Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Virtues and Vices, 1 July 2022


Edward Reynolds 1599 - 1676

A feature of the Christian life is that the virtues of it are the result of the regeneration of God the Holy Spirit, and that  they are revealed in bunches. Both are Peter in his first and second epistle, and Paul in several  ways in his varied letters, takes this view


So Peter states


 ‘…..make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue , and virtue with knowledge , and knowledge with self-control, and  self-control with steadfastness,  and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so short-sighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1.5-11)


Note that there is no mention over different classes of disciple. A virtue is a power of the soul (Note that for Peter, power, ‘divine power’) is the overall (v.2) source of progress in the Christian life. Various matters can go together. Peter  mentions as  a ‘bundle’ use of a string of powers, and sometimes some causes other virtues. Bt as we shall see, vices come in groups too.


So in Romans, for example, Here is one case, in 12. 9.

‘Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour, Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.(12. 9-12)  ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’


And in the Ephesians, ‘put off your old  self which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires , and to be renewed  in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’.( 4.22 – 44). Contrasting with ‘all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another’, continued in chapter 5.


Christian virtues , sometimes they are explicitly the some model in Christ’s work.  In these affections are produced. Affections from 12.10. Phil 2.1 2Peter 1.7. 1.5,  various clustering as in Rom 12.9, 13.3, love 1 Cor 13, Eph 4.22, Philippians 2.3, 4,8.


The contrast between virtue and vices is signalled by The NT difference between the affection and emotion in such passages, as shown by Edward Reynolds, an influential member of the Westminster assembly,  who in the 1660’s at the Restoration of the King Charles II conformed with the Church of England and became Bishop of Norwich.   In his book on the emotions, A Treatise on the Passions and Faculties of the Soul.


As we shall see, it seems to have been Reynolds to make a distinction between affection, for the  sophisticated, and the  passion, for the simple, as we shall see,


The way of the treating of the passions and affections Reynolds says,


For the corrupt effects of passion in general, because there are many more, because there may be a multiplicity as well of evil as of error, when there is but  a unity of goodness and of truth, one amongst  another; or in references to understanding, will, or body. The effects of them amongst themselves is in their mutual  generating and nourishing of each other, as fear is wrought by love; and anger , by grief. p, 99 Reynolds (6.48’). He comes close to an ideological account of emotion .


He goes on


And it is true as well in man’s little commonwealth, as in greater states, that there  are no more pestilent and  pernicious disturbers of the public good, than those who are best qualified for service and employment, - if once they grow turbulent and mutinous, neglecting the common end, for their own private respects, and desirous to raised themselves upon public ruins. And, indeed, it is universally true, things most useful and excellent in their regularity, are most useful  and excellent in their regularity, are most dangerous in their abuse. (Treatise  on the Passions and Faculties of the Soul. 6.38)


For the apostles Peter and Paul, however, the Gospel and its virtues is not a ideology, propounding gentleness of character, contrasted with the ‘roughness’ of the character of the crowd. Not class struggle. (see the references to a quiet life I Tim. 2.2, I Peter 3.4, I Thess.4.11) These are the fruit of the Spirit and of Christ’s own  example.


Owen provides  something more acceptable:


The mortification of our affections towards these things, our love, desire and delight, will produce a moderation of passions about them, as fear, anger, sorrow and the like ; such will men be stirred up unto these changes, losses, crosses, which these things are subject unto….. When the mind is weaned from the world, and the things of it, it will be sedate, quiet, composed, not easily moved with the occurrences and occasions of life: it is dead unto them, and in a great measure unconcerned in them,. This is that “moderation”  of mind wherein the apostle would have us excel. [1]


The Apothat Apostolic  teaching about virtue and vice is about two cultures, the one generated by the Spirit, and the other the fruit of the flesh. This is a spiritual difference, not social or political, but religious. With Paul between………and Peter in I Peter  2.1, 12, and 4.3-4 , and 2 Peter 1.5 1.7, 2.14. And Paul, in Romans 12.10, and Philippians 2.3. and its vicious opposites, Ephesians 5. 3—11and Philippians 3 17-9, and Colossians chapter 3.


The following expressions are typical.  Ephesians,  4.22…..’put off your own self which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires’, and chapter 5. And ‘put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility,  and much of Colossians chapter 3, ‘meekness, and patience, bearing one another.’ And other similar Petrine passages, and in I Peter  4.7 and earlier I Peter.  2.11f.














[1] These passages are in Chapter 4 ‘The Powers and Faculties of the Soul’ by Paul Helm, Human Nature from Calvin to Edwards, (Reformed Heritage Books, 2018), particular pages 98-100.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Joseph Truman's Discourse

 In a life time of reading and collecting books, I have some favourites. One

 of these is A Discourse of Natural and  Moral Impotency a small book

 by Joseph Truman. ‘late Minister near Nottingham’. He was born  in

 1630 educated at Clare College Cambridge lived in  Mansfield as a

 minister there, then lost his position in the Ejection of Puritans in 1662

 following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, following not

 reading common prayer and criticizing of the prayer book.  He lived

 then at Mansfield where he nonetheless attended the parish church

 there. He died at 1671, about 40.


He published several books, one of which is republished The Great Propitiation, Or, Christ Satisfaction and Man’s Justification by it upon his Faith that is Belief and Obedience to the Gospel Endeavored to be made Easily Intelligible….In some Sermons, preached by Joseph Truman (London, 1672), with that date published after his death).It is i. facsimile in EEBO Editions in the “Early History of Religion”,


One interesting fact about him was that he was friendly with Richard Baxter when a nonconformist, and this might that he may followed Baxter’s view of to a view of justification that is abased not only by faith in the Saviour, but is based on an individual’s piety. (There is no evidence of this in Truman’s  sermons on Christ’s propitiation. But consistency was not a  virtue of Baxter’s theology.)


His book on Natural and Moral Impotency  shows an informal style which has a number of features, which may be due to the influence of the elder man on him. It had a conversational style, informal, and open, though he exhibits sometimes complication. Nevertheless, he is interesting. The book came into a second edition, with  further material from his own hand before his death.  He shows familiarity with scholastic terminology, as well as with Westminster confession sources, and with jurisprudence . It is not surprising that his nonconformity  ‘was pleaded with the Justices, so well that he got off , though thevJustices were no great friends to Nonconformists’.


So the book can be read as an essay in  late Puritan anthropology, ‘the common sentiments of men’, and especially the human will. Truman is saying that to speak of impotency only with study of it.


This distinction of is of natural and moral of such  importance  in Divinity, that they that shall speak of the  Controversies hereby endeavoured  to be cleared  without keeping clear Notions, about this distinction, shall (though otherwise  learned Fathers and Doctors) speak like children concerning them; and also that men of understandings, keeping to this distinction, may competently satisfy themselves and others, if willing to be satisfied  in such Controversies as have posed the greatest wits and ‘Shollers’ [scholars] that keep to it.


He puts up two verses ‘You will not come to me that you have Life (John 5.40) ‘No man can come to me except the Father, which sent me, draw him, (John 6.44) These are both cases of impotency, moral impotency. The first is an inability to come to `Christ, the second is a case of moral inability, of inability to come to me unless the Father on the last day will raise him up on the last day’.


These cases do not refer to broken legs or blindness, but inwards inability, the sort that Paul in I Corinthians 2.14, ‘the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, he is able to understand because they are spiritually discerned. ‘ Once again, a spirit that is impotency,

‘a natural person’ not a physical lack, but whose entire powers of human nature is lacking. Truman (3)says ‘that distinction well understood, which is much insisted on by the French Protestant Divines, would much conduce herein, namely, the distinction of Natural and  Moral Impotency.


Truman’s distinction between different inabilities and their natural and moral  kinds, involves questions of the law, which leads me to think that he was expert in it, and that it colors his discussion of the law in the matter of credit and debt, (10), and drunkenness (12-15) when drink may affect his reason, and a comparison to the wicked who do not. These legal discussions  etc. Truman adds a third text from John’s Gospel, this time John 8.43, Christ speaking ‘Why do you not understand what I say ? `It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do  your father’a desires..’ Truman goes on you are so wicked, you are of such Devilish qualities’. (20)


‘If they mean by these words, that the fault is, notwithstanding their Impotency, that they do not some other thing than that they some other thing than they have the have the Impotency to ;and so the meaning is. He hath as Impotency to something; but his fault is, that he doth not that which hath a power to do; and hath no Impotency at all to. First: This rather confirms what I am saying , yea overgoe’s me quite, as you will see. Secondly: This is no more to the purpose, than to say, A blind man is too blame for not hearing, because impotency is seeing, doth  not hinder his hearing; yet this is apparently the chief Part of the meaning of this saying, as it is applied by those that use it. (20-1)


This is Truman getting into his stride. It will be unfamiliar to those who are reading it for the first time. And I hope to reproduce  short passages from later on in the book. And if you come across  Truman’s Discourse, you will possess a little treasure.