“A Holy Life”: Bunyan’s Theology of Piety

The Puritans are well-known for their strong emphasis on purity both in doctrine and in practice. In fact, this very emphasis is obviously one reason why they have been labeled puritans. In chapter one, a case was made that on the ground of this same emphasis, Bunyan can be deservedly regarded as a Puritan. Bunyan undeniably held the essence of Puritanism which may be described in two words: God (doctrine) and godliness (practice). The Puritans believe that right doctrine of God prompts holy practice, and that the practice of holiness becomes only superficial when it does not emanate from the proper knowledge of God.

Charles Hambrick-Stowe contends that ‘“at its heart… Puritanism was a devotional movement, rooted in religious experience, and that ‘the rise of Puritanism and the settlement of New England ought to be understood as a significant episode in the ongoing history of Christian spirituality.”’[1] This reinforces the importance of reading Bunyan in light of his spirituality.

Bunyan’s pursuit in all of life—especially in preaching and in writing—was personal piety. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he made every effort to “be a pattern, and example of piety.”  From Bunyan’s own testimony:


[1] Cited in Dewey D. Wallace, Introduction to The Spirituality of the Later English Puritans: An Anthology (Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1987), xi.

 

Note: This article is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Brian G. Najapfour, “‘The Very Heart of Prayer’: Reclaiming John Bunyan’s Spirituality.” Th.M. thesis, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, 2009. Click here to continue reading the article.

John Bunyan Piety Prayer Puritan Puritan piety Spirituality

Cultivating Godliness in Seminary

When I was preparing to enroll at Southern Seminary to begin my M.Div. studies, more than one person counseled me to not allow my zeal to fizzle while in seminary. While some of that counsel probably reflects my membership in a tradition that is still somewhat suspicious of theological education, I suspect that many other aspiring seminarians I other traditions have received similar advice. And for good reason—each of us know of someone whose faith withered in seminary, even in orthodox seminaries. By God’s grace, I really believe I loved Christ more when I finished seminary than when I started, in part because I attended two fine seminaries, but also because of some steps I took to try and cultivate godliness during seminary. I want to share some strategies for cultivating godliness while in seminary. It is my hope that these suggestions may help some seminary students to stay close to the cross and grow in their faith while pursuing their theological education.

 

The article is by Nathan A. Finn, assistant professor of church history and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. An earlier version of this article appeared at Between the Times, the official faculty blog of Southeastern Seminary.

Click here to view his entire article.

Holiness Piety Prayer Seminary

Hermeneutics and Piety in William Perkins

In the book of Acts the popularity of the Apostle Paul was growing in the city of Ephesus as “God was performing extraordinary miracles”[1] by his hands.  His fame became so known that others sought to duplicate it.  The seven sons of Sceva—Jewish exorcists—concluded that if Paul could cast out demons by the name of Jesus, they could too.  Upon encountering a man possessed by an evil spirit, the demon answered the sons of Sceva, saying, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”  While the seven sons of Sceva were unbelievers, the reaction of the demon toward those men is often no different than the response of most modern evangelicals when they hear the name William Perkins.  Many today say, “Calvin we know; Luther we know.  Jonathan Edwards and even John Wesley we know, but who is William Perkins?”  To most people’s surprise, Perkins rivaled the influence of John Calvin and Martin Luther on seventeenth century English Protestants and New England Colonial Puritans.[2]

 

The article is by M. Douglas Williams, a Ph.D. student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Click here to read his entire paper.


[1]The account described above is recorded in Acts 19:11-20.  The quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995.

[2]J. C. Alain, “William Perkins: Plain Preaching,” Preaching (1996): 42.  Paul R. Schaefer, “The Art of Prophesying by William Perkins (1558-1602)” in The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, eds. Kelly M. Kapic and Randall C. Gleason (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 38, speaks of Perkins as one of the most widely read preachers of his day, and one of the most outstanding theologian thinkers of the Elizabethan era.  He goes on to offer a couple of reasons for why the enormity of Perkins’ impact has not carried over to today.  He posits that the scarcity of reprints of his works exist today and the brevity of his life both seem to contribute to the lack of his recognition among modern believers.

Hermeneutics Piety William Perkins

Puritan Spirituality and Evangelical Spirituality: Are They Different?

Throughout the history of the Christian church various types of spirituality have flourished, such as patristic, medieval, Reformed, Puritan, and Evangelical spiritualities.[1] This review article will focus on both the Puritan and the Evangelical spiritualities by examining the following two books: The Devoted Life edited by Kelly Kapic and Randall Gleason and Evangelical Spirituality by James Gordon. The former represents Puritan piety, whereas the latter, Evangelical spirituality.[2] Before comparing these two spiritualities, it is important, first, to define the term spirituality.

 

Click here to read my entire essay.


[1] Joel Beeke, in his book Puritan Reformed Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2004), approaches Reformed and Puritan spiritualities as single entity. Others, however, treat these two kinds of spirituality separately. For example, see Frank C. Senn’s “Reformed Spirituality” and E. Glenn Hinson’s “Puritan Spirituality,” in Protestant Spiritual Traditions, ed. Frank C. Senn (New York: Paulist Press, 1986). John R. Tyson, editor of Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), divides his study of Christian Spirituality historically under five categories: (1) the ancient church; (2) the medieval era; (3) the reformation era; (4) modern spirituality; and (5) contemporary spirituality. It is under this fourth category that he places Puritan (in the person of Jonathan Edwards) and Evangelical (in the persons of the Wesley brothers) spiritualities together. This hints that these two types of spirituality have commonality.

[2] As to the terms “piety” and “spirituality,” Jerald C. Brauer notes that “Piety is the term that best expresses Puritan religiousness. Spirituality was a term seldom employed by Puritans, and when used it never referred to their essential religiousness.” Jerald C. Brauer, “Types of Piety,” Church History 56 (1987): 39. In this present study, however, I will refer to these two terms interchangeably.

Evangelical Evangelical Spirituality Piety Puritan piety Revival Spirituality

The Piety of A Prince: A Consideration of the Piety of Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Preface

As I have gotten to know Charles Spurgeon over the past several months I have truly come to enjoy and love the man.  The more I learned about his piety, the way he conducted his life and the way he knew Christ, the more I liked and admired him.  He, even nearly one hundred and twenty years after his death, has taken on another student.  I am eager to learn more about this man’s life and ministry and I am honored to write this paper.

 

The article is by Jason Edwin Dees, pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Georgia. While pastoring, he is pursuing his Ph.D. degree in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Click here to read the entire article.

Charles Spurgeon Piety

A Puritan’s Perspective of Galatians 2:20

Introduction

It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[1]

Galatians 2:20 is one of “those” verses, and the Puritans are some of “those” people.  They are both difficult to put in neat structured categories and tend to invoke interesting reactions.  Galatians 2:20 provides a concise, mysterious, and powerful picture of the Christian life incorporating within one small verse elements related to justification and the spiritual life that flows from one who has been reconciled with God in redemption.  The Puritans, on the other hand, were a group of religious non-conformists seeking to remove the lasting elements of Catholicism from the church.  As a group, they loosely began in the early to mid 1500’s and were, as a recognized group, essentially over by the late 1600’s.[2] As Lea aptly admits, “Just as it had a vague beginning it gently slides into obscurity.”[3]

In light of those observations, the purpose of this article will be to summarize and critique William Bridge’s (1600?-1671) perspective of Galatians 2:20[4] as presented in a series of five sermons preached over eight weeks in 1648.[5] Before beginning, a couple of qualifications need to be made.  Constructing someone’s exegetical thoughts from a sermon is generally a challenge.  This work proves to be no exception.  Since the Puritans were so keenly focused on application, care must be taken in this reconstruction, because their sermons are not intended to be read as exegetical commentaries.   Additionally, this article will seek to focus on those exegetical insights that are granted to the reader verses Bridge’s points of application.[6]

 

The article is by Adam McClendon, a Ph.D. student in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Click here to read his entire paper.


[1]The Holy Bible : English Standard Version.(Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Gal 2:20b.

While most English translations place “I have been crucified with Christ” at the beginning of verse twenty, most commentators place it at the end of verse nineteen.  Bridge alludes to the implications of the believers having been crucified in Christ throughout sermons one and two, specifically in his discussion related to justification.  Nevertheless, it seems that he understood this phrase to belong to verse nineteen which is why it is not formally mentioned in relationship to the text of 2:20.  As a result, “I have been crucified with Christ” is not included in this citation.  For discussion concerning whether it should be included with nineteen or twenty see Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 41 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990, 92).

[2]Both a concise definition concerning who the Puritans were and clear dates concerning when they may have begun or ended are beyond the scope of this paper.  Nonetheless, a few comments seem warranted here.  The beginnings and ending of Puritanism as well as what parameters define the category itself are difficult to determine.  They are a people passionate for purity in the Christian life who regularly demonstrated a heart devoted to God and his word.  For the Puritan, no authority equaled that of God’s, not the King’s and certainly not the Pope’s.

Two brief complications in providing a specific definition of the group will be mentioned.  First, one has to determine whether Puritanism should be seen foremost as a political, theological, or spiritual movement. (See Stephen J. Yuille, Puritan Spirituality: The Fear of God in the Affective Theology of George Swinnock [Colorado Springs, CO: Paternoster, 2007], 8-17.)  Certainly components of all three can be seen.  Second, the word “Puritan” was generally not self-descriptive but was used pejoratively similar to modern day terms such as “bigot, killjoy or extremist.” (John Coffey, “Puritanism, Evangelicalism and the Evangelical Protestant Tradition,” in The Advent of Evangelicalism, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin and Kenneth J. Steward [Nashville, TN: B&H Academics, 2008], 255.)  Puritans were in a variety of churches and many if not most of their leaders were pastors.  There were no “First Puritan Churches” or “Puritan meetings”; rather, the term described a group of people from a variety of backgrounds over an extended period of time who were functioning in various locations and vocations from Old to New England.

Concerning their dates, because of their separatist leanings and the persecution they endured, some might argue that the Puritans as a group ended in 1689 with the passage of the Act of Toleration; however, at minimum, it should be acknowledge that there were a variety of theological elements that brought cohesion to those who would be within this group that did not immediately dissipate with the passing of the Act of Toleration.  For a basic, but incomplete, list of some of those characteristics, see Kapic, Kelly M. and Randall C. Gleason, eds., The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 23-32.

For more information concerning these and other difficulties see “Puritanism: The Problem of Definition” in Basil Hall, Humanists and Protestants 1500-1900 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1990), 237-254; Coffey, “Puritanism, Evangelicalism and the Evangelical Protestant Tradition,” 255-8; Kapic, The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, 16-8; Thomas D. Lea, “The Hermeneutics of the Puritans,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39 (1996): 271-2; Barrington R. White, Barrington, ed. The English Puritan Tradition (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1980), 12.

[3]Lea, “The Hermeneutics of the Puritans,” 272.

[4]For another extended treatment of this passage by a Puritan, see Richard Sibbes, “The Life of Faith,” and “Salvation Applied,” in Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, vol. 5 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), 357-408.

[5]See “Background” below for more detailed information concerning the sermons.

[6]One of the real treasures of Bridge’s sermons is his application.  While these are not examined in this article, here are a few specifically related to Christ in the believer.  1. Christ in us results in a deep satisfaction in life.  2. Christ in us results in an inseparable communion with Christ.  3. Christ in us results in a life that we proclaim to others.  4. Christ in us results in a forgiven and forgotten past.  5. Christ in us results in finding our identity in Christ.  6. Christ in us results in a “more blessed and glorious Communion with Christ than the other way.  For Union is the root of Communion…” (Bridge, 84.)  7. Christ in us results in the ability to “come with boldness unto the throne of grace, and with unlimited expectations of mercy from God…” (Ibid., 86.)  8. Christ in us results in the experience of “life, growth, and conviction” (Ibid., 15-20.)  9. Lastly, Christ in us results in the ability and responsibility to follow God’s law.

Piety Puritan Sermon Spirituality William Bridge

Calvin on Piety

John Calvin’s Institutes have earned him the title of “the preeminent systematician of the Protestant Reformation.” His reputation as an intellectual, however, is often seen apart from the vital spiritual and pastoral context in which he wrote his theology. For Calvin, theological understanding and practical piety, truth and usefulness, are inseparable. Theology first of all deals with knowledge—knowledge of God and of ourselves—but  there is no true knowledge where there is no true piety.

Calvin’s concept of piety (pietas) is rooted in the knowledge of God and includes attitudes and actions that are directed to the adoration and service of God. In addition, his pietas includes a host of related themes, such as filial piety in human relationships, and respect and love for the image of God in human beings. Calvin’s piety is evident in people who recognize through experiential faith that they have been accepted in Christ and engrafted into His body by the grace of God. In this “mystical union,” the Lord claims them as His own in life and in death. They become God’s people and members of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This relationship restores their joy of fellowship with God; it recreates their lives.

The purpose of this chapter is to show that Calvin’s piety is fundamentally biblical, with an emphasis on the heart more than the mind. Head and heart must work together, but the heart is more important.[1] After an introductory look at the definition and goal of piety in Calvin’s thinking, I will show how his pietas affects the theological, ecclesiological, and practical dimensions of his thought.

 

The article is by Joel R. Beeke, president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Click here to read the entire paper.


[1] Serene Jones, Calvin and the Rhetoric of Piety (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995). Unfortunately, Jones exaggerates Calvin’s use of rhetoric in the service of piety.

John Calvin Piety Prayer Reformer Spirituality

Piety in the wake of trade. The North Sea as an intermediary of reformed piety up to 1700

Paying attention to theology at the expense of piety is characteristic of the historiography
of Christianity in general and Protestantism in particular. The experience
of the doctrine and the resulting moral behaviour always remain underexposed.
With this article I wish to give some counterbalance on a very modest scale.
Throughout the ages there has been the tendency within Christianity to pursue
pious life as a specific aim. Attention to spiritual experiences and mysticism and
the practice of piety went hand in hand. The Protestant form of that tendency
was Pietism. This religious movement arose in various European countries rather
quickly after the political, military, economic and ecclesiastical consolidation of
the Reformation. In reaction to ethical abuses and the degeneration of religious
and ecclesiastical life, it emphasized the necessity of internal and external piety.
Religion should be a matter of the heart, becoming visible in life-style.1
Pietism manifested itself both in Reformed and Lutheran Protestantism. Since
this article deals with the former, whenever I employ the term Pietism I mean
Reformed Pietism.

 

This essay, written by W.J. op ‘t Hof, is found in The North Sea and culture (1550-1800): Proceedings of the International Conference Held at Leiden 21-22 April 1995, eds. Juliette Roding and Lex Heerma van Voss (Hilversum: Verloren, 1996), 248-265.

Click here to read the entire article.

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Introduction to Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages Through the Further Reformation

“I believe that one of the most serious symptoms of the present crisis in church and culture is the increasing loss of sweet fellowship [communion] with God. I also believe that its renewed practice contains healing power” (16).

 

Click here to read Introduction to Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages Through the Further Reformation by Arie de Reuver, trans. James A. De Jong (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 15-24.

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The Piety of Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Reflected in his Life and Ministry

The personal history of Robert Murray M’Cheyne has been recorded for the Church in the famous biography by Andrew Bonar.  These memoirs detail the life of Rev. M’Cheyne and show what made him a great preacher of God, and how he was used by God for the furthering of His Kingdom in Scotland.  The most significant aspect of M’Cheyne’s life that stands out is his personal piety.  He reflected this in every aspect of his life.  Preachers of today can learn much from M’Cheyne’s personal life in a day when personal holiness for preachers and pastors is at a premium as they struggle with conformity to the world.  M’Cheyne’s godly example provides a healthy antidote to the competition of a world that seeks to encroach on a minister’s life, study and pulpit.  He stands as one of the most powerful figures in history. He was a man who walked day-by-day with his God, sought the eternal welfare of his people with tears and combined these two in a passionate ministry pleading for people to repent and be reconciled to God because their souls were at stake.  This paper then seeks to examine how M’Cheyne’s personal piety was reflected in his preaching and how that might offer encouragement to men who struggle in the milieu of 21st century ministry.

 

The paper is by Maarten Kuivenhoven, a pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is currently a Th.M. student at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary where he received his M.Div. degree.  He is married to Jennifer and has two children.

Click here to read the entire article.

Evangelical Piety Robert Murray M’Cheyne