Preparationism and the Puritans

Status
Not open for further replies.

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Graduate
I have tended to come across a fair amount of what I think is preparationism in the Puritans (and notably Edwards), where one must labor to have a better chance of the spirit working in you, if I defined it correctly. The 'laboring' being getting a sense of the misery of sin and the guilt and shame in order to be saved.
While I have undeniably felt this in my life, a really heavy feeling, isn't this gauging someones salvation by experience? Laboring being a work of sort, especially if one doesnt have 'faith'? If one doesnt repent enough initially are they really saved?
What else could be considered preparationism? What is the general view of it here?
 
Last edited:

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
If I remember correctly, this is the kind of thing that led to the Marrow Controversy. I think Sinclair Ferguson deals with this issue in his book The Whole Christ.
 

Von

Puritan Board Sophomore
If I remember correctly, this is the kind of thing that led to the Marrow Controversy. I think Sinclair Ferguson deals with this issue in his book The Whole Christ.
Yup, you remember correctly. He compares, in particular the ocular catechism (which he calls an puritan version of a PowerPoint presentation) of Bunyan with that of William Perkins.
Trent, if you don't have the book, get it. No, really - that's an order - GET IT! In the meantime, to satisfy your question, you can read a blog post about your question:
 

Chad Hutson

Puritan Board Freshman
Reading Bunyan's conversion in Grace Abounding is tortuous and torturous! You just want to scream "Trust Christ to save you!" Yes, read The Whole Christ.
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have tended to come across a fair amount of what I think is preparationism in the Puritans (and notably Edwards), where one must labor to have a better chance of the spirit working in you, if I defined it correctly. The 'laboring' being getting a sense of the misery of sin and the guilt and shame in order to be saved.
While I have undeniably felt this in my life, a really heavy feeling, isn't this gauging someones salvation by experience? Laboring being a work of sort, especially if one doesnt have 'faith'? If one doesnt repent enough initially are they really saved?
What else could be considered preparationism? What is the general view of it here?
I like John Owen's Mortification of Sin. Ch. 9-13 is "preparatory work":

First. Consider the dangerous symptoms of any lust — 1. Inveterateness — 2. Peace obtained under it; the several ways whereby that is done — 3. Frequency of success in its seductions — 4. The soul’s fighting against it with arguments only taken from the event — 5. Its being attended with judiciary hardness — 6. Its withstanding particular dealings from God — The state of persons in whom these things are found.

The second particular direction: Get a clear sense of, — 1. The guilt of the sin perplexing — Considerations for help therein proposed — 2. The danger manifold — (1.) Hardening — (2.) Temporal correction — (3.) Loss of peace and strength — (4.) Eternal destruction — Rules for the management of this consideration — 3. The evil of it — (1.) In grieving the Spirit — (2.) Wounding the new creature — [(3.) Taking away a man’s usefulness.]

The third direction proposed: Load thy conscience with the guilt of the perplexing distemper — The ways and means whereby that may be done

The fourth direction: Vehement desire for deliverance

The fifth: Some distempers rooted deeply in men’s natural tempers — Considerations of such distempers; ways of dealing with them

The sixth direction: Occasions and advantages of sin to be prevented

The seventh direction: The first actings of sin vigorously to be opposed.

The eighth direction: Thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God — Our unacquaintedness with him proposed and considered.

The ninth direction: When the heart is disquieted by sin, speak no peace to it until God speak it — Peace, without detestation of sin, unsound; so is peace measured out unto ourselves — How we may know when we measure our peace unto ourselves — Directions as to that inquiry — The vanity of speaking peace slightly; also of doing it on one singular account, not universally.

before the "great direction" in Ch. 14: "Act faith on Christ."
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
Ch. 9-13 is "preparatory work"

Isn't this for sanctification though, and he assumes that he's talking to a believer? I don't think it's "in order to be saved," or before conversion. I recall that he says early on that the power for any of the directions must come from the Spirit, or they are useless.

You just want to scream "Trust Christ to save you!"

Amen.
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
Isn't this for sanctification though, and he assumes that he's talking to a believer? I don't think it's "in order to be saved," or before conversion. I recall that he says early on that the power for any of the directions must come from the Spirit, or they are useless.
Sanctification is salvation. You are correct about the Spirit. From Ch. 3: "He only is sufficient for this work; all ways and means without him are as a thing of nought; and he is the great efficient of it, — he works in us as he pleases." But this is true for all men. The Spirit is every man's only hope of being enlightened to the gospel. The obvious question then is "where do I find him? When and how does he do this work that he may accomplish it in me?" We must give the unbeliever some direction - not just tell him to carry out his life waiting on the Spirit to illuminate him.

The verse the book expounds is not only for believers:
Rom. 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Isn't this for sanctification though, and he assumes that he's talking to a believer?

No. According to Gerstner's reading, this is what you do when you are under the pangs of conscience yet still lack the will to believe in God. It can be a problem among some Puritans.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Graduate
Yup, you remember correctly. He compares, in particular the ocular catechism (which he calls an puritan version of a PowerPoint presentation) of Bunyan with that of William Perkins.
Trent, if you don't have the book, get it. No, really - that's an order - GET IT! In the meantime, to satisfy your question, you can read a blog post about your question:
Reading Bunyan's conversion in Grace Abounding is tortuous and torturous! You just want to scream "Trust Christ to save you!" Yes, read The Whole Christ.
Was Bunyan really that far off theologically?
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
No. According to Gerstner's reading, this is what you do when you are under the pangs of conscience yet still lack the will to believe in God. It can be a problem among some Puritans.

Jacob,
That's very interesting, thanks for that. I had definitely read Owen's Mortification differently. Where would I find this interpretation of Owen from Gerstner?
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Graduate
I like John Owen's Mortification of Sin. Ch. 9-13 is "preparatory work":



before the "great direction" in Ch. 14: "Act faith on Christ."
The mortification of sin has a chapter or the before all of that, stating that one must first be saved in order to bring about the parts of mortification which you reference.
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
Owen isn't describing the process chronologically.

Could you elaborate? I'm still not convinced that he's speaking of the experience of an unbeliever. Here's why:

I see that before he discusses the "preparatory directions" in question, he gives the rule that they are useless and even dangerous in an unbeliever (see chapter 7 - as Trent mentioned), and even throughout these preparatory directions he makes statements that presuppose he is addressing a believer, such as:

Consider the evils of it...It grieves the holy and blessed Spirit, which is given to believers...his new creature in the heart is wounded"

These can be found in chapter 10 of his work (page 55 in vol 6 of his works). In the beginning of the work, discussing Romans 8:13 he also makes a distinction between being a believer, and mortifying sin (which is an activity of the believer). Chapter 14 declares these as "preparatory to the work aimed at," that work being mortification not conversion. The title of the work itself is "the mortification of sin in believers."

These make the assertion that Owen is speaking of experience prior to regeneration difficult for me to accept without further explanation. What are your thoughts?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Could you elaborate? I'm still not convinced that he's speaking of the experience of an unbeliever. Here's why:

I see that before he discusses the "preparatory directions" in question, he gives the rule that they are useless and even dangerous in an unbeliever (see chapter 7 - as Trent mentioned), and even throughout these preparatory directions he makes statements that presuppose he is addressing a believer, such as:



These can be found in chapter 10 of his work (page 55 in vol 6 of his works). In the beginning of the work, discussing Romans 8:13 he also makes a distinction between being a believer, and mortifying sin (which is an activity of the believer). Chapter 14 declares these as "preparatory to the work aimed at," that work being mortification not conversion. The title of the work itself is "the mortification of sin in believers."

These make the assertion that Owen is speaking of experience prior to regeneration difficult for me to accept without further explanation. What are your thoughts?

Right. Owen isn't talking about the same thing guys like Edwards were.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
So one obviously agrees that there is a need for conviction but....its too far sometimes?

Correct. Later New England writers summarized the problem thus:

1) Given the doctrines of grace, if he isn't regenerated, he can't believe.
2) Yet he is in church laboring under pangs of conscience.
3) That's not regeneration, though.
4) At this point, he might be saying, "I can't save myself. Only God can save me. He hasn't done so, yet. So why bother?"
5) To which the minister would respond, "While your unconverted acts of piety are damnable, yet it would be even more damnable not to seek God. Granted, you can't actually seek God, but you can seek to seek God. That won't save you, but it will lessen your pain in hell."
 

Don Kistler

Puritan Board Sophomore
I studied under Dr. Gerstner who introduced me to Edwards on all of this. Dr. Gerstner's work "Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist" (originally titled "Steps to Salvation, the Evangelistic Message of Jonathan Edwards") deals with preparation for salvation. The idea is that a sinner ought to do all in his NATURAL power to cooperate with God rather than fight against Him. He can read the Bible rather than salacious material. He can go to church rather than the tavern or the ball game on Sunday. He can ask God to change His heart. He can ask others to pray for him. None of these earn anything with God nor do they guarantee that God will save Him. But it is certain that the sinner will perish if he does not do any of these things. As Paul said, "If PERADVENTURE God may grant him repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."

There is a whole volume of Edwards' sermons on this topic I titled "Pressing Into the Kingdom." Edwards was wont to say, "If the sinner will do what he CAN do, God may give him what he CANNOT do." This was not unique to Gerstner or Edwards. It was the teaching of John Cotton, Solomon Stoddard, Thomas Hooker, Thomas Watson ("Heaven Taken by Storm"), William Perkins, and so many others.
 

StephenMartyr

Puritan Board Freshman
Two contrasting opinions:
So one obviously agrees that there is a need for conviction but....its too far sometimes?

Maybe? Just some references to people in Acts:

Act 8:30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
Act 8:31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

And then...

Act 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
Act 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Act 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Act 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Act 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

And the one with Lydia:

Act 16:13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
Act 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
Act 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

So for both of them, the Bible doesn't seem to make a huge emphasis on this huge pressure of seeing your sins and this burden of toil. I'm sure both were aware of sins but the Bible really doesn't give this idea, for them anyway, of a process of toils to be saved.

Here's the eunuch, reading Isaiah. He asks questions and Philip answers him and explains Jesus to him.

And then here's Lydia, which apparently "worshipped" the real God, but wasn't born again. God seemed to work in her before she heard the message. Then she was saved.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Graduate
I studied under Dr. Gerstner who introduced me to Edwards on all of this. Dr. Gerstner's work "Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist" (originally titled "Steps to Salvation, the Evangelistic Message of Jonathan Edwards") deals with preparation for salvation. The idea is that a sinner ought to do all in his NATURAL power to cooperate with God rather than fight against Him. He can read the Bible rather than salacious material. He can go to church rather than the tavern or the ball game on Sunday. He can ask God to change His heart. He can ask others to pray for him. None of these earn anything with God nor do they guarantee that God will save Him. But it is certain that the sinner will perish if he does not do any of these things. As Paul said, "If PERADVENTURE God may grant him repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."

There is a whole volume of Edwards' sermons on this topic I titled "Pressing Into the Kingdom." Edwards was wont to say, "If the sinner will do what he CAN do, God may give him what he CANNOT do." This was not unique to Gerstner or Edwards. It was the teaching of John Cotton, Solomon Stoddard, Thomas Hooker, Thomas Watson ("Heaven Taken by Storm"), William Perkins, and so many others.
Informative.
I am wondering, however, is this in the absent of belief/trust (as opposed to mere assent)? Or is a general proposition for all church goers, such as the stereotypical rebellious teens?
 
Last edited:

StephenMartyr

Puritan Board Freshman
Sanctification is salvation.

Can you elaborate? Do you mean like this verse?

Rom 6:22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

There is another verse I thought that deals with the growing in holiness which is, or leads to, eternal life.

But then isn't salvation a one time event? Your normal birth is a one time event. If you're born, you're born once.
 

StephenMartyr

Puritan Board Freshman
He can ask God to change His heart. He can ask others to pray for him. None of these earn anything with God nor do they guarantee that God will save Him. But it is certain that the sinner will perish if he does not do any of these things. As Paul said, "If PERADVENTURE God may grant him repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."

So here is where that verse is found: 2 Timothy 2:25

2Ti 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

That's not even talking about Christians or people seeking God, as Albert Barnes talk about:

"That is, those who embrace error, and array themselves against the truth. "

And Gill:

"In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves,.... To the truth; resist it and deny it; or contradict some other tenets and principles of theirs, or the Scriptures, which they themselves allowed to be the word of God, and the rule of faith and practice, and so are self-convinced and self-condemned. These are to be instructed, being ignorant, and in a tender and gentle manner, though very perverse and obstinate."

Jesus said:

Joh 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

So that means if you pray for Christ to save you, seeking Him earnestly, He will! Doesn't your seeking Him mean you're being worked on by God? Why would any unbeliever pray to God to be saved, in a state of unregeneracy? Aren't people by nature not wanting God?

Tit 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

Don Kistler put up this wonderful quote by Burroughs:

"By the righteousness of Christ the soul comes to see a way for making up all the wrong that ever was done to God by his sin. I have wronged God by my sin, and how this can be made up it would be impossible for angels and men to think of a way; but the revealing of this righteousness of Christ, made over to the soul by faith, shows a way how all the wrong that ever my sin has done to God may be quite made up. And is not this desirable? Will not this draw the heart? You who are in any way sensible of the wrong that your sin has done to God, would you not give, if you had, ten thousand worlds to make it up again? Here is a way that all may be made up again. Oh, what a desirable object is this righteousness!"

Let's not take that 2 Timothy verse and put it on a person earnestly seeking God.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I have tended to come across a fair amount of what I think is preparationism in the Puritans (and notably Edwards), where one must labor to have a better chance of the spirit working in you, if I defined it correctly. The 'laboring' being getting a sense of the misery of sin and the guilt and shame in order to be saved.
While I have undeniably felt this in my life, a really heavy feeling, isn't this gauging someones salvation by experience? Laboring being a work of sort, especially if one doesnt have 'faith'? If one doesnt repent enough initially are they really saved?
What else could be considered preparationism? What is the general view of it here?
Today I was reading Calvin's Institutes, book 3, chapter 3 and following. He addresses whether repentance precedes faith quite convincingly (it does not). A very interesting read, and his explanation of indwelling sin continuing in us is quite encouraging to me, in the sense that I don't feel there is something wrong with me because of it.
 

Don Kistler

Puritan Board Sophomore
Let's not take that 2 Timothy verse and put it on a person earnestly seeking God.

One thing to be careful of in all this...The Bible is very clear, as were those who held to preparationism or "seeking" as it is sometimes called, "NO ONE seeks God." They are seeking salvation out of self interest, they are not seeking God. They are seeking God's benefits, but not God Himself. They hate God the whole time they are seeking salvation, but they know that they are lost and He is their only hope. One does not have to be regenerate, only sane, to do that. Edwards has a sermon on a story from the OT about 2 blind men who were kicked out of a city by an invading army and told they would be killed if they returned. After being outside the city for a few days they decided to return. Their thinking was, "If we return we may die, but if we stay out here we most certainly wlll die." The whole thing would take much more time and space to develop than is afforded here. But that's a capsulization.
 

StephenMartyr

Puritan Board Freshman
Let's not take that 2 Timothy verse and put it on a person earnestly seeking God.

One thing to be careful of in all this...The Bible is very clear, as were those who held to preparationism or "seeking" as it is sometimes called, "NO ONE seeks God." They are seeking salvation out of self interest, they are not seeking God. They are seeking God's benefits, but not God Himself. They hate God the whole time they are seeking salvation, but they know that they are lost and He is their only hope. One does not have to be regenerate, only sane, to do that. Edwards has a sermon on a story from the OT about 2 blind men who were kicked out of a city by an invading army and told they would be killed if they returned. After being outside the city for a few days they decided to return. Their thinking was, "If we return we may die, but if we stay out here we most certainly wlll die." The whole thing would take much more time and space to develop than is afforded here. But that's a capsulization.

Well I'm not here to argue, but here is a quote I actually underlined in my B.O.T. hardcover of John Bunyan. It's from his "Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ".

Sorry if the format (spaces between the words) is messed up.

"Object. 2. When I say I only seek myself, I mean I do not find that I do design God’s glory in mine own salvation by Christ, and that makes me fear I do not come aright.

Ans. Where doth Christ Jesus require such a qualification of those that are coming to him for life? Come thou for life, and trouble not thy head with such objections against thyself, and let God and Christ alone to glorify themselves in the salvation of such a worm as thou art. The Father saith to the Son, “Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” God propoundeth life to sinners, as the argument to prevail with them to come to him for life; and Christ says plainly, “I am come that they might have life” (John 10:10). He hath no need of thy designs, though thou hast need of his. Eternal life, pardon of sin, and deliverance from wrath to come, Christ propounds to thee, and these be the things that thou hast need of; besides, God will be gracious and merciful to worthless, undeserving wretches; come then as such an one, and lay no stumblingblocks in the way to him, but come to him for life, and live (John 5:34; 10:10; 3:36; Matt 1:21; Prov 8:35,36; 1 Thess 1:10; John 11:25,26)."

Those seeking God have obviously been worked upon by God. No one comes to God, that is plain:

Rom 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.

But some people do seek God. Does that mean they are, as you say "...seeking salvation out of self interest"?

The Bible says:

Rom 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Are those people calling on the Lord only doing it for self interest? But they are saved the Bible says!

So what of people seeking God wrongly?

Joh 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.

Those people it should be seen aren't seeking God's righteousness or anything of God. They saw a cool thing and wanted more. But the Bible goes on:

Joh 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

I'll leave it here with Barnes' commentary on John 6:26

The miracles which Jesus performed were proofs that he came from God. To seek him because they had seen them, and were convinced by them that he was the Messiah, would have been proper; but to follow him simply because their wants were supplied was mere selfishness of a gross kind. Yet, alas! many seek religion from no better motive than this. They suppose that it will add to their earthly happiness, or they seek only to escape from suffering or from the convictions of conscience, or they seek for heaven only as a place of enjoyment, and regard religion as valuable only for this. All this is mere selfishness. Religion does not forbid our regarding our own happiness, or seeking it in any proper way; but when this is the only or the prevailing motive, it is evident that we have never yet sought God aright. We are aiming at the loaves and fishes, and not at the honor of God and the good of his kingdom; and if this is the only or the main motive of our entering the church, we cannot be Christians.
 

PezLad

Puritan Board Freshman
WCF chapter 9 section 3: Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation;(1) so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good,(2) and dead in sin,(3) is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.(4) I have often wondered at the distinction Calvin makes between illumination and regeneration, the former a work upon the conscience of the natural man, in the regenerate man, illumination of the word (Word) by the Holy Spirit does sanctify after that quickening by the Spirit.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top