Viata lui Sadhu Sundar Singh – Capitolul 7A – Departe in Serviciu

traducere de Avram Cuc

E interesant ca in acest capitol se vede amprenta „Evangheliei Prosperitatii” care credem ca e ceva nou, dar avea dreptate Solomon cand spunea ca nu este nimic nou sub soare. Un mic pasaj din acest capitol ne dovedeste acest adevar:

Sadhu se afla atunci in culmea popularitatii sale, si aici isi are locul urmatorul fapt: Intr-o zi cand se dusese in jungla sa se roage, un individ plin de cucernicie se apropie de el: – „Iertati-ma ca va tulbur singuratatea si va intrerup rugile, dar oare nu este o datorie sa cauti binele altora? Viata dumneavoastra curata si de renuntare m-au impresionat adanc, la fel ca si pe cei multi ce cauta pe Dumnezeu. Cu toate ca v-ati consacrat corpul si sufletul pentru binele aproapelui, totusi n-ati fost suficient recompensat. Si iata ce vreau sa spun: crestin devenit, influenta dumneavoastra s-a intins peste sute de oameni, insa ea ramane limitata. N-ar fi mai bine pentru dumneavoastra sa deveniti ca hindus sau musulman un „lider” al poporului? Daca consimtiti la acest lucru, curand veti vedea milioane ca va urmeaza si adora ca pe „guru-ul” lor”.

Cand Sadhu auzi aceste cuvinte, raspunse imediat: „Inapoia mea Satano, eu stiu ca esti un lup imbracat in piele de miel, tu doresti ca eu sa renunt a urma calea cea stramta a vietii care este ceea a crucii, pentru a apuca pe drumul mare care duce la moarte. 

Citeste

faceti click pe poza pentru sursa – Muntele Everest, Tibet

Eu nu ma rusinez de Evanghelie, ea este puterea lui Dumnezeu pentru mantuirea oricui crede” Romani 1:16 Apostolul Pavel

In vastele solitudini ale Himalayei, Sadhu a petrecut luni intregi in tacere si in comuniune cu Dumnezeu. El a strabatut singur regiuni rar vizitate de oameni si a contemplat in natura opere splendide ale Creatorului. Acolo Dumnezeu i-a intiparit talentul sau divin si i-a acordat , in momentele de extaz viziuni spirituale asupra lumei invizibile, care i-au iluminat viata.

El a primit putere in vederea slujbei ce i se incredintase in cuprinsul Indiei si pentru calatoriile misionare de-a lungul lumii. Numele sau deveni in curind celebru si toate portile se deschisera inaintea acestui servitor al lui Christos despre care se vorbea cu atata uimire si admiratie. Nimic insa nu l-a abatut de la chemarea sa de „sadhu”. Si mereu arata aceiasi umilinta, aceiasi dulceata, aceiasi simpatie in viata sa de renuntari. Sufletul sau totdeauna indragostit de liniste si de unire cu Dumnezeu, suferea de lingusirea oamenilor si nazuia cu staruinta sa regaseasca solitudinea muntilor.

In 1918 a venit la Mandras si de aici mult mai la sud, ca sa lucreze pentru un timp printre comunitatile lipsite, din cauza razboiului, de misionarii germani. Atunci a intilnit si pe sotii Benoit, veniti in India, sa ajute pe misionarii elvetieni ramasi fara adapost, ca urmare a expulzarilor facute de guvernamantul englez. Pretutindeni Sadhu indemna pe crestinii hindusi sa continue munca misionarilor europeni si sa nu lase sa se piarda lucrarea inceputa. El ilustra indemnurile sale prin pilda urmatoare: „Un om avea o gradina magnifica; plantele si arborii erau foarte bine ingrijiti de el si fiecare le admira. Acel om insa trebuind sa plece pentru un timp indelungat, si-a spus in sine: – fiul meu aste aici; el va pastra totul in ordine pana la intoarcerea mea. Dar fiul nu s-a ingrijit de gradina si nici altcineva nu i-a purtat de grija; poarta ei a ramas deschisa, vacile vecinului au intrat acolo si au pascut florile si verdeata. Nimeni nu a mai udat plantele si curand totul s-a ofilit si s-a uscat. Trecatorii se mirau de neglijenta acestui fiu indolent si trandav. Oh- raspunde el, tatal meu a plecat fara sa-mi spuna ce trebuie sa fac!”

– „Voi crestini indieni, voi sunteti intocmai ca acest fiu; misionarii vostri au trebuit sa plece si vor fi departe mult timp, dar voi nu faceti nimic sa continuati opera lor. Daca voiti sa fiti feciori adevarati, sa va indepliniti datoria, fara sa asteptati un ordin special de la tatal vostru”.

Zi si noapte, Sadhu predica in numeroase adunari. Niciodata cineva nu a atras intr-un asemenea grad atentia si simpatia bisericilor din India. La dansul veneau din toate partile. Sfaturile pe care le dadea, erau intotdeauna pline de intelepciune, de bun simt si de masura. Exemplul pioasei sale mame si educatia pe care i-o daduse, reveneau constant in convorbirile lui cu femeile. – „Daca o mama pagana a putut sa faca atata pentru fiul ei, cu cat mai mult voi mame crestine, puteti sa faceti pentru copiii vostri!”

Foarte adesea –  intocmai ca Nicodim – multi veneau sa-l vada in timpul orelor tacute ale noptii si sa caute adevarul. Il rugau fierbinte sa viziteze bolnavii, sa binecuvanteze copiii. Un numar foarte mare, ca o legiune de oameni, cereau rugaciunile sale  si foarte multi au gasit usurarea asteptata. Vestea vindecarilor facute prin el a luat o astfel de proportie, incat el a refuzat sa raspunda la foarte multe apeluri. Hindusii atribuie voluntar o putere magica, unui barbat sfant.

Ceylon cca. 1900’s – faceti click pe poza pentru sursa

– „La Ceylon, un crestin de buna familie avea un copil, care era pe moarte. Medicii il condamnara si mama lui m-a rugat fierbinte sa vin, sa-mi pun mainile si sa ma rog pentru el. I-am spus ca aceste maini n-au nici o putere, ci singure  mainile strapunse ale lui Christos pot sa tamaduiasca. Cu toate acestea am consimtit in sfarsit sa merg la spital si sa vad pe tanarul bolnav. M-am rugat pentru el si am pus mainile mele pe capul lui. Trei zile mai tarziu l-am zarit asezat langa mama lui, in fundul unei sali in care predicam. In ciuda eforturilor mele, n-am putut convinge oamenii ca vindecarea nu era obtinuta printr-o putere supranaturala ci era acordata mamei de Christos ca raspuns la rugaciune. Astfel, staruiau sa ma priveasca ca un facator de minuni si eu am inteles ca era folositor sa nu incurajez o superstitie, care abatea atentia de la Evanghelie”.

Sadhu a participat la o mare adunare a bisericii siriene, unde 20 000 de crestini au fost prezenti. Aceasta comuniune crestina isi pretinde obarsia de la Apostolul Toma, venit se spune, sa predice Evanghelia in India. Dar in afara acestei traditii, – adevarata sau nu – este stabilit ca aceasta biserica exista inca din secolul al treilea, era crestina. Sundar a participat la una din congresele ramurei „Mar Thomas” , in Tranvacor. In fiecare an, in sezonul uscat, se construia un vast hangar pe o insula de nisip formata in albia secata a unui fluviu mare. Acolo, timp de o saptamana se tineau adunari de evanghelizare. In fiecare dimineata, inaintea aurorei un barbat strabatea cantonamentul strigand: – „Laudat fie Dumnezeu, laudat fie Fiul lui Dumnezeu!” – si de pretutindeni se intonau rugaciuni cantate pe vechile melodii siriene. Astfel se inaltau catre cer printr-un crescendo constant, invocarea ce trebuia sa ajute coborarea binecuvantarii peste adunarile zilei.

Datorita prezentei lui Sadhu, in anul acela a venit mai multa lume decat de obicei. Nu mai putin de 32 000 de auditori erau asezati pe nisip, in timp ce pe o platforma ridicata doi episcopi de-ai bisericii siriene, in roba de matase rosie, cu braie de aur si acoperiti cu turbane neobisnuite prezidau intrunirile. Alti predicatori printre care si Sadhu erau asezati pe estrada in felul indian. Cand episcopul indica un subiect de rugaciune, un murmur se ridica si mergea crescand pana ce devenea asemenea unei rostogoliri de talaz oceanic.

Harta denota Misiunile Crestine din India cca. 1900. Sundar Singh i-a mustrat pentru ca s-au limitat in vestirea lui Hristos doar la zona lor, motiv pentru care a trebuit sa vina misionari din alte tari ca sa vesteasca Evanghelia in India.

Sundar a vorbit deschis acestui mare auditoriu, spunandu-le ca o deosebita favoare le-a fost acordata prin cunostinta ce o aveau, despre Evanghelie dupa atatea secole. El i-a rugat sa se intrebe serios, pentru ce vestirea lui Christos, ramasese atat de mult limitata, numai la aceasta mica parte a Indiei? Din cauza neglijentei lor, Dumnezeu a trebuit sa trimita misionari straini, din Europa si din America, pentru ca sa faca lucrarea ce le fusese lor incredintata. Sadhu ii zorea cu staruinta sa raspunda in fine la apelul divin si sa aduca lumina milioanelor de hindusi, ce mureau in intunerec.

Sadhu niciodata nu a atacat violent religia in care s-a nascut. El primea pe toti cei ce aveau principii religioase si nu cauta sa angajeze contraverse; voia doar sa contruiasca si sa nu darame. Prin dulceata sa, prin smerenia sa, prin acceptarea linistita a umilintelor si insultelor, si inca mai mult prin marturia facuta a vietii sale, decat prin cuvintele sale, el castiga inimile care vedeau in el, insasi dragostea lui Christos.

– „Viitorul credintei crestine in India, scrie C.F. Andrews, in cartea lui despre Sadhu Sundar Singh,  (poti sa o citesti aici, online in L. Engleza) este centrat pe idealul pe care Sadhu l-a asezat in fata crestinilor; Christos va fi gasit de hindusi, numai daca acei care se numesc crestini, n-au intunecat prezenta lui Dumnezeu pe pamant. Daca cei ce lucreaza ar apartine exclusiv lui Christos, spune Sundar, de mult timp lumea intreaga ar fi devenit crestina. Si trebuie sa marturisesc, in timp ce necrestinii, care cauta adevarul, sunt gata sa sufere pentru a-l gasi, biserica crestina in cea mai mare parte a lipsit”.

Sundar a lucrat sase saptamani in Ceylon, unde sederea sa a fost pregatita de misionari si laici de toate felurile. Mahomedani, hindusi, budisti, catolici, protestanti,toti veniti de departe, se inghesuiau in preajma locurilor de adunare, cu mult inainte de ora fixata. La Colombo, sute de oameni n-au putut ajunge macar pana la usile cladirii unde el vorbea. Numele lui era pe buzele tuturor.

Vazandu-l atat de calm si atat de blajin in mijlocul acestor multimi, care il urmareau si in clipele lui de odihna, nu se indoia nimeni de suferinta ce ii era provocata de aceasta popularitate, si cat era de departe de aceasta activitate clocotitoare de viata pe care el si-o dorea.

El a vorbit sever ascultatorilor, despre ceea ce considera ca sunt cele mai mari obstacole in raspandirea Evangheliei; pericolul bogatiilor si luxului si lepra spiritului de casta, care se observa chiar printre crestini. Niciodata India n-a fost scuturata de toropeala ei, cum a fost atunci, prin mesajul simplu al lui Christos cel rastignit si inviat.

Sadhu se afla atunci in culmea popularitatii sale, si aici isi are locul urmatorul fapt: Intr-o zi cand se dusese in jungla sa se roage, un individ plin de cucernicie se apropie de el: – „Iertati-ma ca va tulbur singuratatea si va intrerup rugile, dar oare nu este o datorie sa cauti binele altora? Viata dumneavoastra curata si de renuntare m-au impresionat adanc, la fel ca si pe cei multi ce cauta pe Dumnezeu. Cu toate ca v-ati consacrat corpul si sufletul pentru binele aproapelui, totusi n-ati fost suficient recompensat. Si iata ce vreau sa spun: crestin devenit, influenta dumneavoastra s-a intins peste sute de oameni, insa ea ramane limitata. N-ar fi mai bine pentru dumneavoastra sa deveniti ca hindus sau musulman un „lider” al poporului? Daca consimtiti la acest lucru, curand veti vedea milioane ca va urmeaza si adora ca pe „guru-ul” lor”.

Cand Sadhu auzi aceste cuvinte, raspunse imediat: „Inapoia mea Satano, eu stiu ca esti un lup imbracat in piele de miel, tu doresti ca eu sa renunt a urma calea cea stramta a vietii care este ceea a crucii, pentru a apuca pe drumul mare care duce la moarte. Rasplata mea este insusi Domnul, care si-a dat viata pentru mine si fericirea si datoria mea este sa ma daruiesc Lui cu tot ce posed. Pleaca de la mine, eu n-am de-a face cu tine”.

Sundar planse si se ruga mult. Terminand rugaciunea, el vazu drept inaintea sa o fiinta cereasca glorioasa. Lacrimile turburau viziunea lui Sadhu, dar un fluviu de iubire inunda inima sa. El respinse ispita de a deveni un „guru” hindus asemenea lui Ninak, onorat de toti si unind crestinismul si toate religiile Indiei intr-un sistem, care facea pe Isus egalul lui Mohamed sau a lui Buda. Nu! Pentru Sundar Singh, exista un singur Mantuitor, Isus Christos, o singura Evanghelie, adica buna vestire a harului lui Dumnezeu, ce este in Christos, acelasi ieri, astazi si in vecii vecilor.

Pretutindeni remarcabila personalitate a lui Sadhu starnea un interes extraordinar si dadea o mare putere cuvintelor sale. Acest interes se degaja dintr-insul ca o emanatie de energie spirituala, care il facea numaidecat recunoscut ca un trimis de-al lui Christos, investit cu un special mesaj. El a provocat in intreaga populatie o trezire de o importanta fara de pret. Nu ramane indoiala, ca predicarea sa a produs fructe din belsug si ca a facut sa se nasca un sentiment mai viu si mai profund despre ceea ce trebuie sa fie viata crestina.

Din Ceylon, Sundar a mers la Calicut si la Bombay. Aici el s-a molipsit de gripa, boala care tocmai bantuia prin India. „Dumnezeu mi-a dat prin aceasta un timp de repaus, pe care nu l-am putut avea in Sud” , a spus el.

Apoi , a urmat plecarea sa in prima calatorie misionara in afara Indiei. El a fost chemat sa vina in Birmania la Rangon, la Mandalay, la Singapore. Ca sa evite greutatile traducerii, a inceput studierea limbii engleze. El nu si-a luat cu sine nici un ban, ramanand fidel vorbelor lui Isus „nu fiti ingrijorati de viata voastra, adica ce veti manca si ce veti imbraca… Tatal vostru din ceruri stie de ce aveti nevoie”.

…continuarea capitolului sapte va urma in curand…

Reclame

The English Puritans: Perhaps the most remarkable body of men which the world has ever produced

We are extremely thankful for the ongoing digitization of older books, manuscripts and periodicals (magazines)  which will no doubt be of great benefit, otherwise, this fine writing would have otherwise been confined to small geographic areas and populations. This is another article from Affinity.org, an organization who has uploaded many older periodicals onto their website. This article also comes from Foundations 37 (Autumn 1996) edition, as did the Martyn Lloyd-Jones material, recounting his stance at the New Delhi Evangelical Alliance Conference 30 years earlier. Here’s a sampling of recent assessments of the Puritans:

It is now generally acknowledged that the typical Puritans were not „wild men…religious fanatics and social extremists, but sober, conscientious, and cultured persons: persons of principle…excelling in the domestic virtues, and with no obvious shortcomings save a tendency to run to words when saying anything important”. The great Puritan pastor-theologians (to go no further)- Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, Howe, Perkins, Sibbes, Brooks, Watson, Gumall, Flavel, Bunyan, Manton, and others- „were men of outstanding intellectual power, as well as spiritual insight”. „For more than two centuries, since Daniel Neal’s History ofthe Puritans, it has been usual to define the Puritan movement in terms of the power struggle that went on in church and state”; and this, of course, is part of the truth, but it leaves the issue of Puritan motives unresolved. According to JI Packer, Dr Irvonwy Morgan supplies the vital clue. He writes:

The essential thing in understanding the Puritans was that they were preachers before they were anything else…Into whatever efforts they were led in their attempts to reform the world through the Church, and however these efforts were frustrated by the leaders of the Church, what bound them together, undergirded their striving, and gave them the dynamic to persist was their consciousness that they were called to preach the Gospel.

Puritan family, England cca. 1600’s
The Puritan Movement in England by Peter Golding (via) Affinity.org.uk

The Puritans were men whose minds had derived a peculiar interest from the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests…Perhaps the most remarkable body of men which the world has ever produced.

Lord Macaulay
Wherever the religion, the language, or the free spirit of our country has forced its way, the Puritans of old have some memorial. They have moulded the character and shaped the laws of other lands, and tinged with their devouter shades unnumbered congregations of Christian worshippers, even where no allegiance is professed, or willing homage done to their peculiarities. It is a party that has numbered in its ranks many of the best, and not a few of the greatest men that England has enrolled upon her history;

JB Marsden, History ofthe Early Puritans The Puritans, as a body, have done more to elevate the national character than any class of Englishmen that ever lived.

Bishop JC Ryle of Liverpool
Puritanism entered our bone and sinew; it gave an immense strength and discipline to our nation in the days of its grandeur.

Professor AG Dickens, The English Reformation
According to the church historian, Thomas Fuller, „Puritanism” as a recognised descriptive term first came into use about the year 1564. But who were the Puritans, and what was Puritanism? Surprisingly perhaps, these questions are more easily asked than answered.

I . A confused issue
In the words of Dr John Brown, „Puritanism was not so much an organized system as a religious temper and a moral force” . This is clearly borne out in the history of the period under review, for the term was by no means confined to those who separated from the Church of England, but included many who remained within her pale. However, as a modern writer puts it, „the definitions of ‘Puritan’ and ‘Puritanism’ have been, since their earliest use in England, a matter of crowded debate and widespread confusion”. Ferguson puts it similarly: „The problem of defining the concept ‘Puritan’ in historical terms has been frequently and inconclusively discussed”.

That being the case, some consideration needs to be given at the very outset to an understanding of the Puritan ethos, and hopefully also to a working definition of Puritanism as an historical phenomenon. In doing so, one must not be influenced by a popular misconception „the assumption that the Puritans were primarily strict and dour moralists, kill-joys and even hypocrites.” This is the most common modern sense of the word, but „to read it back into history is an error”. As one of the greatest modern authorities in this field expresses it, „Puritanism… should be defined with respect to the Puritans, and not vice versa”.

The Methodists of the 18th century, and to some extent the Fundamentalists of the 20th, have both suffered from a similar misconception. No doubt there were some associated with the Puritan movement who fell into the above-mentioned categories, and the popular image dies hard, but to stigmatize Puritanism as a Whole in that way simply will not stand up to historical investigation: and rigorous historical investigation above all is what is required here. For example, an article in the Daily Telegraph of 3 August 1991 describes the Puritans as those who „enjoyed smashing stained-glass windows”. An earlier report on the recent emphasis on physical health and fitness in the US referred to it as „the new Puritanism in the workplace,” and „the new Puritanism which is flaunted even within the White House”F „Puritan” may well have been used as a term of opprobrium during the period under investigation (as will be shown), but only by its opponents and enemies, who were hardly unbiased. Anyone seeking to grasp the nature of Puritanism, therefore, has to free his mind from popular prejudice and misunderstanding.

The fact of the matter is that, like Christianity itself, Puritanism is an historical phenomenon; and as such, „it must be investigated on the basis of historical evidence,” and „can be determined only by an examination of (its) beginnings…”.

2. The problem of definition

How then do we define Puritanism? John Adair writes: „In fact, ‘Puritan’ was one of several names applied by contemporary critics and enemies to ‘the hotter sort of Protestants'”. But although indicative oftheir zeal, this gives little information as to their distinctive outlook and beliefs, the rationale by which they were motivated. „The hotter sort of protestants are called puritans”, explains the Elizabethan pamphleteer Percival Wibum in his A checke or reproofe ofM. Howlet’s untimely schreeching,10 – but he was „innocent of the sophistication of later discussions of the problem”. In similar vein, GR Elton in his history of England under the Tudors, describes these men as „puritans” because they wanted „a religion ‘purified’ of all the works of Rome”. This too is inadequate. It provides a good definition of „protestant”, butis too simplistic as a description of „puritan”. In his introduction to a study of the Puritan doctrine of Assurance, a recent contributor to the Westminster Theological Journal raises the issue thus:

What was it that defined English Puritanism? Was it essentially a theological movement, emphasizing covenant theology, predestination, and a reformed church service? Or was the heart of the matter political, asserting the inalienable rights of conscience before God, the rule of natural law over arbitrary prerogative courts, the dependency ofthe king in parliament, the foundation of state authority in the people? Some modem research has pointed to a third possibility, that the essence of Puritanism was its piety, a stress on conversion, on existential, heartfelt religion.

No small testimony to the creativity and far-reaching influence of the Puritans lies in the fact that a steady stream of works exploring Puritan contributions in these three areas continues to be produced. The fact is that because the English Puritans engaged in such a diversity of effort, it is inevitable that scholarship should appear to present such a fragmented picture of them. For instance, Prof. John Fiske, „who has been ranked as one of the two greatest American historians”, says:

It is not too much to say that in the seventeenth century, the entire political future of mankind was staked upon the questions that were at issue in England. Had it not been for the Puritans, political liberty would probably have disappeared from the world. If ever there were men who laid down their lives in the cause of all mankind, it was those grim old Ironsides, whose watch-words were texts of Holy Writ, whose battle-cries were hymns of praise.

For more detailed consideration of the political aspect, (in the 17th century), William Hailer’s brilliant study Liberty and Reformation in the Puritan Revolution should be consulted. To some students of the period, if Oliver Cromwell and his secretary John Milton were Puritans, then Puritanism must have been a political movement. To others, if John Owen was a Puritan, then it must have been a theological movement. While to still others, if John Bunyan was a Puritan, then it must have been a pietistic movement. To this kind of approach, it is almost inconceivable that such disparate people should not only be identified with, but be organically related to one essential movement. But the thesis of this study is that this fissiparous tendency in Puritan scholarship needs to be countered with what it is hoped to establish as the unifying principle, the definitive core of Puritanism. In a paper delivered in 1990 entitled, The Nature of Puritanism, AA Davies expresses this desideratum somewhat humorously as follows: „Like the National Debt, inflation, and the girth of the middle-aged, the meaning of the term ‘Puritan’ has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished!” Today, it is applied, usually with contempt, to people who are, or who are regarded as, „strict, precise, or scrupulous in religion or morals”. John Adair speaks of „the Puritan within us”, identifying five characteristics which he believes we have inherited from our Puritan forebears: the Puritan ethic of hard work (and virtually possessing redemptive value); the concept of marriage as a union of spirit, mind and body; cultural simplicity, whether of music, architecture, clothes, or preaching; the belief that scientific investigation is more important than traditional authority; and Puritan values such as involvement in public life, contractual responsibilities, political realism, and self-examination. Nor is this expansion of the term a modern phenomenon; it happened in the 17th century as well. For example, „Puritan” was used in a political sense of those who favoured the restricting of the power of the monarchy by parliament, or even those people „who opposed a Spanish foreign policy”. Archbishop Whitgift, James I, and even Prince Charles have been dubbed „Puritans”! When used religiously, the term included on the one hand „rigid Calvinists” who favoured the Synod of Dort (1618), and on the other any who sought, like Richard Baxter’s father, to read the Bible when others were Morris- dancing etc. on the Sabbath, to pray at home, to reprove drunkards and swearers, and to speak sometimes afew words regarding the life to come.

The truth is that, as Elizabethan society became more secular, affluent, and worldly, „the criteria for determining who was a Puritan became progressively weakened and widened so as to include most serious-minded Protestants who dared to question the freedom of Englishmen to say or do as they pleased on any day of the week”. „He that has not every word on oath…they say he is a puritan, a precise fool, not fit to hold a gentleman company,” wrote a certain Barnaby Rich. By 1641, Henry Parker was complaining about people who enlarged the term to include „any civil, honest, Protestant”, and then contracted it so that it was used of „none but monstrous abominable heretics and miscreants”. Such has been the inflation of the term that CH and K George have argued that the word „Puritan” is the x of a social equation: it has no meaning beyond that given it by the particular manipulator of an algebra of abuse.25 However, inflation needs to be brought under control, and we need to strip away subsequent accretions to the name in order to arrive at an accurate historical definition.

„Puritan” itself was an imprecise term of contemptuous abuse, which between 1564 and 1642 (these exact dates are given by Thomas Fuller and Richard Baxter) was applied to at least five overlapping groups of people: – first, to clergy who scrupled some Prayer Book ceremonies and phrasing; second, to advocates of the Presbyterian reform programme broached by Thomas Cartwright (Lady Margaret Professor ofDivinity at Cambridge), and the 1572 Admonition to the Parliament; third, to clergy and laity, not necessarily non-conformists, who practised a serious Calvinistic piety; fourth, to „rigid Calvinists” who applauded the Synod ofDort, and were called doctrinal Puritans by other Anglicans who did not; fifth, to MPs, JPs, and other gentry who showed public respect for religion, the laws of England, and the rights of subjects.

The description of Puritans as „rigid Calvinists” first appeared in print in M Antonius de Dominis, The Cause of his Return, out of England. The equation had already been made, however, in a private document drawn up by John Overall, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, some time between 1610 and 1619, in which Overall contrasts the tenets of „the Remonstrants or Arminians, and the counter-Remonstrants or Puritans”.

In reply to Professor and Mrs George, then, „there was a specific, though complex and many sided, reality to which all these uses of the ‘odious name’ really did pertain”. This was a clergy-led movement „which for more than a century was held together, and given a sense of identity too deep for differences of judgement on questions of polity and politics to destroy”.

The introductory references to Puritan greatness may seem an unwarranted exercise in hagiography. Pillorying the Puritans, in particular, has long been a popular pastime on both sides of the Atlantic. „Puritan” as a name was, in fact, mud from the start. Coined in the early 1560s, it was always a satirical smear word implying peevishness, censoriousness, conceit, and a measure of hypocrisy, over and above its basic implication of religiously motivated discontent with what was seen as Elizabeth’s Laodicean and compromising Church of England.

Later, the word gained the further, political connotation of being against the Stuart monarchy, and for some sort of republicanism; „its primary reference, however, was still to what was seen as an odd, furious, and ugly form of Protestant religion”Y In England, anti-Puritan feeling was let loose at the time of the Restoration, and has flowed freely·ever since. During the past half-century, however, a major reassessment of Puritanism has taken place in historical scholarship, „Fifty years ago the academic study of Puritanism went over a watershed with the discovery that there was such a thing as Puritan culture, and a rich culture at that, over and above Puritan reactions against certain facets of medieval and Renaissance culture”.32 In fact, North America has been in the van of this new assessment with four classic studies published within a period of only two years which ensured that Puritan studies could never be the same again. These were: William Hailer, The Rise ofPuritanism (1938); ASP Woodhouse, Puritanism and Liberty (1938); MM Knappen, Tudor Puritanism (1939), described as „magisterial” by Professor Patrick Collinson, himself author of another, more recent classic, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (1991); and Perry Miller, The New England Mind, Vol. /: The Seventeenth Century (1939).

3. Recent reassessment

As a consequence, the conventional image has been radically revamped, and a plethora of more recent researchers have confirmed the view of Puritanism which these four volumes yielded. It is now generally acknowledged that the typical Puritans were not „wild men…religious fanatics and social extremists, but sober, conscientious, and cultured persons: persons of principle…excelling in the domestic virtues, and with no obvious shortcomings save a tendency to run to words when saying anything important”. The great Puritan pastor-theologians (to go no further)- Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, Howe, Perkins, Sibbes, Brooks, Watson, Gumall, Flavel, Bunyan, Manton, and others- „were men of outstanding intellectual power, as well as spiritual insight”. „For more than two centuries, since Daniel Neal’s History ofthe Puritans, it has been usual to define the Puritan movement in terms of the power struggle that went on in church and state”; and this, of course, is part of the truth, but it leaves the issue of Puritan motives unresolved. According to JI Packer, Dr Irvonwy Morgan supplies the vital clue. He writes:

The essential thing in understanding the Puritans was that they were preachers before they were anything else…Into whatever efforts they were led in their attempts to reform the world through the Church, and however these efforts were frustrated by the leaders of the Church, what bound them together, undergirded their striving, and gave them the dynamic to persist was their consciousness that they were called to preach the Gospel.

In other words, Puritanism was at heart a spiritual movement, passionately concerned with the glory of God and the life of godliness. It was this from its inception. So it was not, as William Hailer often implies, that the Puritan clergy turned to preaching and pastoral work as a means to the end of building-up a lay constituency strong enough to secure the reformation in church order which by 1570 they found was unattainable by direct action.

The truth is rather that, as Edward Dering’s John Knox-like sermon before Elizabeth in 1570 and the 1572Admonition (to look no further) make plain, the end to which all church order, on the Puritan view, was a means, and for which everything superstitious, misleading and Spirit-quenching must be rooted out, was the glory of God in and through the salvation

of sinners and the building up of lively congregations in which people met God.
The basis of this outlook was to be found in the Puritan view of Scripture as the „regulative principle” of doctrine and practice (and more especially of church worship and order- of which more anon). Puritanism, then, was in Packer’s words, „a movement · for church reform, pastoral renewal and evangelism, and spiritual revival”.40 In addition, and as an immediate expression of its zeal for the honour of God, it was a world-view, a total Christian philosophy and way of life. To summarise: the Puritan aim was to complete what the English Reformation had begun: to finish reshaping Anglican worship, to introduce effective church discipline into Anglican parishes, and to establish righteousness in the political, domestic, and socio-economic fields. So Prof. Basil Hall points out that we should use the term historically, as it was used by those who made it: i.e. of those „restlessly critical and occasionally .rebellious members of the Church of England”, who desired the further purification of their Church, in membership, worship, and government.

4. The essential concern

Historically, then, the essential concern of Puritanism was that the Protestant Reformation begun in the reign of Henry VIII, and furthered under Edward VI, should be completed. Clearly, that is the way Thomas Fuller understood it in 1655 when, writing of the year 1564, he said that „Puritan” was an „odious” nickname of abuse thrown at those ministers who refused to subscribe to the liturgy, ceremonies, and discipline of the established Church urged upon them by the bishops.42 This understanding of the term was confirmed by John Geree in his The Character ofan old English Puritane, or Non-Conformist (1646); by William Bradshaw in his English Puritanism (1605), and by Richard Baxter in his Autobiography.

Ifit is confined to this narrower sense, it will exclude the Separatists, who did not protest within but seceded from the national Church. However, „both Puritans and main- stream Separatists shared common ideas and ideals, and desired greater purity in the Churches and in the lives of their members”. The difference between them was initially one of „strategy, patience, and timing.” The Puritans were patently much closer to the Separatists in a theological and spiritual sense than they were to the Roman Catholics, or even to the Anglicanism of Laud or Hooker. As Professor Hall admits: „perhaps nothing can now prevent most writers from describing Browne, Penry, Robinson, Milton, Cromwell, Bunyan as Puritans, alongside of Cartwright, Travers, Perkins, and Preston who were Puritans in fact”.

Considered from this dual standpoint, Dr DM Lloyd-Jones, a modern „Puritan”, was not self-contradictory in defining Puritanism in two different ways. On the one hand, „Essential Puritanism”, he argued, „was not primarily a preference for one form of church government rather than another; but it was that outlook and teaching which put its emphasis upon a life of spiritual, personal religion, an intense realization of the presence of God, a devotion of the entire being to Him”.46 Elsewhere, in dealing with the perennial problem that people will persist in thinking of Puritanism as „just a narrow view of ethics, and of morality, and of conduct…as just a negative protest against pleasures, he adds:

But that is not Puritanism. The essence of Puritanism was a desire that the Reformation in the Church of England should be completed.

From this standpoint, Lord Macaulay gets to the nub of the issue. The Puritans, he says, were men „convinced that the reform which had been effected under King Edward (VI) had been far less searching and extensive than the interests of pure religion required”.48 From its beginnings in the early days of Elizabeth’s reign (1558-1603), the Puritan movement had this clear objective. In the words of William Hailer, one of the greatest modern authorities in this field, „The Puritans sought to push reform of government, worship, and discipline in the English Church beyond the limits fixed by the Elizabethan settlement”.49 When Elizabeth came to the throne, „the Reformation was secure but not complete. It was the Puritans’ aim to make it complete”.

It is true that in this purpose they failed, „and if this had been all, Puritanism would never have become the revolutionary force it proved to be in the life of the English people, and of people within the English tradition throughout the world”_ Certainly, Puritanism was much bigger than the desire to reconstitute the ecclesiastical organization of society. It was in fact „nothing but English Protestantism in its most dynamic form”, and before it had run its course, „it had transfused in large measure the whole of English life”. Hence the Puritan movement developed down to the outbreak of revolution in 1649 not only as a campaign for reorganizing the institutional structure of the church, but also as a concerted and sustained enterprise of preachers for setting forth in pulpit and press a conception of spiritual life and moral behaviour. In this sense, Puritanism was not incompatible with any given ecclesiastical system, episcopalian, presbyterian, or congregational, and in so being, „it changed the face of both church and nation far more radically than all their ecclesiastical and political planning could have done”.

However, the Puritans were all of one mind in this, whatever their other differences, that from the ecclesiastical standpoint, the Reformation of the Church of England had, because of political expediency, been stunted before it could be conformed to the primitive simplicity of the New Testament model. „Neither the civil nor ecclesiastical powers, they maintained, had the authority to add to, subtract from, or modify the sufficient, definitive teaching of the New Testament in its pattern of Church government and Church life”. „In sum, all Puritans were against any priest or ceremony being interposed between the Christian soul and its Maker,” says Maurice Ashley in his History ofthe Seventeenth Century.56 The whole discussion can be summed up by another modern authority on this period, MM Knappen:

The term „Puritan” is used … to designate the outlook of those English Protestants who actively favoured a reformation beyond that which the crown was willing to countenance and who yet stopped short ofAnabaptism. It therefore includes both Presbyterians and Independents, Separatists and Non-Separatists. It also includes a number of Anglicans who accepted the episcopal system, but who nevertheless desired to modelit and English Church life in general on the Continental Reformed patte

Such was the Puritan ethos as it developed under Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I, and blossomed in the Interregnum, before it withered in the dark tunnel of persecution between 1660 (Restoration) and 1689 (Toleration).

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