“Draw Nigh unto My Soul”: English Baptist Piety and the Means of Grace in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 10:4 (Winter 2006)
Article: “Draw Nigh unto My Soul”: English Baptist Piety and the Means of Grace in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin


“Draw Nigh unto My Soul”:
English Baptist Piety and the Means of Grace
in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Michael A. G. Haykin

Michael A. G. Haykin is Principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and a Senior Fellow of The Andrew Fuller Centre for Reformed Evangelicalism. He also serves as Visiting Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin is the author of One Heart and One Soul (Evangelical Press, 1994), Spirit of God: The Exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Pneumatomachian Controversy of the Fourth Century (Brill, 1994), and Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit and Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005).

Among the foremost examples of vital Christianity found in the history of the church are the Puritans, those godly Christians who lived in Great Britain and New England between the 1560s and the end of the seventeenth century. Skilled navigators on the ocean of Christian living, the Puritans rightly discerned that, in the words of Elizabethan Puritan Richard Greenham (1540–1594), “we drawe neere to God by meanes.”1 By this Greenham, speaking for his fellow Puritans, meant that there are various “means of godliness” or spiritual disciplines by which God enables Christians to grow in Christ till they reach the haven of heaven. The Puritans could refer to a number of such means of piety, but there were three that were especially regarded as central by this tradition of piety: prayer, the Scriptures, and the sacraments or ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Thus Richard Greenham could state, “The first meanes [of grace] is prayer…. The second meanes is hearing of his word…. The third meanes whereby we draw neere, is by the Sacraments.”2

Now Baptists are the children of Puritanism, and the family connection between the two is nowhere seen more clearly than in Baptist thinking about piety. Just as the Puritans were primarily men and women intensely passionate about piety and Christian experience, so spirituality lies at the very core of the English Baptist movement during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For example, Baptists in this era were adamant that keeping in step with the Spirit was the vital matter when it came to the nourishment of the soul of the believer or the sustenance of the inner life of a congregation. As the late eighteenth-century English Baptist John Sutcliff (1752–1814) of Olney, Buckinghamshire, rightly observed,

[T]he outpouring of the divine Spirit…is the grand promise of the new testament…. His influences are the soul, the great animating soul of all religion. These ...

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