Saturday, October 29, 2022

A Northern Puritan,

Isaac Ambrose 1591-1664


It is common to draw  attention to the same handful of names of Puritan such as Manton, Calamy, Goodwin,  Baxter, Bates, Tuckney, and Caryl. Many of these are from London. But those who lived until 1662 came from every region of England. Isaac Ambrose,  the Son of Richard, Vicar of Ormskirk, in Lancashire.. He was educated both in Oxford, Brasenose,  and Cambridge,  Magdalene, 1632. 


Mr Isaac Ambrose was born in the year1591; and though we are at  loss to know details his parentage, yet, by the figure he made both in the learned world, and more especially in the church, it appears his education was liberal, and himself assiduous in his application to his studies; of which he has  (it being impossible that such precious fruit should grow  either in a barren or uncultivated soil) through all of which there shineth the greatest piety, zeal for God’s glory, and concern  for the salvation of souls:


We know what his writings were. In the folio published in Edinburgh by Martin and Wotherspoon, in1761. It is titled The Complete of Works of that Eminent Minister  of  God’s Word, Mr Isaac Ambrose Consisting  of the following Treatises: Viz.1 Prima , Media and Ultima OR , The Middle and Last Things. II Looking untoJesus, as carrying on the Great Work of Man’s Salvation: III War with Devils, Ministration of and Communion with Angels, IV with a ‘Sermon added concerning Redeem the Time’. (Ambrose preached this at the funeral at Preston in January 1657 of Lady Margaret Houghton,  who was a member of a wealthy Puritan family in the area. For  a while the eminent Puritan John Howe had been the Houghton’s chaplain.)  These  sentences  show what a rural, dedicated Puritan Minister could produce,  January 1657.)   This was A Short Account of the Life, Character and Principles of the Author,  an extract biographical entry taken from  Edmund Calamy’s Lives 2.409.


What follows are some extracts:


In his youth he made himself perfectly  with Plutarch and Cicero intimate, and was well acquainted with with the other fine writers of Greece and Rome by which means he was well instructed in the  belles lettres, and the various  thoughts and opinions of the greatest men among the Ancients . yet, notwithstanding this conversation With those  sages, he was not so superstitiously  fond of antiquity, as to fit down there, in  contempt of all later and helps and advancements. Being thus prepared, he addressed himself to the more close, particular and thorough  knowledge of Theology. In that science, he exercised his mind  upon what he read; he considered, compared, and inferred. He had the felicity of clear and diligent thinking. By reading he rendered his understanding full, and  by meditation he kept that fullness from being disorderly and confused. He thought it not enough or bundles of novel opinions , to understand the  current orthodoxy of the times, or to gain the faculty of speaking to the common people in the taking tone and phrase in vogue (things that constitute the divines   of that  age) but enquired into the b 


And of his last days, also at the first pages, 


 During the long parliament under Oliver Cromwell, Ambrose was settled at Preston in Lancashire, where he laboured in his ministerial work, for a considerable time, with great success,   and regarded of all. From thence was and regarded of all. From thence he was removed to Garstang, within ten miles of Preston, where the  act of uniformity found him in the year 1662which was the second year after the restoration of King Charles II,     When he, with  near two thousand more ministers, lecturers etc were silenced and laid aside from the public work of the ministry for not conforming to the established Church of England; and he was never again experienced rest during life. Yet that time was not spent in inactivity by him, but employed to the most purpose.....for then was he revised   and gave the finishing stroke to the greatest  part of his and  then it he to the greatest parts of his works from his youth,

From a sketch of dates from Calumny Revised  ed A.D.Matthews (Clarendon Press, 1934Oxford, p.9),  we learn that Isaac Ambrose was a  Curate of St Edmunds, Castleton, Derbyshire, and later the vicar of Ormskirk,  North of Liverpool and Preston and ejected  by the Bishop of Chester, while when he was vicar of Garstang in 1662, a small market  town at the foot of the Pennines. Ambrose was prominent the in Lancashire Classis during the era of Oliver Cromwell’s Long Parliament, being moderator of it several times. He married to Judith, and had several children while at Garstang.  ‘It was  his usual custom, once in a year, for the space of a Month to devote himself to Contemplation.’ He  died 23 January , after his ejection. His daughter Judith and Joseph Moxon his son who married, who died   and  was buried at Preston , a grocer. It was noted that he wrote to Richard Baxter Nov. 1661, about angels. His publications were appeared in London 1649-62.  

There is an edition of his Complete Works, Dundee, 1761 and a sermon ’Redeeming the Time 1657 at the funeral of the honourable Lady Margaret  Houghton, revised and somewhat enlarged, and at the importunity of some published, by Isaac Ambrose, Preacher of the Gospel ar Garstang, in the same County. Earlier he wrote to Richard Baxter and his Letter of Baxter’s and one from W.Cole Preston October 8, 1662 ‘One thing that was peculiar in him deserveth to be mentioned here desireth to be mentioned here,  for the space of a month, to retire into a little hut in a wood, to devote himself to contemplation. Possibly by this practice he was fitter for his sacred  ministration all the rest of the year. He lived, in the letter part of his life, at Preston, and when his end   drew near, he was very sensible of it…  Having taken  leave of his friends abroad with unusual solemnity, as if he foresaw that he should see them no more, he came to Preston from Bolton  and set all things in order  In a little time some of his hearers came to Garstang to visit  him: after discoursing freely with them, and like a man sensible of his death being near,     he accompanied them to their horses, and when he came shut himself up in his parlour,  the usual place of his soliloquy, meditation and prayer. They thought  he staid too long, and so opened  the door, and found him just expiring. This was in1664, aged 72; he was holy in his life, happy in his death, and honoured by God and all good men.


Other books  identified are ‘ A well-ordered family’, a republication of Looking unto Jesus , Ambrose’s most published book,    by Reformation Heritage Books. The editor and publisher refers to it as a good example of ‘experimental theology’. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022



Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952) 

In the recent book The Sovereignty of God,  edited, by  Brett Lee-Price, who is an expert to do with anything with Arthur W. Pink. I have helped him in joining the Afterwords which is devoted to discussing the changes on The Sovereignty 0f God through several editions. Mainly the book is taken up with the original and genuine text of Pink’s The Sovereignty of God. The Banner of Truth with Iain Murray and a small group, and in the years 1n 1961 made changes of the text. There were various matters. One had to do with criticism of Pink’s view of reprobation, which is discussed in the Afterword, which Brett and I have written. and of the criteria of responsibility in the phrase ‘natural and moral’ criteria for responsibility. Murray’s dissatisfactions were made public in two articles of the Banner of Truth magazine.


 The role of this revision is discussed in p. 269 following section in the book, the title ‘The Differing Editions of The Sovereignty of God’’ These matters published the Banner Truth Edition, and to the public in two articles of the Banner of Truth magazine. In ‘A.W’ Pink’s s Sovereignty of God – Revised or Unrevised?’, and in the  Banner of Truth, magazine 407-8 (August-September, 1997) ‘`Pink  on The Sovereignty of God , Iain H. Murray  ‘the Banner of Truth magazine , 592  (January 2013), 6-17.


One area of concern was that in the area of moral agency and responsibility was the  use of that  between  natural  and moral inability. Of this The Sovereignty of God  277  It was drawn the division was to be made by Jonathan Edwards ( 1703-1758)  in his Freedom of the Will, from which Andrew Fuller (1754—181).was later to employ of it.


The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. I (I Corinthians 2, 14-16)


A little further, in chapter three of I Corinthians,  where Paul returns to the opening theme of the letter, that of the divisions at the Corinthian church’…


For It had been reported to  me by Chloe’s people and her group’ [mentioned] that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers,  various groups [not mentioned}. This mentioned over groups giving them by this man and other such as  ‘Paul’, or ‘Apollos’ or ‘Christ’. ‘I thank God  that I baptised none except Crispus and `to `Gaius, and Stephanas’ household has a different group by a baptised of them one of these were Paul himself, mentioning Crispus and Gaius that he baptised, and others whose names he had forgotten. ‘For Christ did not send to baptise but to preach the gospel, and not with  words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.’ ICor.1.10-17).


To tolerate the making of several named boastful baptizers  in the church was to imperil Christian unity, and to express  a shallow wisdom.  True wisdom , ‘the source of human life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification  and redemption.’ (I Cor.1.30  ) Therefore , as it is written ,”Let the one who boasts, boasts in the Lord.’ (I Cor, 1 31). This assertion pivots the remainder of Paul’s gospel, between the wisdoms (plural)  of this world, and the gospel which expresses the wisdom of God, one wisdom, Christ Jesus, the only source of spiritual wisdom, ‘the source of your life',  in contrast with those of worldly wisdoms, bearing  that  the many philosophical schools flourishing in Corinth.


Paul asserts that the gospel is the revelation of one wisdom, but it has been communicated to the Corinthians in the style of preaching (I Cor.2), and his style as a speaker. He was not an eloquent orator, he says, he had one topic, ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’, which he spoke not in self-confidence but in weakness, and in fear and much trembling, ‘not in plausible  words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit’s power, ‘that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God’.(I Cor 2.5:)


But I , brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you  were not ready for it    And even now you were not  yet ready. And even now you are now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the  flesh. For while  there is jealousy and strife, are you need  For while there is  jealousy and strife among you,  are you not of the flesh.  Are you of the flesh not of he  flesh and behaving only in a human way. For when one says, ‘I follow Paul’ and another’ ‘ I follow Apollos’, are you not being merely human?’. (I Cor. 3. 1-4.)


So for Paul there are two classes of people. The natural person ‘does not accept  the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because  they are spiritually discerned’,  (1 Cor 2. 14) The  spiritual person judges all things but is himself to be judged by no one, for who has understood the mind of the Lord   so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. The two classes are the natural and spiritual which are exhaust the human race. Later theologians distinguished between not Paul but between natural impotency. John Owen distinguishes between the two classes of person , those natural and spiritual. (Owen, Works ed Goold 3. 266).


Two kinds of person


Other important usages in which Paul uses ‘flesh’ in other letters add to fuller understanding of the two. For example, Rom. 7.5, 7.25, 8,3, 8.5, 8.8, Gal. 5.69 and  the teaching of Christ in John’s gospel, are similar to those in I Corinthians - Such  verses as ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  Such people who were drawn by the Father, ‘And I will raise him up on the last day’, (John 6.44) and John verses 5.44 How can you believe  when you receive glory from  one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?.’ The first the impossibility  of faith unless people are ‘drawn’ by the Father. Edwards simply a moral necessity examples, the faithfulness  of  the chaste woman and that of the infant child that Edwards. constructs of abilities. ('Section Pt 1, section 4, Of  The Distinction of Natural and Moral and Necessity and Inability').   And in John     ‘yet you refuse to come to that you may have life’. I do not receive glory from people But I know that you do have the love of God within you. ‘(5.44?).  These are instances of moral ability and inability, usually cases of physical defection. But these are not exhaustive of ‘natural or “moral’.  By now, the adjective word ‘natural’ refers to many differences. Owen himself says  ‘It is pretended and pleaded by some in these day. Paul says the ‘the natural person does not  accept  the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them are spiritually discerned’. Paul uses the terms ‘the  natural person’ and ‘ the spiritual person’ (I Cor.2. 14f).. Owen discusses the ‘natural man’ operating his own day that upon an apprehension’ in  the works and light of nature of the goodness of  God, men without any other advantages love him above all, and be accepted with him. (Owen, Works ed. Goold, III 268, 272,) In Paul’s day the scope of the term ‘natural’ is not 'spiritual' of the gospel but  natural theology.  How much more the width in our day!


‘Natural’ is an expansive adjective, and ‘moral’ too. This brings us to our use of ‘natural’ and 'moral'  in its various kinds in religion in the modern culture of today. 




Arthur W.  Pink, The Sovereignty of God, ‘Afterwords’,Paul Helm and Brett Lee- Price, Tulip Publishing, 2022,  Tulip Publishing, 300.