An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 28 April 2014

British Calvinists: John Davenport (1597-1670)

John Davenport (1597-1670) was born in Coventry. He attended Merton College and Magdalen Colleges in Oxford, but never received a degree. He ws ordained and became a curate in London and then the vicar of St Stephen's, Coleman Street. Initially Davenport conformed to liturgical practices but as anti-Calvinism and ceremonialism spread in the Established church he became a non-Conformist. In 1626 he helped to organise the Feoffees for Impropriations - the buying of church livings so that could be given to those with puritan leanings. 

He eventually left England for the Netherlands in 1633. In 1637 he left for the New World. He was invited to the Westminster Assembly in 1642; other New Englanders that were invited included John Cotton and Thomas Hooker. He was unable to attend as he was the only minister of New Haven. 

One of his works is available here:

Friday, 25 April 2014

British Calvinists: John Spilsbury (1593-c.1668)

John Spilsbury (1593-c. 1668) is one of the pioneers and prominent leaders of the Particular Baptists. Particular Baptists were so-called because of their belief in particular, or limited atonement.

Spilsbury was originally a London cobbler. He became involved with Henry Jessey's church in London, probably the first Particular Baptist church. He was one of the main - if not only - author of the First London Confession of Faith (1644). 

His main theological contributions, other than the First London Confession of Faith were defending believers' baptism and the defence of particular redemption. He sought to distance the particular Baptists from the paedobaptists and the General Baptists. 

Further reading

Reniham, James M. (1998) "John Spilsbury(1593-c. 1662/8) In Michael A. G. Haykin The British Particular Baptists 1638-191 Volume 1. Springfield, MI: Particular Baptist Press. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

British Calvinists: John Forbes (1593-16448)

John Forbes (1593-1648) of Corse attended the universities of Aberdeen and Heidelberg. He was ordained by his father in Aberdeen. He became the first synod professor of divinity at King's College, Aberdeen in 1620. He died at Corse Castle (left).

Some of his writings are available here:

Monday, 21 April 2014

British Calvinists: John Preston (1587-1628)

John Preston (1587-1628) was born in Northamptonshire. He obtained a BA from King's College, Cambridge and then MA in 1611 from Queens' College, Cambridge. He was converted under the preaching of John Cotton. He then became ordained around 1611. Jonathan Moore describes him as "perhaps the most influential and esteemed leader of the godly in both church and state." 

He obtained his BD in 1620 and held numerous high level posts including dean of Queens',chaplain to Prince Charles and master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He attended the York House Conference in 1626 set up to bring a rapprochement between Arminians and Calvinists. 

Preston adopted a form of hypothetical universalism some time after 1615. He was a moderate and non-separating Calvinist, though he did much to help foster the growth of Puritanism during his time as master of Emmanuel.

Some of Preston's works are available here:

Saturday, 19 April 2014

British Calvinists: John Cotton (1585-1652)

John Cotton (1585-1652) was born in Derby. He received his BA from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1603 and an MA from Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1606. At Cambridge he was influenced by William Perkins. He was ordained in 1610 and became the rector at St Botolph's in Boston, Lincs. He was anti-Catholic and pro-Puritan. He became increasingly concerned with the Established Church and he favoured presbyters over bishops. He attempted to follow Anglican practices while at St Botolph's but his conscience and convictions eventually prevented him from doing so.

When Charles I came to the throne in 1625 the Anglican church became more hostile to the Puritans. Archbishop Laud was ruthless in his attempts to put down puritan tendencies in the Established church. During this time many left England for the New World. Cotton was summoned to appear before laud, this was the catalyst that led Cotton in to hiding and eventually to  New England in September 1633.

He is reputed to have said "I have read the fathers, and the schoolmen and Calvin too, but I find that he that has Calvin has them all."

Some of his works are available here:

Thursday, 17 April 2014

British Calvinists: John Ball (1585-1640)

John Ball (1585-1640) born in Oxfordshire, he graduated from St Mary's Hall, Oxford in 1607/08. He was for a while a tutor in the home of Lady Cholmondeley where he became introduced to puritanism. He was ordained by an Irish Bishop and became curate at Whitemore, Staffordshire. he remained there for the rest of his life. 

He was an opponent of episcopal government and was imprisoned twice for his views. He also attacked the separatists. For him the Church of England was flawed but basically sound. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Skillen's The Good of Politics - a Review

The Good of Politics
A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction
James W. Skillen
Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014.
ISBN 978-0-8010-4881-4
Pbk, xxi + 214pp, £13.89

It's often said that religion and politics don't mix. It's also said that politics and religion should be avoided in polite conversation. In an interview for Vanity Fair magazine Tony Blair was asked about his Christian faith, Alistair Campbell, Blair's former communications Chief (aka spin doctor), immediately interrupted and said "I'm sorry, we don't do God".

Contrast this with a scene in the film Amazing Grace. William Wilberforce when considering giving up his political career for one in religion was visited by members of the Clapham Sect and Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson says to Wilberforce ‘We understand you are wondering whether to pursue politics or religion’. Hannah More responds: ‘We humbly suggest you can do both’.

That is the reformational response. We can serve God and do politics – in fact we can serve God in doing politics. Religion and politics do mix! In part this is why Skillen has written this excellent book, the title of which may seem to some Christians to be outrageous - how can politics be good?  

His main aim is to show the creational role of politics and thus politics can be good. The current Christian consensus is that politics is a necessary evil. Skillen exposes this misunderstanding and ably shows the creational role of politics.

This misunderstanding has been prevalent since Augustine. Augustine suggested that institutions of government are unnatural and are permitted by God only in response to sin as both a punishment and a remedy for our sinful condition. If this is the case, as Skillen points out, then natural law cannot provide a basis for unnatural institutions. This Augustinian-perpetuated error stems from not having a strong enough view of creation. God created humans for political life and thus it can be good and it is ‘not a neutral terrain’ (p. 118).

Skillen shows the deficiency of the Augustinian perspective in the first two sections - biblical and historical. In the third and final section he looks at what Christian political involvement might look like. Here he surveys important topics such a economics, the environment, education, family and citizenship as vocation.

This is an important book, it should be read widely - and not just by Christians who have an interest in politics - but by every Christian who is touched by politics. 

For my interview with Jim Skillen see here
The book is available in the States from Byron Borger's Heart and Minds Bookstore

David Gay: Septimus Sears A Victorian Injustice - a review

Septimus Sears
A Victorian Injustice and its Aftermath
David H. J. Gay
Biggleswade: Bracchus, 2010, pbk, 70pp, £2.75
ISBN 9780956023827

The content of this book was originally presented as a paper to the annual meeting of Strict Baptist Historical Society in 2009. It still bears the marks of a conversational lecture format and at times this does grate - but fortunately, content triumphs over style.

This book provides a brief introduction to the little-known Septimus Sears (1819-1877) - I would have like more biographical information - but the main topic is the debate between him and John Gadsby, the editor of the Gospel Standard (1870 - 1877) over the nature of the free offer of the Gospel.

Sears moved from a hyper-Calvinist position to a free-offer of the gospel position, however Gay feels he didn’t move far enough. Gay maintains that Sears held to an “incipient hyper-Calvinism”.

Gay examines three main primary sources: Sears’ 1841 letter to J C Philpott, his Memoirs and his preaching. Sears originally agreed with Philpott that although the first-century apostles preach and invited sinners we shouldn’t: we have no basis for copying the biblical examples. Sears somewhere between 1841 and 1865 changed his mind and thought that we should. 

In his memoirs Sears advocates warning sinners, inviting seekers and exhorting saints. Yet Gay’s examination of Sears’ preaching post 1865 shows that Sears told his hearers of the gospel invitation but offered no invite. It was more you are invited rather than I invite you to respond to the gospel. Despite this Sears was repeatedly taken to task by John Gadsby in the pages of the Gospel Standard for supposedly being too free in the way he addressed sinners. 

The issue seems to focus around the question of whether we should copy the apostles in the way they presented the gospel to sinners. In an Appendix Gay suggests that the first person to suggest that we shouldn’t wasn’t a Puritan but rather Revd Robert Hawker (1735-1823) of Plymouth in his The True Gospel: No Yea and Nay Gospel (1818), this idea was taken up and developed by J. C. Philpott. 

In this short book Gay has packed a lot of research. This not an issue that has gone away the debate still continues, many of the arguments are the same though the arguers have changed. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

British Calvinists: James Ussher (1581-1656)

James Ussher (1581-1656) was a scholar, a politician and a Church of Ireland bishop. He was born in Dublin and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. He became a professor of theology at Trinity College until 1617. He was ordained in 1601.

He was strongly anti-Catholic, one of of his works was An answer to a challenge made by a Jesuit in Ireland (1624). In his A discourse of the religion anciently professed by the Irish and British (1631) he made that the Church of Ireland was the rightful heir of St Patrick. 

He opposed the imposition of the 39 Articles upon the Church of Ireland and argued that the terms Puritan and Reformed were synonymous. 

From 1625-1656 he was the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. His work on chronology concluded that the earth was created in 4004 BC.

Oliver Cromwell ensured that Ussher's funeral was paid for by the state and held in Westminster Abbey.

Several of Ussher's works are available here:

Monday, 14 April 2014

British Calvinists: William Gouge (1578-1653)

William Gouge (1578-1653) was one of the "Westminster divines". Born in Stratford-le-Bow, Middlesex, he graduated from King's College, Cambridge with a BA in 1598 and an MA in 1601.  He was the nephew of Laurence Chadderton and William Whitaker. He was a fellow and lecturer at Cambridge in logic before he moved to St Anne's, Blackfriars when he was ordained in 1608.

He was a regular attender at the Westminster Assembly and was chair in 1644 of the Westminster Confession draft committee. Two of his key works were The Whole Armour of God (1615) and Of Domesticall Duties (1622). The latter was a rejection of the view, popular at the time, that husbands should beat their wives - but still stressed female subjection of wives.  

Some of Gouge's works are available here:

Friday, 11 April 2014

Recent Kuyperania (April 2014)

Christian's Scholars Press have announced a new translation of two addresses by Kuyper: Scholarship: Two Convocation Addreses on University Life. It is edited an translated by Harry van Dyke.
ISBN: 978-1-938948-85-5. 51 pages.
Details here.

Daniel José Camacho "Common Grace and Race" The Twelve.
Looks at Kuyper, common grace and racism.

Six new books by Calvin Seerveld from Dordt College Press

A new book from Calvin Seerveld is cause for celebration. Dordt College Press have released six - each edited by John Kok.

Normative Aesthetics
Redemptive Art in Society
Cultural problems in Western Society
Art History Revisited
Cultural Education and History Writings
Biblical Studies and Wisdom of Living

Further details here:

British Calvinists: William Twisse (1578-1646)

William Twisse (1578-1646) was born at Speenlands, near Newbury. He became a fellow of New college, Oxford and graduated with a BA in 1600 and an MA in 1604.

For a short while he was appointed as by James I as chaplain to his daughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia.He became the vicar of Newbury in 1620. 

He opposed Laud and was a premillennialist and a supralapsarian. He favoured Reformed Episcopasy and held strong sabbatarian views.

He was one of the delegates at the Westminster Assembly. He was unanimously appointed as the Prolocutor of the Assembly.

Some of his writings are available here:

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

British Calvinists: Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), "the heavenly doctor", was born in Tostock, Suffolk, he was a conforming Puritan.  He graduated from St John's, Cambridge with a BA in 1599. He was elected a fellow in 1621. He was converted in 1603, he called Paul Baynes his "Father in the Gospel". Sibbes was ordained and became a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. In 1617 he was appointed preacher for Gray's Inn, London. He then, in 1626, became the master of St Catherine's, Cambridge and was awarded a DD. In 1633 he was also appointed to the "perpetual curacy" of Holy Trinity. He died at Gray's Inn. 

Most of his influential works were published posthumously.

Further reading
Mark E. Dever 2000. Richard Sibbes: Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England, Mercer University Press.

Many of his works are available form here:


Monday, 7 April 2014

Robert W. Oliver History of the English Calvinistic Baptists

History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1771-1892
From John Gill to C. H. Spurgeon
Robert W. Oliver 
Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006
ISBN 978 0 85151 920 3; Hbk; 410 + xxi pp; £16.50

This is a fascinating book. Unfortunately, it doesn't do what the title suggests. If it were then the history of the Calvinistic baptists would be one dispute after another. 

There were a number of debates among the Calvinistic Baptists. These were over: the nature of communion: open or closed (chapter 4); Andrew Fuller’s The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptance (1785) and its challenge to the dominant Hyper-Calvinism. Fuller maintained that gospel preaching must include exhortations to all to repent and believe (chapter 5); and the Antinomian controversy: the relationship of the Christian to the moral law (Chapter 6). The book ably covers the key disputants in the controversies that marked out the Particular Baptists from the General Baptists. 

The second part of the book looks more specifically at four key players: Andrew Fuller (Chapter 8), Abraham Booth (Chapter 8), William Gadsby (Chapter 9) and John Stevens  (Chapter 10).

In part three the proliferation of Strict Baptist magazines are examined as well as the different organisations. The final chapter on Spurgeon feels more like an add on rather than an integral part of the book. 

As I was reading the book I kept wondering what Oliver’s views were - they are not obvious form the text. I wish he had made his own views more explicit, that way any possible (and inevitable) bias can more easily be detected. 

Oliver’s book was originally his 1985 London Bible College PhD thesis - but it took some time to be published - primarily to overcome his reluctance to publish. I am glad that it was as it provides a much needed insight into the Calvinistic Baptists. 

The following two-way table - I’ve compiled it  from Oliver’s information - shows clearly that the debate over strict baptism and hyper-Calvinism wasn’t straightforward.

British Calvinists: John Davenant (1576-1641)

John Davenant (1576-1641) was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and later bishop of Salisbury. 
He was born in London and died in Salisbury. He graduated from Queen's College Cambridge and became a fellow in 1597. From 1614-1621 he was its president. He was one of the British Anglican representatives at the Synod of Dordt in 1618. He was not an advocate of limited atonement, though he was not a supporter of Moses Amyraut and his Amaryraldianism.

He was appointed bishop of Salisbury by James I in 1621. 

He is the author of a commentary on Colossians which is available from the Banner of Truth. 

Some of his writings are available here:

Friday, 4 April 2014

British Calvinists: William Ames (1576-1633)

William Ames  (1576-1633) born at Ipswich and graduated in 1598 from Chrst's College, Cambridge. He was greatly influenced by William Perkins and Perkins' successor Paul Baynes. Ames refused to wear a surplice, this cost him the mastership of Christ's - it was awarded to Valentine Carey - and led to Ames being suspended from his ecclesiastical duties. In 1610 he translated William Bradshaw's English Puritanism from Latin into English. 

He then travelled with Robert Parker to the Netherlands. In the Netherlands he was involved with a number of disputes with the Arminians. He also promoted the autonomy of the local church congregation. He wrote against the catholicism of Robert Bellarmine, the Laudianism of the English church, and the separatism of John Robinson, a Leiden pastor. 

He taught theology form 1622-1632 at Franeker University. He was unable to join the Puritan migration to New England because of his ill health.  His The Marrow of Sacred Divinity (1643) was his most influential work.

Many of his writings are accessible from here:

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

British Calvinists: Joseph Hall (1574-1656)

Joseph Hall (1574-1656) was an Anglican bishop. He was born at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire and graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge. His family were Puritans. 

In 1608 he became chaplain to Henry, the Prince of Wales. He was one of the English delegates to the Synod of Dordt in 1618. He became the bishop of Exeter in 1627. He trod a path mid-way between the Puritans and the church establishment. He thought that episcopacy was a divine right. He then was made the bishop of Norwich. 

He was described by Thomas Fuller as "our English Seneca". 

Many of his writings are available from here:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A broadly Calvinist timeline from Elizabeth I - James II

Under Elizabeth I we had the settlement of Calvinism. However, the tensions between crown and church were growing and this resulted in a separation and growing fragmentation among Calvinists. It was during this period that we had the increasing privatisation of Puritanism. As D. G. Hart puts it a "vein of introspective piety" replaced "the zeal for a throughly reformed church". Some wanted to stay in the Established church, but others separated to form presbyterianism, congregationalism and other branches. Though Philip Schaff, in his Creeds of Christendom, wrote: "It is not too much to say that the ruling theology of the Church of England in the latter half of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century was Calvinistic". (I, 604) 

1558 Elizabeth I 
1558 Act of Uniformity (passed in 1559): Book of Common Prayer reinforced and legal obligation to attend church service weekly
1558 (Second) Act of Supremacy: Elizabeth declared Supreme Governor of the Church of England 
1559 John Knox returns to Scotland
1559 Elizabeth I appoints Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury
1560 Scots Confession and the first Book of Discipline
1561 English translation, by Thomas Norton, of Calvin’s Institutes published
1563 39 Articles approved by Convocation as the doctrinal creed of the CoE
1564 John Calvin dies
1566 Start of separatists movements in response to vestment controversies (dating back to John Hooper during Edward VI’s reign)
1570 Thomas Cartwright’s Cambridge lectures - the foundations of presbyterianism
1571 The 39 Articles approved by Parliament
1572 Presbytery of Wandsworth
1574 Cartwright translates Walter Travers's A Full and Plaine Declaration of Ecclesisaticall Discipline Owt Off the Word Off God - a presentation of nonconforming Calvinism
1575 Geneva Bible completed
1576 Edmund Grindal Archbishop of Canterbury
1577 ABp Grindal suspended for refusing to stop Puritan “prophesyings”
1580 Jesuit missionaries sent to England
1581 Robert Browne’s Treatise of Reformation without Tarrying for Any
1582 Act makes all Catholic clergy in England liable to execution
1583 John Whitgift becomes Archbishop of Canterbury
1584 The "Black Acts" in Scotland
1587 Walter Travers's Book of Discipline
1587 Cope's "Bill and Book"
1588 Marprelate Tracts published
1592 'The Golden Acts" passed in Scotland
1593 Execution of Greenwood and Barrow
1595 Lambeth Articles 

1603 James I (cousin of Elizabeth I)
1603 Millenary petition
1604 Hampton Court Conference
1604 Book of Common Prayer Revised
1604 Richard Bancroft Archbishop of Canterbury
1605 Gunpowder plot - Romans seek to blow up Parliament
1608 Separatists leave for the Netherlands
1610 Episcopacy restored in Scotland
1611 George Abbot Archbishop of Canterbury
1611 King James Version of Bible published
1617 Irish Articles promulgated
1618 Book of Sports - games allowed on Sundays
1618-1619 Synod of Dordt
1620 Mayflower sets sail for Massachusetts

1625 Charles I
1625 Bubonic plague
1626 Charles I prohibits predestinarian teaching at Cambridge
1626 York House Conference
1628 William Laud becomes bishop of London
1629 Parliament dissolved by Charles I
1630 Arbella sets sail for Massachusetts
1633 William Laud Archbishop of Canterbury
1633 Book of Sports renewed
1637 New Scottish Prayer Book - causes riot in Edinburgh
1638 Scottish National Covenant
1640 April “Short Parliament”
1640 November “Long Parliament” 
1642 English Civil War
1643 Solemn League and Covenant
1643 Westminster Assembly (to 1646)
1643 Split between Presbyterians and congregationalists in the Westminster Assemby
1644 Book of Common Prayer replaced with Directory of Worship
1644 First London Baptist Confession of Faith
1645 Feb New Model Army
1645 William Laud executed (no Archbishop until 1660)
1645 June Battle of Naseby - Cromwell defeats Charles I
1647 Society of Friends formed by George Fox (Quakers)
1648 Start of Thirty Years War in Europe
1649 Charles I is executed
1649 Last numbered plenary session of the Westminster Assembly
1653 Dissolution of 'Rump' of Long Parliament
1653 Cromwell becomes Lord Protector
1658 Savoy Conference; Savoy Declaration of Church and Order
1658 Cromwell dies, succeeded by son Richard

1660 Restoration of Monarchy: Charles II
1660 William Juxton Archbishop of Canterbury
1662 Act of Uniformity passed - almost 2000 clergy forced out of parishes (Great Ejection)
1663 Gilbert Sheldon Archbishop of Canterbury
1664 First Conventicle Act
1665 Great Plague in London begins
1665 Five Mile Act
1666 Great Fire of London
1672 Declaration of Indulgences - dissenters are permitted to hold services 
1673 First Test Act - Catholics are prevented from remaining in public offices
1678 Bunyan's Pilgrim Progress published

1685 James II