Our Personal Holiness and The Wisdom of the Puritans
Updated: Oct 2, 2022
Sinclair Buchanan Ferguson is a Scottish theologian and Chancellor's Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in the US and in Scotland where he is an assistant minister at St. Peter's Free Church of Scotland, Dundee.
Have you considered your personal Holiness?
To help understand the significance of Holiness in our daily lives let us begin by looking at Puritan john Owen.
John Owen was born in 1616. He is one of the greatest pastor-theologians among the Puritans. The late J. I. Packer once said, he was the tallest among the Puritan redwoods. His twenty-three thick volumes are still in print, helping in the spiritual growth of many Christians.
Owen was extremely active—Politically as Oliver Cromwell’s’ chaplain/ frequent speaker to Parliament, Denominationally concerning all the controversies between Congregational and Presbyterian Puritans, theologically he was the most vocal Puritan defender of Calvinism, Academically he was dean and vice chancellor to the University of Oxford, Pastorally he served churches in and around London even when it was illegal to gather, and Personally he had a family of 11 children, 10 of which died while young, followed by the 11th as a young adult.
What is amazing about Owen is that during all this activity his passion was personal holiness. He said, “My heart’s desire unto God, and the chief design of my life ... are that ... universal holiness may be promoted in my own and in the hearts and ways of others.”
“What better preparation can there be for [our future enjoyment of the glory of Christ] than in a constant previous contemplation of that glory in the revelation that is made in the Gospel.”
John Flavel is another highly recommended Puritan. In his 1668 book “Keeping with the Heart” Flavel calls our heart a “noble faculty of the soul”. He focuses on the heart because it is our inner most self and its condition is of eternal importance.
He admonishes us to tend our hearts to preserve the soul from sin; and to maintain a personal communion with God.
Flavel counsels us to flee temptation and sin: “But why should the pretended pleasure of sin allure you, when you know that unspeakably more real pleasure will arise from the mortification than can arise from the commission of sin? Will you prefer the gratification of some unhallowed passion, with the deadly poison which it will leave behind, to that sacred pleasure which arises from fearing and obeying God, complying with the dictates of conscience, and maintaining inward peace?”
As we move through life our joy our happiness is bound up with our Holiness. Christ bridges that gap by forgiveness and faith alone in Christ alone and the revelation of the Gospel. (Psalm 32:1–2, Romans 4:7–8).
Like every generation before us, we have the same choice. Happiness in life as we pursue it in our flesh will be evil or through Christ and the Holy Spirit it will be holy. The battle and struggle for this true holy happiness is a daily spiritual battle.
Read the Puritans.
Here again is Flavel: “There is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what evidences and outbreaking’s of his mercy, faithfulness, and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through.” From the Mystery of Providence