The Believers’ Need for the Church and the Communion of the Saints: A Modern Application of Octavius Winslow’s Work- Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul

Introduction

As it is natural for water to run down hill, so it is natural for a Christian to grow in Christlikeness through the institution of the church, and the habit of Christian fellowship.  However, the believer who fails to avail himself of the manifold benefits of the church, and the communion of saints will naturally begin to decline spiritually.  In Octavius Winslow’s book Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul,[1] Winslow repeatedly reminded his readers that failure to love, adhere, and participate in these benefits manifested an existing spiritual declension, and furthered spiritual declension.

My aim is first of all to examine Winslow’s warnings and  show that both the church and the communion of the saints are essential to Christian growth.  Secondly to give practical applications as to how a minster and session can help the soul struggling with this issue.  The format will follow the nine specific topics discussed in Winslow.

 

The article is by Rev. Henry Bartsch, minister of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Chatham Ontario, Canada.  He is currently pursuing an M.Th. degree at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is husband to Tammy and father of six children.

Click here to read the entire paper.


[1] Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul.  (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1993).

Holy Spirit Octavius Winslow Pietism Revival Spirituality

The Spirituality and Theology of William Law (1686-1761)

Spirituality is a phenomenon that has touched both the Protestant and Catholic branches[1] of Christianity.  Spirituality is hard to define accurately,[2] but in both Protestant and Catholic circles particular characteristics are common.  The characteristics of prayer, meditation, contemplation, mysticism, asceticism, and a drive for perfection accompany all forms of Christian spirituality.  Protestant spirituality can be generally categorized into mystical or “meditative”spirituality, and energetic or “missionary” spirituality.[3]

This essay will inspect eighteenth century English meditative spirituality, as found in the works of the greatest writer of this tradition, William Law (1686-1761).[4] In doing so I will first give a brief sketch of William Law’s life; then, secondly, explain and review his doctrine of the atonement and union with God.  I must point out that these two doctrines are ultimate to all forms spirituality because they configure the paradigm for their doctrine of the Christian life; a life of disciplined self sacrifice, which was epitomized by Jesus on the cross, and a life of the here-and-now experience of complete love in oneness with God.

 

The article is by Rev. Henry Bartsch, minister of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Chatham Ontario, Canada.  He is currently pursuing an M.Th. degree at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is husband to Tammy and father of six children.

Click here to read the entire article.


[1]There are numerous schools of spirituality within Roman Catholicism today. Cistercian, Carmelite, Marian and Jesuit spirituality make up the majority of the Roman Catholic preoccupation with spirituality.

[2] Many equate pietism with spirituality, and to some degree this is justified, particularly in Protestantism where the term has been widely used.  However, one must keep in mind the difference between “pietism” and “piety”.  Pietism in Protestantism is associated with meditative mystical spirituality.   Pietism began in seventeenth century Germany and distinctively expressed itself in the Moravians of the eighteenth century.  Piety, however, is not a philosophy but a Christian way of life.  The Puritans, for example urged Christians unto piety, but it was not couched in meditative mystical spirituality, but in the objective Word of God and gospel.

[3] David Lyle Jeffrey divides spirituality into the “meditative” and “missionary” categories.  But he is quick to point out that “a missionary oriented spirituality [like that of Isaac Watts, and the Wesley’s] has almost always had its origin in a profound encounter with meditative spirituality – an emphasis on the workings of the Spirit in the inner life, on the psychology of spiritual response, and on the intimate experience of the personhood of Jesus.” David Lyle Jeffery, English Spirituality.  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987). Pg, 25.  In my observation, meditative spirituality is always mystical, and is usually accompanied with perfectionist doctrine.

[4] Jeffrey comments on Law’s significance.  “William Law…is the outstanding spiritual writer of the nonjuror right wing of the Anglican church, and perhaps the outstanding spiritual writer of the age.”  Jeffrey, 27.  Jeffery also records what Aldous Huxley said about Law’s writings.  “He [Law] is one of the greatest masters of devotion and philosophical theology is passed over almost in silence.”  Jeffrey, 120.  William Law falls into the category of mystical or “meditative” spirituality.

Mysticism Spirituality William Law

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.

Further Reformation Middle Ages Piety Puritan Spirituality

Jonathan Edwards on Prayer

In his book, A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards, published in 2007, the noted church historian Michael Haykin observes, “In the past forty years the books, essays, and doctoral theses on Jonathan Edwards’ theology have become a veritable flood. Yet there still remains much to be done regarding various details of his piety. For example, there still needs to be written a major study on Edwards’ theology of prayer.”[1] The purpose of this booklet then is to contribute to that need.[2] In the following pages, I will sketch Edwards’ prayer life, his description of and devotion to prayer, his doctrine of prayer, and his distinct emphasis on the Holy Spirit in prayer. In conclusion, some practical lessons will be derived from Edwards’ prayer life.

 

To continue reading the article, see my book–Jonathan Edwards: His Doctrine of & Devotion to Prayer.


      [1] Michael A.G. Haykin, A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 167.

      [2] Some scholars have begun exploring this topic. For instance, see Robert Oscar Bakke’s “The Concert of Prayer: Back to the Future?” (D.Min. diss., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 1993). However, while Bakke discusses Edwards’ teachings on prayer, he only focuses on Edwards’ treatise known as An Humble Attempt. Likewise, Glenn R. Kreider’s article, “Jonathan Edwards’s Theology of Prayer,” Bibliotheca Sacra 160 (2003), examines Edwards’ theology of prayer, but only in conjunction with his sermon, The Most High, A Prayer-Hearing God. Most recently Peter Beck wrote “The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards’s Theology of Prayer” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007), a study published in 2010 by Joshua Press. In my opinion, Beck’s work meets the need that Haykin has mentioned.

Jonathan Edwards Piety Prayer Puritan Spirituality

The revived Puritan: The spirituality of George Whitefield (1714-1770)

In 1835 Francis Alexander Cox (1783-1853) and James Hoby (1788-1871), two
prominent English Baptists who were visiting fellow Baptists in the United States,
made a side trip to Newburyport, Massachusetts, to view the tomb of George
Whitefield. The “grand itinerant” had died on September 30, 1770, at the home of
Jonathan Parsons (1705-1776), pastor of the town’s First Presbyterian Church, also
known as Old South. He had been interred two days later in a vault below what is now
the centre aisle of this church, where, along with the coffins of Parsons and another
pastor of the church, Joseph Prince (d.1791), his remains were on display all through
the nineteenth century. In fact, it was not until 1932 that the coffin in which
Whitefield’s remains lay was covered over with a slate slab.

 

The article is by Michael A. G. Haykin, currently Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Click here to read his entire article.

George Whitefield Piety Puritan Spirituality

Martin Luther on Prayer and Reformation

Even in the busiest periods of the Reformation Luther averaged two hours of prayer daily.

—   Andrew W. Kosten

Not only was Martin Luther (1483–1546) the great Protestant Reformer, he was a great man of prayer as well. As he explains, prayer was foundational for his soul’s well-being: “Prayer includes every pursuit of the soul, in meditation, reading, listening, [and] praying.” Andrew Kosten suggests that “to know…Luther at his best, one must become acquainted with him as a man of devotion.” Thus, to some degree, to study Luther and his theology apart from his spirituality in general and his practice of prayer in particular is to miss the context of his whole personality both as a Reformer and theologian. After showing that prayer is an important key to understanding Luther as a Reformer and theologian, this chapter will address Luther’s basic theology of prayer, his trinitarian emphasis in prayer, and his personal prayer life.

 

Click here to read my entire article.

Martin Luther Piety Prayer Reformer Spirituality