Quite some time ago I came across a great line in a sermon of Ussher’s from 1650 on the subject of death. He covers the usual themes – the inevitability of death, the way in which Christ’s work subverts its power, etc. Then he says:

‘Death is, as the Red Sea was to the Israelites, to destroy his Enemies, And to give him passage to the land of Promise’.

What a wonderful image, capturing the aspects of salvation and judgement. Succinct. Powerful. So there I was thinking what a good turn of phrase came from Ussher’s pulpit. Some time later I was reading Lewis Bayly’s The Practice of Piety (circa 1611) and found these words:

‘And as the Red Sea was a gulf to drown the Egyptians to destruction, but as a passage to the Israelites to convey them to Canaan’s possession, so death to the wicked is a sink to hell and condemnation, but to the godly the gate to everlasting life and salvation…’

Preachers have always stolen one another’s best illustrations. This is one of the factors shaping the discourse of puritanism – one finds more than a shared outlook but a shared discourse. The same analogies and illustrations come up again and again, the same way of making a point. And the traditionary lines are there to trace back into the medieval and patristic periods.

My question now is…where did Bayly get it from??


Oh Dear! Again!

March 27, 2010

I persevered with John F. H. New’s Anglican and Puritan: The Basis of Their Opposition, 1558-1640 (Stanford, 1964). He discusses King James I’s distaste for the Remonstrants and then informs us that ‘he [King James] sent a handpicked delegation, headed by the Irish theologian James Ussher, to oppose them at Dort’ (p. 14). I have been working on Ussher for over 3 years! How could I have missed this!?

Free Theses

March 27, 2010

The digital revolution trundles onwards. I have found EThOS rather poor to date. A few useful things there but some institutions are not cooperating readily and the backlog for digitization is lengthy which means that things happen slowly, or not at all.

Some British universities are setting up local digital archives and these will be worth watching.

The Edinburgh Research Archive has a few interesting doctoral theses online from the School of Divinity. The links below take you to a page where you can read the abstract and download a PDF if it tickles your fancy. The more interesting titles are:

Alan R. MacDonald, Ecclesiastical Politics in Scotland: 1586 – 1610

Michael A. Chandra, Ontological and value incommensuration: Marilyn McCord Adams on medieval and modern approaches to Theodicy

Hansang Lee, Trinitarian Theology and Piety: The Attributes of God in the Thought of Stephen Charnock (1628-1680) and William Perkins (1558-1602)

Hunter M. Bailey, Via Media Alia: Reconsidering the controversial doctrine of universal redemption in the theology of James Fraser of Brea (1639 – 1699)

Kin Yip Louie, The Theological Aesthetics of Jonathan Edwards

More will be added in time and you can sign up for email notifications.

Things are moving more slowly at DSpace at Cambridge but a taster is:

Gareth Atkins, Wilberforce and his milieux: the worlds of Anglican Evangelicalism, c.1780-1830

Nothing of note at the Oxford University Research Archive at this point in time.

Needless to say, anything really juicy will likely be embargoed but it is good to see theses made available to the research community without the hassle of inter-library loans, etc.


March 17, 2010


This is a photo of the statue atop Slieve Patrick from our summer holiday last year. This thing is huge, much bigger than the stations of the cross on the hill beneath, which all goes to show that in this part of the world St. Patrick really is bigger than Jesus. On a more serious note, would Patricius or Patrick as we know him have approved the orgy of drunkenness that passes for his saint’s day now? I think not…

Oh Dear!

March 2, 2010

I started reading started reading John F. H. New’s Anglican and Puritan: The Basis of Their Opposition, 1558-1640 (Stanford, 1964) this evening. Now this is a book which I fully expect to disagree with for all sorts of reasons but even so, in a book from an academic publisher I feel entitled to a certain level of scholarship and argument. The following comes from page 6:

The Emperor Constantine’s calling of the Council of Nicea (325) to resolve the Church’s dispute with Arius is a classic example of what massive consequences can hang upon one letter of a single word. The question then was the consubstantiality (homoiousia) or the similarity (homoousia) of the Son and the Father in the Person of the Trinity.

I kid you not. This hardly fills me with confidence.