An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 25 July 2014

British Calvinists: Edward Fisher (1627-1656)

Edward Fisher (1627-1656) is best known for his The Marrow of Modern Divinity (1645). He was born in Mickelton, Gloucestershire and graduated from Brasenose, Oxford in 1630. Unusually for a Calvinist he was a Royalist. 

He sold his father's estate in 1656, he got into debt and went to Carmarthen as a school teacher before escaping his debtors by going to Ireland. 

His Marrow book was re-discovered by Thomas Boston (1676-1732) in 1700 and was then reprinted in 1718. The doctrine of unconditional grace in the book was disliked by many in the Church of Scotland, even though it was on Joseph Caryl's list of 'approved' books prepared at the request of the Westminster Assembly. James Haddow accused it of advocating antinomianism. 

Some of his works are available here:

Thursday, 24 July 2014

British Calvinists: Matthew Poole (1624-1679)

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) was born in York, he graduated from Emmanuel College. In 1648 he took the post of minister at St Michael-le-Querens. With the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1662 he resigned. He then concentrated on writing bible studies. Most notable was his five volume work Synopsis criticorum biblicorum,in which he summarised the views of 150 biblical scholars. 

Some of his works are available here:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Acts of Uniformity, Five Mile Act and Declaration of Indulgences

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 several Acts of parliament were passed under Charles II that had a direct impact on British Calvinism and non-conformity.

1662 Act of Uniformity - The full name of the Act is 'An Act for the Uniformity of Public Prayers and Administration of Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies, and for establishing the Form of making, ordaining and consecrating Bishops, Priests and Deacons in the Church of England.'

Steps were taken after the restoration to reintroduce a revised Prayer Book. The Act meant that clergy had to use, and comply with, the Prayer Book and failure to do so would mean they were deprived of their living. It also meant that all clergy had to have episcopal ordination. As a result almost 2000 clergy forced out of parishes. It is sometimes known as the Great Ejection. Edmund Calamy in 1775 published  The Nonconformist's Memorial: Being an Account of the Lives, Sufferings, and Printed Works, of the Two Thousand Ministers Ejected from the Church of England, Chiefly by the Act of Uniformity, Aug. 24, 1666. This includes a list of the ejected ministers:

1665 Five Mile Act also known as the Oxford Act or Non-conformist Act. Its full title was "An Act for restraining Non-Conformists from inhabiting in Corporations". It meant that clergy expelled by the Act of Uniformity couldn't live within five miles of the parish they were excluded from unless that swore to obey the 1662 Prayer Book.

1672 Declaration of Indulgences.  This was an attempt by Charles II to extend religious liberty to Roman Catholics and non-Conformists. It allowed dissenters to hold services in public places. Parliament saw this as an act of sympathy for the Catholics and so it was withdrawn in 1673 and replaced by a number of Parliament Test Acts. The Test Acts required anyone in public serve to denounce Roman Catholic doctrine and be communicant members of the Church of England.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

British Calvinists: David Clarkson (1622-1686)

David Clarkson (1622-1686) was born in Bradford and graduated in 1645 from Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1645 he became a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. 

He was the rector (1650-1655) of Crayford in Kent and (1656-1661). After the Great Ejection in 1662 he he preached wherever he could and continued to write. Following The Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he became the pastor of presbyterian-independent church in Mortlake. He became a co-pastor with John Owen in 1682 and after Owen's death the sole pastor, of a church in Leadenhall St, London. 

Some of his writings are available here:

Thursday, 17 July 2014

British Calvinists: Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)

Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686) was a Yorkshire man, he graduated from Emmanuel College, cambridge with a BA in 1639 and MA in 1642. 

In 1649 he ministered at St Stephen's, Walbrook, London as a lecture and then rector. He married Abigail Beadle in 1647 and they had seven children.

 He held to strong Presbyterian views but was sympathetic to the king. He was imprisoned in 1651 for his part in attempting to restore the monarchy. Christopher Love on elf Watson's fellow imprisonees was executed, but Watson was released and restored to his pastorate at St Stephen's.

The 1662 Act of Uniformity saw Watson ejected from the church, but like many others he continued to preach. In 1672 after the Act of Indulgence he was licensed to preach at Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate. Stephen Charnock was one of his co-workers at Crosby Hall. Watson retired to Barnston, Essex. 

Some of his books can be obtained from The Christian Bookshop Ossett:

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

British Calvinists: Thomas Manton (1620-1677)

Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was born in Lydeard St. Lawrence, Somerset. He graduated from Wadham College, Oxford with a BA in 1639, a BD in 1654 and a DD in 1660. 

He was ordained as a deacon in 1640 and ministered at Sowton, Exeter for three years. While in Sowton he married Mary Morgan. He took up the living of St Mary's Stoke Newington. He became a leading Presbyterian and was appointed as a clerk to the Westminster assembly.

Despite disapproving of the the king's execution he remained in favour with Cromwell. He succeeded his father-in-law Obadiah Sedgwick as rector of St Paul's, Covent Garden. 

He favoured the restoration of Charles II and was appointed as one of Charles's chaplains.  In 1662 he was ejected from the Established Church - he continued to preach and was arrested in 1670 and kept in prison for 6 months. The Declaration of Indulgence was granted in 1672 and Manton was licensed as a Presbyterian. 

In 'Thomas Merton: the man and his ministry' J. C. Ryle in 1870 had this to say of Manton:

1. As a man, I am disposed to assign a very high place to the author of these volumes. He strikes me as having been, not merely an ordinary 'good ' man, but one of singularly great grace and consistency of Christian character.
2. As a writer, I consider that Manton holds a somewhat peculiar place among the Puritan divines. He has pre-eminently a style of his own, and a style very unlike that of most of his school. …
3. As a theologian, I regard Manton as a divine of singularly well-balanced, well-proportioned, and scriptural views. …
4. As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration. Here, at any rate, he is 'facile princeps' among the divines of the Puritan school. …

The complete work of Thomas Manton, in 22 volumes, is available here:

Some of his works are available from the Christian Bookshop Ossett here:

Monday, 14 July 2014

Review of Harry Van Belle's Explorations in the History of Psychology

Explorations in the History of Psychology
Persisting Themata and Changing Paradigms
Harry A. Van Belle
Soux Center, IO: Dordt College Press, 2014
ISBN 978-0-932914–99-6
Pbk; 239+vi pp;  £12.00
Available from Dordt College Bookstore

There are several textbooks that provide an overview of the history of psychology, but none that do it from a Christian perspective, until now. Van Belle, emeritus professor of psychology at The Kings University College in Alberta, Canada, has produced an excellent introduction to, and overview of, the history of psychology utilising the Dutch Christian philosopher Vollenhoven’s approach. It is the fruit of many years teaching university students in North American and in Africa. Now students everywhere can benefit from Van Belle’s wisdom, insight and experience.

History is important it places where we are within a context. A historical perspective is important in showing not only where we have come from but also in revealing the ideologies at work in a subject. Van Belle, in utilising Vollenhoven’s approach, helpfully shows the continuities and discontinuities in the history of psychology: “The history of psychology necessarily consists of both persisting thematas and changing paradigms” (p. i).

The first half of the book is taken up with the Greek and the Middle Ages. Although psychology as a separate discipline, rather than being a sub-discipline of philosophy, didn’t exist until the nineteenth century, the Greek and scholastic roots prove illuminating. The final sections of the book deal with a number of key psychological schools and shifting emphases on consciousness, the unconscious mind, adaptation, functionalism, behaviourism and then cognitive and humanistic psychology. 

Each chapter closes with a list of references and a ‘Some issues to stimulate discussion’, this section provides helpful prompts for discussion and will prove invaluable for those who want to use the book as a college text. For those who want a history of psychology then this is the  book to go to, the added advantage is that it is from a distinctively Christian approach that avoids being simplistic and biblicistic. Van Belle has served us well.