Early Scots-Episcopacy

While reading about the Aberdeen doctors, I discovered that they were all Episcopalians. I thought this was interesting because I usually associate Reformed versions of episcopacy with England rather than Scotland.

John Forbes of Corse was the most famous representative of the Aberdeen doctors, and he was exiled for his views. Indeed, it seems that the only position of which he could be found culpable in the eyes of the Scottish theologians was his refusal to sign the Solemn League and Covenant. The Covenanters deposed him from his teaching position at the university, took his house, exiled him to Holland, and even forbade him a burial alongside his family. Charming fellows they were.

Forbes’ defense of the Scottish system of “Superintendents” is available on google books.

It turns out that Robert Rollock also held to an episcopal form of church government, as he penned a work entitled Episcopal Government instituted by Christ, and confirmed by Scripture and Reason.

In fact, the first Book of Discipline put out by the Scottish Church in 1560 divided Scotland into 10 ecclesiastical districts, each with their own superintendent. This was the official form of government until 1592, when Melville succeeded in acquiring a Presbyterian form of government, though it only lasted for about twenty years. This stage of Prebyterianism never fully took over, as Aberdeen resisted it. Episcopacy was reinstated until the so-called second Reformation where the Covenanters claimed a divine right of presbyterian rule. The Aberdeen doctors made their stand against jure divino on the lawfully established forms of the Scottish Church, and they accused the Covenanters of innovation and rebellion.

Geddes MacGregor explains that this form of Scottish episcopacy, whose bishops went by the name “superintendents,” was an attempt at preserving the continuing Ecclesia Scoticana. MacGregor writes:

The Ecclesia Scoticana they were bent on restoring was in many ways anomalous and paradoxical. In Columban times, for instance, it had had features that would be inconsistent with modern Presbyterian, Anglican, and Roman practice alike. Its primates, presbyters-abbots, had no commission from Rome; its bishops were nullius dioceseos and subject to the authority of presbyters; its presbyters did not exercise Episcopal functions corporately or otherwise, reserving these strictly to the bishops acting as individuals yet under presbyteral direction.

Corpus Christi, 75

About the Scottish Church at the time of the Reformation he adds:

The notion of a separation from the old Church could not well be in the Scottish Reformers’ minds, since in 1560, of the thirteen Roman Sees, four were vacant officially while five others were for practical purposes vacant, so that apart from questions of ecclesiology, which was still everywhere immature if not inchoate, it would have seemed more natural to the Scottish Reformers to view their action as casting off the Kirk’s bonds than of separating from these.

ibid, 71

Thus the Scottish Church naturally adopted a system of government that it saw as basically consistent with the established order. It rarely had to overthrow powerful Roman bishops. Few were to be found.

MacGregor describes the role of these superintendents in stating:

The superintendents had the pastoral and administrative functions of bishops and were placed over regions described as dioceses; in 1572 the Kirk adopted instead the designation ‘bishops’ and ‘archbishops.’

ibid, 70

He also mentions that Knox was offered an episcopate, but declined due to inopportune circumstances. Knox did not protest another taking the see, however, and indeed it was under Knox that the first Book of Discipline was issued.

Obviously episcopal government is not inconsistent with Reformed theology. The Churches in England and in Hungary retained bishops, and now we see that the Scots did as well, though their form was later changed.

We also begin to see, particularly through a study of Rollock along with the Aberdeen doctors, that a true “moderate” (acknowledging the infelicity of this term) Calvinism existed in Scotland, as well as in England and Germany.


Reformed Anglicans

So much of trouble in the realm of Church history arises when a false barrier is erected between “Anglican” and “Reformed” theologians. This distinction makes sense now. It does not in the 16th and 17th centuries.

I don’t mean that there was no diversity. Quite the opposite is the case. There was much diversity. However, the doctrinal position of the Church of England, along with its leading intellectuals, was thoroughly Reformed. Pretty much all of the “Puritans” were Anglicans. Some were Presbyterian, but they nevertheless viewed themselves as members of the Church of England. We could list Perkins, Preston, Calamy, Twisse, Gataker, Vines, and Cornelius Burges among these names.

The “Puritans,” though are often posed against the “Anglicans,” and thus the Puritans are considered the Reformed who may have existed within the Church of England, but nevertheless represented a different species altogether. I think such an assumption is wrong.

There are a number of ways to go about straightening this out. We could point out Vermigli and Bucer’s presence early on. We could mention that Knox personally worked on the Book of Common Prayer. But we could also simply list the clearly “Anglican” Reformed theologians.

Off the top of my head I came up with these names:

William Tyndale
Thomas Cranmer* (Archbishop of Canterbury)
John Frith
Hugh Latimer
Nicholas Ridley
John Hooper
Edmund Grindal* (Archbishop of Canterbury)
John Whitgift* (Archbishop of Canterbury)
George Abbot* (Archbishop of Canterbury)
John Jewel
Richard Hooker
John Davenant
Samuel Ward
Joseph Hall
James Ussher
William Bedell

Those last two are Irish, but definitely within the Anglican mix of their day.

I think that even Overall and Andrewes make more sense as moderate Reformed theologians than anything else. Overall thinks he is promoting a via media, but Davenant takes that via media to the Synod of Dort and has it approved. As for Andrewes, I need only refer you to Peter Escalante’s treatment of him here.

I’m sure there are more names that could be listed.  I wouldn’t want to deny that there is a difference between Reformed Anglicanism in the 17th cent. and later Presbyterianism, but I would insist that both belong under the larger heading of “Reformed.”

Bishop Bedell and Paedocommunion

William Bedell was an Irish Bishop and a contemporary of James Ussher and Samuel Ward. He took issue with Ward’s position that baptism removed original sin in all baptized infants. Joel Garver has reproduced Ward’s letter to Ussher on this topic here. Bedell seems to limit infant baptism’s immediate effect to obsignation, and he and Ward have a spirited exchange which can be found in Ussher’s Whole Works vol. XV.

I currently favor Ward on the question of baptism, but in his rebuttal to Ward, Bedell espouses some interesting views on paedocommunion. Bedell writes:

Thirdly, you say, ‘What necessity of baptizing infants, if their baptism produce no effect till they come to years of discretion?’ Though the most principal effect be not attained presently, the less principal are not to be refused. So children were circumcised, which could not understand the reason of it; and the same also did eat the Passover. And so did also children baptized in the primitive Church communicate in the Lord’s Supper. Which I know not why it should not be so still, de quo alias.

A little later Bedell also states:

Lastly, by this doctrine you must also maintain that children do spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood, if they receive the Eucharist, as for divers ages they did, and by the analogy of the Passover they may, perhaps ought…

Now it must be confessed that these are sparse and passing remarks. Bedell is chiefly employing them to persuade Ward against his view of baptism. However, it must be pointed out that Bedell goes beyond a mere hypothetical negative and uses the terms “should” and “ought.” He also frankly admits the authority of Augustine and the ancient church in regards to child-participation in the Supper. Finally, he uses the analogy of passover, which he thinks is consistent with all paedobaptists’ use of the similitude between circumcision and baptism.

Double Justification Wrap-Up

I have concluded my series on double justification in Reformed theology.  I decided not to include Baxter, since he is entirely too complicated.  I also do not know when this subject of double justification became a theological taboo.  Since it does seem to be one these days, I’ve tried to cover a broad spectrum.  I am sure there are more theologians that I could have included, but these will have to do for now.

There is diversity.  Some theologians assert two distinct types of justifications, others say that it is the same type of justification at the beginning of one’s spiritual life and at the end, and others shy away from allowing multiple justifications, preferring rather to say that there are multiple declarations of the one justification.

Here is the completed list:













Bucer on Double Justification

Bucer’s entire theology of justification is that of double justification. Everywhere he speaks of imputed righteous, he always follows directly with inherent righteousness. I will quote a few examples.

Bucer penned the statement on justification at the Colloquy of Regensburg. I have pieced it together through two secondary sources. He writes:

The movement wrought by the Holy Spirit whereby, truly repenting of their old life, men are turned to God and truly apprehend his mercy promised in Christ, so that now they truly believe that they have received forgiveness of sins and reconciliation through the merit of Christ by the free gift of God’s goodness, and they cry out to God, ‘Abba, Father’: but this happens to no one unless there is also at the same time infused into him that love which heals the will… Therefore living faith is that which apprehends God’s mercy in Christ and believes that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to oneself, and at the same time receives the promise of the Holy Spirit and also love… But it remains true that we are justified, that is, accepted and reconciled to God by this faith in so far as it apprehends God’s mercy and the righteousness which is imputed to us on account of Christ and his merit, not on account of the worth or perfection of the righteousness which is imparted to us in Christ.

quoted in David F. Wright “Martin Bucer 1491-1551: Ecumenical Theologian,” in Common Places of Martin Bucer trans. and edited by D. F. Wright, 43

And also:

We think that in this begun righteousness is really a true and living righteousness, and a noble excellent gift of God; and that the new life in Christ consists in this righteousness, and that all the saints are also righteous by this righteousness, both before God and before men, ‘and that on account thereof the saints are also justified by a justification of works,’ that is, are approved, commended and rewarded by God.

quoted in Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man Book III. Chap. VIII. 26

Continue reading

Polhill on Double Justification

Edward Polhill had the advantage of writing late in the Puritan era. He is extremely well read and is able to cite a variety of previous doctors, as well as bring various positions together into harmony. He has much to say about double justification.

In his book A View of Some Divine Truths, he writes:

Thirdly, Obedience is necessary, though not to the first entrance into justification, yet to the continuance of it; not indeed as a cause, but as a condition. Thus Bishop Davenant, Bona opera sunt necessaria ad justificationis statum retinendum et conservandum; non ut causae, quae per se efficiant aut mereantur hanc conservationem; sed ut media seu conditiones, sine quibus Deus non vult justificationis gratiam in hominibus conservare. If a believer, who is instantly justified upon believing, would continue justified, he must sincerely obey God. Though his obedience in measure and degree reach not fully to the precept of the gospel; yet in truth and substance it comes up to the condition of it; else he cannot continue justified; this to me is very evident; we are at first justified by a living faith, such as virtually is obedience; and cannot continue justified by a dead one such as operates not at all. We are at first justified by a faith which accepts Christ as a Saviour and Lord; and cannot continue justified by such a faith as would divide Christ, taking his salvation from guilt, and by disobedience casting off his lordship; Continue reading

Ussher on the the Final Judgment

Though not calling it specifically “justification,” Ussher represents the “gracious law” position that we’ve seen espoused by Diodati and Pictet. The believer’s works will be judged by the gospel. Ussher states:

Shall there be no difference in the examination of the Elect and the Reprobate?

Yes. For, 1. The Elect shall not have their sins, for which Christ satisfied, but only their good works, remembered. Ezek. 18.22. Rev. 14.17.

2. Being in Christ, they and their works shall not undergo the strict trial of the Law simply in it self; but as the obedience thereof does prove them to be true partakers of the grace of the Gospel.

Body of Divinity 52nd Head

Sibbes on Justification at the Last Day

Richard Sibbes has a fairly unique position on final justification, as he is willing to discuss the various ways one is justified. He is justified individually by Christ’s sacrifice. Christ justifies the entire Church. The Spirit justifies Christ. We justify Christ. We justify ourselves. Sibbes discusses all of these realities. I will only quote a small portion of this.

Sibbes writes:

For our further instruction and comfort, let us consider, that in regard of God likewise, we shall be ‘justified’ from our sins in our consciences here and at the day of judgment, before angels and devils and men. As Christ was ‘justified’ from our sins himself, and he will justify every one of us by his Spirit, his Spirit shall witness to our souls that we are justified; and likewise his Spirit shall declare it at the day of judgment; it shall be openly declared that we are so indeed. There is a double degree of justification: one in our conscience now, another at the day of judgment. Then it shall appear that we have believed in Christ, and are cleansed from our sins. When we shall stand on the right hand of Christ, as all that cleave to Christ by faith [will do], then it shall appear that by him we are ‘justified’ from all our sins whatsoever.

~ The Fountain Opened in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes vol. 5 pg. 492-493

Sibbes goes on to say that we will justify Christ on the last day. We do this in four ways. We justify that he is God by relying on him as our rock of salvation. We justify him as prophet by our enlightened understandings. We justify him as priest by relying on him alone for mediation and intercession. We justify him as king by holy living and the practice of lovely religion.

Thomas Goodwin on Justification By Works

Goodwin asserts that we can affirm a justification by works on the last day, for to do so is not materially different than to say that the judgment is according to works or that it is noting the evidence of faith. Neither of these could serve as an excuse for the lack of works, however. He believes that faith was always meant to be perfected, and its perfection is good works. Goodwin’s position is a combination of earlier views, as he will speak of a living faith and a true justification made on one’s deeds. He writes:

And in relation to this outward judgment at the latter day, our sentence of salvation is termed expressly a justification; and this very thing is asserted by Christ himself: Mat. xii. 36,37, ‘I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment; for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.’ Neither is it anywhere said, that God will judge men according to their faith only; nor will it be a sufficient plea at the latter day to say, Lord, thou knowest I believed, and cast myself at thy grace. God will say, I am to judge thee so as to every one shall be able to judge my sentence righteous together with me: 1 Cor. iv. 5, ‘Therefore, shew me thy faith by thy works;’ let me know by them thou fearest me; for as I did judge Abraham, and gave thereupon a testimony of him, so I must proceed towards thee. And this God will do, to the end that all the sons of Israel, yea, the whole world, may know that he justified one that had true faith indeed. Continue reading

Turretin on a priori and a posteriori Justification

Francis Turretin does speak of varying senses of justification, though he is much less comfortable with affirming “double justification.” He indeed reconciles James and Paul, arguing that they are talking of different types of justification, but his interpretation is somewhat different from his fellow Genevans, Diodati and Pictet.

He writes:

XXII. Since Paul and James were inspired by the same Spirit, they cannot be said to oppose each other on the doctrine of justification, so that one should ascribe justification to faith alone and the other to works also. The reconciliation is not difficult, if the design of each be considered and the natures of faith and of justification (concerning which both treat) be attended. Continue reading