Semper Paenitere

Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Deo Gloria. These are the great Reformation watchwords. Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, the glory of God alone. One can only have so many watchwords but if one wanted to add an extra one what more obvious than Semper Paenitere, always repenting?
When Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the Wittenberg castle church door this issue was top of the agenda. The theses, originally in Latin but soon translated, began, Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publicly discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the reverend father Martin Luther, master of arts and sacred theology and regularly appointed lecturer on these subjects at that place. He requests that those who cannot be present to debate orally with us will do so by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. When our Lord & Master Jesus Christ said Repent [Matthew 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortifications of the flesh.
We need to hear this message again today.
1. Paenitere
The Bible calls on us in many places to repent. Think of the preaching of John the Baptist, of Christ himself, of the apostles. But what does it mean to repent? Roman Catholicism taught that it meant Do penance. One of Luther’s greatest rediscoveries was that the Greek word translated in the Latin Vulgate Do penance actually means Be penitent or Repent. This is not the same as remorse or regret although it includes that. There is a different Greek word for that. No, Repent means Change your mind, turn away from sin.*
The word occurs 57 times in the New Testament. It can refer more generally to conversion but usually refers to the other side of faith. Sometimes the apostles called for repentance, sometimes for faith. Both are God given (See Acts 5:31, 11:18). Both are necessary to salvation. There is no forgiveness except through faith and repentance. Faith and repentance are possible only because of Christ’s work on the cross. 
As Luther says, true repentance has inward and outward aspects. In 1826 John Colquhoun produced an excellent work on repentance.**  There he turns to 2 Corinthians 7 for an anatomy of what is involved. Paul talks there about godly sorrow in contrast to worldly sorrow. The roots of true repentance lie in this godly sorrow. Its fruit is salvation and no regret. This godly sorrow is characterised by,
Earnestness, not complacency about sin; Eagerness to clear one's name - not excuses but a desire for pardon; Indignation or hatred towards sin; He is angry and sins not when he is angry at nothing but sin and angry with himself only because he has sinned comments Colquhoun. There is also Alarm or Fear of sinning and provoking God’s wrath; there is Longing for a thorough reformation, to be right with God; there is Concern or Zeal to see sin dealt with, for God’s glory and in order to be holy; Readiness to see justice done, one pronounces the death sentence on self. Outwardly there must also be a change of behaviour. See Acts 26:20. Think of Zacchaeus or the occultists converted at Ephesus (Acts 20:18,19). Think of all that the book of Exodus has to say about restitution. Have you truly repented?
2. Semper paenitere
Like faith, repentance must be a life long thing. That is clear from the New Testament. See, for example, Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:23, which both speak of the Christian’s mind being changed or renewed. Even a man of God can wander. When he wanders he must be brought back. Think of David or Peter. Think of the Bible’s emphasis on restoration of the fallen. Restoration is always by way of repentance. Repentance then has to be a daily thing, an hourly thing. Is it with you?
Originally published in Grace Magazine
* The rediscovery came to Luther from Lorenzo Valla via Erasmus
** John Colquhoun 1748-1827


Backsliding abounds. Its prevalence explains to a great degree the malaise upon so many churches today. It is always disastrous. In 1 Samuel 21 we find David at Nob, then Gath. He is on the slide. He seems to have forgotten that he is the Lord’s anointed. On the run from Saul, he feels hurt, bewildered, alone and endangered. A pale imitation of his former self, he is cowardly, thoughtless, fearful, selfish, thoughtless, faithless. What a warning of how easy it is to get into that frame of mind – especially when we have been doing well. There are lessons here.

1. Don’t bottle it up
As soon as Ahimelech the priest saw David he knew something was wrong. He knew about Saul’s hatred towards David and guesses David is running away. However, David not only fails to share his plight with this faithful man, whom he surely could have trusted, but chooses to deceive him. A problem shared is a problem halved. Bottling it up does no good. David reasoned that Ahimelech was bound to be on Saul’s side, convinced himself he would never understand – and could do nothing anyway. The Devil is eager to isolate us. Like a lion stalking a deer, he loves nothing better than to see his prey isolated from the herd.
2. Don’t deceive people
If you try to cover up your low state it is difficult to say nothing and so we are tempted to make things up, to lie, to deceive even those on our side. David says he is on an urgent mission for Saul. Ahimelech is deceived. Perhaps David comforted himself that he was being kind to Ahimelech – refusing to drag him into his troubles, but he was bearing false witness against his neighbour. The consequences, we learn in the next chapter, were great.
3. Don’t be selfish
At the root of David’s conduct is a wholly selfish approach. In fear of his life he, understandably, said and did things he would, in better moments, not have contemplated but what a contrast between the two. All David can think of is himself. In contrast Ahimelech is selfless. David is in need and so, recognising, as the Lord himself later emphasised, that God desires mercy, not sacrifice he agrees to let David and his men eat the sacred bread. Yes, he will have to explain to the others the shortage of bread. They may criticise him for giving consecrated bread to non-priests. But his only concern is to serve the Lord’s anointed. Ahimelech gives, receiving nothing in return. David takes, giving nothing in return. It is a mark of the backslider that he is all take and no give. Too often, under pressure, we get things the wrong way round. Christ is forgotten and all we can think about is self.
4. Don’t ignore what others think
Observing all this was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd. David knew his face well. It is not until the next chapter that we see the full significance of this but it is Doeg who reports back to Saul, leading to the massacre at Nob. When David hears about it he says to Abiathar That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family. He realises how selfish and thoughtless he has been – but it is too late. It is easy when we are on a downward spiral to say ‘I don’t care what others think.’ But that is not the way the believer should speak. No, he sees that how he lives has an affect on others. Remember your testimony. Your backsliding may lead someone else to fall or an unbeliever to curse God. We cannot live to ourselves.
5. Don’t rely on earthly means
What happens next is full of irony. David has no weapon. He asks Ahimelech if there is one in the Tabernacle. The only thing there is The sword of Goliath whom David himself had killed. It is hard to believe David’s reply. There is none like it; give it to me! David! Don’t you hear yourself? Can this be the man who confronted the Philistine saying You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty? Is this the man who said it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s …. What a reversal. This is what happens when God’s people panic and backslide. Suddenly worldly advantage seems the thing – the world’s weapons, its riches, its attitudes. Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. A sling and five stones can do more than any Philistine sword.
6. Don’t make friends with the world
You may think David has reached rock bottom but it gets worse. David has a dilemma. Having refused to confide in Ahimelech where can he turn? Where can he hide? He hits upon a ‘cunning plan’. Where is Saul least likely to look? Of course, among the Philistines! There is logic here but David is not thinking straight. Going to Gath – the very land that Goliath came from. This is madness. Yet how often it happens. A believer backslides. His thinking begins to go awry. He is panicking, despairing – like a wild animal confronted by a predator he does not know where to run. First, he fails to confide in Christian friends, then he goes for help to unbelievers! He starts going to the places they go. He starts watching the films they watch, reading the same books, laughing at the same jokes. He is compromised. He is torn.
David does not escape before he has suffered great fear – far worse than he had known before – and great indignity. To backslide is a fearful thing. It is frightening to think of Satan’s opposition and our weakness what poor Christians we are but to run into the arms of the world is to jump from the frying pan into the fire. It is no remedy for fear.
God always provides a way back for his children. David can honestly say of his escape, This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles (Psalm 34:6). However, he did not escape with dignity. Quite the opposite. He had been mad to go to the Philistines in the first place, and so, in the final irony of the chapter, he feigns insanity so that they will send him away. It is clear from Psalms 34 and 56 that he was full of thankfulness for his escape and full of repentance for his foolishness. He learned his lesson. Though the believer may backslide, yet if he is truly the Lord’s he will be restored but there is no dignified way out. You cannot expect to keep pride intact. Let us learn to avoid backsliding and where we fall into it let’s be eager to be free as soon as possible.
This article first appeared in Grace Magazine


Shakespeare of the Puritans - aspects of piety in the preaching of Thomas Adams, Part 2

See here

In the previous article we sought to introduce the forgotten doctrinal Puritan, Thomas Adams, surveying what little is known of his life, identifying his substantial literary legacy and drawing some contemporary lessons from his homiletical style.
In this concluding article we want to concentrate on the content of Adams' preaching. Style is of some importance, certainly, but content is fundamental. Adams himself says:

Indeed, rhetorical flourishes without solid matter is like an Egyptian bondwoman in a queen's robes. (1)

In the course of his sermons, Adams considers a wide variety of themes. In this article we wish to consider something of what he has to say in the central area of Christian piety. From the time of Elizabeth we can trace an increasing interest in matters of personal piety, but the interest goes back to Tyndale, Bradford and the Reformers. Adams himself declares that

The main intents of all preachers and the contents of all sermons aim to beat down sin and to convert sinners. (2)

This he seeks to do by a variety of means. Here we wish to outline some of his more distinctive approaches. At the end of a sermon on Psalm 94:19 called Man's Comfort in a passage typical of his style he likens sin, repentance and pardon to the English Spring months of March, April and May. Sin comes in like March, blustering, stormy, and full of bold violence. Repentance succeeds like April, showering, weeping, and full of tears. Pardon follows like May, springing, singing, full of joys and flowers. In application, he says

If our hands have been full of March, with tempests of unrighteousness, our eyes must be full of April, with the sorrow of repentance; and then our hearts shall be full of May, in the true joy of forgiveness.

Sin, repentance and forgiveness are themes that Adams often deals with and an examination of what he says on these three great subjects will give us a good idea of his approach. Adams spoke of sin in order to excite repentance, and repentance in order to help people to find forgiveness. He tends to spend more time on sin and less on repentance and forgiveness. As he himself might have put it, in his sermons March is longer than April or May!

I D E Thomas records typical aphorisms from Adams on this subject.

Heaven begins where sin ends.
When gifts are in their eminency, sin may be in its prevalency.
Sin is the strength of death and the death of strength.
Iniquity can plead antiquity. (3)

Adams is clear on original sin, as is apparent from his sermon on Psalm 58:4 A generation of serpents and his Meditations on the creed. (4)

In a sermon on Galatians 5:9 he likens sin to leaven. As leaven is 'not bread but the corruption that maketh bread' so 'sin is not a created quality, but the corruption of a created quality.' Dough becomes leaven by adding salt, so 'The very same work that might be good and acceptable to God, by addition of out pravity becomes evil.' As sour leaven makes bread tasty, 'so by the ungodly's most cursed sins God will advance his glory.' As man cannot live on bread alone, much less on leaven so 'No man can live for ever by his righteousness and good works, much less by his sins.' 'Lastly, sin and leaven are fitly compared for their sourness' to God, angels, saints and the sinner himself.
In the second half of The fool and his sport Adams speaks about actual sin. He says some eight things to show that it must be taken very seriously. Sin is entirely contrary to goodness. It brings on judgements even in this life and where it does not that should make us alert to the fearful judgement ahead. Though little sense of guilt is present now, there will be a very great sense of it one day. Sin provokes God to anger. What a fearful thing to fall into his hands. Sin was punished even in heaven, when the angels that sinned were thrown down. It is so loathsome that God 'could not save his own elect because of it, bur by killing his own son.' 'Lastly, Sin shall be punished with death'. (6)
In another place he compares sin with leprosy, emphasizing that sin is ubiquitous, soul infecting, hereditary, incurable, going on beyond death, shutting us out from fellowship with God and, unpurged by repentance, from heaven itself. (7) We need to see that

Every sin dishonours God and offers to stick ignominy upon that infinite majesty; therefore deserves an infinite penalty. (8)

The trouble is that we fall to temptation too easily. Satan doth diversify his drinks, to keep the wicked man's appetite fresh and sharp. If he be weary of one sin, behold another, stands at his elbow. (9) Temptation misleads the navigators with a pirate's light'. Sin is like a bloody prince that, having invited several great men to a great feast, flattered them one by one and then chopped off their heads. She hath a siren's voice, mermaid's face, a Helen's beauty, to tempt thee; but a leper's touch, a serpent's sting, a traitorous hand to wound thee. The best way to conquer sin is by Parthian war, to run away. (10) What we need to see, therefore, is the harm that sin does. In the second part of The fatal banquet Adams goes to great lengths to show that 'every sin robs some'. Some sins particularly harm God - atheism, heresy, sacrilege, faction and profaneness. Others particularly harm men - irreverence, murder, adultery, thievery, slander and flattery. Still others directly harm ourselves - pride, epicurism, idleness, envy, drunkenness, covetousness. All these should be incentives to turn from sin. (11) This last section highlights Adams' determination not to preach simply against sin in general terms but against particular sins. In another listing of sins he attacks epicurism, pride, lust, hypocrisy, avarice, usury, ambition, drunkenness, idleness, swearing lying busybodying, flattery, ingratitude, anger, envy, contention, impatience, vainglory and papistry. (12)
In a generation of serpents he attacks the 'salamander' of contentiousness, the 'dart' of anger, the 'dipsas' of drunkenness, (13) the 'crocodile' of hypocrisy, the 'cockatrice' of prostitution, the 'caterpillar' of covetousness, the 'asp' of the Roman Catholic infiltrator, the 'lizard' or 'tortoise' of sloth, the 'sea serpent' of piracy, the 'stellion' of extortion and the 'draco' or devil himself. (14) Besides these sins he also attacks failing to pay debts or keep promises, (15) extortion, (16) duelling (17) and other sinful practices. (18) Often he is very specific regarding the sins of certain callings. He rails against the tricks of shopkeepers who hide the truth, especially apothecaries who might cause their customers' deaths. (19) In one place he lists 'many kinds of private thieves'. These are magistrates ruled by popularity, partiality or passion; lawyers who double deal or are dishonest in other ways; officers involved in bribery; tradesmen with false weights and measures, deficient goods and preying on men's necessities; those who take advantage of the church to line their pockets; covetous landlords; engrossers who 'hoard up commodities and by stopping their community raise the price'; enclosers who were still taking common land for themselves; (20) tap-house keepers and taverners who 'chop away a good conscience for money' and encourage drunkenness; flatterers who think of ways for the rich to make money; brokers and breakers, by which he means unscrupulous pawnbrokers and bailiffs; usurers. (21) Adams often opposed this latter sin, little spoken against today. (22) With all this negative content it must not be supposed that Adams fails to encourage virtue. In his A contemplation of the herbs mentioned above he advocates humility, patience, joy, charity, contentment, continence, meekness, frugality, peaceable love, pureness of heart, confidence in God's promises, following Christ, casting care away and good resolution. (23) Among the gates to the City of peace are patience and beneficence. (24)

Adams speaks of repentance in one place as 'that old laundress'. (25) Elsewhere he assures us that tears of repentance will not drown us but will save us from drowning. Emergent repentance is 'the main plank that shall preserve thee from perishing'. (26) People do not care for repentance by nature. In one passage, Adams exclaims 'O blessed repentance, how sweet and amiable art thou! Yet how few love thee!' He identifies some of the characters who hate it - the proud great man, the greedy wealthy, the miserly 'country Nabal', cheating 'avarous citizens', the hypocritical 'muffled lawyer', the bloodthirsty 'sharking officer'. The usurer, drunkard and adulterer are obvious targets but, he points out, the tragedy is Autumn 2004 that they think they will one day repent before it is too late. (27) How foolish to think repentance is something so easy. Tears alone will not do it. Judas and Esau wept as much as David and Peter, but they did not repent in their souls. (28) In The Black Saint where he deals directly with superficial repentance, he warns that
Sin is congealed, concorporated, baked on; and must be pared and digged away by greater violence than sweeping .... Impiety is habituated by custom, hardened by impenitency, incorporated to him by his affection to it; and shall he think that a formal repentance, like a soft besom, can sweep it clean? Can a few drops and sprinklings of water purge off the inveterate foulness and corruption of the flesh? There is required much rinsing to whiten a defiled sou1. (29)
Some think they can 'boldly, stain the cloth a whole vintage, and at last let one washing serve for all' or put out a thousand fires with one tear. This is a great error. 'Repentance' can be thought of as 'an ascent of four steps'. (30) Some don't even begin on this ascent, others only come so far. Unless we ascend all four stairs we are not really repenting. We must begin with amendment of life and preparation for Christ's coming. The third rung on the ladder is abstaining from sin and setting out on a new path. All these are useless if they do not lead to actual repentance. That is the only 'bulwark to defend us from the shot of God's thunder from heaven' and hedge against 'his judgements on earth'. (31)
Repentance ought to be a daily thing. God is very gracious but to rely on a last-minute repentance is not wise. 'It is better to make this thy diet than thy physic.' 'He that will wear a crown in heaven must be all his life on earth preparing it.' (32)
Adams also speaks of repentance and her daughter, faith, as 'rwo most valiant and puissant (i.e. powerful) soldiers that are the soul's champion.' They fight sin and lust and all the powers of evil. Repentance fights with some apparent disadvantages. She fights kneeling and stoops as low as she can.' However, this invites mercy and 'the fearful thunder of vengeance is resisted by the soft wool of repentance.' Then there is the fact that her fellow-soldiers can often fail - faith droops, hope faints, conscience sleeps. However, Holy fear wakens conscience; conscience, faith; faith hope; and hope, repentance; and there is pardon and comfort. Similarly, by bringing up the rear this 'conquering queen' may seem far off but 'comes in with her reserve' and deals with sin,at last. (33)
On March 29, 1625, the first Tuesday after the death of King James I, Adams preached in Whitehall. Seeking to take advantage of the sober frame that many were in, he preached on Job 42:6 Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes. (34) It is a brief but powerful sermon in which he refuses to 'pull the text in pieces' and simply works his way through Job's words. On I repent he notes that repentance is 'better known than practised'. He seeks to urge everyone to take advantage of this 'universal antidote'. He especially warns against supposing it is something we can do at will. After some time on the subject he closes with this beautifully arresting paragraph.
If I should give you the picture of repentance, 1 would tell you that she is a virgin fair and lovely; and those tears, which seem to do violence to her beauty, rather indeed grace it. Her breast is sore with the strokes of her own penitent hands, which are always either in Moses's posture in the mount, lift up towards heaven, or the publican's in the temple, smiting her bosom. Her knees are hardened with constant praying; her voice is hoarse with calling to heaven; and when she cannot speak, she delivers her mind in groans. There is not a tear fails from her, but an angel holds a bottle to catch it. She thinks every man's sins less than her own, every man's good deeds more. Her compunctions are unspeakable, known only to God and herself. She could wish, not only men, but even beasts, and trees, and stones, to mourn with her. She thinks no sun should shine, because she takes no pleasure in it; that the lilies should be clothed in black, because she is so apparelled. Mercy comes down like a glorious cherub, and lights on her bosom, with this message from God, 'I have heard thy prayers, and seen thy tears;' so with a handkerchief of comfort dries her cheeks, and tells her that she is accepted in Jesus Christ.
In a sermon on Galatians 6:7 Man's seed-time and harvest or Lex Talionis Adams lists seven general pleas or excuses given for sin. He mentions predestination, God's will, ignorance, outweighing good deeds, God's mercy, Christ's infinite satisfaction and repentance. Dealing with this latter excuse he points out that although God promises to forgive you if you repent, whereas he will always be 'so good as his promise', you cannot be so sure that you will be 'so good as thy purpose'. You can only expect God to 'forgive thee repenting' not to 'give thee repentance sinning'. The promise is to repentance' not of 'repentance'. Repentance is Gods gift. Unless God give thee repentance, and another mind, thou shalt speed as the lost angels did; for God may as easily cast thee from the earth as he did them from heaven. (36)

'God is glorious,' Adams observes, 'in all of his works, but most glorious in his works of mercy.' He suggests that this may be why Paul refers to the glorious gospel in 1 Timothy 1: 11. (37)

It is in forgiving men's sins that God shows his greatest glory.

In his sermon Mystical Bedlam (38) he says that the heart needs emptying, cleansing and replenishing. If you welcome repentance, knocking at your door from God, it shall knock at God's door of mercy for you. It asks of you amendment, of God forgiveness.

He goes on:

The heart thus emptied of that inveterate corruption, should fitly be washed before it be replenished. The old poison sticks so fast in the grain of it, that there is only one thing of validity to make it clean - the blood of Jesus Christ. It is this that hath bathed all hearts that ever were, or shall be, received into God's house of glory. This blood cleanseth us from all sin,' I John 1:7 ... In vain were all repentance without this: no tears can wash the heart clean but those bloody ones which the side of Christ and other parts wept, when the spear and nails gave them eyes, whiles the Son of eternal joy became a mourner for his brethren. Could we mourn like doves, howl like dragons, and lament beyond the wailings in the valley of Hadadrimmon, quid prosunt lachrymae - what boots it to weep where there is no mercy? And how can there be mercy without the blood of Christ? This is that ever-running fountain, that sacred pool of Bethesda,' which, without the mediation of angels, stands perpetually unforbidden to all faithful visitants. Were our leprosy worse than Naaman's, here is the true water of Jordan, or pool of Siloam 'Wash, and be clean.' Bring your hearts to this bath, ye corrupted sons of men. Hath God given you so precious a laver, and will you be unclean still? Pray, entreat, beseech, send up to heaven the cries of your tongues and hearts for this blood; call upon the preserver of men,' not only to distil some drops, but to wash, bathe, soak your hearts in this blood. Behold, the Son of God himself, that shed this blood, doth entreat God for you; the whole choir of all the angels and saints in heaven are not wanting. Let the meditation of Christ's mediation for you give you encouragement and comfort. Happy son of man, for whom the Son of God supplicates and intercedes! What can he request and not have!
He doth not only pray for you, but even to you, ye sons of men. Behold him with the eyes of a Christian, faith and hope, standing on the battlements of heaven, having that for his pavement which is our ceiling, offering his blood to wash your hearts, which he willingly lost for your hearts; denying it to none but wolves, bears, and goats, and such reprobate, excommunicate, apostate spirits that tread it under their profane and luxurious feet, esteeming that an unholy thing wherewith they might have been sanctified' Heb.l0:29. Come we then, come we, though sinners, if believers, and have our hearts washed. By his death Christ the Lamb has provided nourishment, covering and cleansing for all who trust in him. His flesh is meat indeed ... the fleece of his imputed righteousness keeps us warm, clothe our nakedness, hides our uncleanness .... His blood hath recovered our life, our health, and washed us as white as the snow in Salmon. (39) On the fullness of forgiveness he says that 'Sins are so remitted as if they had never been committed.' (40) Of course, without faith all that Christ has done is useless to us. Adams urges: The blood of Christ runs fresh; but where is thy pipe of faith to derive it from his side to thy conscience? Say it should shower mercy, yet if thou wantest faith, all would fall beside thee. There would be no more favour for thee than if there was no Saviour. (41)

Other aspects of piety
With some sadness, Adams states at one point: ... as there was never less wisdom in Greece than in the time of the seven wise men so never less piety among us than now, when upon good cause most is expected.42 With some nostalgia he compares former times with Leah, 'blear-eyed but fruitful' and his own with Rachel, 'fair, but barren'. From our vantage point the disappointment expressed may be hard to accept. The suggestion that piety was diligently sown cannot be gainsaid, however. Adams himself preaches not only sin, repentance and forgiveness, but many other aspects of piety too. Assurance has been identified as a crucial element in Puritan piety, as both a root and a fruit. Adams has a sermon called Heaven made sure or the certainty of salvation on Psalm 35:343 where he asserts: l. That salvation may be made sure to man. 2. That the best saints have desired to make their salvation sure. He carefully applies this second point, noting that there are degrees of assurance and that even 'The wealthiest saints have suspected their poverty' and 'the richest in grace are yet 'poorest in spirit.' Somewhere he also says that 'Sense of sin may be often great, and more felt than grace; yet not be more than grace.' It is like when a person's body is well but he is more aware of his finger aching. He puts it in perspective. (44)
Assurance is not always immediate. There is also such a thing as a false assurance. Assurance comes 'by word, by deed, and by seal' - Scripture, good deeds and the inward witness. It is the sweetest comfort a man can know in this life. In various ways God speaks to the Soul of the believer, speaking peace to his conscience and assurance of salvation to his soul. Adams is very clear that conversion must lead to godliness: A sound conversion is proved by a good conversation. But tremble ye wicked; if ye have not fought in his camp, ye shall not shine in his court. (45) Good deeds are such things that no-one is saved for them, or without them. We know there is a sun in heaven, yet we cannot see what matter it is made of, but perceive it only by the beams, light and heat. Election is a sun, the eyes of eagles cannot see it; yet we may find it in the heat of vocation, in the light of illumination, in the beams of good works (46)
We cannot be perfect in this life but we must seek to be thoroughly sanctified. (47) Adams warns against the traditional triumvirate of foes, the world, the flesh and the devil. (48) Worldliness is 'too much oil which quencheth our lamp'; the flesh borrows the vessel of the heart and returns it 'broken, lacerated, deformed, defaced'; the devil is a fisherman who 'baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish' , (49) then a cannibal who feeds on human flesh; a crafty fox first and then a strong lion. (50) As one would expect, Adams is a great advocate of prayer and of getting to know the all-sufficient Word of God. (51) He is keen on kneeling for prayer. 'Never tell me of a humble heart, where I see a stubborn knee.' (52)
Without fear the good child may come to his kind father . ... We believe in our Father, ability to give, never denying; wisdom to give, never repenting; goodness to give, never upbraiding. This makes us cry, not speak softly, as in fear, but loud, as in assurance. When the king has promised a boon, the subject comes with special security into the presence. Are we laden with sin ... privy to imperfections ... Do we fear some judgement ... are we haunted with a temptation ... full of thankfulness ... ? We have the warrant of a Father, Pray, and be comforted. Shake off the dust of neglect from the cover, and wear out the leaves with turning; continually imploring the assistance of God's Spirit, that you may read with understanding, understand with memory, and remember with comfort; that your soul's closet may never be unstored of those heavenly receipts which may ease your griefs, cure your wounds, expel your sicknesses, preserve your healths, and keep you safe to the coming of Jesus Christ. (53)
He advocates the orderly piety that we associate with Puritan godliness: We must give the first hour of the day, the first work of our hands, the first words of our lips to the Lord. (54)
At night we must give account how we have spent our day; happy are we if we can make our reckoning even with God; a day misspent is lost. ... I fear too many may say so of the whole day of their lives: I have lost my day. Time is precious; and howsoever our pride and lusts think it, God so highly prizeth it that he will punish the loss of a short time with a revenge beyond all times: the misspense of a temporal day with an eternal night. Every hour hath wings, and there is no moment passing from us but it flies up to the Maker of time, and bears him true tidings how we have used it.There is no usury tolerable but of two things, grace and time; and it is only blessed wealth that is gotten by improving them to the best. We brought with us into the world sin enough to repent of all our short day. There is no minute flies over our head without new addition to our sins and therefore brings new reason for our sorrows. We little think that every moment we misspend is a record against us in heaven, or that every idle hour is entered into God's registry and stands there in capital letters till our repentant tears wash it out ... (55)
He urges self-examination, another typically Puritan activity. He calls for a natural, moral and spiritual self-contemplation, remembering our souls and spirits, considering our frequent sins and searching our hearts so that we sound 'the lowest depths of conscience' and spy 'blemishes in the face of whitest innocence'. (56) In his sermon on England's sickness, Adams commends moderation, labouring in our callings, and abstinence. (57) On the second of those subjects he says 'Let the shoemaker look to his boot, the fisher to his boat, the scholar to his book.' (58)
Finally, hear him on death: All are like actors on a stage, some have one part and some another, death is still busy amongst us; here drops one of the players, we bury him with sorrow, and to our scene again: then falls another, yea all, one after another, till death be left upon the stage. Death is that damp Autumn 2004 which puts out all the dim lights of vanity. Yet man is easier to believe that all the world shall die, than to suspect himself. (59)
Death is ready at hand about us, we carry deaths enow within us. We know we shall die, we know not how soon; it can never prevent us, or come too early, if our souls be in the keeping of God. (60) For the believer it is 'nothing else but a bridge over this tempestuous sea to paradise.' Though evil in itself, cannot ultimately harm the good, as it is the door to eternal life. He likens the believer's death to a clock-mender dismantling and cleaning a timepiece to make it 'go more perfectly'. (61) ... though the soul is got ten when man is made, yet it is, as it were, born when he dies: his body being the womb, and death the midwife that delivers it to glorious perfection. The good man may then well say ... 'Death shall be my advantage' ... His happiest hour is when ... he can say 'Into thy hands, Lord, I commend my soul'. Conclusion So should we all tush to buy copies of Adams' works for ourselves and for others? Should we be laying Bunyan, Goodwin, Owen and Watson on one side and taking up Adams? It probably would not do us any great harm, but Adams' strength is in his aphorisms and illustrations, not in his systematic treatment of doctrines and passages of Scripture. We would probably be wise to buy the Commentary on 2 Peter before the sermons. The sermons need to be put under a gentle heat until the aphorisms are distilled and then presented in something of the style found in I D E Thomas's collection. This may sound sacrilegious but when we consider the wealth of talent that followed Adams, it should be no surprise to us that, stood on his shoulders, they produced superior work. Rather than completely neglecting Adams, however, let us make what use of him we can. Hunt down his The three divine sisters and his Crucifix or some of the other items that we have mentioned, store up his axioms as best you know how and let us be thankful for a man of God, who preached faithfully and in the power of the Spirit, who served his own generation and was then gathered to his fathers in glory.

Works by Adams
Thomas Adams, The Works of Thomas Adams, Three Volumes, edited by Thomas Smith with a memoir by Joseph Angus, reprinted from the series of Standard Divines by James Nichol, 1861-1866. Reissued by Eureka, California, Tanski Publications, 1998.
Thomas Adams, The Three Divine Sisters, Faith, Hope, and Charity, edited with an introduction by W. H. Stowell, London, Thomas Nelson, 1847.
Thomas Adams, Everlasting mercy ('Majesty in misery' and 'Mercy in perpetuity'), Apples of Gold reprints, Sheffield, Zoar Publications, no date.

1. In the preface to his 1614 set of sermons 'The Devil's Banquet' Works 3, p.xxxii.
2. Also in the preface to his 1614 set of sermons 'The Devil's Banquet'. Works 3, p.xxxii.
3. I.D.E.Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), pp. l33, 116, 26l.
4. Works 1, p.7l; Works 3, pp. 194ff.
5. Works 2, pp.345-349.
6. Cf. Works 1, p.248-253.
7. Cf. Works 1, pp.442, 443.
8. Works 1, p.53.
9. Works I, p.170.
10 Works I, p.222.
11. Works I, pp.175-197.
12. Works 1, pp.276-287.
13. Salamanders are amphibians,fabled to live in, or to be able to endure, fire; the dart is a snake; the dipsas is a serpent whose bite was fabled to produce intense thirst.
14. The draco and stellion are types of lizard. See Works 1, pp.77-80.
15 Works 1, pp.l45, 146.
16. Works 1, p.79.
17. Works 1, p.183; 2, pp.321, 322, 556. 32
18. Eg suicide: 'No man must let the tenant out of the tenement, till God the landlord call for it.' 'As we cannot live without a permittis, so we must not die without a dimittis.' Puritan Golden Treasury, p. 289; making images of Christ, Works 2, p.29l. 
19. Works 1, p.146, 147.
20. A sin that had been preached against from at least the time of John Bradford (1510?-1555).
21. Works 1, pp.276-287.
22. Adams takes this even further when he speaks of characteristic sins of nations - Spanish pride, French lust, Italian poisoning, German drunkenness, English epicurism. Works 1, pp.368, 369.
23. Works 2, pp.446-467.
24. Works 2, pp.316-319.
25. Works 3, p.273.
26 Works 3, p.297.
27 Works 2, p.488.
28. Works 2, p.346.
29. Works 2, p.56
30. It is interesting to compare this sermon with John Bradford's popular 1552 sermon on repentance for their basic similarity and Adams' increased awareness of the danger of hypocrisy.
31. Works 2, p.490.
32. Works 2, p.572.
33. Works 3, p.297.
34. Works 1, pp.49-59.
35. Works 2, pp.360-374, see pp.364-367.
36. Works 2, p.252.
37. Works I, p.51.
38. Works 1, pp.254-293, see pp.267, 268.
39. Works 2, p.114.
40. Puritan Golden Treasury, p.110.
41. Works 2, p.276.
42. Works 2, p.179.
43. Works 1, pp.460-70.
44. Puritan Golden Treasury, p.23.
45. Works 1, pp.362, 401ff.
46. Puritan Golden Treasury, pp.127, 88.
47. Works 3, p.78.
48. Works 1, p.40 lff.
49. Cf.Puritan Golden Treasury, p.290.
50 Works 1, pp.431, 260,220, 2, p.21l. Worth noting is Adams' insistence that the devil does not know who is elect, Works 2, pp.53, 147.
51 ... now to expect revelation of things by dreams were to entreat God to lend us a candle while we have the bright sun. Works 2, p.16.
52 Puritan Golden Treasury, p.316.
53. Works 3, p.105; Works 1, p.303.
54. Works 2, p.536.
55. Works 2, p.88.
56. Works 2, p.384.
57. Works 1, pp.426, 427.
58. Works 1 p.383.
59. Puritan Golden Treasury, p.69.
60. Works 3, p.32.
61. Works 2, pp.227, 228. 


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.