Shakespeare of the Puritans - an introduction to the preaching of Thomas Adams, Part 1

See here
It is nearly 30 years ago now that a little paperback appeared containing choice quotations from over 145 different Puritans. (1) Apart from the eminently quotable William Gurnall (1617-1679) and Thomas Watson (c.1620-1686), the most quoted individual there appears to be Thomas Adams. Gurnall and Watson are relatively well known but who is this Thomas Adams?
He is the man who has been ranked above 'silvertongued' Henry Smith by John Brown (2) and who has been described as 'one of the most gifted preachers' of his day (3) and the 'greatest of all early Puritan divines'.(4) With well over a million words in print, he is a bright star in a veritable galaxy of 17th Century divines whose reputation today rests chiefly in their literary output. In his own day, Adams was often quoted in commonplace books.(5) Today he is largely forgotten but his works are still available and are still quoted.

His only monument
As for the man himself, scant detail regarding his life outside the pulpit exists. (6 ) 'The man we cannot see,' wrote Joseph Angus in 1866 'nor have we found a witness that has seen him'. Or as W H Stowell put it 20 years before, 'His only monument is in his works'. (7)
Our ignorance is so great that we know neither where or when he was born, nor when he died. (8) It was uncertain at one time whether he was a university man but evidence has apparently surfaced to say that he graduated from Cambridge, BA in 1601 and MA in 1606. (9) We also know that at some point he married and had a son and two daughters, the latter predeceasing him in 1642 and 1647. Probably he was born in the early 1580s, in the reign of Elizabeth I. As for his death, we know that in 1653 he was in 'necessitous and decrepit old age' .(10) It would seem that he 'relied upon the charity of his former parishioners during the final months of his life' which presumably came while in his seventies, before the Restoration of 1660.
A further known date is his ordination in 1604, the year after James came to the English throne. The following year Adams was licensed to the curacy of Northill, Bedfordshire, but was soon dismissed when Northill College Manor was sold. By 1611 it seems that he was vicar in the village of Willington, near Bedford, where he remained until 1614, pursuing a ministry of preaching and putting sermons into print. While at Willington, he preached at least once before the Bedford clergy at an Archdeacon's visitation and twice from Paul's cross. 'the open air pulpit in the church yard of St Paul's Cathedral' known as Paul's Cross. (ll) These sermons were published, as was the common practice at the time.

These may preach when the author cannot
It is difficult at this remove to appreciate how popular preaching and printed sermons were in this period. The reading public was far greater than historians once thought and there was a flood of literature of all sorts to sate its appetite. This flood inevitably spilled over and affected more illiterate sections of the population too. Historian Alexandra Walsham has written of an explosion of cheaply priced printed texts designed to entertain, edify, and satisfy the thirst of a rapidly expanding reading public for information ... Hawked and chanted at the doors of theatres, alehouses, and other habitual meeting spots, and displayed for sale in shops in the vicinity of St Paul's churchyard, they also penetrated the Foundations provinces and countryside to a degree which is only gradually coming to light. (12)
The nation's preachers seem initially simply to have bewailed this flood of largely unhelpful literature. Then, reluctantly at first, they began to swell it with the most wholesome material they could produce in various formats, from cheap unbound booklets to high quality folio editions. An incentive to putting sermons into print was the fact that unscrupulous printers might otherwise produce pirated and potentially inaccurate editions, so great was the demand for such material. While sermons undoubtedly held little attraction for some, there was a sizeable number for whom 'they were like an addictive and intoxicating drug' .(13) Perhaps especially in London preaching was as much a communal gathering as a solemn spiritual event, to which restive and wayward youth eagerly swarmed.
In general, both hearers of preaching and readers of sermons were many and varied. (14) Adams himself says never did the Egyptians call so fast upon the Israelites for making of bricks, as the people call on us for the making of sermons; (15)
He was one of many who sought to capitalise on this interest through printed sermons. Various means were used to reduce sermons to print. We do not know what happened in Adams' case but judging from the presentation of the material and its general lack of literary (as opposed to homiletical) polish, it would seem that amanuenses were employed to record Adams' sermons verbatim. (16) Sensitive to accusations of simply affecting to be a man in print, in 1630 he rehearses a popular argument for printing sermons in his dedication 'to the candid and ingenious reader'. Speech is only for presence, writings have their use in absence ... our books may come to be seen where ourselves Spring 2004 shall never be heard. These may preach when the author cannot, and (which is more) when he is not. (l7) It had been profitable when he spoke it and now he hopes it will be profitable in written form. (18)

A popular city preacher
In 1614, Adams accepted an appointment as Vicar of Wing rave, Buckinghamshire, residing there until 1618. While at Wingrave, he seems to have taken up a lectureship (19) at St Gregory's, a church dating from the Seventh Century near to the old St Paul's Cathedral. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The Dictionary of National Biography also mentions a chaplaincy at this time to Sir Henry Montague, later Earl of Manchester, the Lord Chief Justice or Privy-seal. (20) During the Wingrave years, Adams published several collections of sermons and was in demand as a popular city preacher.
He retained his lectureship at St Gregory's until at least 1623, but as King James, following the Synod of Dort, became increasingly pro-Arminian and discouraged lectureships (even before Laud began outlawing them), this probably came to an end. By 1619 Adams was rector of nearby St Bennet's, Paul's Wharf. He resided here it seems until his death, dependent on fluctuating funds available to St Paul's. In December 1623 his wife died. There is no evidence that he remarried.
Still much in demand, he preached his final sermons at Paul's Cross in 1623 and 1624. The Temple commemorated King James's preservation from the gunpowder plot. Three Sermons, 1625, suggests continued prominence as it includes sermons for the Lord Mayor's election, the triennial visitation of the Bishop of London and mourners at Whitehall two days after James's death.

A doctrinal Puritan
It is difficult to explain the abrupt disappearance from public view that follows. Much of Adams' preaching would have been distasteful to Laud, Bishop of London by 1628, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633. He increasingly worked to silence any suspected of Puritan leanings. It may be significant that Adams' friend and patron, metaphysical poet John Donne, died in 1631.(21) Donne had been Dean of St Paul's since 1621. His removal may have diminished Adams' standing. At the same time, Adams' staunch defence of the monarchy and ecclesiastical hierarchy must have counted for something. Perhaps it was his strong Calvinism, his view that matters of ceremony were 'indifferent', his fierce criticism of the popish 'idolatry' that threatened to creep back in and his popularity, that combined to bring about his disappearance from public view.(22)
Ironically, he had few friends on the Puritan side and their rise to power in the 1640s would not have helped him either.(23) He was denounced in a 1647 Puritan tract as a known profane pot-companion, ... and otherwise a loose liver, a temporising ceremony monger, and malignant against the parliament.(24)
His loyalty to the king, tolerance of ceremony and support for episcopalian church government would have made him objectionable to many. Unable to escape the political vicissitudes of his times, Adams may well have been sequestered as were many clergy unsympathetic to the Parliamentarian cause. (25) Angus is sceptical and suggests that other factors may have brought the living to an end. By 1642 he was probably no longer Rector of St Bennet's, though probably remaining in the rectory. Stowell and Angus helpfully speak of Adams as a 'Doctrinal Puritan' in order to emphasise that although he was Calvinistic, Anti-papist and a preacher of the Word, he did not make a stand on issues of rites, forms and ceremonies from the church's Roman past. (26) Adams prized unity and often railed against the schismatic tendencies of some in the Puritan party. (27)

Being the sum
The first of Adams' sermons at Paul's Cross (The Gallants Burden) appeared as early as 1612 and had passed through three printings by 1616. The sermon of 1613, The White Devil, became his most popular and had gone through five editions by 1621. Other single and collected sermons followed and in 1616 he completed his short treatise Diseases of the Soul. In 1618 he issued The Happiness of the Church, consisting of 27 sermons gathered for the press, probably during a period of illness. In 1629 and again in 1630 his works appeared in a full folio edition of over 1200 pages. Because of his peculiar position, Adams was neglected in the Eighteenth Century but in 1847 some sermons were reprinted. Editor W H Stowell, president of the Independent College in Rotherham, thought there was little likelihood of the works being reproduced as a whole. (28) However, in the 1860s a group of six Scottish ministers came together to expedite publication of the Works in three unequal volumes 'Being the sum of his sermons, meditations and other divine and moral discourses'. (29)
These volumes contain some 65 sermons, set out in biblical rather than chronological order. They include The souls sickness, a 35 page treatise, plus the 180 page Meditations on the creed. The volumes also contain a memoir by Baptist Dr Joseph Angus and other brief introductory materials. (30) They were reproduced by a California based company in 1998.
Apart from two final sermons from 1652 (Gods Anger and Mans Comfort) added to the later collected works from copies found in the British Museum, Adams' only other published work is his massive commentary on 2 Peter. He appears to have worked on this major project from 1620-1633, the year of its first appearance. It was revised and corrected by James Sherman of Surrey Chapel and published in 1839. It was reproduced in the 1990s by another American publishing house.

The prose Shakespeare of Puritan theologians
The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica says of Adams that

His numerous works display great learning, classical and patristic, and are unique in their abundance of stories, anecdotes, aphorisms and puns.

It argues that his printed sermons 'placed him beyond all comparison in the van of the preachers of England'. It also quotes Robert Southey's oft-repeated suggestion that he be considered 'the prose Shakespeare of Puritan theologians'. Britannica itself suggests that he 'had something to do with shaping John Bunyan' and, following Southey, draws favourable comparisons with Thomas Fuller, for wit, and Jeremy Taylor, for imagination. Along with Adams' known friendship with Donne, it is no surprise that he, like Bunyan and some few others, has attracted the attention of University English departments as well as historians and evangelical believers.
He has been spoken of as being 'weighty in thought and vigorous in style'. (31) Walsham refers to him as 'That most poetical of Jacobean preachers'. (32) Angus assembles a host of names from the worlds of literature and divinity that have been linked with Adams. In his youth he was the contemporary of the race that adorned the reign of Elizabeth: Spenser, Shakespeare and Jonson, Bacon and Raleigh. Among the men of his own age were Bishops Hall and Andrewes, Sibbes, the author of the Bruised Reed and the Soul's Conflict, Fuller the historian, and now in the church and now out of it, Hildersham and Byfield and Cartwright. Earle was busy writing and publishing the Microcosmography and Overbury had already issued his Characters. (33) A little before him flourished Arminius and Whitgift, Hooker and Reynolds; and a little after him Hammond and Baxter, Taylor and Barrow, Leighton and Howe. There is evidence that Adams had read the works of several of his predecessors and contemporaries and he has been compared with nearly all the writers we have named. His scholarship reminds the reader of that 'great gulf of learning'
Bishop Andrewes.(34) In sketching a character he is not inferior to Overbury or Earle. In fearless denunciations of sin, in pungency and pathos, he is sometimes equal to Latimer or to Baxter. For fancy, we may, after Southey, compare him with Taylor; for wit, with Fuller. In one sermon at least, that on the Temple, there is an occasional grandeur that brings to memory the kindred treatise of Howe. Joseph Hall is probably the writer he most resembles; in richness of scriptural illustration, in fervour of feeling, in soundness of doctrine he is certainly equal; in learning, and power, and thought, he is superior.(35)
To the names mentioned here perhaps we could add those of the early Puritans Richard Greenham and Henry Smith. William Haller writes of the characteristic of Greenham and Smith's sermons as being 'plain and perspicuous' in that they are composed in straightforward lucid sentences not without wit but avoiding preciosity and the ostentation of erudition. They were also influenced by the mediaeval tradition of making war on wickedness 'by attacking its several varieties', leading to 'more or less realistic description of actual manners and morals', the creation of 'characters' and the portrayal of social types. HaIler goes on to say that these traits in Greenham and Smith are also found, in varying degrees, in other Calvinists and Puritans of the time. Alluding to Southey's statement, he cites Adams as

No Shakespeare but a late and extreme though brilliant example of the persistence of these traditions. (36)

Lessons in homiletics
It is perhaps the superior homiletical and literary quality of his work that stands out in Adams. It is one of the things that makes him notable. In these areas he shows strength at every point and there are lessons for preachers today to learn.
Title. Firstly, there are the very titles of some sermons. The works contain nearly 60 different ones. Many are striking. For example, A generation of/serpents; Mystical Bedlam; The sinner's passing bell; England's sickness; The Black Saint; Majesty in misery; The White Devil; Spiritual Eye-salve; Love's copy. Giving good titles to sermons is perhaps a dying art in some quarters that could be usefully revived.
Introduction. He often has good introductions. For example

A true Christian's life is one day of three meals, and every meal hath in it two courses. His first meal is ... to be born a sinner, and to be new born a saint ... His second meal is ... to do well, and to suffer ill ... His third meal is, .,. to die a temporal death, to live an eternal life.


The great bishop of our souls now being at the ordination of his ministers, having first instructed them in via Domini, doth here discipline them in vita disciputi; ...

How important it is for a preacher to grab his hearer's attention from the start.
Text. Angus commends the choice of texts, each of which is for him a sermon in itself. 'Have we rightly appreciated in the modern pulpit' he asks 'the importance of a good text?' (38) Sometimes the texts are carefully placed in their context, often they are not.
Variety. The printed sermons range from Genesis to Revelation. Some 27 are from Old Testament texts. Over 60% of these are, perhaps unsurprisingly, from the wisdom books. (39) Of the 38 New Testament texts, over 30% are from the Gospels and nearly half from Paul and Hebrews. In some instances we have brief consecutive series of sermons.
Structure. The structure of the sermons is not the later Puritan pattern of exposition, then doctrine then uses or application. Among stranger approaches include The Gallants Burden which includes sketches, in the tradition of the medieval descriptio, of four 'scorners' who destroy the commonwealth - atheists, epicures, libertines and 'common profane' clergy; the way The White Devil includes a series of twelve characters modelled on Hall and, most unusually, the examination of the nature, cause, symptoms and cure of nineteen bodily diseases with an allegorical scrutiny of parallel vices that plague the soul, in Diseases of the Soul from 1616. (41) Even when his sermon structure is formally typical, Adams often transcends it with striking ways of presenting the material. On Hebrews 13:8 he has three points but speaks, most engagingly, of a centre, a circumference and a mediate line.

The immovable centre is Jesus Christ. The circumference, that runs around about him here, is eternity ... The mediate line referring them is, 6 autos, the same: ...

In one particularly striking example, on Ecclesiastes 9:3, he takes the phrases in order The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, then and madness is in their heart while they live, finally and after that they go to the dead. His powerful imagination is so active that he comes up with no less than six conceits in which to couch his three points.
Grammar - man's comma, colon, period; journey - setting forth, peregrination, journey's end; arrow - born from the bow, wild flight, into the grave; argument - harsh and unpromising proposition, wickedness; hopeless proposition, madness; inevitable conclusion, death; race - man's beginning full of evil, the further he goes the worse it is, in frantic flight he falls into the pit; stairs - a three step descent.
Illustrations, etc. The points themselves are fleshed out with quotations, sayings, classical allusions, illustrations, stories and fables, similes, metaphors and similar devices. (42) He often uses Latin and, rarely, Greek, but this is nearly always translated. Often he quotes the Latin to show an alliterative connection not found in English.
His favourite ecclesiastical authors are early church fathers such as Augustine, Ambrose and Chrysostom and Bernard of Clairvaux. He also quotes from secular classical authors, Reformers and near contemporaries. One can get the flavour from these quotations, chosen almost at random,

It is not a sufficient commendation of a prince to govern peaceable and loyal subjects, but to subdue or subvert rebels. It is the praise of a Christian to order refractory and wild affections, more than to manage yielding and pliable ones.(43)
He runs about the seats like a pick-purse; and if he sees a roving eye he presents objects of lust; if a drowsy head, he rocks him asleep, and gives him a nap just the length of the sermon; if he spies a covetous man, he transports his soul to his counting house; and leaves nothing before the preacher but a mindless trunk ... which way soever a wicked man uses his tongue, he cannot use it well ... He bites by detraction, licks by flattery; ... All the parts of his mouth are instruments of wickedness. (44)
lips, teeth, throat, tongue. The psalmographer on every one of these has set a brand of wickedness ... This is a monstrous and fearful mouth; where the porter, the porch, the entertainer, the receiver, are all vicious. The lips are the porter, and that is fraud; the porch, the teeth, and there is malice; the entertainer, the tongue, and there is lying; the receiver, the throat, and there is devouring. (45)
Brief and pithy sentences. The love of brief and pithy, often alliterative sayings is a characteristic of his work. Examples abound. Again we choose at random
• ... many go to hell with the water of baptism on their faces and the assurance of salvation in their mouths.
• Generation lost us; it must be regeneration that recovers us.
• If men were God's friends, they would frequent God's house: there is little friendship to God where there is no respect of his presence, nor affection for his company.
• Worldly friends are but like hot water, that when cold weather comes, are soonest frozen.
• If we open the doors of our hearts to his Spirit, he will open the doors of heaven to our spirit. If we feast him with a 'supper' of grace, Rev 3:20, he will feast us with a supper of glory. (46)

The scriptural hermeneutic is generally sound, though some expositions are rather idiosyncratic. Sometimes individual words are taken up and expounded in a surprising but generally profitable way. Scripture serves both as a source book for illustrations and supporting arguments. Expansion. Another feature is the way Adams will often take up a minor point and expand on it. Because Proverbs 14:9 speaks of fools in the plural Adams distinguishes the sad, glad, haughty and naughty fool. In A contemplation of the herbs it is the one word herbs from Hebrews 6:7 that leads to his consideration of some 13 herbs or flowers, to each of which he attaches a virtue, which he then expounds.
Adams' method means that almost every line is rich with spiritual teaching. One cannot read very far in his sermons without finding something spiritually striking and wholesome. In a subsequent essay we would like to conclude by dwelling more on the content of his sermons and what he has to teach us particularly about aspects of Christian piety.
To be continued.
1 D E Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1977) 2 According to Moira P Baker, in Dictionary of Literary Biography: British Prose Writers of the Early Seventeenth Century, Vo!. 151, ed. Clayton D Lein (Detroit, Gale Publishers, 1995), pp.3-10. 3 WK Jordan, The development of religious toleration in England 1603-1640 (Cambridge, Harvard UP, 1936), p.155. 4 W Fraser Mitchell, English Pulpit Oratory from Andrewes to Tillotson: A Study of its Literary Aspects (New York, Russell and Russell, 1932, reprinted 1962); quoted by Baker. 5 Works, 3, p.x. Referring to the Library ofWilliam Bentley, preserved in Alleghenny College, Edwin Wolf says interestingly 'He did own, as did most colonial Americans who had a shelf of folios, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, the works of Thomas Adams, ... the sermons of Lancelot Andrewes'. Cf http://library. allegheny. edu/SpeciallObservationsPtlhtm. 6 Most of the material here is gleaned ftom Baker. She says ' ... the eclipse of his reputation belies the achievement of his earlier career and his enduring stature as a gifted preacher.' 7 WH Stowell, Introduction, The three divine sisters, ete. (London, Thomas Nelson, 1847), p.lxi. 8 Thomas Adams is not an unusual name and it may be worth making clear that our man is not the Brasenose fellow and rector of St Mildred's ejected in 1662, author of 'the main principles of Christian religion' who died in 1670 or the rector ofWintringham and author of 'Private thoughts' who died in 1784. 9 This also fits with his remark that universities were 'nurseries of Christian learning' Works, 2, p.112. NB 'For only about 5% (38) of the [Londonllecmrers is there good reason to suppose that they did not attend university at all.' Paul Seaver, The Puritan lectureships the politics of religious dissent 1560-1662 (Stanford, CA, Stanford Up, 1970), p.181. 10 Cf. Works, 3, pp.lvi, 264. 11 Cf. Alexandra Walsham, Providence in early modern England (Oxford Up, 1999), p.28 1. She calls it a 'rostrum contemporaries revered as the "chiefest Watchtower" and the very "stage of this land'" and reproduces a crude 1625 woodcut of Thomas Brewer preaching there. Foundations At http://www.britannia.com/history/ londonhistory/ paulcross.html there are better visuals and a digest of a 1925 article by E Beresford Chancellor saying that it was the setting, perhaps the inspiration in part, for some of the most pregnant scenes in London's, indeed England's, history. Even before it was the cathedral pulpit, it was a traditional spot for announcing proclamations, civil and religious. At times of national crisis, Londoners were drawn there as by a magnet. Its history goes back at least to the 13th Century. Down the years declarations, proclamations and public confessions were made there; impostors and frauds were exposed, traitors denounced, sermons preached, books burned. In the late 15th Century the pulpit was rebuilt. Largely of timber, mounted on steps of stone with a lead covered roof and a low wall around, it held three or four. It was said that 'All the Reformation was accomplished from the Cross.' It fell into disuse early in Elizabeth's reign but was revived and continued until swept away in 1643. From then the site remained unmarked until in 1910 a new cross was built. It marks the site today. 12 Walsham, p.33. 13 Walsham, p.61. 14 Walsham, p.62. Adams complains of 'perfunctory hearing', Works, 2, p.271 and 'How many sermons are lost whiles you bring not with you the vials of attention.' 'You come frequently to the wells of life,' he complains 'but you bring no pitchers with you.' The people either lack mouths to receive the balm of grace or bottoms to retain it. Works, 3, p.366. 15 Typically, he cannot resist adding 'and our allowance of materials is much alike'! Cf. Works, 2, p.169. He also asks of London 'What city in the world is so rich in her spiritual provision as this? Some whole countries within the Christian pale have not so many learned and painful pastors as be within these walls and liberties.' Works, 2, p.271. Cf. 'In its preaching, as in so many other respects, London was without rival. Nowhere else were there so many lectureships packed into so small an area ... ' Seaver, p.121. 16 Cf. 'I know you have long looked for an end, I never delighted in prolixity.' Works, 1, p.421; ' ... it hath led me further than either my purpose or your patience would willingly have allowed me.' Works, 2, p.38; 'You see the measure [the hour glassl. Only give me leave to set you down two short rules .. .' Works, 2, p.45; 'I am loath to give you a bitter farewell, or Spring 2004 to conclude with a menace. I see I cannot, by the time's leave, drink to you any deeper in this cup of charity ... ' Works, 2, p.412. His printed sermons vary in length. Possibly material was added. 17 Works, 3, p.ix 18 Works, 3, p.xvii. 19 Lectureships, especially popular in London, were a Puritan attempt to promote preaching. These lecturers (almost entirely called and supported by the laity) created a situation in which much of the preaching in the city took place outside of normal ecclesiastical lines of authority,' Dever, Richard Sibbes Puritanism and Calvinism in late Elizabethan and early Stuart England (Macon, GA, Mercer UP), p.81. A full study can be found in Seaver. 20 Adams dedicated his works to Montague and to WilIiam, Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain and privy counsellor, founder of Pembroke College, Oxford. Immediate successors of both served in the Westminster Assembly. 21 John Donne (1572-1631) 'England's greatest love poet', a leader of the metaphysical school, he is also noted for his religious verse, treatises and sermons. Adams dedicated The Barren Tree, preached at Paul's Cross, 1623, to Donne. Daniel Doerksen ('Milton and the Jacobean Church of England', Early Modern Literary Studies, 1.1, 1995) helpfully points out how in the 1620s ' ... there was no great divide between moderate conformists like John Donne and moderate or even fully conforming puritans.' He notes that Donne was not only Adams' friend but had been able to 'satisfy the benchers at Lincoln's Inn, where his predecessor and successor as reader in divinity were the moderate puritans Thomas Gataker and John Preston.' He says There is good evidence to show that .. , Donne ... was not essentially a Laudian, but identified strongly with the rather Calvinist Jacobean Church.' 22 For evidence of Calvinism, cf. Angus, Works, 3, pp.xxvii, xxviii. In a piece of unwarranted hyperbole, he says 'Adams is as fair a representative of Calvinistic doctrine as Calvin himself'! Thinking on the Jacobean church has altered greatly since the 16th Century. It is no longer acceptable to posit the idea that Anglicans and Puritans were distinct and coherent groups, with no middle ground. It is incorrect to suppose that there were no moderate or non-separatist Puritans or that only Puritans were Calvinist and interested in doctrine and preaching. Doerksen 35 says that Milton's high esteem for Calvin was probably shared by most leaders of the Jacobean church. Anti-popish sentiments abound in Adams. To complaints of excess he answers 'I can often pass his door and not call in, but if he meets me full in the face and affronts me, for good manners' sake, ... I must change a word with him.' Works, 1, p.203 23 Phrases such as this could have been seized upon 'The unicorn-that is, the hypocrite-the foul-breasted, fair-crested, factious Puritan hath but one horn, but therewith he doth no small mischief,' 'And there be bawling curs, rural ignorants; that blaspheme all godliness under the name of Puritanism.' Works, 2, pp.1l8-119. 24 Cf Baker, Dictionary of Literary Biography. 25 Cf. Angus, relying on Newcourt's Repertorium, Works, 3, pp. ix, xiii. 26 Cf Angus, Works, 3, p.xiii; Stowell, p.xiv. 27 He speaks of Anglican efforts to deal with Roman ceremonies by reducing them 'for their number to paucity, for their nature to purity, for their use to significancy'. 'Separate we not then from the church' he says 'because the church cannot separate from all imperfection'. Works, 2, p.156. 28 Stowell, p.lxii. 29 The General Editor was Thomas Smith. A further selection appeared later under the editorship of John Brown, The Sermons of Thomas Adams, The Shakespeare of Puritan Theologians (London, Cambridge Up, 1909). 30 The memoir was originally to have been executed by CH Spurgeon but he was unwell. 31 Cf. Article on preaching in SchaJfHerzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge available on-line at http://www.ccel.org. 32 Walsham, p.28l. 33 John Earle (1601?-1665) Bishop ofSalisbuty in his final years, wrote Microcosmography, a collection of witty characterisations, his best known work, 1628. Thomas Overbury (1581-1613) enormously popular poet and essayist, his sketch in verse, A Wife (1614), outlines his idea of the perfect wife. To it he added over 80 character sketches, 'a collection marked by its extravagant fancy, pungent wit, and flippant mockery of social folly'. 'One of the most striking literary features of Adams' sermons is his ubiquitous use of the satiric prose character, a form introduced into English prose by Joseph Hall ... Drawing upon both Hall and the Overburians, 36 Adams shapes characters appropriate to his preaching of conversion.' 34 Though Adams is often compared withTayor, Andrewes and Donne, Seaver is still clear on the difference between 'a witty sermon preached by Lancelot Andrewes or John Donne' and 'one in the plain style of Richard Sibbes or Thomas Adams'. Cf. Seaver, p.18l. 35 Angus, p.xxi. 36 William Hailer, Rise of Puritanism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972), pp.30-3l. 37 Works, 3, p. 22; Works, 2, p.109. 38 Angus, p.xxv. 39 John H Prim us, Richard Greenham: Portrait of an Elizabethan Pastor (Macon, Georgia, Mercer Up, 1998) notes that Greenham had a similar preference for Psalms and Proverbs. 40 Series of consecutive sermons are found on Genesis 25:27 (2); Psalm 66:12,13 (3); God's bounty Proverbs 3:16 (2); The fatal banquet, Proverbs 9:17-18 (4); Jeremiah 8:22 (4); Matthew 2:11-12 (2); Ephesians 5:2 (3); Hebrews 6:7-8 (5). 41 Other examples, the hunt figure (Politic Hunting, 1629) where he structures his characters of the powerful who prey on the weak by depicting the depopulator as a wild boar, the cheater a crafty fox, the usurer a wolf, the grain engrosser a badger. We have mentioned A Generation of Serpents, 1629. He uses a similar approach in his references to thorns, briars and brambles rending the flesh of the commonwealth in A Forest of Thorns, 1616. Eirenopolis allegorises London's gates in an appeal for peace amid the growing factionalism of the time. 42 Adams argues 'God has given us ... liberty ... not only to nakedly lay down the truth, but with the helps of invention, wit, art, to prevent the loathing his manna ... But ... all our hopes can scarce help one soul to heaven.' Works, 1, p.335. 43 Works, 1, p.265. 44 Works, 2, p.39. 45 Works, 3, p.2l. 46 Works, 1, pp.62, 256; Works, 2, pp.83, 138; Works, 3, p.37.


I am thirsty

Spurgeon once spoke of what was bitter to Jesus being made sweet to his people. That is our aim as we consider the fifth and shortest of the seven sayings of the cross, that exclusive to John 19:28 … Jesus said ‘I am thirsty’.
The darkness over, following his cry of dereliction, we come to the final period of suffering. John begins Later, knowing now that all was completed and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled …. Always self-possessed, even in agony on the cross, Jesus realises that virtually all that was left to do was to say three more things then die (importantly, to die in broad daylight). He always kept in mind the need to fulfil Scripture. John normally makes a specific reference but here he is general.
The response follows. A soldier lifts a wine-vinegar soaked sponge to Jesus’s lips. The wine was either the soldiers’ or for victims. Some question if hyssop is strong enough to lift a wet sponge but Jesus was probably not far off the ground. The drink would give immediate relief but its astringent action would then tighten the throat muscles making things worse. 

Never forget that Jesus is a man, a real man. He did not speak for effect but really was thirsty. As he was hungry in the desert at the beginning of his ministry, now at the end he is thirsty. At other times, he was weak, tired, angry, sad. Hebrews 2:17,18 says he was made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

That Jesus was thirsty is no surprise when we think of all he had suffered since his arrest – trials, mocking, flogging, carrying the cross, crucifixion – all presumably with no drink When offered a drugged drink to dull the pain he rejected it wanting to remain alert. His sufferings were real. Lamentations 1:12, 13 predicts it … Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger? From on high he sent fire, sent it down into my bones. … He made me desolate, faint all the day long. His sufferings were not only physical but mental and spiritual. We can speak of the ‘drought of his soul in the fierce heat of God’s wrath’. He bore God’s wrath in place of sinners on the cross and was, in a sense, in hell, longing for someone to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue, because he was in agony (Luke 16:24).
The response increased his suffering. All creation was desperate to slake his thirst – every stream and river, every angel - but a wretched man with a wretched drink acted. Do we appreciate how much he suffered.

The phrase was not merely gasped. Relevant Scriptures include Psalms 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth …. 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 69:21 They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst. We are best to see it, perhaps, in Westcott’s words, as a ‘perfect completion of the whole prophetic image’. Scripture was always in Jesus’s consciousness. Do we have the same reverence for the Word?

Remember Satan tempting Jesus to make bread in the desert? A similar temptation came now - not the sort we know much about. Jesus resists. He yields his will to the Father’s. Because he submitted, we are forgiven. Surely, we should submit too.

As suggested, we must look beyond physical thirst to heart desire. It was always there. He longed to see his work completed and know the fellowship of his people. An old writer says ‘He thirsts after our thirst’. Christ longs for you, believer, to reach out in faith to him. 

Jesus thirsted in our place, as our substitute. He thirsted so we no longer need to. His tongue was parched because of what sinners like us do with our tongues. Think what you have done with yours. He was punished for his people. 
John 4 presents Christ as the great soul-thirst quencher. There is a deep need and longing in every heart. It cannot be properly quenched by what this world offers. We need the water only Christ provides. It is said that when William Coulthard perished in the Australian desert in 1858 he had scratched the words ‘Lost, lost for want of water’ on his empty canteen. That is our position by nature. Yet we need not perish in the desert of this life if we go to the one who died in the place of sinners. Hear his words (John 7:37, 38) if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me … streams of living water will flow from within him.

First published in Grace Magazine


Travelling through 1 Thessalonians 06 The fat lady is already singing

Another part of the series from the Evangelical Magazine
Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians refers to the Second coming, especially the last two chapters. Today we are used to Christians dying but imagine a converted Thessalonian pagan. He loves the brotherhood but after a while, one dies, then others. This is unexpected. He thought Christ would come and take them all to be with him, sooner rather than later. Now he is unsettled and it is most understandable. We are unsurprised when Christians die but may be we are unclear on certain things about Christ's return.

Christians have hope
Paul says (4:13) he does not want them to be ignorant about believers who die or grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. His subject is Christians who die before Christ returns. He is concerned that those who remain should know what happens to such people. When unbelievers die, other unbelievers have no certainty about them. Some vaguely hope for a better afterlife. It is a forlorn hope. \Only Christians have a solid hope, Though it is sad when believers die, it is not the end of the story. It is a temporary parting that ends with Christ's return. We grieve when believers die but not like those with no hope. We genuinely hope to see them again. This we must not forget when faced with death.

The resurrection has begun
Paul then says (14) something about that hope. We believe first that Jesus died and rose again. That is fundamental. Jesus lived and died, more than that he rose again - not mere resuscitation but a real rising in a new spiritual body, in which he ascended to heaven and with which he will return. We believe the end of the world is already here and the final resurrection begun. So far, only Jesus is raised but because of that we believe that one day God will bring with him every Christian who has died, ready to receive new resurrection bodies.
There is a phrase “it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings”. It references stereotypically overweight sopranos of Grand Opera such as the buxom valkyrie Brünnhilde, who sings in the last part of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Her 20 minute aria leads directly to the opera's end. She sings of the world's end (or at least that of the Norse gods) so as it is all over “when the fat lady sings" so we can say that with Christ's coming the world is at an end, though, as in opera, there are still things to happen before the very end. \Christ is risen and will soon return. When he does, every true Christian who has died will come with him and be reunited to his newly raised body. This is the Christian hope. When we see our brother in his coffin we are sad but not despairing. Our hope is his resurrection when Jesus returns. We look forward to seeing not only Jesus but also all who have died in him. \\Leading features of the Second Coming So Paul can say (4:15) we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord certainly will not precede those who die. A generation of Christians will be alive at Christ's return. The Thessalonians hoped they would be that generation, a misplaced desire. There is no advantage in it. The generation left … will certainly not precede those who died before his coming. There is no real difference.
1. The coming itself. First, Jesus himself will come down from heaven where he now is. We learn elsewhere that every eye will see it. Three phrases speak of the signal that will go out summoning the dead to rise - a loud command, a general leading his army speaks; the voice of the archangel the battle cry of Michael to angel bands: with the trumpet call of God as when a signal calls an army to battle. So Christ will come with loud command … archangel's voice and trumpet sound, calling people to leave their graves. Once on earth Christ cried Lazarus! Lazarus rose. A day is coming when he will call and all will respond.
2. The resurrection. So the dead in Christ will rise first. The first thing that will happen is that the bodies of the dead in Christ, Christians, will rise from their graves, the sea, wherever. There is, of course, a general resurrection; all bodies will rise. There is also the matter of what happens to those still alive when Christ returns but first there is the resurrection of the righteous that the Bible speaks of many times in both Testaments. The dead in Christ will rise.
3. The transformation of believers still alive when he comes. Paul goes on According to the Lord's own word, the words of Jesus himself we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. It is only After that, that believers still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. There is an order, as we might expect from the God of order. First, Christ comes from heaven, then the dead in Christ rise, then believers on earth are transformed. Their bodies become spiritual, without dying. What is the interval between the resurrection of the righteous and this transformation? Some try to introduce large amounts of time but there is no argument for that. The gap is the matter of a twinkling of an eye. Something similar could be said of the resurrection and transformation of unbelievers. Paul does not talk about that. He wants to assure the Thessalonians that those who had recently died would not miss out but share in the resurrection and transformation as much as those who remained.
4. Eternal bliss. Finally, do not miss his point that those alive at Christ's coming and those who die in the Lord will be with the Lord forever. We will all know his presence throughout eternity. What bliss! What joy! What a glorious day lies ahead for us and all who die in the Lord.

Words with which to encourage each other
Finally, Paul says Therefore encourage each other with these words. We have a duty to keep these teachings alive and speak to each other about them so that we all take courage from them. Obviously at Christian funerals this is an obvious text. It is a part of our New Testament that we ought always to remember. Informally, we ought encourage each other with these truths too – not just when people die but always.
Sports psychologists say things like “Develop a team mission. This could be your goal for the season. It could be a motto to encourage team unity.” Churches sometimes have mission statements and such things. Here is a great statement with which to encourage each other.
When will Christ return? The question comes up in Chapter 5. Meanwhile, be clear what will happen and encourage each other with these truths as much as you can.


Travelling through 1 Thessalonians 05 Pleasing and obeying God - Sanctification

1 Thessalonians 4 recalls Paul's efforts to teach people how to please God, something the Thessalonians were doing but that they must do more and more. They know God's will is that they be sanctified. 

Pleasing and obeying God; sanctification
Christians are sanctified (separated to God) the moment they believe. As Temple vessels were holy (set apart for special use) Christians are set apart to God's use. This positional sanctification, like a full stop, takes a moment. Progressive sanctification, like a drawn line, goes on throughout life, incomplete until death. Paul writes of the latter. God's will is that we be increasingly set apart to him, ever more holy to please him. 
  • We need God's instruction. Paul never assumed that conversion leads automatically to holiness but taught people how to please God with letters full of teaching. He wanted not only to evangelise but … make disciples ... teaching them to obey everything ....
  • Some holiness is almost spontaneous. Interestingly, Paul also says they lived that way already. As with brotherly love, God had taught them. Paul was aware of their love, their tendency to please God. It is difficult to trace where we do good because taught and where it flows from faith and love. Why am I reading this? Because taught not to neglect Christian instruction or because instinctively seeking God? Who knows? Some good is almost spontaneous.
  • Always room to improve. Avoid complacency. No resting on your laurels! As with love, Paul urges more and more holiness. However far you have gone, there is room for progress. You do few obviously sinful things but what about words? You say little that is evil but what about thoughts? You avoid doing bad but what good replaces it? Onward and upward is our motto. Schools love targets and strategies. How can I get from D to C? That is sound. Aim at nothing, you'll succeed! What is your aim, your strategy with regard to holiness?
  • Further
It is God's will that you should be sanctified. Do not oppose him. Paul reminds them that God punishes for all such sins. Why would we want to do things that bring God's wrath on the disobedient?
For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. God did not call you with the idea you would stay as you are. Do not lose sight of his purposes.
Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. God's commands cannot be rejected. Paul subtly adds that God does not expect us to act alone. I say “lift this weight”, nothing happens. I say “lift this weight; I'll help”. That is different. This is what God does. “Be holy” he says. “Obey”. He also sends his Spirit. Paul pleads in the Lord Jesus. He gave instructions originally by Christ's authority. It is all about him – justification, sanctification; beginning, going on.
Avoid sexual immorality; learn self control
The call to sanctification has implications. Paul highlights avoiding sexual immorality. Our appetites vary in strength - person to person, time to time. A desire for intimacy, for sexual pleasure is not wrong but must not reign. This is often difficult. Today temptation is ubiquitous with the rise of the Internet.
Paul says each must learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, ignorant of God. Avoiding sexual immorality entails self-control. Passion cannot reign. Paul is probably in Corinth where hundreds of sacred prostitutes left the temples nightly to ply their trade.
A Christian must flee prostitutes and pornography, either remaining celibate or confining sex to the marriage bed - not always easy. We must learn to control all our appetites. Pagans, ignorant of God, unsurprisingly disregard God's rules against adultery, homosexuality, etc. We who know God must be self-controlled, treating our bodies in holy, honourable ways.
The (slightly cryptical) warning against wronging a brother or taking advantage in this reminds us that others are often involved. We must both control our bodies and avoid causing others difficulties.
How goes it? Is your body under control, avoiding passionate pagan lust? Are you taking care not to create problems for others?

Brotherly love
The mention of not wronging a brother leads to a note on brotherly love. Paul does not need to write on this as they almost spontaneously love each other. Yet he urges more and more. Perhaps your fellowship is similar. You evidently love each other. Nevertheless, do so more and more. Work at it. We can always do more.

Careers advice for holiness seekers 1
Verse 12 may seem unconnected. The Thessalonians must obey so their daily lives will win the respect of outsiders and so they avoid dependence on anyone. It is about relationships – insiders, then outsiders. In reverse

Be holy to win the respect of outsiders; avoid dependence. Progressive sanctification is necessary also because of its effect on outsiders. Holiness can repel unbelievers but if we live as described, Christianity is attractive. The Thessalonian letters reveal a growing problem in the church. Some poorer members felt that as Christ was coming soon, richer members should finance them and they need not work. It is a little like Christians today living on state handouts and evangelising on the streets. Paul strongly opposes such thinking. He wants them not to be dependent on anybody. As for brotherly love, there is a balance. Think of the contrast Carry each other's burdens … each one should carry his own load (Gal 6:2-5). We must help each other and ourselves. 

Careers advice for holiness seekers 2
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. Should Christians be ambitious? Yes and no. Their ambition should be to have none.
Live a quiet life. Do not seek adventure. As a rule of thumb, stay as you are. Married ? Stay married. Single? Do not seek marriage, though it is no sin. Dead end job? Fear not; move up if you can. Stay in the same place, the same job; keep the same friends, if possible.
Mind your own business. Similarly, do not delve into other people's business, volunteering here and there, offering help to all. May be God will expand your horizon of influence but do not seek it.
Work with your hands. Greeks despised manual work, a view Paul opposed by precept and example. If you can, do an honest job for an honest wage. Eldership is noble but be slow to assume God wants you. Holiness is not by way of a monastery but getting on with mundane sometimes drudge-inducing lives, working hard, unambitiously minding our own business, which includes sanctification.
God wants you to please and obey him. Be holy. Shun sexual immorality, learn self control, practice brotherly love, lead quiet lives, mind your own business, work hard. This is how to live.


Travelling through 1 Thessalonians 04 How to pray for each other

The fourth in the series form the Evangelical Magazine

In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 we see five helpful rules on how to pray for each other.

Keep informed
In verses 6-8, having spoken of his concern for them, Paul explains how Timothy had arrived with good news of their faith and love. Paul learned of the pleasant memories of him and his team they had and their longing to see him as much as he longed to see them. This was not a complete surprise. In all his distress and persecution Paul had been encouraged by the thought of their faith. However, now he lives. They really are standing firm in the Lord!
Paul prayed for them all the time they were apart but was anxious – afraid he says that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. Timothy has now reassured him on that score. What a relief! Paul always found faith in others encouraging, especially in distress and persecution, so he was greatly cheered to know of their progress. We are all the same. One thing we can all do to help ourselves to pray better is to try and be better informed about one another. We must pray for fellow believers whether we hear of them or not but, generally speaking, it is easier if we keep informed, one of the things this magazine seeks to do.

Give thanks
Paul asks (9) How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? It is clear that he often gave thanks. Why was he so thankful? Because of the joy it gave him, in God's presence, to know others were saved and were demonstrating that in their daily lives. He finds it difficult to see how he can be as thankful as he ought to be, so much joy have they given.
At the start of the letter, he wrote how he always thanked God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. It is a note often struck in his letters. It is usually the place to start when praying for believers. How lonely without them! What joy to know that they also are saved. Are we giving thanks for them? Do our thanks equal the joy they give us by their Christian living? At the very least, we ought to be regularly thanking God for one another.

Request fellowship opportunities and growth
Paul constantly prayed for them. He says (10) Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. He gives the prayer - Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. Besides giving thanks Paul makes a specific request – to see them again and preach to them. His prayer is that our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus will clear the way for him and his companions to come to them again. \We should make specific requests to God. More importantly, we should often pray for fellowship. That is what Paul longs for with the Thessalonians. His specific desire, as a preacher, is to supply what is lacking in their faith but we should all long for fellowship with each other. \Pray too for the supply of what is lacking in people's faith. Give thanks for faith but recognise that no-one has perfect faith so we ask for growth and increase. People don't do it so much now but there was a time when a woman would sit and darn the socks. Our faith often has holes and needs repair. Pray for faith to be “darned”.
Pray for each other – for opportunities of fellowship, the supply of what faith currently lacks.

Request increased and overflowing love
Paul prays May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you (12). He prays not only for an increase in faith but also love. The CEV has - May the Lord make your love for each other and for everyone else grow by leaps and bounds. It's like faith – every Christian believes and every Christian loves but there is room for growth. Let's pray for each other that our love will grow in leaps and bounds. In particular pray that we may have Love each other more and more. Brotherly love is a basic Christian trait but too often we are found wanting. Pray for a real increase in love to one another.
An increasing love for outsiders too. Love is to extend beyond us to all sorts of others. Pray it will. The pattern is the same as Galatians 6:10, Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Request strengthened hearts and blamelessness when Christ comes
Having spoken of faith and love one expects a reference to hope. That is not what follows but there is an emphasis on the future hope. What Paul prays is (13) May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. The prayer is interesting as it requests God to strengthen their hearts. The end of this is seen as increased holiness so that they will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. So here's another thing to pray for each other – a strengthening of the heart so that, in light of Christ's return, we may become more and more holy. We tend not to think of holiness as a matter of being strong in heart but Paul saw that is often the issue. More strong heartedness would mean greater separation to God and more holy living. Pray that will increasingly be the case with all of us. Then those we pray for will be among the holy believers who return with Christ when he comes.
The very mention of Christ's return, a subject Paul keeps returning to in this letter, reminds us that if we would pray, we must set our minds on Christ's return. It is in the light of that event that we must always pray.


Travelling through 1 Thessalonians 03 Pastors and Persecutors

A third article on 1 Thessalonians

It all happened in just three weeks. Paul came to Thessalonica, preached, many were converted, persecution hit, Paul had to depart. Acts 17 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-3:5 tell the story.
Maybe you know little of persecution personally but you do not go far in the Bible without reading about it.

1 Thessalonians 2:14, 15 speaks of the Thessalonians becoming imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus. The Jews in Judea persecuted the earliest Christians. The same thing happened to the Thessalonians. Later (3:3b, 4) Paul says they know quite well that we were destined for this. He had warned them to expect it.
This is how it has always been. The Jews persecuted their prophets, the Judean churches, Jesus and the apostles. We believe the same things so we can expect persecution too. John 15:20, If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. Paul told the Thessalonians - if you become Christians, expect persecution. And it turned out that way! To this day believers experience it.
June 2013, Uzbekistan. A Christian is violently assaulted by a police chief. When he lodges a complaint, he is himself charged. He is stopped by the police chief, taken to a police station and a portable data drive containing Christian materials is confiscated. The officer beats him with a book, punches and kicks him. He is taken home and other Christian resources and his laptop are seized. Is my lack of persecution today due to failing to live as I should? Not to be persecuted, is abnormal. 

In 2:15, 16 Paul turns to the persecutors and says They displease God and are hostile to all men as they try to stop them hearing the gospel. They displease God who hates such persecution and as for men, they are hostile to all. Persecutors in one way or another oppose God and man, keeping people from hearing the message and being saved. Some are driven away by fear of persecution. Others see the truth and believe, regardless. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. They will be judged for their sins and even now God's wrath is coming on them. Sin is like liquid filling a cup, drop by drop. Eventually it fills and God's wrath is unleashed. Paul is thinking of the Jews and the evidence already seen of God's wrath. We should be glad that one day all persecution will end.

2:17, 18 Paul says when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you - certainly I, Paul, did, again and again - but Satan stopped us. Knowing the Thessalonians were being persecuted Paul's sympathies went out to them. He had to move to Berea but did all he could to see them again. He longed to come to them but was stopped by Satan – no detail is given but Satan always wants to separate Christians. A good question is whether our hearts go out to the persecuted. That should be our response.
July 2013, Turkmenistan. Police raid a children’s summer camp. With medical personnel they swoop on the event, organised by a church on its own premises. They question the children, make parents collect them and take extensive video footage of children and the meeting place. The Christians are fined for holding an unregistered religious meeting and not complying with sanitary norms, charges they strongly reject. Our hearts should go out to them.

Pastor and flock
How pastors should regard their flocks, flocks their pastors. 19, 20a what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. The relationship between pastor and flock should be such that the pastor sees the people as his hope, joy and future glory and the people recognise it. The pastor hopes the best for them; for them to truly believe and live to God's praise is his joy. When Jesus returns the Thessalonians will be Paul's crown. He will glory in Christ's presence over them. As it was with Paul and the Thessalonians so it should be today. Perhaps pastors fail to make this clear or maybe people are slow to believe it.
Sometimes pastor and flock are parted. Paul describes how he went alone to Athens (3:1). Imagine him – separated from his hope and glory. That is never easy for a pastor but it happens. Joseph Alleine, imprisoned in 1663, greatly missed his flock and wrote many letters. He says “Very pleasant have you been unto me, and your love to me is wonderful; and as I have formerly taken great content in that my lot was cast among you, so I rejoice in my present lot, that I am called to prove my love to you by suffering for you; for you, I say; for you know I have not sought yours, but you; and that, for doing my duty to your souls, I am here in these bonds, which I cheerfully accept through the grace of GOD that strengtheneth me. O that your hands might be strengthened, and your hearts encouraged in the LORD your GOD by our sufferings!” For pastor and flock to be separated is bad. The shepherd is struck, the sheep scatter. Yet sometimes it happens. If it does not, be thankful.

A pastor's fears
3:2, 3a, 5 Paul confesses his fear that in some way the tempter might have tempted them and his efforts have proved useless. It was not sinful fear as he did something about it, sending Timothy to them, his brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel. Paul wanted Timothy to strengthen and encourage their faith, so that their trials would not unsettle them. Good pastors do what they can to see strengthen and encourage the flock as best they can. Unable to stand it any longer Paul sent to find out about their faith. He wanted information; any true pastor would, anyone with genuine concern. \\\Progress Finally, Paul explains how Timothy returned with good news of their faith and love and their pleasant memories of and longings to see him (as Paul longed for them). How encouraging! Their progress and devotion meant a lot, as with any pastor. Growth in faith and love is vital despite persecution, which should drive pastor and people together. Even if there is none, they should be united.

Travelling through 1 Thessalonians 02 How to be a successful preacher

This is the second in a series of articles on 1 Thessalonians that appeared in The Evangelical Magazine
There is a sort of preacher likely to succeed with God's help. Preachers, all who pray for them and all who witness should know what they are like. Paul was very successful in Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13 we read how.
Preaching can make little impact. We may think it will never succeed. Let's try something else! But what happened in Thessalonica? Paul reminds them. His visit was not a failure. Previously, in Philippi, he and Silas were beaten and imprisoned. Every convert was hard won. No doubt it was tempting to be discouraged on coming to pagan Thessalonica. But with God's help (that is important) they boldly evangelised despite strong opposition. They kept preaching regardless and did not tone it down. We must be bold, not letting opposition deter. Look to God and evangelise. Let people know. It is their only hope. Only certain preachers will succeed, like Paul in Thessalonica.

1. Avoid error, impure motives, trickery Paul avoided deceit, impurity or tricking people. There are apparently successful preachers who are false, impure in motive, mere tricksters. On the contrary, we must be true, genuine, honest, preaching God's Word. It is one reason expository preaching is important - to be sure it stays true. Preaching must not be motivated by desire for applause, money or merely winning the argument. Gimmicks are a distraction. The best preaching, the sort God most often uses, is straightforward, unvarnished, plain. That is what pleases him. Successful preachers see they are stewards entrusted with God's Word. They want not to please men but God, who tests our hearts. They seek his approval. Like the best translator they aim not to show off or add anything but to give the true meaning. Pray for such preaching. The ASA expect adverts to be legal, decent and honest. Try to be true, genuine and honest when you witness. Pray preachers will do the same.
2. Avoid flattery, selfishness; humble people It is good to identify with an audience but flattery is inconsistent with faithful preaching. Somehow preachers must spell out the bad news – our utter sinfulness, our hopeless state without God. Born in sin, we are totally depraved and, religious or not, outside Christ, without hope. Preaching must not be a cover up for greed. Never think of what you will get out of it. Faithful preachers seek the good of their hearers. To adapt Kennedy's words - “ask not what you might get out of evangelism, ask what you can do for others through your evangelism”! We need preaching that exalts God and humbles people. Paul did not look for human praise, he was not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. Inner sincerity is vital. The late Bob Sheehan, as a student out preaching, was once told “if an old man at the back leaves in the last hymn, don't worry Dr Lloyd-Jones always does that”. How unnerving! But Bob thought a bit and saw the real challenge is to preach before God. That is who we should be most conscious of. Pray for that sort of preaching. Preach Christ without flattery or selfishness; for God's glory, not to please men.
3. Have a lifestyle that backs up the message Paul goes on to speak of his lifestyle. He compares himself to a mother (literally a nurse, perhaps with her own children) and a father. He explains (6-8) how he and his team avoided being a burden and were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. He refers particularly to his decision not to expect financial support. Admittedly, it was only a short time but he acted from concern for the people. He showed motherly gentleness and care, not wanting to burden them. Preachers must preach and live like mothers, who have God-given authority over their children but are tender and gentle. Faithful preachers must not be harsh, frightening away those who are genuinely interested. They should be winsome. Children, especially when afraid, run to mothers not from them. Paul tells them further he loved them so much that he was delighted to share with them not only the gospel …. but his life as well, as were others, because they had become so dear to them. So it is in successful, God wrought preaching. A bond builds between preacher and people that cannot be easily broken.
4. Be holy, righteous, blameless At the same time, like all faithful preachers, Paul was a father. He reminds them (9-12) of his toil and hardship, how they worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached … For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children … His life was marked by holiness, righteousness and blamelessness. Part of this desire not to burden them made him careful to be pious, upright, faultless in his approach, fearing to do anything burdensome. Often unbelievers hearing the gospel are sceptical, ready to seize on anything to oppose the preacher and deny his message. Paul would not allow that but worked hard to avoid it. Then there is his fatherly encouraging, comforting and urging all to live God-worthy lives. In a fatherly way, he did all he could to encourage and comfort, to urge them to lives worthy of God, who calls such people into his kingdom and glory. Again he piles up words. He got alongside them, doing all he could to help them, promoting a life worthy of God, calls people out of Satan's kingdom of darkness into God's glorious kingdom of light. Again, it is the gold standard but we need such preachers. Pray God will raise them up. Pray to be like it yourself.
5. Pray it will be received as God's Word Finally, Paul says he thanks God continually (13) for how his message was received - not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. Here is the piece de resistance. The Thessalonians had never heard anything like it. They knew it was not man's word but God's at work in them by his power and grace. That is the amazing thing about this sort of preaching. We hear so much bad preaching and preach so many bad sermons we doubt if it can be effective but how wonderful when the Word comes with power and people see by faith it really is God's Word.