When Orthodoxy Is Not Enough: Calvin on Job’s Interlocutors -- By: T. M. Moore
RAR 12:1 (Winter 2003) p. 11
When Orthodoxy Is Not Enough: Calvin on Job’s Interlocutors
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Nathanael Emmons was a no-bones-about-it, hard-line Calvinistic preacher in the Congregational Church in Franklin, Massachusetts. For nearly thirty years he had held forth from the pulpit of this small, New England village, serving a steady diet of purest Reformed theology for his parishioners’ consumption. Under his ministry God had brought revival to Franklin in 1784, proof to his congregation that, in spite of his harshness, he was God’s man for their needs.
Emmons was a disciplined homiletician, and would brook no wandering attention during his sermons. The ministry of the Word was serious business. He was known to dismount the pulpit and walk out of church, right in the middle of a sermon, if he felt the people were not listening carefully to what he said. Only when they pled with him to return and promised their undivided attention would he resume his pulpit ministry.
His sermons were highly logical and focused on clear and concise exposition of the Word of God, concluded, in typical Puritan style, by an elaboration of “uses” to which the message should be put. Emmons was particularly adamant about the Sabbath, and harangued his congregation so often and so effectively that most of them adopted such practices as banking
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their fires on Saturday evenings so as to avoid having to start a new one on the morning of the Lord’s Day. So when Stephen Mann, a teen-aged member of the church, skipped worship one Sunday to go swimming, and drowned, nearly everyone in Franklin knew what to expect at the funeral. Jonathan Messerli gives us the details:
He had said it in many ways, but it was always the same theme. Profaning the Lord’s Day held terrible consequences for the evildoer.
... No doubt in reviewing the life of Stephen [Emmons] found little or no evidence of the possibility of conversion. The inevitable conclusion was an agonizing judgment. Stephen had died unconverted and while willfully sinning. His future life would be one of eternal punishment. The only ray of comfort to be gained from the tragedy was that the incident was a sign, a special warning to the survivors of the imminence of death and the folly of placing themselves outside God’s grace.1
Probably few in the congregation were surprised. They knew Emmons all too well. But for Stephen Mann’s younger brother, it was the last straw. He had tried for years to believe in Christ and accept the doctrines of the Genevan Reformer, but had found Emmons increasingly too much to bear. This ...
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