God’s Puritan

January 31, 2011

‘Gods Puritan’, claimed Ussher, ‘is hee, that Purifies himself as God is Pure’. This is the only positive use of the term that I can find in the surviving sermons, the word usually being placed in the mouth of the detractor or in the apprehensive thoughts of the double-minded who fear that zeal for good works will attract nicknames. In context, Ussher was speaking of the spotless purity of Christ in his active obedience on our behalf. No charge of sin could be made against him, neither sins of omission nor commission. Christ’s perfect righteousness is that with which one must be clothed to stand before God’s judgement. This is one of many reminders in Ussher’s sermons that one must not rely on one’s own good works for acceptance with God but keep looking to Christ. It is also possible, perhaps, to hear faint reverberations of taunts about Puritan self-righteousness behind this subversion of that odious name.


Yet More Theses Online

January 23, 2011

I stumbled across a very tasty morsel yesterday, a doctoral thesis on the Parliament fast days: Thomas Doumaux, ‘Fast Days and Faction: The Struggle for Reformation, Order, and Unity in England 1558 – c. 1640’. I have only dipped into it having chanced upon it on a Google search for one specific fast day sermon. Looks good.

It is in the Vanderbilt University archive. The only other thesis/dissertation currently on the site that will likely appeal to readers of this blog is Gregory Selmon, ‘John Cotton: The Antinomian Calvinist’. But worth bookmarking the archive and checking it once in a while. Great to have these available without the hassle and expense of going through UMI or the inter-library loans system.

Re-reading Hooker on justification. This snippet is deservedly famous:

The righteousnes wherewith we shalbe clothed in the world to comme, is both perfecte and inherente: that whereby here we are justefied is perfecte but not inherente, that whereby we are sanctified, inherent but not perfecte. This openeth a way to the plaine understandinge of that graund question, which hangeth yet in controversie betwene us and the churche of Rome, aboute the matter of justefying righteousness.

What’s That Funny Smell?

January 9, 2011


From Keith Thomas’s The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England:

in 1657 the inhabitants of the London parish of St Dunstan’s in the West prosecuted one James Farr ‘for making and selling of a drink called “coffee”, whereby in making the same he annoyeth his neighbours by evil smells’.

Strange to think of this as a novelty when our cities are full of coffee shops. Some students here seem to live in  the places. Some certainly spend more time there than in the libraries. My question is this – if you are going to use a coffee shop as a place of study/writing or whatever, how long can you feel justified in stretching out a large coffee?

More Theses Online

January 8, 2011

There is a small online archive of theses at Duke Divinity School. The two that would be more likely to interest readers of this blog are a rather old one by Earl T. Farrell entitled ’The Doctrine of Man and Grace as held by the Reverend John Flavel’. Of greater interest to me was David C. Fink’s doctoral dissertation, entitled ‘Divided by Faith: The Protestant Doctrine of Justification and the Confessionalization of Biblical Exegesis’, which I have dipped into and am finding thought-provoking. I really enjoyed his 2007 article on Bucer and triplex iustificatio and it is good to see someone getting deeper into the exegesis that lies behind the doctrinal formulations of the sixteenth century.

Ussher on Public Prayer

January 7, 2011

Ussher says:

The Spirit of Prayer stands not in the readines of invention, or volubility of Speech: that is a Gift: but a Com[m]on Gift: a worke of witt, and Exercise, A worke of the minde, not of the Heart: a man may bee as Reprobate as Judas for all that.

A Set forme gives more liberty to my Affections, then an Extempory Prayer: for an Extempory Prayer sets my witts more a worke, then my Heart: for while I am busy about invention, what I should say, and How I should say, my Heart cannot earnestly Attend the thinge: This is the devils greatest Policy, to bring in Prophanenes to men…to take away Set formes of Prayer, brings in the devils Harvest: for by this meanes not the tenth Part of the kingdome will Pray.

A vaine Superstition is crept in amongst us, to thinke that God is pleased with variety of Phrases, and multiplicity of words: God lookes to the language of the Heart… I would have thee doe Both: mingle a Set forme, and Extempory Prayer togeither: in Private Speake thyne owne words: God will beare with thy Broken language in Private: not so in Publiq[ue], hee will not beare thy Tautologies, and vaine Repititions: God will bee Honoured in Publique: In Private, put thyself upon Extempory Prayer upon emergent occasion…

I call not that Extempory Prayer, when there is Premeditation Before hand.

He suggests taking a set form, fixing on some point, and then adding your own words, a practice that he has found helpful.

Who’s Who?

January 6, 2011

I was delighted a while ago to find that the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is available free online. This is a truly amazing resource for anyone interested in British history including the lives of the Reformers and Puritans. Remote access is possible by typing a local library card number (preferably your own) into the box on the left side of the screen…and you’re in. Why bother with Wikipedia when you can use this!? I imagine that those outside the UK will not be granted access.