Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life - by J. I. Packer

"Maturity is a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity. The Puritans exemplified maturity; we don't." (pg. 22)

"Pastor, they [Puritan clergy] said, are responsible for rebuking heresy and defending truth, lest their flocks be misled and thereby enfeebled, if not worse. Biblical truth is nourishing, human error is killing, so spiritual shepherds must guard sound doctrine at all costs." (pg. 64)

"Not only in connection with justification, but at every point, first to last, the Puritan account of faith's focus, exercise, and fruits is structured in terms of conscience receiving God's word and by its light judging how God sees one and how through Christ one may or does stand related to him in covenant mercy." (pg. 68)

"He who would interpret Scripture aright, therefore, must be a man of a reverent, humble, prayerful, teachable and obedient spirit; otherwise, however tightly his mind may be 'stuffed with notions', he will never reach any understanding of spiritual realities." (pg. 100)

"'There is a dangerous error grown too common in the world [it is commoner still today] that a man is bound to do every thing which his conscience telleth him is the will of God; and that every man must obey his conscience, as if it were the lawgiver of the world; whereas, indeed, it is not ourselves, but God, that is our lawgiver. And conscience is...appointed...only to discern the law of God, and call upon us to observe it: and an erring conscience is not to be obeyed, but to be better informed....'" (pg. 113)

"A good conscience is a tender conscience. The consciences of the godless may be so calloused that they scarcely ever act at all; bu the healthy Christian conscience (said the Puritans) is constantly in operation, listening for God's voice in his word, seeking to discern his will in everything, active in self-watch and self-judgement." (pg. 116)

"Its [the old gospel] centre of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the centre of reference is man. This is just to say tha the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach people to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and his ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed." (pg. 126)

"...we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of his redeeming work as if he had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God's love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence 'at the door of our hearts' for us to let them in." (pg. 126ff)

"'It is a mercy to have a faithful friend that loveth you whom you may open you mind and communicate your affairs...And it is a mercy to have so near a friend to be a helper to your soul stir up in you the grace of God.'" (pg. 262)

"It was a Puritan maxim that 'all grace enters by the understanding'. God does not move men to action by mere physical violence, but addresses their minds by his word, and calls for the response of deliberate consent and intelligent obedience. It follows that every man's first duty is to explain it. The only way to the heart that he is authorised to take runs via the head." (pg. 281)

"Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ's sheep. The preacher's job is to proclaim the faith, not to provide entertainment for unbelievers - in other words, to feed the sheep rather than amuse the goats." (pg. 285)

"To their [Puritans] minds, it would be the worst advice possible to tell a troubled person to stop worrying about his sins and trust Christ at once when that person had not yet faced the specifics of his or her sinfulness and has not yet come to the point of clear-headedly desiring to leave all sinful ways behind and be made holy. To give this advice, they held, before the heart is weaned from sin would be the way to induce false peace and false hopes, as so to produce 'gospel-hypocrites', which is the last thing that a Christian counsellor should be willing to do." (pg. 298)

J. I. Packer, A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1990)