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Illumination for Interpretation


While Rome had held the clergy above the common people, declaring that only they could interpret the Scriptures, the Puritans followed the Reformers in insisting

imgthat the Holy Spirit illumines the mind of any Christian as he or she reads the Bible. “Every godly man hath in him a spiritual light,” declared John White, “by which he is directed in the understanding of God’s mind revealed in His word.” Thomas Goodwin said with equal confidence that
imgThe same Spirit that guided the holy apostles and prophets to write it must guide the people of God to know the meaning of it; and as he first delivered it, so must he help men to understand it.
What are we to make of this confidence that the Holy Spirit guides us in understanding the Bible? We must realize that Catholic allegorizing of the Bible had obscured Scripture, in effect making “the Pope the doorkeeper of Scripture, not the Holy Spirit.” Set in the context of ingenious Catholic allegorizing in which the Bible’s message was decipherable only by the clergy, the Puritan belief in the illumination of the Holy Spirit put the Bible back within the grasp of every reader. Thus John Ball could write:
We are not necessarily tied to the exposition of Fathers or Councils for the finding out of the sense of Scripture. Who is the faithful interpreter of Scripture? The Holy Ghost speaking in the Scripture is the only faithful interpreter of the Scripture.

—Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Academie Books, 1986), 146–147.



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Posted  in: Church History · John Ball · John White · Leland Ryken · Papism · Thomas Goodwin · Worldly Saints
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