In the landmark book, 'The Puritan Hope,' first published in 1971, Iain Murray, traces the Puritan Hope of a glorious and worldwide revival before the second coming of Christ, from the Reformation onwards. He shows how this hope, or strong conviction of coming revival, was embraced firstly by the giants of Puritanism, then by men like David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield.
This optimistic view of soon-coming blessing was the driving force behind William Carey, and others who followed him, during the beginnings of the modern missionary movements. With scholarly exegesis of Scripture and much historical and biographical material Murray clearly explains and illustrates the Puritan Hope. Finally, he traces the eclipse of this Scriptural emphasis and the corresponding decline in missionary activity.
This is an excellent book which deserves to be read by all evangelical Christians who are seeking a Biblical basis and historical forerunners of the great end-time Revival.
The Banner of Truth Trust has kindky given us permission to reproduce this material (2 chapters here) but we strongly recommend our readers to purchase the entire book at http://www.banneroftruth.co.uk/
FOLLOWING as it did so closely upon the Reformation it is not surprising that the Puritan movement in England believed so firmly in revivals of religion as the great means by which the Church advances in the world. For the Reformation was itself the greatest revival since Pentecost — a Spring-time of new life for the Church on such a scale that the instances recorded in the apostolic era of three thousand being converted on one day, and of a ‘great multitude of the priests’ becoming ‘obedient to the faith’, no longer sounded incredible.
The Reformation, and still more, Puritanism, have been considered from many aspects but it has been too often overlooked that the main features of these movements, as, for instance, the extensiveness of their influence, the singular position given to Scripture and the transformation in character of the morally careless, are all effects of revival. When the Holy Spirit is poured out in a day of power the result is bound to affect whole communities and even nations. Conviction of sin, an anxiety to possess the Word of God, and dependence upon those truths which glorify God in mans s salvation, are inevitable consequences.
Today men may wonder at the influences which changed the spiritual direction of England and Scotland so rapidly four hundred years ago, making them Bible-reading nations and witnesses to a creed so unflattering to human nature and hateful to human pride.
Innumerable writers have attempted to explain the phenomena by political and social considerations. They have supposed that the success which the Reformers and Puritans achieved occurred through a curious combination of historical circumstances which cannot be expected to happen again. To the Christians of that era, however, the explanation was entirely different. They read in Scripture that when the Spirit is poured from on high then the wilderness becomes a fruitful field (Isa. 32.15). They read also, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts’ (Zech. 4.6), and they attributed all the spiritual renewal of their age to the mercy of God. In taking this view they understood at once that all the successes of the Reformation were repeatable — as repeatable as the victories of the apostolic age — for Scripture places no limitation upon the Spirit’s work of glorifying Christ and extending his kingdom. Thus there was recovered at the time of the Reformation belief in what may be called revival Christianity, and the attention which the Puritans who followed gave to this area of truth profoundly influenced the following centuries and gave to the English-speaking world what may be called the classic school of Protestant belief on revival. So prevalent indeed did this outlook become that until the nineteenth century all who wrote specifically upon the subject represented the Puritan standpoint. Of these writers the most notable who treated the subject of revival at length were Robert Fleming (i6 30—1694) in his The Fulfilling of the Scripture, Jonathan Edwards (1703—1758) in several works, and John Gillies (1712—I 796) in his Historical Collections Relating to Remarkable Periods of the Success of the Gospel.
It may here be observed, that from the fall of man to our day, the work of redemption in its effect has mainly been carried on by remarkable communications of the Spirit of God. Though there be a more constant influence of God’s Spirit always in some degree attending his ordinances, yet the way in which the greatest things have been done towards carrying on this work, always have been by remarkable effusions, at special seasons of mercy, as may fully appear hereafter in our further prosecution of our subject. JONATHAN EDWARDS History of the Work of Redemption, 1774, period I, part I (Edwards’ Works, 1840, vol 1)
The commencement of the Reformation in England and Scotland was marked by a thirst for Scripture among the people; Tyndale’s version of the New Testament circulated in both realms from 1526 onwards and soon a train of preachers appeared, at first small in number, whose ministry was attended by effects which had not been commonly seen for many long centuries. Of George Wishart, the Scottish reformer, martyred in 1546, we have this account of his open-air preaching: ‘He came to a dyke in a moor edge, upon the south-west side of Mauchline, upon the which he ascended. The whole multitude stood and sat about him (God gave the day pleasing and hot). He continued in preaching more than three hours. In that sermon God wrought so wonderfully with him that one of the most wicked men that was in that country, named Laurence Rankin, laird of Shiel, was converted. The tears ran from his eyes in such abundance that all men wondered. His conversion was without hypocrisy, for his life and conversation witnessed it in all times to come.’
Scenes like this were soon to become common in the northern kingdom. In May, 1556, John Knox, running the gauntlet of the Catholic powers who still controlled the country, preached for ten consecutive days in Edinburgh. When he returned to Scotland again, in 1559, the spiritual revival became general. ‘God did so multiply our number’, Knox writes of the growth of the Protestant cause, ‘that it appeared as if men had rained from the clouds.’ In a letter to an English friend written on June 23, 1559, he says: ‘Now, forty days and more, hath my God used my tongue in my native country, to the manifestation of His glory. Whatsoever now shall follow, as touching my own carcass, His holy name be praised. The thirst of the poor people, as well as of the nobility here, is wondrous great, which putteth me in comfort that Christ Jesus shall triumph for a space here, in the north and extreme parts of the earth.’
Looking back on this glorious period the Scottish Church historian, Kirkton, later wrote: ‘The Church of Scotland hath been singular among the churches. And, first, it is to be admired that, whereas in other nations the Lord thought it enough to convict a few in a city, village, or family to himself, leaving the greater part in darkness, in Scotland the whole nation was converted by lump; and within ten years after popery was discharged in Scotland, there were not ten persons of quality to be found in it who did not profess the true reformed religion, and so it was among the commons in proportion. Lo! here a nation born in one day.’ Even when allowance is made for the number who were carried by outward persuasion rather than by inner spiritual conviction the history of the Scottish Reformation bears eloquent record to the vast success which the Gospel then had. It was a great revival.
The same holds true of England. Despite the severest penalties against the possession of Scripture, and against unauthorized preaching, spiritual concern spread rapidly in the later years of Henry VIII, after the appearance of Tyndale’s New Testament. During the reign of the boy King, Edward VI (1547—1553), the public preaching of the gospel by Latimer, Hooper, Bradford and others was attended with remarkable success. An entry in the records of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, bears its own witness to the way in which people pressed to hear the Word of God; it notes that one shilling and sixpence was expended, ‘for mending divers pews that were broken when Doctor Latimer did preach’. Speaking of a few years later, John Jewel writes thus of open-air gatherings in the City of London: ‘Sometimes at Paul’s Cross six thousand persons were sitting together, which was very grievous to the papists.’ Details like these show that the English Reformation was much more than a series of legislative Acts executed by the authorities. Political decisions certainly entered in, but the policy of burning which claimed nearly three hundred Protestants in the reign of Mary Tudor (1553—1558) served to demonstrate that convictions were planted in many hearts which no force could uproot. Upon the death of Mary the last English Catholic monarch of Tudor days passed from the scene, and two years later, in 1560, the Scottish Parliament formally abolished the Catholic religion in Scotland.
The storm of persecution which blew itself out in Mary’s reign did more than test the roots of the new faith. By driving into temporary exile a number of the younger spiritual leaders it brought them into closer contact with the Reformed churches of the Continent. The influence of the two Continental theologians, Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr, had already been felt as they had taught at Cambridge and Oxford respectively in the days of Edward VI, but now, as a congregation of some two hundred exiles gathered at Geneva, the full weight of Calvin’s ministry — as mighty in the pulpit as in the lecture hall —was experienced at first hand. From this haven in the Swiss Alps Knox and Christopher Goodman went to Scotland, While the others returned to England after the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558. Thereafter the two groups in England and Scotland developed along parallel lines, like two streams originating at one fountain. The fountain was not so much Geneva, as the Bible which the exiles newly translated and issued with many marginal notes in 1560. Between that date and 1644 no less than 140 editions of the Geneva Bible were to be issued and, as a modern writer says, ‘it was read in every Presbyterian and Puritan home in both realms’. When these two streams came together again at the convening of the Westminster Assembly in 1643, their unanimity was given peerless expression in the great truths of evangelical religion set down in the Confession of Faith and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. In their understanding of the gospel and in practical divinity the Christians of England and Scotland were then one, and the expositions of the Scottish divines were as eagerly read in London as were the writings of the English Puritans north of the Border.
The problem which confronted the English and Scottish evangelicals in 1560 was basically the same, namely, the need to spread the gospel at the parish level in countries which had become formally Protestant. In England the main hindrance to this endeavour was the dead-weight of the Church, which though ‘reformed’ by Acts of Parliament, remained in many areas in its old pre-Reformation spiritual condition. For the next century the ‘Puritans’, as they were first nicknamed in the 1560's gave themselves to the work of renewal in the national Church — a work which was terminated by the ejection of most of them after the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1662. The Puritan age proper spanned these hundred years.
In Scotland, from the outset, the Church of Scotland was free from the entanglements which the semi-reformed state of the Church caused in England. At one blow the old priesthood and episcopal hierarchy lost their places, except in the still Catholic Highlands, and the leadership of the Reformed Church was in the hands of Knox (c.1514—1572) and his brethren. Yet the presbyterial form of church government, which set them free from the corruption of prelacy and made possible the exercise of a scriptural church discipline, was not long allowed to continue unimpeded. James VI of Scotland had no more enthusiasm for experimental godliness than his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, who was deposed from the throne in 1567, and shortly he came to set himself against Knox’s successors, an activity in which he could engage with all the more power when he also became James I, King of England in 1603. Thereafter, aided by willing bishops, he worked to shackle the independency of the Scottish Church and to suppress the English Puritans. This was the policy which led at length to the Civil War of 1642 and the defeat of his son, Charles I.
Despite the force exerted against both Puritans and Covenanters (the term usually attached to the Scots brethren because of their national covenants affirming the Reformed religion) they both prospered and that because the rising tide of spiritual life could not be effectively countered. A school of preachers arose in both realms of whom it could truly be said that their gospel came not in word only, ‘but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance’. (1 Thess. 1.5)
In England the University of Cambridge was the nursery for this school. Thomas Cartwright gave the movement its momentum in the late 1560's when his preaching in Great St. Mary’s became so popular that ‘the sexton was fain to take down the windows, by reason of the multitudes that came to hear him’. Cartwright and others were soon deposed for their boldness but the watchword of the movement continued to be, ‘Pray for reformation by the power of the word Preached’. From the 1570’s onward, friends of Cartwright, such as Richard Rogers, John Dod and Arthur Hildersham, began to put this into practice at the parish level. In the next thirty years the few swelled to a flood, partly through the foundation of Emmanuel College at Cambridge by Sir Walter Mildmay in 1584 (‘to render as many as possible fit for the administration of the Divine Word and Sacraments’), and partly by the conversion of William Perkins.
Perkins, born in the year of Elizabeth’s accession, became a student at Christ’s College, Cambridge, in 1577 when he was without any spiritual concern. The great change came while he was still a student. At the age of twenty-four he was made a Fellow of his college and later, for over fifteen years until his early death in 1602, preached at St. Andrew’s Church in the same university city. In these capacities Perkins had enormous influence. Even in 1613, when Thomas Goodwin went up to Cambridge, he tells us that ‘the whole town was filled with the discourse of the power of Mr. Perkins’ ministry’. ‘Master Perkins,’ says Samuel Clarke, ‘held forth a burning and shining light, the sparks whereof did fly abroad into all the corners of the kingdom.’
‘What can be the reason of this sad observation, That when formerly a few lights raised up in the nation, did shine so as to scatter and dispel the darkness of popery in a little time; yet now when there are more, and more learned men amongst us, the darkness comes on apace? Is it not because they were men filled with the Holy Ghost, and with power; and many of us are only filled with light and knowledge, and inefficacious notions of God’s truth? Doth not always the spirit of the ministers propagate itself amongst the people? A lively ministry, and lively Christians.’ ROBERT TRAILL (1642-1716) By What Means May Ministers Best Win Souls to Christ, 1682 (Traill’s Works1682, vol I, 250)
A similar power rested upon the ministry of Laurence Chaderton (c.1536—1640), the first Master of Emmanuel College, a position he resigned in favour of another Puritan, John Preston, in 1622. For fifty years Chaderton was also lecturer at St. Clement’s, Cambridge, and when he laid down this charge in 1618, at the age of seventy-two, it is said that forty ministers begged him to continue, attributing their conversion to him. Thomas Goodwin reports the words of a Cambridge friend who, speaking of the conviction of sin which accompanied Chaderton’s preaching, declared that ‘when he heard Mr. Chaderton preach the gospel, his apprehension was as if the sun, namely Jesus Christ, shined upon a dunghill’ On one occasion when Chaderton had preached for two hours and promised to stop, he was interrupted by a cry from the congregation, ‘For God’s sake Sir Go on, go on!
By the end of the sixteenth century Cambridge was beginning to reap results from the work done by the first generation of Puritans at the parish level. Richard Rogers, for instance, who toiled with much success at Wethersfield, Essex, from 1574 to 1618, saw Paul Baynes, one of the former pupils at his parish school, become Perkins’ successor in the lectureship in St. Andrew’s Church in 1602. Not wishing to have another like Perkins, the authorities later suspended Baynes, but not before he had been an instrument in the conversion of many, including Richard Sibbes who himself became one of the most successful preachers of the Puritan era. When Sibbes was appointed lecturer at Holy Trinity, Cambridge, in 1610, additional galleries had to be built to accommodate the crowded congregation. After 1615 he was ‘preacher’ at Gray’s Inn, London, but he returned to Cambridge as Master of St. Catherine’s Hall in 1626 and combined this with his London post until his death in 1635. One of the Fellows at St. Catherine’s Hall during this period was Thomas Goodwin, who in a sermon preached at this time reflected thus on the great work of God in Cambridge: ‘If in any age or in any coast it is or hath been full tide, it is now in England.... And this gospel hath made this kingdom and this town as a “crown of glory in the hand of the Lord;” and “the glory of the whole earth”, as Jerusalem is called.’
It is when one looks at some of the ministries produced from this nursery of preachers in Cambridge that the Puritan age as an age of revivals reveals itself. We can here only pause to give a few illustrative examples.
William Gouge (1575—1653), a student at Cambridge in Perkins’ day, became minister of the church at Blackfriars, London, in 1608; here he remained for forty-five years and six months. His general practice was to preach twice on Sunday and once every Wednesday forenoon to a crowded church. His expository sermons on Hebrews numbered more than a thousand, a work which save for half a chapter he had completed for publication by the time of his death. Of this man we read, God made him ‘an aged father in Christ... for thousands have been converted and built up by his ministry’. His son, Thomas Gouge, followed him in the ministry, and after his ejection in 1662 did much to establish the gospel in the Principality of Wales.
Samuel Fairclough (1594—1677) left Cambridge in 1623 for Barnardiston in East Anglia. Six years later he moved to Kedington, seventeen miles from Cambridge, where he remained until the Great Ejection. At the time of his settlement the place was characterized by profanity and ignorance, but ‘when he had been there sometime so great was the alteration that there was not a family in twenty but professed godliness’. Many would ride from Cambridge to hear Fairclough’s Thursday ‘lecture’ and not till long after were those days of spiritual blessing forgotten. Kedington Church, Samuel Clarke tells us, was ‘so thronged, that (though, for a village, very large and capacious, yet) there was no getting in, unless by some hours’ attending before his exercise began; and then the outward walls were generally lined with shoals and multitudes of people, which came (many) from far, (some above twenty miles), so that you could see the Church yard (which was likewise very spacious) barricaded with horses, tied to the outward rails, while their owners were greedily waiting to hear the word of life from his mouth’.’
It is plain that scenes like this were far from rare in East Anglia in the first half of the seventeenth century. Samuel Fairclough’s own father, Lawrence Fairclough, had seen spiritual prosperity in his ministry at Haverhill, Suffolk, before his death in 1603. The successor to his work in Haverhill was one of the most ‘awakening’ of all Puritan preachers and one whose ministry was attended with a power which was still being spoken of in the mid-eighteenth century. This John Rogers, nephew of Richard Rogers of Wethersfield, by whose financial support he studied at Emmanuel from 1588 until 1592. In 1605 he was called from Haverhill to be ‘lecturer’ in the beautiful vale of Dedham, later to be known to the world by the paintings of John Constable but famous in the seventeenth century for the great spiritual harvest which took place under Rogers’ ministry. ‘Let us go to Dedham to get a little fire’ became a common saying among his contemporaries.
One who went to Dedham was Thomas Goodwin, while a student at Cambridge, and many years later when he was Dr. Goodwin and President of Magdalen College, Oxford, he reported his memory of it to John Howe who recorded it as follows:
‘He told me that being himself, in the time of his youth, a student at Cambridge, and having heard much of Mr. Rogers of Dedham, in Essex, purposely he took a journey from Cambridge to Dedham to hear him preach on his lecture day. And in that sermon he falls into an expostulation with the people about their neglect of the Bible (I am afraid it is more neglected in our days); he personates God to the people, telling them, “Well, I have trusted you so long with my Bible; you have slighted it; it lies in such and such houses all covered with dust and cobwebs. You care not to look into it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.” And he takes up the Bible from his cushion, and seemed as if he were going away with it, and carrying it from them; but immediately turns again and personates the people to God, falls down on his knees, cries and pleads most earnestly, “Lord, whatsoever thou dost to us, take not thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us thy Bible, only take not away thy Bible”. And then he personates God again to the people: “Say you so? Well, I will try you a little longer; and here is my Bible for you, I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more, whether you will value it more, whether you will observe it more, whether you will practise it more, and live more according to it.” But by these actions (as the Doctor told me) he put all the congregation into so strange a posture that he never saw any congregation in his life. The place was a mere Bochim, the people generally (as it were) deluged with their own tears; and he told me that he himself, when he got out and was to take horse again to be gone, was fain to hang a quarter of an hour upon the neck of his horse weeping, before he had power to mount, so strange an impression was there upon him, and generally upon the people upon having been thus expostulated with for the neglect of the Bible.”
Another eye-witness of John Rogers’ ministry was John Angier, ‘who was under his supervision for a period while he completed his preparation for the ministry. ‘Mr. Rogers’, says Angier, ‘was a prodigy of zeal and success in his ministerial labours’ and he recalled how a sense of the greatness of eternal issues would at times overcome the crowded church at Dedham; on one such occasion Rogers took hold of the supports of the canopy over the pulpit with both hands, ‘roaring hideously to represent the torments of the damned’. At another time when Rogers was taking a wedding service he preached on the necessity of the wedding garment: ‘God made the word so effectual that the marriage solemnity was turned into bitter mourning, so that the ministers who were at the marriage were employed in comforting or advising those whose consciences had been awakened by that sermon.’
When the ‘Great Awakening’ began in America in 1740 and its critics complained of the novelty of the outward signs of grief and conviction to be witnessed in many congregations, the aged Timothy Edwards reminded them of how common this had once been in the days of John Rogers.
We shall content ourselves with one further example of the extraordinary measure of the Holy Spirit which rested upon much preaching in England in the Puritan period. This time we can quote from one of the few personal ministerial narratives which survive from three hundred years ago, the autobiography of Richard Baxter (1615-1691).
Baxter was born and spent his youth in Shropshire, a part of England then comparatively little influenced by the Puritan movement. In childhood he heard the word ‘Puritan’ only as a term of scorn in his neighbourhood, the villagers spending Sunday, except for the brief time in which Common-Prayer was read, ‘dancing under a May-Pole and a great tree, not far from my father’s door’. Books, however, did penetrate where there was no worthy preacher. About the age of fifteen Baxter was awakened and went ‘many a-day with a throbbing conscience’ through a reading of Edmund Bunny’s Resolution. Another book, obtained from a travelling pedlar, resolved this state of sorrow: it was Richard Sibbes’ Bruised Reed ‘which opened more the Love of God to me, and gave me a livelier apprehension of the Mystery of Redemption, and how much I was beholden to Jesus Christ’. In these new convictions he was further confirmed by the loan of part of William Perkins’ Works from a servant of his father.
Baxter’s theology never reached the full scriptural maturity of the school of Sibbes and Perkins, partly, perhaps, because he did not share the opportunities enjoyed by the many who trained at Cambridge in these years. Nevertheless, as an awakening preacher to the conscience, with constant emphasis on the need for personal godliness, Baxter attained to the front rank among the later Puritans. The most memorable part of his ministry was exercised in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, first for two years preceding the Civil War of 1642-6; then resuming in the late 1640’s when peace was again restored, and continuing until 1660. Looking back on the great change which had been wrought in Kidderminster, Baxter wrote about the year 1666:
‘When I came thither first, there was about one family in a street that worshipped God and called on his Name, and when I came away there were some streets where there was not past one Family in the side of a street that did not so; and that did not, by professing serious godliness, give us hopes of their sincerity…
‘And God was pleased also to give me abundant encouragement in the Lectures which I preached abroad in other places; as at Worcester, Cleobury, etc., but especially at Dudley and Sheffnal; at the former of which (being the first place that ever I preached in) the poor Nailers and other Labourers would not only crowd the Church as full as ever I saw any in London, but also hang upon the windows and the leads without.., so that I must here, to the praise of my dear Redeemer, set up this pillar of remembrance, even to His praise who hath employed me so many years in so comfortable a work, with such encouraging success!’
Baxter goes on to write of the general spiritual success which marked the Commonwealth period and refutes the sneers of those in the days of Charles II who attributed the ‘godliness’ of the former age to the material profit which men obtained by their hypocrisy:
‘I know in these times you may meet with men that confidently affirm that all religion was then trodden down, and heresy and schism were the only piety; but I give warning to all ages that they take heed how they believe any... I must bear this faithful witness to those times, that as far as I was acquainted, where before there was one godly profitable Preacher, there was then six or ten; and taking one place with another, I conjecture there is a proportionable increase of truly godly people, not counting heretics or perfidious rebels or church disturbers as such: But this increase of godliness was not in all places alike: For in some places where the ministers were formal, or ignorant, or weak and imprudent, contentious or negligent, the parishes were as bad as theretofore. And in some places, where the ministers had excellent parts, and holy lives, and thirsted after the good of souls, and wholly devoted themselves, their time and strength and estates thereunto, and thought no pains or cost too much, there abundance were converted to serious godliness. And with those of a middle state, usually they had a middle measure of success. And I must add this to the true information of posterity, that God did so wonderfully bless the labours of his unanimous faithful ministers, that had it not been for the faction of the Prelatists on one side that drew men off and the factions of the giddy and turbulent Sectaries on the other side, (who pull’d down all government, cried down the ministers, and broke all into confusion, and made the people at their wits’ end, not knowing what religion to be of); together with some laziness and selfishness in many of the ministry, I say, had it not been for these impediments, England had been like in a quarter of an Age to have become a Land of Saints, and a pattern of holiness to all the world and the unmatchable paradise of the earth.’
The testimony of Philip Henry (1631—1696) may also be cited in regard to the prevalence of evangelical religion in the Commonwealth period. Henry went up to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1647, and within a few years when Thomas Goodwin became President of Magdalen College and John Owen Dean of Christ Church, the university enjoyed a period of spiritual life comparable to that known in Cambridge in earlier years. Others then studying or teaching at the university included Joseph Alleine, John Howe and Stephen Charnock. In the early eighteenth century, when the spiritual blight which accompanied the Restoration had done its work, the fashionable Spectator diverted its readers with a tale describing how Goodwin examined applicants at Magdalen not so much on Latin and Greek as on the state of their souls. The examination of one nervous college applicant, ‘bred up by honest parents, was summed up in one short question, namely, Whether he was prepared for death?‘ Ridiculous this might seem to the Spectator’s readers, but Matthew Henry learned differently of the Oxford of those days from his father:
‘He would often mention it with thankfulness to God, what great helps and advantages he had then in the University, not only for learning, but for religion and piety. Serious godliness was in reputation, and besides the public opportunities they had, there were many of the scholars that used to meet together for prayer, and christian conference, to the great confirming of one another’s hearts in the fear and love of God, and the preparing of them for the service of the church in their generation. I have heard him speak of the prudent method they took then about the University sermons on the Lord’s day in the afternoon; which used to be preached by the fellows of colleges in their course; but, that being found not so much for edification, Dr. Owen and Dr. Goodwin performed that service alternately, and the young masters that were wont to preach it, had a lecture on Tuesday appointed them.’
Philip Henry spent the first eight years of his ministry at Worthenbury in Flintshire, and thereafter at Broad Oak, Flintshire, until his death in 1696. In those later years the great benefit which England had formerly enjoyed became the more apparent. ‘He would sometimes say,’ writes his son, ‘that during those years between forty and sixty [i.e. 1640-1660], though on civil accounts there were great disorders, and the foundations were out of course, yet, in the matters of God’s worship, things went well; there was freedom, and reformation, and a face of godliness was upon the nation, though there were those that made but a mask of it. Ordinances were administered in power and purity; and though there was much amiss, yet religion, at least in the profession of it, did prevail. This, saith he, we know very well, let men say what they will of those times.’
THE spiritual prosperity which accompanied the Puritan movement in England was paralleled by the revivals which occurred north of the Border during the same period. Here also the instrument was a powerful ministry stemming from colleges under the influence of faithful teachers of the Word. Andrew Melville, fresh from Geneva and twenty-nine years of age, led the way by reorganizing the moribund University of Glasgow in the years 1574—1580.
‘Old Mr. Hutcheson, minister at Killellan, used to say to Mr. Wodrow, author of the History of the Church of Scotland, “When I compare the times before the restoration  with the times since their revolution , I must own that the young ministers preach accurately and methodically; but there was far more of the power and efficacy of the Spirit and grace of God went along with sermons in those days than now: and, for my own part (all the glory be to God), I seldom set my foot in a pulpit in those times, but I had notice of some blessed effects of the Word”.’ JOHN GILLIES Historical Collections, 1754, vol 1, 315
In 1583 Robert Rollock was appointed the first Principal of the Town’s College of Edinburgh, and under his leadership the college soon began to supply the churches with men well qualified for the gospel ministry. Rollock was a forceful teacher and not afraid to see some emotion in his classes. He would pray with his students daily, says an old writer, and once a week expound some passage of Scripture to them, ‘in the close of which he was frequently very warm in his exhortations; which wrought more reformation upon the students than all the laws which were made, or the discipline which was exercised’.’ Besides his college work, we read that ‘he preached every Lord’s day in the church, with such fervency and evident demonstration of the Spirit, that he was the instrument of converting many to God’.’ Robert Boyd was one student who, as he tells us, first began ‘to learn Christ’ under that ‘happy and glorious soul’, Robert Rollock. Others who were under him at this memorable period include John Welch and Edward Brice — both greatly used in later revivals — and Charles Ferme and David Chalderwood, best remembered for their books. Ferme became a regent, or professor, under Rollock in 1589, and with his Logical Analysis of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans (a commentary which runs to 378 pages in the last-century reprint) he followed the practice which his mentor had commenced of preparing expository material to aid the pulpit. Rollock issued many commentaries, the worth of which was noted by J. C. Ryle when he wrote: ‘Of our old writers, Rollock, the Scotch divine, is incomparably the best. In fact, I do not know such a “buried treasure” as his Latin Commentary on St. John.’
Another factor which made Edinburgh a conspicuous centre of spiritual light at this time was the ministry of Robert Bruce, who in the late 1580’s came direct from studying under Melville at St. Andrews to John Knox’s old pulpit of St. Giles. At the very outset of his ministry there was an ‘extraordinary effusion of the Spirit when he first dispensed the Sacrament of the Supper’. Thereafter Bruce’s ministry was a constant witness to the fact that preaching does not depend upon the energy of human gifts for its success. Of this ministry Robert Fleming writes:
‘Whilst he was in the ministry at Edinburgh he shined as a great light through the whole land, the power and efficacy of the Spirit most sensibly accompanying the word he preached... his speech and his preaching was in such evidence and demonstration of the Spirit that by the shining of his face, and that shower of divine influence, wherewith the word spoken was accompanied, it was easy for the hearer to perceive that he had been in the mount with God… he preached ordinarily with such life and power, and the word spoken by him was accompanied with such a manifest presence, that it was evident to the hearers he was not alone at the work.., some of the most stout-hearted of his hearers were ordinarily made to tremble, and, by having these doors which formerly had been bolted against Jesus Christ, as by an irresistible power broke open, and the secrets of their hearts made manifest, they went away under convictions and carrying with them undeniable proof of Christ speaking in him.’
The freedom which the students of Bruce and Rollock enjoyed did not last long. By the 1590’s the conflict between King James and the Church was apparent, and the royal policy aimed at fettering the presbyterian system by the introduction of ‘commissioners’ (alias a new episcopacy) who would be a dependent upon the King’s favour as were the bishops south of the Border. The last free General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in the sixteenth century met at Edinburgh in I596 and thereafter all such gatherings were either packed and bribed, or simply put down and forbidden, until the famous Assembly which met in Glasgow in 1638. Many set-backs were endured in these forty years. Rollock died in his forty-third year; it speaks much for the faithfulness of the men whom he trained that they were soon proved ready to endure so much. Robert Boyd departed an unwilling exile to France in 1597; John Welch, protesting against the silencing of Bruce in 1605 was himself imprisoned and banished for life in 1606. Charles Ferme was confined for some years, as also was David Calderwood. Andrew Melville was summoned to London in 1605 and, after four years in the Tower, was banished to France, where he died in 1622.
The list of sufferers could be greatly extended; yet the fact is that it was in this same period that the gospel spread far and wide in Scotland, constantly registering new successes until loyalty to the faith of the Reformation became characteristic of a great part of the land. The one explanation for this is that the Holy Spirit in revival power was sovereignly dissipating the darkness and building a Church whose testimony was to be a beacon for succeeding centuries. Often the old records give us no more than a glimpse of what occurred, but what they tell us is enough to make us understand why, despite the persecution, it was an age of great spiritual prosperity.
We hear, for example, of John Davidson preaching to fellow ministers at the General Assembly of 1596 on the need for repentance: ‘In this he was so assisted by the Spirit working upon their hearts, that within an hour after they had convened, they began to look with another countenance than at first, and while he was exhorting them to these duties, the whole meeting was in tears, whereby that place might have justly been called Bochim.’ Commenting upon this day’s work in St. Giles, which had repercussions throughout the land, the modern biographer of Bruce writes: ‘Unquestionably there was a profound religious revival afoot, and behind the strivings of parties there was operative a great spiritual work such as cannot be recorded in the bald narrative of history.’
Similarly we read of a great revival under John Welch’s preaching in the south-west, in Kirkcudbright and at Ayr, before his banishment. When Samuel Rutherford settled in the same area, at Anwoth, in 1627, the results of the spiritual harvest in the time of Welch were in plentiful evidence. Rutherford refers to the former pastor of Kirkcudbright as ‘that Apostolicke, heavenly, and Propheticall man of God’ and reports, ‘from the godly witnesses of his life I have heard say, of every twenty four hours, he gave eight to prayer, except when the public necessities of his calling did call him to preach, visit, exhort in season and out of season.’
Even more remarkable was the effect which followed Bruce’s ministry in Inverness, in the wild and Catholic Highlands, when he was banished there for the second time in 1622. No great results appear to have marked his first stay there from 1605 to 1613, but during the second period in the northern capital a new day of blessing dawned in the North. Bruce sensed it even as he made the difficult and weary ride for the second time. On one of the last stages of the journey he stood so long, rapt in meditation, beside his horse one morning before mounting that his companion later asked him the reason for the delay. Bruce replied, ‘I was receiving my commission from my Master to go to Inverness, and He gave it me Himself before I set my foot in the stirrup, and thither I go to sow a seed in Inverness that shall not be rooted out for many ages.’ More than two centuries later Christians in the Highlands still spoke of the days when multitudes walked and took ferries from the counties of Ross and Sutherland to hear Bruce preach in Inverness. Speaking of Bruce’s ministry in general, his contemporary, David Calderwood, says he ‘gained to Christ many thousands of souls’. Kirkton mentions one instance: ‘A poor Highlander, hearing him, came to him after sermon and offered him his whole substance (which was only two cows) upon condition Mr. Bruce would make God his friend.’ This was the first of the many revivals which were to make north-east Scotland one oft the most Christian areas of the world.
Among others converted under Bruce was Alexander Henderson, when he was minister of Leuchars; he later took a leading part at the Westminster Assembly.
With the suppression of the General Assembly, the universities and colleges passed entirely under royal control, and the banishment of those best able to influence students was cleverly designed to prevent the training of such men as Edinburgh had produced in the late sixteenth century. But in 1614 King James misjudged his man when he appointed thirty-six-year-old Robert Boyd to be Principal and Professor of Divinity in the University of Glasgow. Boyd, as noted earlier, was a pupil of Rollock. He was of noble family, reserved, polished and a brilliant scholar. Having been long absent in France, and therefore uninvolved in the developing conflict between presbytery and episcopacy in Scotland James evidently judged that the man’s mildness and his dependence on the royal favour for his office would make him sufficiently pliable. It was one of the many mistakes which King James made, for within a few years the royal party in Scotland was complaining that Boyd had joined the ‘Puritans’.
In 1621 Boyd was compelled to lay down his post, but not before he had left his impress on a series of younger men whose calibre was not a whit less than those who trained under Rollock. One of these men was Robert Blair. Blair had recently been made a Master of Arts when Boyd took office at Glasgow, and in his Autobiography he tells us of the memorable first address which the new Principal gave. What moved him to take up this work, Boyd asked his hearers to consider, ‘seeing he was a gentleman of a considerable estate, whereupon he might live competently enough?’ ‘His answer’, writes Blair, ‘was, that considering the great wrath under the which he lay naturally, and the great salvation purchased to him by Jesus Christ, he had resolved to spend himself to the utmost, giving all diligence to glorify that Lord who had so loved him. I thought within myself, There is a man of God, there is one of a thousand Boyd’s great love was practical divinity and the study of matters pertaining to the conscience. He would take his pupils through such themes as the Christian’s conflicts with the Devil, and when they came to him to speak of their own spiritual experience he was a wise counsellor. Another of his students was John Livingstone, who says how Boyd was ‘one of an austere-like carriage, but of a most tender heart.... I always found him soe kind and familiar as made me wonder.’ Robert Baillie, one of the five Scots ministers appointed to the Westminster Assembly in 1643, was also at Glasgow under Boyd, and thirty years after his student days were over he spoke of the spirit of repentance and of joy sometimes stirred within them as their master prayed. For Baillie, who himself became Principal at Glasgow in brighter days, Boyd was among the most eminent of the Reformed Divines.
‘Scotland has since the Reformation sent more saints to heaven than any country in Europe of the same population.’ DAVID BOGUE Discourses on the Millennium, 1818, 362
One more future leader who as a regent, or professor, in the university was associated with Boyd was David Dickson. It is to Dickson that the English-speaking world owes the conception of a whole series of commentaries which for many years served to make the study of the Bible a common household employment. Boyd produced a Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians of stupendous size; as James Walker writes, this ‘led to the calamitous result of a great divine being buried under his own erudition’. The series of popular volumes which Dickson envisaged avoided this pitfall as the subsequent reprinting of a number of them has proved. To the series Dickson contributed expositions of Hebrews, 1635, Matthew, 1647, and Psalms, 1653—1654. George Hutcheson followed with rich folios on The Minor Prophets, 1653—1655, John, 1657, and Job, 1669. James Fergusson, ‘after the pattern held forth by those reverend brethren, Mr. David Dickson and Mr. George Hutcheson’, added his Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul (Galatians to Thessalonians), and Alexander Nisbet supplied A Brief Exposition of the First and Second Epistles General of Peter. The manuscript of Samuel Rutherford’s work on Isaiah was lost and never printed. James Durham’s volumes on The Song of Solomon, Revelation, and Job, were not designed as part of the same series, being published posthumously, as was the fine work of John Brown of Wamphray on Romans. ‘Nor are Dickson and his fellow-interpreters to be despised,’ writes James Walker. ‘They want the scholarship of the present day, though they were scholars. But though they want our scholarship, they were, more than our equals in theology.’ C. H. Spurgeon reached a similar verdict in his Commenting and Commentaries.
In his own day, however, Dickson was best known as a preacher and few were granted more success. Giving up his professorship at Glasgow in 1618, he became minister of Irvine in Ayrshire. Soon persecution was again on the increase and he was deprived of his charge and banished to the Highlands in 1622. Yet the mood of Dickson and his brethren was one of great confidence. At a prayer meeting held near Edinburgh in 1621 such enlargement of heart was given as petitions were presented to God that the ministers separated from each other with the assurance ‘that yet hereafter the work of God would flourish in the land more than formerly’. Dickson himself prayed for two hours that day, so John Livingstone tells us, and in a manner which convinced all present that God was hearing the pleas for ‘the present sad case of the Church’. In 1623, through the intervention of the Earl of Eglinton, Dickson was permitted to return to Irvine, and about the same time a great revival commenced. Robert Fleming reports it in these words:
‘I must here instance a very solemn and extraordinary outletting of the Spirit, which about the year 1625, and thereafter was in the west of Scotland, whilst the persecution of the church there was hot from the prelatic party; this by the profane rabble of that time was called the Stewarton-sickness, for in that parish first, but after through much of that country, particularly at Irvine, under the ministry of famous Mr. Dickson, it was most remarkable, where it can be said (which divers ministers and Christians yet alive can witness) that for a considerable time, few sabbaths did pass without some evidently converted, and some convincing proofs of the power of God accompanying his Word; yea, that many were so choaked and taken by the heart, that through terror the Spirit in such a measure convincing them of sin, in hearing of the Word they have been made to fall over and thus carried out the church, who after proved most solid and lively Christians.... Truly, this great spring-tide, which I may so call of the gospel, was not of a short time, but for some years’ continuance, yea, thus like a spreading moor-burn the power of godliness did advance from one place to another, which put a marvellous lustre on these parts of the country, the savour whereof brought many from other parts of the land to see the truth of the same.”
Such was the hunger to hear the Word of God preached in these times that week-day services became common. Dickson, for instance, held a service on Monday mornings before the opening of the market which on that day drew many from the surrounding area to Irvine. For this market-day sermon, it is said, the church was even more crowded than on the Lord’s Day. About the same time, on Monday, June 21, 1630, to be precise, a service was held at Shotts, a parish midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was at the conclusion of a week-end of communion services at which seventy-five-year-old Robert Bruce and others had been ministering the Word. By the Sunday evening, such was the sense of the presence of God that many were unwilling to go away, and thus, after a night spent by a number in prayer, a further service was held in the morning. The preacher was young John Livingstone and the occasion he later remembered as ‘the one day in all my life wherein I got most presence of God in public’. Thirty years after that communion Robert Fleming recalled the results of those four days at the Kirk of Shotts. A ‘down-pouring of the Spirit’, he says, accompanied the ordinances, ‘especially that sermon on the Monday, the 21st of June, that it was known, which I can speak on sure ground, near five hundred had at that time a discernible change wrought on them, of whom most proved lively Christians afterward: it was the sowing of a seed through Clydsdale, so as many of most eminent Christians in that country could date either their conversion, or some remarkable confirmation in their case from that day’.
Equally memorable was the work now done in the plantation of Ulster which became a haven for both English and Scots ministers of Puritan conviction. In the 1620’s several such men who had settled in Ireland began to work together with much unity and affection. In 1623 Robert Blair arrived, newly dismissed from his professorship at Glasgow, and he in turn encouraged another of Boyd’s former regents, Josias Welch, to come over to Ireland. This was the son of John Welch and as Blair noted, ‘A great measure of that spirit which wrought in and by the father rested on the son’. They were joined in the late summer of 1630 by John Livingstone.
The moral state of Ireland had been hitherto deplorable. Atheism and sin abounded and the ministry of a large part of the clergy was not only ineffectual but worse than nothing. As in Jeremiah’s day, ‘from the prophets of Israel profaneness went forth into all the land’. Livingstone was not the only newcomer to be dismayed at the ignorance of the people, and on his settlement in the parish of Killinshie, he said, ‘I saw no appearance of doing any good among them.’ Yet to a population so generally sunk in carelessness the power of divine grace was now manifested. The first ministry to be attended with evidence that an awakening was at hand was that of the eccentric James Glendinning of Carrickfergus. Blair, recognizing this man’s limitations, advised him to seek a less exacting charge. He also urged upon him the duty of dealing more plainly and directly with the consciences of his hearers and advised him to seek to awaken them by the searching style of preaching which had been so largely blessed in Scotland. This counsel brought a turning point in Glendinning’s ministry; he moved to Oldstone, near the town of Antrim, and, amidst a people characterized by their licence and indifference, he preached the law of God and the terror of the divine wrath. Glendinning’s limitations were now unnoticed by a people who could only think of the message they heard. Andrew Stewart, a contemporary who witnessed what happened at Oldstone, later wrote with amazement of the change which was wrought:
‘Behold the success! For the hearers finding themselves condemned by the mouth of God speaking in His Word, fell into such anxiety and terror of conscience that they looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned; and this work appeared not in one single person or two, but multitudes were brought to understand their way, and to cry out, Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved? I have seen them myself stricken into a swoon with the Word; yea, a dozen in one day carried out of doors as dead, so marvellous was the power of God smiting their hearts for sin condemning and killing. And of these were none of the weaker sex or spirit, but indeed some of the boldest spirits, who formerly fear not to put a whole market-town in a fray; yet in defence of their stubbornness cared not to lie in prison and in the stocks, and being incorrigible, were as ready to do the like the next day.”
This revival, which commenced about the year 1626, was known after the name of the nearby river, the Six-Mile Water, which flows through the towns of Ballynure, Ballyclare and Templepatrick. Soon, however, the work spread far beyond the locality in which it commenced. In the reaping-time which followed, Robert Blair, Robert Cunningham, James Hamilton, the elderly Edward Brice — whom we noted at Edinburgh in Rollock’s day — Josias Welch, and several others, were all engaged. At the suggestion of John Ridge, an English minister of Antrim of the Puritan school, a meeting was held at Antrim on the first Friday of each month and to this all the ministers engaged in the awakening came for prayer and conference.’ On these Fridays a great congregation would gather and generally two ministers would preach in the morning and two in the afternoon. Speaking of this gathering, Livingstone writes:
‘We used to come together on the Thursday night before, and stayed the Friday night after, and consult about such things as concerned the carrying on the work of God, and these meetings among ourselves were sometimes as profitable as either presbytries or synods.’ Some of Robert Blair’s words are worthy of quotation, particularly as he had so much of the leadership of the work:
‘This monthly meeting thus beginning, continued many years, and was a great help to spread religion through that whole country.’ After naming nobility and ministers who gave their aid, he continues: ‘So mightily grew the Word of God, and his gracious work prospered in the hands of his faithful servants. ... There were many converts in all our congregations. That blessed work of conversion was now spread beyond the bounds of Down and Antrim, to the skirts of neighbouring counties, whence many came to the monthly meetings, and the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. The Lord was pleased to bless his Word, the people had a vehement appetite for it that could not be satisfied: they hung upon the ministers, still desirous to have more; no day was long enough, no room large enough.’
John Livingstone tells us this about the spirit of those days:
‘Among all these ministers there was never any jar or jealousie, yea, nor among the professors, the greatest part of them being Scots, and some good number of gracious English, all whose contention was to prefer others to themselves; and although the gifts of the ministers was much different, yet it was not observed that the hearers followed any to the undervaluing of others. Many of those religious professors had been both ignorant and prophane, and for debt and want, and worse causes, had left Scotland, yet the Lord was pleased by his Word to work such change. I doe not think there were more lively and experienced Christians any where than were these at that time in Ireland, and that in good numbers, and many of them persons of an good outward condition in the world. Being but lately brought in, the lively edge was not yet gone off them, and the perpetual fear that the bishops would put away their ministers, made them with great hunger wait on the ordinances. I have known them that have come several myles from their own houses to communions, to the Saturday sermon, and spent the whole Saturday night in several companies, sometimes an minister being with them, sometimes themselves alone in conference and prayer, and waited on the publick ordinances the whole Sabbath, and spent the Sabbath night likewise. . . . In these dayes it was no great difficultie for ane minister to preach or pray in publick or private, such was the hunger of the hearers; and it was hard to judge whether there was more of the Lord’s presence in the publick or private meetings.’
‘That solemn and great work of God, which was in the church of Ireland,’ says Fleming, ‘was a bright and hot sun-blink of the gospel; yea, may with sobriety be said to have been one of the largest manifestations of the Spirit, and of the most solemn times of the down-pouring thereof that almost since the days of the apostles hath been seen, where the power of God did sensibly accompany the Word with an unusual motion upon the hearers, and a very great tack, ( Footnote: A Scots word for a draught of fishes,) as to the conversion of souls to Christ. . . . I remember amongst other passages what a worthy Christian told me, how sometimes in hearing the Word, such a power and evidence of the Lord’s presence was with it, that he hath been forced to rise and look through the church and see what the people were doing, thinking from what he felt on his own spirit, it was a wonder how any could go away without some change upon them.’
This day of exceptional visitation passed away in the 1630’s. Some of the ministers were called home by death. Josias Welch died in 1634, his friends Blair and Livingstone being present on that triumphant day in June when he passed over. The son of John Welch ‘clapped both his hands, and cryed out, “Victory! Victory! Victory for evermore!” and within a short while thereafter he expired’. Another who departed about this time was Edward Brice, who ‘in all his preaching insisted most on the life of Christ in the heart’. He died in 1636, having been in Ireland since 1613. The remainder of the evangelical leaders were silenced by the episcopal opposition which was at its height in these days when Archbishop Laud hounded many Puritan ministers out of their pulpits. Robert Blair, for instance, was excommunicated by the Bishop of Down in 1634. After the sentence was pronounced, Blair rose and cited the bishop to appear before the tribunal of Jesus Christ to answer for his deed. Upon this the bishop expressed his confidence that he would be able to appeal to the mercy of God, only to be told by the persecuted minister, ‘Your appeal is like to be rejected because you act against the light of your own conscience.’ (Fottnote: Shortly after this the bishop fell seriously ill. When his physician, Dr. Maxwell, came to enquire what was wrong, ‘he was long silent, and with great difficulty uttered these words, “It is my conscience, man”. To which the doctor replied, “I have no cure for that”.’)
Notwithstanding the comparative shortness of this ‘sun-blink’ in Ulster, and despite the terrible massacre which occurred in 1641, claiming the lives of some forty thousand Protestants, J. S. Reid could write of this time in his History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, published in 1833: ‘The Gospel shot forth its branches in Ulster with wonderful rapidity, till, like the grain of mustard, from being the least of all seeds, it became a great and noble tree, which after the lapse of two centuries and the beating of many bitter storms, stands, at the present day, more firm and vigorous than ever.’ Meanwhile in Scotland Bruce had died in 1631. Shortly before his death there had been one of those prayer meetings, in his home, which were so characteristic of the period, and from which much spiritual energy and confidence was derived. The aged Bruce prayed ‘with such an extraordinary motion upon the hearts of all present, and so sensible an outpouring of the Spirit, as scarce any present were able to contain themselves’.
In the years which immediately followed, the episcopal party made a last desperate attempt to stem the rising tide of allegiance to the evangelical faith. Robert Blair and his associates, Livingstone, Cunningham and Ridge, were harried out of Ireland by persecution, only to find a similar situation prevailing in Scotland. We are not surprised to learn that it was David Dickson and the people of Irvine who at risk to themselves sheltered these fugitives. The work of the two older men, Cunningham, the Scot, and Ridge, the Englishman, was done, and here at Irvine they died in peace. They had already proved in this world what Rutherford anticipated of heaven, ‘When we come up to our father’s house the higher Jerusalem, I trust we shall not stand in a vicinity to, or a distance from his face who sits on the throne and the Lamb, as English and Scottish’. Blair and Livingstone survived the storm and were leaders of the Scottish Church in the new age which was at hand.
It is against this background that the great political events of the late 1630’s in Scotland are to be understood — the rejection of Laud’s liturgy, the rallying of the people to sign the National Covenant, the abolition of Episcopacy at the General Assembly of 1638, leading in turn to the two Bishops’ Wars, so called because of Charles I’s intervention to support his falling party in Scotland. The story of the events between 1638 and 1660, with the Civil Wars, the Solemn League and Covenant uniting the Puritans in England and Scotland, the Westminster Assembly, and the work of Cromwell, has often been told. But with all the political confusion of that period it is often forgotten that for the churches these were years of peace and of much prosperity. The seed sown in tears was indeed reaped with joy. James Kirkton’s words on the spiritual state of Scotland before the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 are a fitting testimony with which to close this sketch of a great revival period:
‘At the king’s return every parish had a minister, every village had a school, every family almost had a Bible. . . . Every minister was a very full professor of the reformed religion, according to the large confession of faith framed at Westminster by the divines of both nations. Every minister was obliged to preach thrice a week, to lecture and catechise once, besides other private duties wherein they abounded, according to their proportion of faithfulness and abilities. None of them might be scandalous in their conversation, or negligent in their office, so long as a presbytrie stood; and among them were many holy in conversation and eminent in gifts... nor did a minister satisfy himself except his ministry had the seal of a divine approbation, as might witness him to be really sent from God. Indeed, in many places the spirit seemed to be poured out with the Word, both by the multitude of sincere converts, and also by the common work of reformation upon many who never came the length of a communion.... I have lived many years in a parish where I never heard an oath, and you might have ridden many miles before you heard any: Also, you could not for a great part of the country have lodged in a family where the Lord was not worshipped by reading, singing and publick prayer. No body complained more of our church government than our taverners, whose ordinary lamentation was, their trade was broke, people were become so sober.’
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