The Liberated Puritan -- By: Douglas Wilson

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 05:2 (Spring 1996)
Article: The Liberated Puritan
Author: Douglas Wilson

The Liberated Puritan

Douglas Wilson

In the very nature of things, the way of all flesh is hard to escape. When God is pleased to raise up men who will preach the Gospel of Christ in power, many glorious things will follow in the train of such a restoration. But after any such reformation and revival, in the second or third spiritual generation, a contingent of managers and handlers will almost certainly move in to consolidate the gains of the “movement.” Some of what they will do will be good and necessary, but the net effect of their labors will usually be to return, in some way, shape, or form, to the way it was before. This is the way of all flesh. And the cry against these well-intentioned handlers must always be semper reformanda—a cry calculated to distress overly tidy administrators. Always reforming—does that imply changing anything?

How easily we forget! The potency of the Gospel is always seen best in what it does to old wineskins. Religious man, ethical man, always wants a certain kind of ecclesiastical doing and bustling about. This doing is always careful to color inside the lines, and to keep off the grass. But whenever the Gospel breaks forth in the church, slaying its thousands, one of the first casualties is simple moralism. In the Gospel of Christ, men are charged to repent of all their doings, and to be something other than what they are. This of course provokes the hostility of religious man because he is always in control of what he does, but only God can be sovereign over what a man is. The Gospel of grace is therefore obnoxious to such a man.

Despite this hostility of unbelieving men, God’s grace remains efficacious. Because God is sovereign, and it is His Gospel after all, this exhilarating Gospel keeps breaking out at various times in the history of the church, and in inexplicable ways. The first Puritans were blessed to live at a time when this happened on a widespread scale and were part of what we recognize as a great reformation of the

church. We usually refer to the Reformation as the time when the Gospel was recovered, although it would be more proper to say that it was a time when the Gospel recovered many men than to say that any men recovered the Gospel. The Gospel was not a set of lost car keys, somehow misplaced by us.

But the sinful heart is deceitfully wicked and is good at slipping off the point, especially when the point is the inability of the natural man to understand spiritual things. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 C...

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