Letter to the Evangelical Times claiming that later Puritans and Dissenters were sounder than our Reformers in their understanding of Scripture – The letter was not published.


Sir:

     Towards the end of the nineteen fifties, several Christian magazines served their readership well by re-introducing the teachings of the long-neglected Puritans. Subsequently, the Puritans have become the staple reading of Reformed men. Sadly, however, this has led to a great neglect of our first generation Reformers whose works were used as a basis for Puritan teaching. Reformers such as Jewel, Lever, Latimer, Coverdale, Cox, Grindal, Bullinger, Bucer and Peter Martyr, pillars of the Church of England, were most strong on doctrine, especially concerning the Word of God and those beliefs commonly called Calvinism. Many of these Reformers were Calvinists before Calvin. They were also almost untouched by secular politics, believing in the separation of Parliament and Church. Many Puritans failed to keep up the freshness and first love of the Reformation, dabbled deeply in politics, seeking confirmation of their beliefs through Parliament and resorted to the logical systems of Aristotle and Ramus to codify their Reformed inheritance. This led them to see external church structure and discipline as matters of faith and doctrine, whereas our Reformers saw church order as a matter of utility which could be altered by the church at any time. Indeed, our Reformers accused many of the earlier Presbyterians of popery in their love for externals including a seven-tier ministry; a neglect in preaching and testifying to the New Birth; their Melanchthonian understanding of justification, and their Aristotelian analytical, systematic theology which separated the bone from the marrow of Christian doctrine. This lack of knowledge concerning the Reformation has led to Phil Arthur’s (4:7) serious historical inaccuracies and anachronisms which would need a sound article to put them right. So, too, F.B. Ellis (0:8) has obviously read none of England’s Reformers on the Word of God or he would not have striven to defend certain Presbyterian and Baptists traditions from a Bible which is silent on them.