalmangalwadi.com/

© 2008 Lex Loizides