The Loquacity of Love

May 21, 2009

John Preston:

You shall find this to be the propertie of love, he that loveth, is very readie to speake of the party loved; love is full of loquacitie, it is ready to fall into the praises of the partie beloved, and so keep no measure in it, to abound in it, that is the disposition of every man that loveth… Doe you professe to love the Lord, and yet never delight to speake of him? nor delight to hear others speake of him? My beloved, this backwardnesse that is amongst us to holy and gracious speech, to speeches that tend to the setting forth of the Lords praise, shewes that love to the Lord Jesus is wanting among us… You know, when you love any, that love will teach you to speake, it will quicken the dullest wit and invention; love sharpeneth, and makest the rudest tongue eloquent. It is the nature of love to set the heart on worke, and when the heart is set on worke, the tongue will be as the penne, of a ready writer (The Breast-plate of Faith and Love, 5th ed., 1637, II.72-74).

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Reflections on re-reading R.T. Kendall’s Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649, Part 2 – John Preston and the Search for Assurance.

Kendall says:

In Preston’s thought federal theology has made full circle, now becoming in effect a covenant of works… The upshot is that we must concentrate on our attitude towards the Law rather than our receiving the righteousness of Christ . Preston urges that we must ‘labour’ to ‘grow to assurance of the forgiveness of our sinnes’. This assurance is in the end derived entirely from the reflective knowledge of our ‘sincerity’ to keep the Law.

The reality is not quite so straightforward, nor so helpful for Kendall’s argument. Whilst Preston can be considered an experimental predestinarian, and whilst there are passages in his writings that speak of the marks of sanctification testifying to the believer’s regeneration, there is another side to his thought that Kendall overlooks.

For example, having discussed the testimony of sanctification, he notes that many fail to persevere in the ways of godliness because they lack faith, ‘this maine grace, this root and foundation of all the rest’. Their good intentions come to nothing because they lack that ground. He continues (The Breast-plate of Faith and Love, 5th ed., 1637, I.183f),

Therefore labour to beleeve the promises, to be assured of salvation, that you are translated from death to life by an effectual faith: when this is done, you shall find that your purposes will hold, and till then they are in vaine.

And so againe, this should teach us, seeing all depends upon faith, when wee come to search, to consider what assurance wee have, that so wee may goe the right way to worke. For commonly, when we consider our estates, we look what fruits we have, what sincerity hath appeared in our life, and if wee finde that weake, we commonly conclude that our faith is weake also; and so the weaknesse of our sanctification weakeneth our assurance; but we should goe another way to worke: When we finde a weaknesse, we should goe to the promises, and strengthen our assurance: for there be two wayes to encrease assurance.

One is by the promises, the sure word on which faith is built.

The second is by the fruits of sanctification in our selves.

In a nutshell: ‘so assurance grounded upon the promise, it enableth, and inlargeth, and encreaseth sanctification, and sanctification encreaseth assurance’. Faith is the ground of all.

Redeeming the Trim

March 8, 2009

I always like to have a book with me to snatch a few minutes reading on the bus or if I have to wait somewhere, like at the barber’s. I usually put the book back in my bag when I’m called but John Preston was such a bookworm he would just keep on reading. From Ball’s Life of the Renowned Doctor Preston:

he continued longer in Aquinas, whose summes he would sometimes read as the Barber cut his haire, and when any fell upon the place he read, he would not lay downe his booke but blow if off…

So there’s probably a folio edition of Summa Theologiae in Emmanuel College with bits of hair lodged between the pages.

Burn Out

October 22, 2007

Sometimes I feel tired. Like right now. Easy to whinge. But then I look at some of the Puritans and their committment to do the work entrusted to them, and I’m humbled. I was struck recently by some words of John Preston (1587-1628):

Spend your fat and sweetnesse for God and man; weare out, not rust out; flame out, not smoke out; burne out, bee not blowne out. (Foure Treatises, 1632)

Master of Emmanuel College, he was also Trinity Lecturer, preacher at Lincoln’s Inn (not a pub!), and a court preacher. Rushing constantly between Cambridge and London, he contended for the Reformed faith against the rise of the Laudian party, and died aged 40.

Here there was no talk of work-life balance.