A Place to Start

There are many people out there who would like to start reading some good Puritan literature. However, they don’t know where to start. After all, there have been many, many reprints of Puritan literature by Soli Deo Gloria, Banner of Truth, Reformation Heritage Books, Tanski Publications, Dust and Ashes, Solid Ground Christian Books, Tentmaker Publications, and others. There is a lifetime of reading here of the very best spiritually uplifting literature. I can think of no better entrance into this wonderful world than this book. What is so great about this book is that it is not just a biographical introduction to most of the famous Puritans. It is also a guide to modern reprints. Every major republication of the Puritans within the last fifty years is included in this book, making it a fantastic one-stop entrance into the world of the Puritans. Furthermore, they do not forget the Scots worthies or the Dutch worthies. Included in the former are Binning, Boston, Dickson, Durham, the Erskines, Gillespie, Gray, Guthrie, Halyburton, Rutherford, and Scougal. Included in the latter are a’Brakel, Comrie, Frelinghuysen, Hellenbroek, Hoornbeek, Koelman, Taffin, Teellinck, van der Groe, VanderKemp, Voetius, and Witsius. Furthermore, there is a valuable annotated guide to secondary literature on the Puritans, as well.

So, whether you are new to the Puritans or not, this book will serve you well, as you seek to build a Puritan library, which all Christians should do, let alone pastors.

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Norman Shepherd’s First Article, part 4

The subject of this post is again the relationship of faith and works. It is important here to get the relevant Calvin quotes out in the open. First up is 3.11.1:

The theme of justification was therefore more lightly touched upon because it was more to the point to understand first how little devoid of good works is the faith, through which alone we obtain free righteousness by the mercy of God.

Shepherd’s evaluation of this is quite telling: “But Godfrey is careful not to say, as Calvin does, that faith working through love justifies, or that the faith itself through which we obtain free righteousness is not devoid of good works” (p. 60). Of course, Godfrey was commenting on the Institutes 3.11.20, which Shepherd seems not to have noticed in his critique. Here is the relevant Calvin passage (3.11.20):

Also, they pointlessly strive after the foolish subtlety that we are justified by faith alone, which acts through love, so that righteousness depends upon love. Indeed, we confess with Paul that no other faith justifies “but faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). But it does not take its power to justify from that working of love. Indeed, it justifies in no other way but in that it leads us into fellowship with the righteousness of Christ. (emphasis added)

Anyone with half a brain tied behind his back can see that Shepherd has completely misunderstood Calvin, and that Godfrey has understood him. Calvin’s point is that faith alone justifies, though that faith is never alone. Shepherd makes the subtlely different but telling claim that “faith working through love justifies.”

One need only compare Session VI, Canon 11 of the Council of Trent with Shepherd’s formulation to know where Shepherd’s theology lies:

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

I ask this question: what problem would Shepherd have with this formulation? Imputation to the exclusion of charity (love) in justification is what is rejected by this canon, and it is precisely what is rejected by Shepherd, as well.