Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Shepherd and the Reformed Tradition Part III

Does Norman Shepherd find a place in the Puritan theology? I confess that this is the one Rev. Shepherd seems to believe teaches his position. He did, after all, teach in this strand of Puritan-Presbyterianism and always maintained that he adhered to the Westminster Confession of Faith. As can be seen in many who believe similar things to that of Rev. Shepherd, quotes from the Westminster Confession are many. Yet, it is still difficult to argue that he does truly adhere to the Westminster and the Puritan brand of theology.

William Ames seems to disagree with the distinctive of Shepherd in his Marrow of Theology. Ames specifically states, yet without naming it, the Covenant of Works in section 10 paragraph 32. Man was governed by a covenant that stated ‘Do this and you will live, if you do it not you shall die.’ He then proceeds to elaborate on how man broke this covenant, and then into the process of redemption. He does specifically refer to a Covenant of Grace.

Ames appears to have a different understanding of justification than Shepherd as well. Ames clearly argues that justification is "completed in a moment and in only one act." It is also a "gracious judgment of God" and the "pronouncing of a sentence" and a "judicial" change. Yet section 27 paragraph 8 seems to be pointed toward today’s controversies.

Therefore, Thomas [Aquinas presumably] and his followers are completely mistaken for they would make justification a kind of physical motion from the state of unrighteousness to that of righteousness in a real transmutation. They consider that it begins with sin, ends in inherent righteousness, with remission of sin and infusion of righteousness the motion between.

Ames continues to explain "the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers in justification." Ames deals with good works in a completely separate section Book II of the above mentioned title. Here he declares that good works in this life are all "imperfect and impure." He goes on to state, "The works of the regenerate do not have any merit worthy of a reward obtained on the basis of justice." This includes for Ames the judgment on the last day. Our reward there is merely of grace, and not viewed as a final justification.

It should be noted that Ames was widely read, and his book was the only theology text book for the first several years of Harvard’s existence. It is safe to say, Ames had a large impact on the Puritan theology, especially in America.

Robert Trail said in a book entitled Vindication of the Protestant Doctrine Concerning Justification:

All great fundamentals of Christian truth, . . . centre in this of justifcation of a sinner by the imputation and application of that satisfaction.

Trail saw justification by works as the natural religion of the world and threat to the Protestant doctrine of justification. Yet, they claimed that faith was never alone, a line from the Westminster Confession of Faith. Faith produced the works of repentance and obedience. They came after faith. Faith produced them. This is how quotes from the Westminster and John Owen given by Rev. Horne should be understood. Of course they say repentance is unto life, but it comes out of faith, not along side of it and independent of it. Shepherd often confuses the two at best. It does appear clear that the Puritans believed in justification in faith alone. While they adhered to works being the fruit of the faith, they kept a wall between works and justification. Some other quotes may be of assistance.
"Faith justifies the person, works justify the faith." – Elisha Coles
"We are not justified by doing good works, but being justified we then do good." – William Jenkyn
"As the apple is not the cause of the apple tree, but the fruit of it: even so good works are not the cause of our salvation, but a sign and fruit of the same." – Daniel Cawdray
"There is, indeed, mention made of a mercy-seat in the temple, but there was never heard of any school of merit but in the chapel of the Antichrist." – John Trapp

Not even a mention of justification at the last day or meriting eternal life in the mainline Puritans. The idea of justification as a process or participationism also does not appear to be a teaching of the Puritans. I am sure that there are many out there who are more qualified to defend the Westminster Confession, so I will leave the Puritans for now.