On the Record: The Character of an Old English Puritan or Noncoformist
THE OLD ENGLISH PURITAN was such an one, that honored God above all, and under God gave every one his due.
His first care was to serve God… making the word of God the rule of his worship. He highly esteemed order in the House of God: but would not under color of that submit to superstitious rites, which are superfluous, and perish in their use…
He was much in prayer; with it he began and closed the day… He esteemed that manner of prayer best, where by the gift of God, expressions were varied according to present wants and occasions; yet did he not account set forms unlawful… He did not wholly reject the liturgy, but the corruption of it.
He esteemed reading of the word an ordinance of God both in private and public but did not account reading to be preaching… He accounted preaching as necessary now as in the Primitive Church, God’s pleasure being still by the foolishness of preaching to save those that believe. He esteemed the preaching best wherein was most of God, least of man, when vain flourishes of wit and words were declined, and the demonstration of God’s Spirit and power studied He esteemed those sermons best that came closest to the conscience: yet would he have men’s consciences awakened, not their persons disgraced. He was a man of good spiritual appetite, and could not be contented with one meal a day. An afternoon sermon did relish as well to him as one in the morning…
The Lord’s Day he esteemed a divine ordinance, and rest on it necessary, so far as it conduced to holiness… Lawful recreations he thought this day unseasonable, and unlawful ones much more abominable: yet he knew the liberty God gave him for needful refreshing, which he neither did refuse nor abuse.
The sacrament of baptism he received in infancy which he looked back to in age to answer his engagements, and claim his privileges. The Lord’s Supper he accounted part of his soul’s food: to which he labored to keep an appetite…
Right discipline he judged pertaining not to the being, but to the well-being of a church. Therefore he esteemed those churches most pure where government is by elders.
The corruptions that were in churches he thought his duty to bewail, with endeavors of amendment: yet he would not separate, where he might partake in the worship, and not in the corruption…
His chief music was singing of psalms wherein though he neglected not the melody of the voice, yet he chiefly looked after that of the heart. He disliked such church music as moved sensual delight, and was as hinderance to spiritual enlargements.
He accounted subjection to the higher powers to be part of pure religion, as well as to visit the fatherless and widows… Just laws and commands he willingly obeyed not only for fear but for conscience also; but such as were unjust he refused to observe, choosing rather to obey God than man…
He was careful in all relations to know, and to duty, and that with singleness of heart as unto Christ. He accounted religion an engagement to duty, that the best Christians should be best husbands, best wives, best parents, best children, best masters, best servants, best magistrates, best subjects, that the doctrine of God might be adorned, not blasphemed. His family he endeavors to make a church… laboring that those that were borne in it, might be born again unto God…
He was a man of tender heart, not only in regard of his own sin, but others’ misery… He was sober in the use of things of this life, rather beating down the body, than pampering it, yet he denied not himself the use of God’s blessing, lest he should be unthankful, but avoid excess lest he should be forgetful of the Donor. In his habit he avoided costliness and vanity
His own life he accounted a warfare, wherein Christ was his captain, his arms, prayers, and tears. The Cross his banner, and his word, Vincit qui patitur [he who suffers conquers].
He was immovable in all times, so that they who in the midst of many opinions have lost the view of true religion, may return to him and find it. CH
By John Geree
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #89 in 2006]
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The world from which the Stone-Campbell movement emergedRichard Hughes
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