Monday, December 15, 2008

Joel Beeke: 'How to Read Thomas Goodwin'

Courtesy of Michael DeWalt's blog, Gospel-Centered Musings:

"How should a beginner proceed in reading Goodwin’s works? Here is a suggested plan. (Note: Books marked by * have been printed at least once since the 1950s.)
1. Begin by reading some of the shorter, more practical writings of Goodwin, such as Patience and Its Perfect Work,* which includes four sermons on James 1:1–5. This was written after much of Goodwin’s personal library was destroyed by fire (2:429–467). It contains much practical instruction on enhancing a spirit of submission ..."

This makes my day ...

This won't seem like a big deal to many of you, but it struck me as a thing of beauty.

Recently, a fellow named Keith Mathison posted a list of what he feels are the "Top 5 Commentaries on Ephesians" on the blog of Ligonier Ministries.

In particular, I was very pleasantly surprised by how Mathison handled the work of Harold Hoehner, a scholar whose views are different from his own. To be specific, Mathison is a covenant theology guy, and Hoehner is, like me, a dispensationalist (I actually took a course or two from Hoehner while I was at Dallas Seminary).

Now behold:

Mathison writes with maturity and magnanimity. I understand that he is addressing a Reformed/covenantal audience, so I am not offended that he feels compelled to warn them about Hoehner's 'dispensationalism shining through.' I would do the same if I were presenting a covenantal text to a group of laity at my own church.

And I find it very big of Mathison that he can still recommend Hoehner's work, as something that contains material that will benefit his audience, even though he knows they will have to be discerning in their use of it.

Instead of hardening me in my own hermeneutical stance, I am drawn by Mathison's charity to open up to the claims of his tradition, and to dialogue. This is the way forward.

Thank you, Keith Mathison, for showing us how to agree to disagree. We need much more of this kind of thing in the evangelical 'discussion' that takes place on- and offline.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Audio on John Milton

Courtesy of the Andrew Fuller Center, which recently held an event "celebrating the life and thought of John Milton (1608–1674)."

Complete mp3 download here.

"Let it profit thee to have heard,
By terrible example, the reward
Of disobedience."

Paradise Lost, Book 6, lines 909-11

Monday, December 1, 2008

Guthrie: Conversion not one-size-fits-all

Recently I started reading The Christian's Great Interest, by Scottish puritan William Guthrie (1620–1669). In it Guthrie attempts to answer two questions:

  1. How shall a man know if he has a true and special interest in Christ (if he is a genuine, or 'saved' Christian)?; and
  2. What shall they do who want (lack) the marks of a true and saving interest in Christ?
Here I just want to call attention to Guthrie's treatment of conversion, which I believe helpfully moderates some unbiblical extremes to which evangelicals drift in our day.

To get right to the point, Guthrie observes that, in Scripture and in reality, God converts different people in different ways: some quickly and some slowly; some very early on in life, and some later–even during their last moments. Some must be softened by the preaching of the law, which leads them to Christ as a tutor (Gal. 3:24); while others can be won to Christ in a short time, without such lengthy preparation.

I think that if granted, his argument corrects those who hold that conversion is only valid when
  • it occurs at a discernible moment in time; or
  • it occurs very slowly; or
  • it is preceded by great inner turmoil and conviction.
To be fair, Guthrie does say that "men are ordinarily prepared for Christ by the work of the Law"–but this is not absolutely necessary.

Thus, I would conclude, the Lord could use a "Four Spiritual Laws" tract (or a Chick Tract), an altar call, or an entire childhood of Sunday school lessons in a Presbyterian church (or all of the above!) to draw a soul effectually to Himself.

We could discuss what we believe the best means of facilitating conversion are, but that will have to be another post on another day ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Pilgrims: The Next Generation"

From the Sacred Sandwich, a humorous site I recommend visiting often:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good resource on the Federal Vision?

I'm looking for a good book or website that covers the Federal Vision succinctly and objectively (as much as possible) -- the views associated, and perhaps also the controversy resulting.

You can use the comments to answer ...



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A book suggestion

Recently I found what looks to be a fun (but slightly irreverent) read on the New England puritans, called The Wordy Shipmates. Sarah Vowell, the author, has written a handful of similar works, and is a contributing editor for NPR's This American Life.

I haven't made it far into the book yet, but I've enjoyed what I've read so far, and I suspect a lot of you who contribute to and visit this blog would as well.

Here's a brief excerpt in which Vowell reflects on the differences between the religious separatists who established Plymouth in 1620 and the nonseparatists who settled Massachusetts Bay in 1630. As you'll see, she confronts the history from a perspective that is decidedly (post)modern and satirical, but not unsympathetic:
"I admire the Mayflower Pilgrims' uncompromising resolve to make a clean break, and their fortitude, so fundamental to the American national character that Sinclair Lewis called one of our core ideals 'Plymouth Rock in a sleet-storm.'

Still, I find the Arbella passengers' qualms messier and more endearing. They were leaving for the same reasons the Pilgrims left, but they had either the modesty to feel bad about it or the charitable hypocrisy to at least pretend to. Maybe it's because I live in a world crawling with separatists that I find religious zealots with a tiny bit of wishy-washy, pussy-footing compromise in them deeply attractive. Plus, half the entertainment value of watching Massachusetts Bay come to life is witnessing all the tiptoeing and deference–frequently just a pretense of deference–to the crown. [John] Winthrop will spend most of his time as magistrate tripping all over himself to make sure King Charles doesn't get wind of any of the colony's many treasonous infractions. Because, unlike the Plymouth Separatists, the nonseparating Bostonians left England pledging to remain as English as beheadings and clotted cream."
Here's another, more punchy extract:
"I'm always disappointed when I see the word 'Puritan' tossed around as shorthand for a bunch of generic, boring, stupid, judgmental killjoys. Because to me, they are very specific, fascinating, sometimes brilliant, judgmental killjoys who rarely agreed on anything except that Catholics are going to hell."
In spite of a few moments that would seem to betray a simplistic understanding of the theological issues behind the puritan dilemma (Arminianism is defined in passing as "the doctrine that a believer's salvation depends merely on faith ... at odds with the Puritans' insistence that salvation is predetermined by God"), Vowell holds her own fairly well as a non-religious historian writing on religious history.

If any of you have read this book or plan to in the near future, please let me know–I'd love to compare notes when we're both finished.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Point in Case

After reading a glut of modern folks examining the puritans, it is always interesting to read puritans talking about puritans. In this case, we see it in an explosive sermon preached by Thomas Case to 'sundry of the Honourable House of Commons' (The Long Parliament) in 1642. In this passage he offered his take on how Laudians and papists viewed puritans. Taking the tone of a satirist, Case preached:

Away with these Isaiahs, Jeremiahs, Habbakuks, these be troublers of Church and Common-wealth, men that are always bauling against Idolatry, and through the loyns of Idolatry, strike at any harmless and profitable ceremonies, whereby the people may be edified: men that are always preaching hell and the Law, and strictnesse and preciseness, that we do not know how to behave ourselves among them. If we must have preaching, let us have it of another strain. Prophecy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, oyled sermons...that may not disquiet and perplex tender consciences...*

Lets just call that a 'point in Case'.

*Case, Thomas. Two Sermons Lately Preached at Westminster, before Sundry of the Honourable House of Commons Corrected by the Author, Thomas Case Early English Books, 1641-1700 / 933:22: London : Printed by J. Raworth, for Luke Fawn, and are to be sold at his shop ... 1642.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stick around (please)

I want to thank all of you that have returned here from time to time to see what's happening at the Conventicle. We really appreciate it. Here's an update about me personally and about this site:

  • I'm still above ground, as you've probably deduced by this point in your reading. I have moved back to Texas and finished my doctoral thesis (the pre-examination draft), the abstract to which I've attached below, for anyone who's curious. My examination (viva) is scheduled for December. I appreciate your prayers.
  • For the time being, I've taken up full-time blogging as a profession. To this end, I launched The Daily Scroll last month -- a site that features links to posts and articles by Christians from an array of theological backgrounds. I think it will be useful for people who are interested in hearing what different individuals and groups are saying, in their own words. I welcome your feedback about the site! Email me here. I am hoping it will be lucrative, as well as edifying. (A site dedicated to discussion of my own hermeneutical tradition is also in the works, and should be 'ready for prime time' within the next month.)
  • The Conventicle is down, but most certainly not out! As I've mentioned here before, we are planning on launching an expanded Conventicle site, with a wealth of puritan-related resources. I am expecting this to go live within the next six months. In the meantime, the other contributors and I will continue our trickle of posts here. (I haven't forgotten that summary of Collinson's Elizabethan Puritan Movement I need to finish!)
Once again, thanks for your patience. Let's all keep the memory of the puritans alive!



As promised, the abstract to my thesis, "Puritanism's Ascetic Pedigree: Catholic Treatises and Protestant 'Counterpoysons' in Early Modern England":

Some scholars researching the puritans have noted parallels between their approach to spiritual formation and that of the monastic communities of the medieval and early modern periods. Specifically, an ascetic or pietistic orientation, emphasizing the methodical practice of spiritual disciplines such as meditation, has been acknowledged in both groups. Some have suggested that early puritan writers knowingly adopted elements of the Catholic ascetic tradition, but relatively little has been done to prove or disprove this claim.

An analysis of popular religious writings circulating in Elizabethan England reveals evidence supporting the notion that similarities between the two traditions were more than coincidental. During the Elizabethan period, several Catholic texts were illegally circulated in England, which taught monastic devotional methods in a basic format suitable for lay readers. These Catholic ascetic treatises, written by authors such as the Spanish Dominican, Luis de Granada (1505-1588), and the English Jesuit, Robert Persons (1546-1610), were patently unique among the approved religious texts sold in Protestant England. Their originality was underscored by Catholics, in fact, who criticized English Protestants because they had produced nothing similar.

However, in 1603, the puritan Richard Rogers (1550/1-1618) published a devotional guide called the Seven Treatises, significant features of which are reminiscent of this ascetic genre. Rogers and others portrayed his work as a “counterpoyson” to Catholic books, expressing confidence that it would effectively silence the boasts of Catholic writers who claimed to hold a monopoly on devotional instruction. It appears that Rogers composed much of his Seven Treatises in conscious emulation of the Catholic texts whose influence he hoped to suppress. What’s more, it is likely that his work inspired many seventeenth-century puritan writers, whose devotional manuals reflect the same ascetic emphases.

Such evidence suggests that the observed similarity between the puritans’ spiritual approach and that of the more ancient monastic-ascetic tradition was, in part, a result of their conscious imitation and adaptation of that tradition’s teaching, as it was expressed in these sixteenth-century Catholic ascetic manuals.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Christ, the Fountain-Head of Christian Dogmatics

I don’t read Dutch. I have little acquaintance with the Dutch Reformed tradition. Apart from occasional forays into Witsius, Voetius, and Cocceius, for my Owen thesis, and a little dose of Bavinck now and then to trace up the history of a certain doctrine, I’m really quite green to the Dutch trajectory of the Reformed tradition. This is an area I would like to work on more seriously in the long run. So I was especially delighted to have met Willem van Asselt and Gert van den Brink in person at the recent John Owen Today conference.

Gert, who has written a book on Witsius in Dutch, suggested that I should come to grips with Witsius in a more thorough-going way. This will certainly be on my list of long term projects. But for the coming weeks, I’ve settled for a more modern Dutch theologian to provide some respite from the increasingly belaboring task of writing up my thesis on Owen.

Jan Jacob van Oosterzee (1817-1882) was for some time Professor of Theology in the University of Utrecht. This is the same University at which Van Asselt is currently holding a Professorship and at which Gert is based. Whenever I take breaks in the coming weeks, I hope to read through selected portions of Oosterzee’s Christian Dogmatics: A Text-Book for Academical Instruction and Private Study, 2nd edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1878).

Here’s an excellent starter I came across from his treatment of the sources of Christian Dogmatics:

“No one can be the Fountain-head for the investigation of Christian Dogmatics, but He who is its principal subject-matter, and who is not only the faithful witness, but Himself the highest revelation of truth in the domain of religion. True Dogmatics is thus, from its nature, Christo-centric; and nothing in regard to the doctrine of salvation can be acknowledged as truth, that is in irreconcilable contradiction with the word and spirit of Christ, the King of truth.” (p. 15)

“The claim that Christian Dogmatics shall be Christo-centric, does not denote that the Christology must therefore be treated of first of all; on the contrary, there are preponderating difficulties in this method. But this is the idea, that everything which Dogmatics has to teach concerning God, man, the way of salvation, etc., must be viewed by the light which streams forth from Christ as centre. This proceeds from His exalted character, and the best dogmatists of our own century place it constantly more in the foreground. (Liebner, Lange, Thomasius, and many others.) Christ as the highest revelation of God, must also be to the dogmatist the light of his science. As the King of truth is the head of the Church, so is He the heart of Christian Dogmatics. The so-called Modern Theology is therefore already condemned in principle, since Christ has either no place or a very unimportant one in its system, which exhibits an anthropo-centric character.” (p. 15)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The cry of English puritans

Thought I would share this, a classic expression of the puritan ethos, in a letter from two English clergy, Laurence Humphrey and Thomas Sampson, to Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger, in 1566:

Why should we receive Christ rather maimed than entire, and pure, and perfect? Why should we look for precedents from our enemies, the papists, and not from you, our brethren of the reformation? We have the same confession in our churches, the same rule of doctrine and faith; why should there be so great a dissimilarity and discrepancy in rites and ceremonies? The thing signified is the same; why do the signs so differ as to be unlike yours, and to resemble those of the papists?

From H. Robinson, ed., The Zurich Letters (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1842-45), 162; cited in Eamon Duffy, “Continuity and Divergence in Tudor Religion”, in Unity and Diversity in the Church, ed. R. N. Swanson (Oxford: Blackwell [for the Ecclesiastical History Society], 1996), 185.

Friday, August 1, 2008

John Owen Today Conference: Latest Updates

The entire programme of the conference is now finalised and available here.

Updates include the following:

1. Carl Trueman is unable to present a paper (to the disappointment of many participants I'm sure!). John Coffey will be taking Trueman's place, with a paper entitled, "John Owen, the Reformed Tradition and Religious Toleration."

2. Our very own Mr Tweeddale is now on board as well. He will be the second representative from New College, and of course, the second Conventicler at the conference. Check out the interesting title of his short paper on the conference website.

3. There'll be a demonstration of the Logos Bible Software on the Works of John Owen (17 vols.) with, I believe, an opportunity to purchase the software at a discount.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dave Walker knows my life

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Take this, Chris!

Here is my thesis thus far. I think I'll just hand this is at my viva.

I'm addicted to Wordle ...

Jonathan Edwards's sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God":

The Westminster Confession:

and to renew the pride of my Scottish friends, the Falkirk speech that William Wallace delivered, in Braveheart:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Conventicle, 95 Theses, and (!) my dissertation 'Wordled'

Is there any question which puritan gets the most coverage here? (Admittedly though, there's more than one puritan named 'John', not to mention that we also have a prolific contributor by that name).

And just for fun, here's the English text of Luther's 95 Theses:

And last--and yes, least--my doctoral dissertation. It may explain things a little to share the title, which is "Puritanism's Ascetic Pedigree: Catholic Treatises and Protestant 'Counterpoysons' in Early Modern England" (then again, maybe that just confuses people more):

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Conventicle Q&A with Dr Stephen Yuille

Dr Stephen Yuille is the preaching elder at Braidwood Bible Chapel in Peterborough, Ontario. He is also a part-time Professor of Biblical Studies with Toronto Baptist Seminary. His doctoral work on George Swinnock was undertaken at the London School of Theology.

George Swinnock is a lesser-known Puritan. For the benefit of our readers, could you give us a very brief introduction to his life and explain how his writings compare to better known Puritans like Sibbes or Owen?

Unfortunately, very little is known of Swinnock. He was born in 1627 at Maidstone, Kent. He was raised in his uncle’s house. This might mean he was an orphan – we don’t know for certain. He graduated B.A. from Emmanuel College (Cambridge) in 1647 and Balliol College (Oxford) in 1650. He then became pastor at St. Mary’s chapel in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. After eleven years, he moved to St. Nicholas’ chapel in Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire.

He had a family. We know this, because he makes several references in his writings to his wife and children. Of course, he was ejected for nonconformity in 1662. He survived for ten years by ministering in the home of Richard Hampden. Richard Hampden’s father, John, was famous for his participation in the parliamentary forces.

As a matter of fact, there’s still a memorial placard in his honour, located in the churchyard of St. Nicholas’ in Great Kimble. With the easing of political restrictions in 1672, Swinnock returned to Maidstone to become pastor. He died a year later at the age of forty-six. There are a few other details, but that is basically all we know about him.

As for his writings, I think they can be described in four words. (1) Theological. Swinnock is firmly rooted in Reformed theology, as particularly expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith. (2) Pastoral. Swinnock is a pastor-theologian. He’s rarely polemical. He’s chiefly concerned with the situational application of theology. This is evident in the fact that the vast majority of his writings are simply his published sermons. (3) Experimental. By this, I mean that Swinnock targets the heart. He most certainly doesn’t bypass the mind, but his primary goal is to stir the affections – the root of all action. (4) Colourful. Swinnock’s writings are packed with vivid illustrations, many of them taken from the realm of nature.

How did you come across Swinnock’s writings and what were the key factors that led you into doctoral research on him?

My wife’s parents live in a town in southern Ontario, where there’s a small Christian bookstore, connected with Reformation Heritage Books. Whenever we visit, I like to slip away to peruse the bookshelves for gems. On one occasion, I discovered Swinnock’s five volume set. As I was standing there, I read a sizeable portion of The Fading of the Flesh. I was hooked!

At the time, I was in the process of applying for admittance into the doctoral program at London School of Theology. For some months, I had been trying to define my area of research. I had set two criteria. First, I wanted to study an English Puritan, who was relatively unknown. No offense to all you Owen and Baxter scholars out there, but there are so many others! Second, I wanted to focus on the fear of God in Puritan theology and spirituality. Swinnock was a perfect fit.

Your doctoral work is now published under the title, Puritan Spirituality: the Fear of God in the Affective Theology of George Swinnock (Paternoster, 2007). Could you share with us the thrust of the book?

The preface provides a fairly concise summary of the book. It reads as follows:

“This book is about George Swinnock, a seventeenth-century English Puritan. It begins by defining his Puritanism as a spiritual movement to which political, ecclesiastical, and theological concerns were related in terms of cause and consequence. This is followed by an assessment of those influences that contributed in some way to the development of his spirituality.

Chapters three and four explore the foundation of Swinnock’s spirituality. At its root is a teleological understanding of the image of God in humanity that is based upon faculty-humour psychology. This means Swinnock views sanctification as the proper ordering of the soul’s faculties after the image of God. In other words, the head and heart perceive God to be the greatest good, resulting in renewed affections.

Chapters five to eight consider the expression of Swinnock’s spirituality. As a result of the proper ordering of the soul’s faculties, the individual delights in God’s law. Furthermore, the rational appetite exercises control over the sensitive appetite. According to Swinnock, this self-control (or moderation) is evident in every area of life – all actions, vocations, relations, and conditions.

To facilitate this mastery of the rational over the sensitive, he devotes himself to spiritual duties such as reading and praying. He views these as conduit-pipes whereby the Holy Spirit imparts grace to the soul. Among spiritual duties, meditation occupies the place of distinction for Swinnock by virtue of the fact that the mind is the leading faculty of the soul. It is, therefore, the principal means by which the Holy Spirit excites the affections.

This entire paradigm is included in Swinnock’s concept of the fear of God; hence, the title for this book: Puritan Spirituality: The Fear of God in the Affective Theology of George Swinnock. Throughout, Swinnock’s convictions are placed in a historical context, stretching back through Calvin to Augustine. In addition, they are expounded in the context of his contemporaries in order to confirm his place within the Puritan tradition.”

Earlier this month you published another book on Swinnock, entitled Trading and Thriving in Godliness: the Piety of George Swinnock (Reformation Heritage Books, 2008). “Thriving in godliness” is rather straightforward in meaning, but how should we understand “trading in godliness”?

I have Jay Collier at Reformation Heritage Books to thank for the title. He came across the phrase, “trading and thriving in godliness,” in Swinnock’s The Christian Man’s Calling. In this treatise, Swinnock takes 1 Timothy 4:7 as his text – “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”

He proceeds to explain godliness and what it means to “discipline” oneself for the purpose of godliness. He mentions that the term discipline signifies “strip thyself naked,” noting, “It is a metaphor from runners or wrestlers, who being to contend for the prize, and resolved to put forth all their strength and power, lay aside their clothes which may hinder them, and then bestir themselves to purpose.”

By comparison, Christians “contend for a prize,” in that they pursue godliness. This means that they strive after it. In the midst of this discussion, Swinnock uses the term “trading,” which implies vocation. In other words, the pursuit of godliness should be the Christian’s chief calling.

Could you tell us about the aim(s) and content of your second book?

My first book is my PhD thesis. It’s an academic work. It isn’t beyond the grasp of the average reader, but it does require some familiarity with the subject matter. Thus, I felt the need to publish something that would appeal to an even broader readership – something with a more pastoral tone. And I wanted to provide a book that would lead people to read Swinnock for themselves. I think I’ve done that with Trading and Thriving in Godliness.

In your opinion, what relevance do Swinnock and his writings have for the individual believer and the church today?

I hope I’m not guilty here of over-simplification, but I believe the answer is fourfold.

First, Swinnock is God-oriented. To a great extent, modern-day evangelicalism isn’t. I believe we can say to evangelicalism what Luther said to Erasmus centuries ago: “Your God is too small!” Swinnock believes in an incomparably glorious God. He writes, “But now between God and us there is an infinite distance, and therefore there ought to be, if it were possible, infinite reverence; he is so vastly above and beyond all others in excellency, that he alone deserves the name of excellency, therefore his name is holy and reverend (Ps. 111:9) and he is to be greatly feared. The greatest excellency calleth for the greatest reverence.”

Second, Swinnock is Scripture-oriented. He has a very high view of Scripture’s authority and sufficiency. He believes the Bible is a “special treasure,” which God has deposited “into the hands of the children of men.” Therefore, it merits unrivalled devotion. This is extremely relevant in the midst of the church’s growing biblical illiteracy.

Third, Swinnock is Gospel-oriented. He affirms the radical depravity of man – sin has “debauched the mind,” “perverted the will,” and “enthralled the affections.” In a word, “sin has chained the whole man.” For this reason, he’s a firm believer in the need for God’s sovereign grace in the gospel. This is something we need today. We need a renewed appreciation of Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Fourth, Swinnock is Reform-oriented. He believes that the transforming work of God’s Spirit touches all of life – individuals, marriages, families, towns, and nations. In a day and age in which the gospel has been personalized and privatized to such an extent that it no longer has relevance beyond the parameters of “what it does for me,” Swinnock’s all-encompassing view of the reforming power of the gospel is very much needed.

These things give Swinnock’s writings an enduring quality. Why read a Puritan like Swinnock? What could a Puritan possibly teach us? I like the response, provided by Dr. J. I. Packer: “The answer, in one word, is maturity. Maturity is a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity. The Puritans exemplified maturity; we don’t. We are spiritual dwarfs. The Puritans, by contrast, as a body were giants. They were great souls serving a great God.”

To put it another way, the Puritans (like Swinnock) were strongest where we are weakest. That’s why his writings are relevant today.

Thank you Dr Yuille for taking the time to do this interview! More significantly, thank you for calling attention to the challenge of godliness that Swinnock's writings present to Christians today.

More information on Dr Yuille's books can be found at Amazon UK and Reformation Heritage Books.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Christian Scholars, Please Write Plainly!

Some thoughts from the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, writing in 1653 of his own writing:

'With regard to our manner of writing, or Latin diction, as some are wont to acquire great praise from their sublimity of expression, allow me but a word or two. Know, then, reader, that you have to do with a person who, provided his words but clearly express the sentiments of his mind, entertains a fixed and absolute disregard for all elegance and ornaments of speech; for, —

“Dicite, pontifices, in sacris quid facit aurum?"
“Say, bishops, of what avail is glitter to sacred subjects?”

In my opinion, indeed, he who, in a theological contest, should please himself with the idea of displaying rhetorical flourishes, would derive no other advantage therefrom but that his head, adorned with magnificent verbose garlands and pellets, would fall a richer victim to the criticisms of the learned.'

(Owen, Dissertation on Divine Justice, Preface)

Monday, June 16, 2008

New Book on Puritan Piety

Reformation Heritage Books has just published a new book by J. Stephen Yuille, entitled, "Trading and Thriving in Godliness: the Piety of George Swinnock".

The book description reads:

George Swinnock (1627–1673) was a gifted English Puritan, known for his vivid illustrations of biblical truth. In “Trading and Thriving in Godliness”, J. Stephen Yuille highlights Swinnock’s conviction that godliness is the primary employment of every Christian. Yuille’s introductory essay analyzes the influences on, groundwork for, and expressions of piety in Swinnock’s life and thought. The book also contains fifty selections from Swinnock’s writings, exemplify his teaching on the foundation, door, value, pursuit, nature, means, and motives to godliness.

It can be purchased here.

God willing, the Conventicle will be hosting an interview with Dr Yuille on his book sometime this month. Stay tuned!
*we're grateful to Jay Collier of RHB for notifying us of the book and for linking us up with Dr Yuille

Friday, June 13, 2008

Historian George S. Stuart on Charles I

From the series, 400 Years of English History. Stuart is a professional artist as well. The figurine you see at the beginning is his work.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

All right, fine - but did he really deserve decapitation?

The votes are in from our scholarly opinion poll. Apparently our readership favours puritans. (Who knew?)
Of 22 who weighed in:

14 (66%!) thought Charles I bore the brunt of the responsibility for the Civil War.

About one quarter (5 - 23%) believed responsibility was shared between him and the puritan/parliamentary party.

2 (9%) thought there were other causes worth discussing.

And none of you–no one!– felt the puritan/parliament were most responsible.

Monday, June 9, 2008

John Owen Today Conference: Update

Details of the papers to be presented are now available at John Owen Today.

Main Papers:

Willem van Asselt (Utrecht University, Holland), Covenant Theology as Relational Theology: The Contributions of Johannes Cocceius and John Owen to a Living Reformed Theology Today

Michael S. Horton (Westminster Seminary, California, USA), Sinai and Zion: The Mosaic Economy in Owen's Federal Theology

Suzanne McDonald (Calvin College, Grand Rapids, USA), Beholding the Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ: Owen and the Reforming of the Beatific Vision

Sebastian Rehnman (University of Stavanger, Norway), John Owen on Faith and Reason

Alan Spence (United Reformed Church, London, UK), The Significance of John Owen for Modern Christology

Short Papers:

Gert van den Brink (Utrecht University, Holland), John Owen on Impetration and Application

Tim Cooper (University of Otago, New Zealand), John Owen and Richard Baxter

Martin Foord (Trinity Theological College, Australia), John Owen's Gospel Offer: Well-Meant or Not?

Lee Gatiss (independent), John Owen's View of Infants

Peter M. Head (Tyndale House, Cambridge, UK), John Owen and Brian Walton on the Integrity and Preservation of the Text of the Greek New Testament

Mark Jones (Leiden Universiteit, Holland), The Theology of Moses and the Sinaitic Covenant

Brian Kay (Fuller Theological Seminary, California, USA), Theology that Prays: Reconnecting Devotional Writing to its Theological Moorings

Ryan Kelly (Free University of Amsterdam, Holland), Reformed or Reforming? What Owen's 'Preface' to the Savoy Declaration says about the Complexity of Theological Codification in the Seventeenth Century

Taku Suda (University of Cambridge, UK), Christian Freedom and Pneumatology in the Theology of John Owen

Edwin Tay (New College, Edinburgh, UK), Christ's Oblation and Intercession: Its Development and Significance in John Owen

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Free for All: George Will on Charlie Rose, 4 June '08

Very little to do with puritanism, but highly entertaining (in my opinion).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Take our quiz scholarly opinion poll ...

C'mon. I know a lot of you know more about the Civil War than I do.

Leave a comment on this post if you wish to "nuance" your answer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Heads up! Great new blog!

A good friend of the Conventicle, Andrew Tooley (PhD student, Univ. Stirling), has started what promises to be an excellent, enriching treatment on the study of religious history with Dr. David Bebbington (Stirling) . . . "Exploring the Study of Religious History".

Andy writes, "This blog was established for those who are interested in the study of religious history and, in particular, for those who are studying expressions of evangelicalism throughout history with Prof. David Bebbington."

And what a nice banner photo! Makes me wish I had a kayak and a free afternoon . . .


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