The Puritans bequeathed to us a heritage of pastoral theology unsurpassed in the history of the English-speaking church. The Puritans modelled a pattern of ministry that was both plainly Biblical and intensely devotional. The Puritans managed to balance head and heart, doctrine and devotion.
Puritan theology (defined as Biblical, Evangelical and Reformed theology) served for more than three centuries as the basic doctrinal framework for Evangelicalism, throughout the Protestant world, including Baptist, Congregational, Independent, Anglican and Presbyterian traditions.
The Puritans were convinced that Biblical theology and doctrinal truth were essential for healthy Christian experience and service. They insisted that the saving knowledge of God is essential for Christian living. This means that we need to know God personally and learn more about Him through His Word. What we believe affects how we live. Bad theology leads to bad practice. “It is impossible to honour God as we ought, unless we know Him as He is.”
The fundamental idea of Puritanism was the supreme authority of Scripture and it expressed itself in a fervent dedication to the cause of civil freedom.
Did you know that the first English translations of the Bible were banned? That the first printed copies of the New Testament in English had to be printed in Germany and smuggled into England in bales of cotton? Did you know that the Bible translator responsible for this was burned at the stake for the crime of translating the Scriptures into English?
Bishop Stephen Bradley observed: “We are in danger of forgetting truths for which previous generations gave their lives.”
That our churches are in danger of forgetting the great Reformation truths, for which previous generations of martyrs willingly laid down their lives, was forcefully impressed upon me during a ministry trip to Europe. I had the opportunity to visit Oxford and see the Martyrs Memorial. It drew my attention to an event that occurred 450 years before.
The Reformation in Europe during the 16th century was one of the most important epochs in the history of the world. The Reformation gave us the Bible now freely available in our own languages. The now almost universally acknowledged principles of religious freedom, liberty of conscience, the rule of law, separation of powers and constitutionally limited Republics were unthinkable before the Reformation. The Reformers fought for the principles that Scripture alone is our final authority, Christ alone is the head of the Church and justification is by God's grace alone, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, received by faith alone.
Few people today realise that the first Bibles printed into English had to be smuggled into England, and that the Bible translator, William Tyndale, was burnt at the stake for the crime of translating the Bible into English.
The extra-ordinary attempt by US president Barak Hussein Obama to deflect attention from violent Islamic Jihad by condemning the Inquisition as 'evil done in the Name of Jesus Christ', should make us take a fresh look at the Inquisition:
One of the re-occurring accusations against Christianity is that Christians are responsible for: "The Inquisition!"
Frequently, while trying to love one's neighbour and share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, Christians receive some tirade against "The Church" and "The Inquisition!" The Inquisition is used as some kind of general-purpose club with which to bludgeon Evangelical Christians.
On one occasion while I was being interviewed on a national secular radio programme, on the publication of my book: Biblical Principles for Africa, the first caller attacked me, and my book, over something that the book doesn't even deal with - she claimed that Christians were responsible for 'the Inquisition' which 'burned thousands of witches!'
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them." Matthew 7:15-16
STEPHEN VII (896-897AD)
"He dug up a Corsican predecessor, Pope Formosus (891-896), when he had been dead for over nine months. He dressed the stinking corpse in full pontificals, placed him on the throne in the Lateran and proceeded to interrogate him personally. After being found guilty, the corpse was condemned as an anti-pope, stripped and minus the two fingers with which he had given his fake apostolic blessing, was thrown into the Tiber." (Vicars of Christ - the Dark Side of the Papacy by Father Peter de Rosa).
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Western civilisation has been blessed with the greatest freedom, productivity and prosperity ever known in history. The liberty, standards of justice and creativity enjoyed in Western civilisation is a direct result of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.
First Things First
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught: "But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:33
In the book of Judges we read about another generation, which arose, which knew neither the Lord nor what He had done (Judges 2:10). Today, it appears that a generation has arisen, which like Israel under the Judges, knows little of either the Lord nor of what He did during the time of the Protestant exodus and the struggles in the wilderness, which followed in the 16th and 17th century. Sometimes this is from a cowardly dislike of controversy and confrontation. But few people seem to understand either the evils from which the Reformation delivered us or the blessings, which the Reformation won for us.
THE REFORMATION DELIVERED THE CHURCH FROM GROSS IGNORANCE AND SPIRITUAL DARKNESS
The church, before the Reformation, was a church without the Bible. And a church without a Bible is as useless as a lighthouse without light, a candlestick without a candle, or a motor vehicle without an engine. The priests and people knew scarcely anything about God's Word or the way of salvation in Christ.
1.King Alfred the Great - The Reformer King
King Alfred of Wessex (849-901) lived through tumultuous times and, in his 30 years reign, he personally commanded in 54 pitched battles against the invading Danish Vikings. King Alfred began the process of converting the blood-thirsty Viking invaders to Christianity. Alfred was both a great soldier and scholar, a law-maker, educator, author and Reformer. Alfred was a dedicated Christian, the first to translate the Gospels, and other parts of the Bible, into English. He donated half of his personal income to Church schools and founded numerous schools. He was recognised as the Father of the English Navy and he gave England a stable system of laws based upon God's Law. King Alfred's Dooms (The Common Law) began with The 10 Commandments, the Laws of Moses, the Golden Rule of Christ, and other Biblical principles from the Sermon on the Mount. No other sovereign did more in battle, in establishing law, promoting the education of his people and bringing his enemies to Christ.
31 October is Reformation Day. The message of The Greatest Century of Reformation is both important and urgent. We want God to bless our countries. But we cannot expect God to bless those who are in rebellion to His Laws. Our societies need Reformation and our churches need Revival.
As in the days of the Reformers, today we are facing both internal and external threats. Internally we are facing a renaissance of paganism. Externally we are facing threats from an aggressive radical Islamic Jihad.
Even more seriously, there is a crisis in our churches. Most of our people are ignorant of history, and have a very superficial grasp of Scripture. As a result, many professing Christians are compromising, cowardly and ineffective. Our churches are filled with weak and worldly, lukewarm and inactive members. In many cases the salt has lost its flavour, and the light is being hid under a bushel.