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
that the Holy Spirit illumines the mind of any Christian as he or she reads the Bible. ‚ÄúEvery godly man hath in him a spiritual light,‚Äù declared John White, ‚Äúby which he is directed in the understanding of God‚Äôs mind revealed in His word.‚Äù Thomas Goodwin said with equal confidence that The 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 ‚Äúthe Pope the doorkeeper of Scripture, not the Holy Spirit.‚Äù Set in the context of ingenious Catholic allegorizing in which the Bible‚Äôs 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. ‚ÄîLeland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Academie Books, 1986), 146‚Äì147.
God isn’t good to us for our own sake. We, in ourselves, are just not that important. Contrary to modern feel-good evangelical-speak, if God had a refrigerator, our pictures would not be on it. The picture on God’s refrigerator would be that of his only begotten son, Jesus. It is only as we are united with Christ through his death on the cross that the Father’s love for the Son is lavished upon us. And then we become the recipients, through Christ, of “the exceeding riches of his grace.” Then, everything that is Christ’s becomes ours.
“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through (or in) Christ Jesus.” —Ephesians 2:7 Why this phrase “in Christ Jesus,” which Paul has used so often before, added again and again? It is added not just because he would have us never to leave Jesus Christ out. I do not know who can begin without Christ or continue without Christ. I am sure the apostle never leaves him out; no, not in election and adoption, nor in anything, and not now, when he comes to heaven; whatever he speaks of, Christ comes in. But this is not all; his meaning is that all the glory that saints shall have from those exceeding riches of His grace in heaven shall all be in Christ. He had told them that God had blessed them with all heavenly blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3–4). If we have heavenly blessings in Christ while upon earth, it will be much more so then; the more heavenly they are, the more they are in Christ. Indeed, outside of Christ God could not love any creature, nor would love any creature, much less would permit any creature to be near Him, but He has blessed them and will continue to be kind to them in Christ. In the second place, this phrase is added for a greater, more emphatic purpose, and no greater purpose can me mentioned—to show that all God will bestow on us in heaven shall be out of the same kindness He bears toward Jesus Christ Himself. He will treat you kindly when you come there. Think how kindly He treated His Son, how welcome He made Him when He came to heaven, when He said, “Sit thou here, till I make thine enemies thy footstool;” (Ps. 110:1). Why, the same kindness he bears to Christ He bears to us, and out of that kindness He Bears to Christ he will entertain us there forevermore, and heartily and freely spend His utmost riches upon us, for He will glorify the Head and the members with the same glory. Therefore, the apostle showed in the first chapter that He set up Jesus Christ as the Head, and the same power that worked in Him, raised Him up, and set Him in heaven also works in us and shall accomplish it all in us. Here he shows that with the same kindness with which He embraced Jesus Christ as the Head, He embraces the whole body, and out of that kindness He will entertain them everlastingly, as He has done for Jesus Christ. As we and Christ make one body, so God’s love to Christ and us is one love. There is one Father, one Spirit, and one love, and indeed one Christ; for both body and Head make on Christ. Id need not prove this further, for we see in John 17:23: “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Likewise, verse 22: “The glory which thou gave me I have given them.” What more could be said to show us how great the glory of the riches of His grace in heaven will be? Not only is Jesus Christ a pattern and example of it, but it proceeds out of the same kindness that God has toward Jesus Christ Himself. —Thomas Goodwin, A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin, (Reformation Heritage Books, 2009), 121–123.
At the age of thirteen, future Westminster Divine Thomas Goodwin (1600‚Äì1679) was enrolled at Christ‚Äôs College, Cambridge, where he pursued studies for the ministry. During this time, he was strongly influenced by Richard Sibbes, who preached regularly at Trinity Church. at age fourteen, Goodwin hoped to receive the Lord‚Äôs Supper on Easter Sunday. His tutor, however, ‚Äúlovingly restrained the boy from receiving Communion because of his age and spiritual immaturity.‚Äù In reaction, Goodwin turned away from Puritan teaching and ‚Äúset his heart on becoming a popular preacher,‚Äù following the example of preachers who ‚Äúcared more for style than substance.‚Äù (I imagine he might have fit right in with the Warrens and Osteens of our day.) Just after his twentieth birthday, he and some friends attended a funeral at which Thomas Bainbridge preached on Luke 19:41‚Äì42. Goodwin was convicted of his ‚Äúdesperate condition, which left him exposed to the wrath of God.‚Äù Later that same day, he received deliverance as God spoke to him from Ezekiel 16:
‚ÄòLive, yea, I said unto you, Live‚Äô‚Äîso God was pleased on the sudden, and as it were in an instant, to alter the whole of his dispensation toward me, and said of and to my soul, ‚ÄòYea, live; yea, live,‚Äô I say, said God: and as he created the world and the matter of all things by a word, so he created and put a new life and spirit into my soul, and so great an alteration was strange to me . . . God [then] took me aside, and as it were privately said unto me, ‚Äòdo you now turn to me, and I will pardon all your sins though never so many, as I forgave and pardoned my servant Paul, and convert you unto me‚Äô (Works, 2:lxi-lxii). ‚ÄîMeet the Puritans (Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 267‚Äì268.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. ‚ÄîPsalm 116:15
Thomas Goodwin went home in 1679. Of his final moments, his son wrote:
In all the violence of [his fever], he discoursed with that strength and assurance of Christ‚Äôs love, with that holy admiration of free grace, with that joy in believing, and such thanksgivings and praises, as he extremely moved and affected all that heard him. . . . He rejoiced in the thoughts that he was dying, and going to have a full and uninterrupted communion with God. ‚ÄúI am going,‚Äù said he, ‚Äúto the three Persons, with whom I have had communion: they have taken me; I did not take them. . . . I could not have imagined I should ever have had such a measure of faith in this hour. . . . Christ cannot love me better than he doth; I think I cannot love him better than I do; I am swallowed up in God. . . .‚Äù With this assurance of faith, and fullness of joy, his soul left this world. (Works, 2:lxxiv‚Äìlxxv). ‚ÄîMeet the Puritans (Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 273.