Posts by Patrick Ramsey

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The law/gospel distinction is a well-known and an important theological distinction in Protestant and Reformed circles. Unfortunately, a lot of confusion exists surrounding it, in part because further distinctions are not always properly made. And these further distinctions are necessary because...
Richard Vines was a member of the Westminster Assembly and was considered one of the Assembly’s finest preachers. He preached a sermon on Ephesians 4:14-15 before the Mayor and court of Aldermen of London in 1644 entitled “The Impostures of Seducing Teachers Discovered.” Apparently not everyone was...
One of the reasons the Puritans wrote a number of polemical works pertaining to sanctification, particularly with respect to law, good works and salvation, was to defend faithful ministers and churches. That reason remains true today and I want to take the opportunity to say a few words in defense...
When I began to study the doctrine of good works in the Reformed tradition many years ago, I was astounded by a view that many Puritans, following in the footsteps of John Calvin, promulgated. These Reformed stalwarts taught that God graciously rewards eternal life to his people who persevere in...
Karma is a word that has been adopted from Hinduism and Buddhism to capture the saying, “what goes around, comes around.” What you do to others—good or ill—will eventually in some form or fashion be done to you. As is often the case with proverbs or maxims, this one is widely recognized as...
The Westminster Standards teach that the post-fall covenants in Scripture are gracious. Although the covenants are distinct and different in some respects, they are the same in substance. This is why the Standards speak of one covenant of grace “under various dispensations” and that one covenant “...
T he Westminster Standards teach that Christians are obligated to obey the Ten Commandments. The fact that the Larger and Shorter Catechisms include a detailed exposition of the Ten Commandments indicates this. Moreover, chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession of faith says that the law delivered...
Westminster divine Anthony Burgess addressed Antinomianism in his book Vindiciae Legis: A Vindication of the Moral Law and the Covenants . In a passing comment, Burgess noted that God may have allowed “Antinomian errour” to grow in popularity in order rebuke Protestant ministers. He claimed that “...
W hich logically comes first: Faith, or repentance? This theological conundrum has been debated from time to time within the Reformed world. It is important to note that the point of contention pertains to logical and not chronological priority. Most people do not argue that there is a time gap...
David Clarkson joined John Owen as a fellow minister in a church in London in 1682. Owen entered glory soon thereafter, joining the assembly of the righteous made perfect. Clarkson continued on, preaching in Owen’s pulpit for three more years until his own death in 1686. The Banner of Truth Trust...
O ne issue that is periodically debated in Reformed circles concerns the relationship repentance has with justification, and more particularly with forgiveness. The Bible clearly states that repentance is necessary for forgiveness (Isa. 55:7; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21;...
I n a brief but hilarious reformation21 blog post , " Can You Speak Gospelese? ", Paul Levy noted that the word “gospel,” had become “an adjective which if you want people to think you’re kosher in conservative evangelicalism you add it, seemingly, to everything.” Thus, there are churches, and...
T he doctrine of salvation (Soteriology) is necessarily intertwined with the doctrine of God (Theology Proper). Your understanding of what God does and how he saves will affect your understanding of who God is, and vice versa . The puritans faced this issue in their debates with the so-called...
S tephen Geree was one of several puritan ministers who wrote against the so-called Antinomians during the 1640’s. His main target was Tobias Crisp. Crisp, who has been regarded by some as the high priest of English Antinomianism, moved to London in 1642 where he quickly became an influential...
In the last article , I noted the love that some puritans expressed for John 17 and for verse 24 in particular. Verse 24 is special because it teaches that Jesus desires us. He wants us to be where he is. In the present article, I want to look at the reason Jesus wants us to be with him . Jesus...
J ohn 17 sits alongside the other great chapters of the Bible such as Romans 8 and Psalm 23. Many people have sung its praises, including the puritans. Stephen Charnock wrote, “If any part of Scripture be magnified above another, this (John 17) seems to claim the pre-eminence.” A.W. Pink said that...
I fully understand the criticisms of the popular saying “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Words are essential (Rom. 10:14-17; Acts 8:26-40). Nevertheless, this saying does point to an important truth: Yes, pastors need to preach the word of God boldly and faithfully. Yes,...
A number of years ago, a young man who had been trained at a Reformed seminary that subscribes to the Westminster Standards was being examined for licensure on the floor of Presbytery. He was asked, "Is the covenant of grace conditional? If so, what is or are the conditions?" Without hesitation,...
A re you physically healthy? You might answer that question by how you feel. You don’t feel bad, so you assume that you are in fairly good health. But if you wanted a more objective answer, you might visit the doctor’s office and undergo some tests. They would check your temperature, heart rate and...
I am currently preaching a sermon series on the Gospel of John. There are some passages in that Gospel that appear to betray the grace of the gospel by presenting a legalistic view of salvation. Since Scripture cannot contradict itself, we know that these passages don’t teach legalism. How then are...
The puritans aren’t known for their love of the Christmas season. They did, however, love the incarnation. John Flavel addressed this topic in his sermon on Philippians 2:8, which will be the subject of this article. I will briefly summarize some of his comments on the incarnation as part of Christ...
I n the last article we looked at the resurrection of our bodies, which is one aspect of the Christian’s hope for eternity. When Jesus returns, he will raise our bodies from the dust and transform them to be like his glorious body (Phil. 3:21). We will live forever with an immortal, incorruptible,...
T he Christian’s hope at death is that he won’t have to cross Jordan alone. Christ by his Spirit will be with him every step of the way. The Christian’s hope after death is twofold. Death brings an end to evil and misery and is the door to a far better life with Christ in heaven. But what hope do...
T he certain hope that Christians have at death is that they will not be alone. Christ by his Spirit will be with them. But what hope do we have after death? What do we have to look forward to after we die? Death is gain for believers in at least two respects. First , death puts to death everything...
R ichard Baxter felt the unwanted invasion of deep heartache that only death can deliver when his beloved wife Margaret passed away. He described his experience as being “under the power of melting grief.” J.I. Packer noted in his book A Grief Sanctified that Baxter’s use of the word “melting”...
T he counterpart to (English) Antinomianism, which I considered last time , is Neonomianism. People today typically use the term “Neonomian” to depict views that they consider to be legalistic or moralistic. Historically, however, it was coined and employed by English Congregationalists at the end...
I n several articles, I have referred to the so-called “ antinomians ” by which I mean the 17th century English theologians who were labelled antinomians. In this article, I will provide a brief explanation of English antinomianism. The term “antinomian” was a term of abuse and rejected by most if...
I n the last article , I looked at how interactions with the so-called antinomians over important soteriological issues required Westminster divine Anthony Burgess to discuss the doctrine of God. The antinomians, at times, appealed to divine attributes, such as immutability and impassibility, in...
Introduction I n the movie The Princess Bride , Westley has to leave his fiancé Buttercup in order to make his fortune. Buttercup is worried that she will never see him again. Westley reassures her: “This is true love-you think this happens every day.” True love is the reason they will always be...
H ow can God, who is simple (theologically speaking), unchanging and impassible, meaningfully interact with a world that is constantly changing? The Westminster divine Anthony Burgess had to face this issue in his interactions with the so-called antinomians in London during the middle of the 17th...
D oes Jesus repent for us? That question was raised in an online discussion group due to a comment made on social media that asserted that Jesus completely repents for us. It reminded me of the heated debate the Westminster divines had with the so-called antinomians in London during the 1640s. John...
For part 1 of this series, see here . T here are two errors that need to be avoided regarding the doctrine of the imitation of Christ. One error is theological liberalism or moralism , which teaches that Jesus suffered and died merely to set an example for us to follow. This is a serious error and...
O ne of the great fictional adventure stories of all-time is one of the oldest: The Odyssey by Homer. In this book, the main character, Odysseus, along with his crew, are sailing home. During their long journey, they are forced to sail through a narrow strait between two rock peaks. There were two...
T homas Watson sang the high praises of contentment in his book The Art of Divine Contentment , recently republished by Soli Deo Gloria Publications. He wrote that he didn’t know of any ornament in religion “that doth more bespangle a Christian, or glitter in the eye of God and man, than this of...
I n his discussion on the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Watson notes that God does not lead anyone into temptation in the sense that he doesn’t tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13). God doesn’t entice or encourage his creatures to sin. As Watson says, “He permits sin, but does not promote...
I have never taken part in an Evangelism Explosion course but I do know and have at times used one of their well-known diagnostic questions: “If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?” This question is designed to discover if the person understands the...
S logans are memorable, simple summaries of truths that are often quite complex. By design, therefore, they are not meant to convey every nuance of a particular topic. Unfortunately, this makes them liable to misunderstanding and misuse. A case in point is the saying that I want to look at in this...
“G od won’t give you more than you can handle.” Is there a Christian out there who hasn’t heard this saying? Surely not. Despite its popularity, this saying is not universally loved. There are many people, of course, who believe it is true. Others are more cautious and hold it be true so long as it...
My mother, like so many other mothers, used to tell me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. This nearly ubiquitous phrase, which now thanks to the internet is the subject of countless memes, is thoroughly biblical, and so, not surprisingly, puritan. Here then,...
C ontemporary Christian sayings are not necessarily new. In the last article, I pointed out that Edward Reynolds, an important member of the Westminster Assembly, encouraged us to ask what would Jesus do in a particular situation. Reynolds is not alone in building a bridge between the Puritans and...
O ne of the interesting things I have discovered in my reading is a link between the Puritans and contemporary sayings. Statements that we put on bumper stickers, repeat to ourselves and others, or use to teach biblical truth—I have found these, some almost verbatim, in puritan writings. I will...
I n this article, I want to look at a fourth reason that suggests that the Westminster Confession of Faith does not teach baptismal regeneration, and that is the conditional nature of baptism. The sacraments are not efficacious and effectual means of salvation to all recipients, but only to some...
T hus far we have noted what the Westminster Standards teach concerning the nature and purpose of baptism, and the relationship between the Word and sacraments. The Standards' position on these two points suggests that the Assembly rejected the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. In this article,...
I n the last article we looked at the nature and purpose of baptism according to the Westminster Standards. We noted that the Standards emphasize the sealing function of baptism and that as a seal it is designed to confirm the baptizand’s interest in Christ and to strengthen faith and all other...
W hat does baptism do? A number of different answers have been given to this question. At one end of the spectrum are those who say that it is a converting ordinance. At the other end are those who claim that baptism is a mere sign of our salvation and profession of faith. Although it has been...
I n the last article , I looked at John Davenant’s discussion on the formal cause of our justification. Now I will turn to his discussion of the role of good works in light of our justification in Christ. Davenant is at pains to refute the common Romanist accusation that Protestants deny the...
O ne of the key theological battles between the Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church was over the doctrine of justification. This important battle continued on into the seventeenth century and indeed it continues unabated today. John Davenant, the Bishop of Salisbury and a British...
I n this article, I will conclude looking at Obadiah Sedgwick’s discussion of the doctrine that God promises to sanctify and justify this people. Thus far we have seen the differences and similarities between these two salvific gifts ( article 1 ), and the reasons God in the covenant of grace...
I n my previous article , I summarized two points Obadiah Sedgwick (c. 1600-1658) made concerning his stated doctrine that God promises to sanctify and justify his people. He addressed a third point (I had mistakenly said there were two more points in the last article) and then discussed three uses...
O badiah Sedgwick (c. 1600-1658) was a noted puritan preacher and a member of the Westminster Assembly from 1643 to 1649. Some of his works have been recently reprinted, including The Anatomy of Secret Sins and The Doubting Believer . His work on covenant theology entitled, The Bowels of Tender...