Posts by Patrick Ramsey

Posts by

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...
I n this final installment of the series on union and communion with Christ, I will continue to consider practical benefits of this doctrine. More specifically, I will look at how we might use this doctrine to spur us on towards love and good deeds. Thomas Lye, in his sermon entitled, The True...
I n this penultimate installment of the series on a puritan doctrine of union and communion with Christ, I want to consider the comfort “this glorious union with Christ” brings to dying saints and to “their surviving mourners” (Case). Thomas Jacomb says that we have no reason to be afraid of death...
T he doctrine of union and communion with Christ provides a number of comforts or encouragements to Christians. I want to look at two in particular that some puritans highlighted: f irst, the dignity and honor that union with Christ bestows upon believers and second, the assurance that union with...
O ne of the great benefits of reading the Puritans is that they open our eyes to how wonderfully useful and practical doctrine is. "Theology," William Ames famously wrote, "is the doctrine of living unto God." The doctrine of union and communion with Christ is certainly no exception to this. In...
I n my last article , I noted that one theological use of the doctrine of union and communion with Christ is that it provides the framework to understand the proper role of faith in justification. Another theological use is that it helps us to understand and so answer the common objections to...
I n this installment of our series (see #1 , #2 ), I want to turn our attention to one theological use of the doctrine of union and communion with Christ. This doctrine provides the framework to understand the proper role of faith in justification, and thereby avoid the pitfalls of Antinomianism...
I n the last article , I noted four points regarding a puritan doctrine of union and communion with Christ. Continuing that discussion, a fifth point is that communion is communion in what Christ himself possesses . The saving benefits that we receive in union with Christ are properly Christ’s own...
T he puritan doctrine of union and communion with Christ is not only a biblical doctrine, it is quite beneficial pastorally and theologically. Eventually, I would like to consider some uses of this doctrine, but for now I will focus on its meaning and biblical basis. And in good puritan fashion I...
Continuing our series on the covenant theology of the Westminster Standards (see parts #1 , #2 ), the third element of a covenant, namely conditions, may be the most controversial and perhaps the most confusing. In fact, at least some of the controversy over the conditionality of the covenant of...
In my last article , I noted that a covenant has three basic elements: parties , promises , and conditions . The parties of the covenant of grace vary depending upon which perspective of the covenant is being considered. Externally or administratively speaking the covenant is between God and all...
G enerally speaking, a covenant , according to Reformed theology, is a legal relationship between two parties that involves promises and conditions . A covenant, therefore, has three basic elements: parties, promises and conditions. My goal is to expound the Westminster Standards’ teaching on the...
S tephen Marshall (1594-1655) argued that infants of believers should be baptized because 1) they are within the covenant of grace and belong to the kingdom of Christ, 2) they are made partakers of the inward grace of baptism. In a previous article , I attempted to explain his second argument but...
I n the previous two articles (see 1 , 2 ), we have considered one argument for and one objection to infant baptism from the writings of Stephen Marshall (1594-1655). We are now going to turn our attention to a benefit of infant baptism. There are several avenues we could explore in this regard,...
I n my previous article , I discussed one of Stephen Marshall’s arguments for infant baptism: infants of believers (covenant children) should be baptized because they partake of the spiritual realities signified and sealed by baptism. This is not to say that all covenant children partake of the...
I f you were to travel back in time and ask the members of the Westminster Assembly for some helpful resources on the subject of infant baptism they would probably have directed you to the recent publications of one of their own, Stephen Marshall. Marshall’s lecture on this topic was published in...
W hat do you do when two sides are unable to reconcile their theological differences? We have been looking at how the English Dissenters at the end of the seventeenth century dealt with this problem (see parts 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 ). Thus far we have considered two things that they did to work out...
W hat do you do when two parties within the same Reformed tradition approach the issues from such different perspectives that they end up seeing one another as the devil? In the previous article in our series on lessons from an old controversy (see parts 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) we learned that one...
The Presbyterians and the Congregationalists had an extremely difficult time working through their theological differences in the 1690s (see parts 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ). There are a number of reasons for this, some of which we have already considered, but one was that they approached the issues from...
I f a theological debate has been infected with personal animosity and filled with over the top accusations and charges, then you will mostly likely find a party spirit, which will only further enflame the controversy. Like everyone else, theologians do not tend to denounce their friends in public...
O ne of the striking yet sad features of the Antinomian-Neonomian debate of the 1690’s (see parts 1 , 2 ) was the evident personal animosity towards Daniel Williams. Although John Flavel also wrote against Antinomianism, including some of the views of Tobias Crisp, he and his book did not become...
A lthough the antinomian-neonomian controversy of the 1690’s (see part 1 ) involved godly ministers who were all part of the same but broad Reformed family—most of them had even formally united together on the basis of Reformed confessions—they did not treat one another very well during their...
E ver since I studied the Antinomian-Neonomian controversy that took place among the English Dissenters in London during the final decade of the seventeenth century, I have wanted to write on the debate itself. Part of the impetus for this was that during my studies the Federal Vision controversy...
I have referred to the puritan John Ball in a number of posts thus far. He is not exactly a household name, even within the relatively small Reformed world. Mention the term puritan and the names William Perkins, Richard Baxter, John Owen, James Ussher, and John Bunyan come to mind, not John Ball...
One of the most striking and comforting expressions in the Scriptures is that God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). Nonetheless, this statement creates a theological conundrum of sorts and has led in part some Reformed theologians, including puritans, to at least suggest if not advocate a subtle...
The creeds and confessions of the past continue to serve the Church today because they summarize the eternal truths of Scripture. While the grass withers and the flowers fade, the Word of God stands forever (Isa. 40:8) and therefore faithful summaries of Scripture stand the test of time as well...
I have been calling attention to the Puritans’ high view of good works in a number of past posts. If I could read my readers’ minds, quite a tale could be told. Undoubtedly, reactions would range from disbelief to delight to disgust. Then I got to thinkin’ that it might be helpful to know the...
In my last article I discussed that the puritans believed that good works are more than the fruit of faith, justification and salvation in that they are the way to eternal life and an antecedent condition of glorification. The minority of puritans labelled as "antinomians" not only rejected this...
In my last article I referenced the evangelical understanding of the Scriptural phrase “do this and live” among some puritans. Such an understanding implies that good works are more than the fruit of salvation . We don’t engage in good works merely because we live or are saved, we are to do them in...
A concise and catchy way of articulating the covenant of works or works righteousness, is to use a phrase that is found on the lips of both Moses and Christ: "do this and live" (Lev. 18:5; Luke 10:28). Whoever keeps God’s commandments perfectly in his own strength (“do this”) will earn the right to...
There are several passages in the New Testament that appear to make a stark contrast between the Old or Mosaic Covenant—the covenant relationship the Lord made with Israel at Mount Sinai (e.g., Ex. 19-24)—and the New Covenant made with believers in Jesus Christ. Consequently, if you are going to...
While denying the Roman Catholic doctrine that love is the life and soul of justifying faith, John Ball (1585-1640) strenuously affirmed that justifying faith cannot be without love. Faith and love are distinct graces which are “infused together” by the Holy Spirt at regeneration and “the exercise...