The Reflections of a Puritan Theologian on Regeneration and Conversion -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin
RAR 5:3 (Summer 1996) p. 55
The Reflections of a Puritan Theologian on Regeneration and Conversion
At the heart of the Reformation was one of the most fundamental questions of the Christian faith: How can I be saved from eternal damnation? The answer of all the leading Reformers was one and the same: only by God’s free and sovereign grace. As J. I. Packer and O. Raymond Johnston have pointed out, it is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of Justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely,
whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith.
For all these Reformers this was the crucial question: Was Christianity “a religion of utter reliance on God for Salvation and all things necessary to it, or of self-reliance and self-effort”? 1
Loyal to the heritage of the Reformation, the Puritan authors in the last half of the seventeenth century were equally insistent on the vital importance of confessing that salvation is by sovereign, free grace alone. A good example of this loyalty is found in the work of Benjamin Keach (1640–1704), one of the most prolific Puritan authors and a Baptist by conviction. In a recently published history of religion in Britain, Michael Mullett has identified Benjamin Keach as the leading Baptist theologian of his era, similar in
RAR 5:3 (Summer 1996) p. 56
importance for his denomination as Richard Baxter (1615–91) was for the English Presbyterians and John Owen (1616–83) for the Congregationalists. 2 He argued against the Quakers, those seventeenth-century counterparts of modern-day charismatics; he wrote allegories, now long forgotten, that in his day rivaled those of John Bunyan (1628–88) in popularity and sales; he was a pioneer in the congregational singing of hymns in a day when singing was limited to the Psalter; and he published a number of lengthy collections of sermons, including A Golden Mine Opened (1694) and Gospel Mysteries Unveiled (1701), which remain invaluable, though largely unused, treasures for the study of seventeenth-century Baptist thought. You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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