Archive for the ‘James Durham’ Category

James Durham – The Book is Out

March 14, 2015

This blog began in 2006 and was designed to support my academic study of James Durham. The part-time PhD on James Durham and the Free Offer of the Gospel was completed in 2012- followed by a nice graduation ceremony in 2013!

And now (finally!) the book based on the dissertation is in print. Right now James Durham (1622-1658): And the Gospel Offer in Its Seventeenth Century Context is available at amazon.  There is also a preview available at google books. Research and writing continue but it is only right to mark the end of a number of years work on Durham and the Gospel Offer and to put on record thanks to God for his sustaining grace (Ps 115:1).


The Viva is Over … The PhD has been Awarded!

February 8, 2013

On Tuesday this week I was in Lampeter at the University of Wales Trinity St David. I was there to have my viva where I had to defend my dissertation “Reformed Thought and the Free Offer of the Gospel: With Special Reference to  The Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622-1658)”.  The outcome was the award of the PhD with no changes to the dissertation other than the  correction of typos- the end of 6 years hard study and writing! Soli Deo gloria!

The viva itself was a good experience.  I had been well prepared by my supervisor (Dr. Gwyn Davies) but he constantly emphasized you can never tell where the challenges are going to come from! In the event questions focused on:

  • How did the 17th C Reformed theologians make the case that a well meant gospel offer was consistent with a particularist soteriology?
  • Did they really in practice preach a well-meant gospel offer?
  • Why did I chose the three later controversies over the free offer that I did as evidence of “ongoing” disputes over the free offer? (I looked at the Marrow Controversy, the credal revision controversy in America leading up to the 1903 revisions to the Westminster Confession and the disputes over the “three points of common grace” in the Christian Reformed Church.)
  • Was James Durham’s theology sufficiently Trinitarian? Was it as Trinitarian as I claimed?
  • Had I given enough time to, and treated fairly enough, those who deny the Reformed tradition has held to a well-meant gospel offer?
  • What are the implications of a well-meant gospel offer for the doctrine of God?

But overall the conclusion of the viva was that the dissertation made its case in a convincing manner and was therefore passed. The external examiner was Rev. Professor Andrew McGowan and the internal examiner was Professor Densil Morgan. Thanks are due to both men for their challenges to, and engagement with the dissertation, but most especially to Professor McGowan as the expert in the area.

Well, now that the PhD is over … I have some articles I can finally get round to writing 🙂

2012 – The Year Ahead…

January 5, 2012

The plans for studies in the year ahead, if the Lord wills (James 4:15):

  1. Finish the PhD … before the summer… without using up another family holiday 🙂
  2. Deliver a lecture on “James Durham and the Free Offer of the Gospel” for the Scottish Reformation Society in Stornoway in February.
  3. Present a paper on the Protestor/Resolutioner controversy at the Ecclesiastical History Society postgraduate colloquium in February.
  4. Work on said paper for publication in a journal: “Protests, Resolutions and the Piggy in the Middle: James Durham (1622-1685) and Schism in the Kirk”.
  5. Work on an article “Obadiah Sedgwick – A Study of his Soteriology and Federal Theology”.
  6. Possibly, time permitting, work on an article “Missing, Presumed Misclassified: Hugh Binning the ‘lost’ Federal Theologian”.
  7. Start another exciting (to me) project that I can’t say more about at the moment, but hopefully can shortly…

Puritan Reformed Journal: Volume 2, Number 1 – January 2010

February 1, 2010

Puritan Reformed Journal: Volume 2, Number 1 – January 2010 has been released and it has an article entitled “James Durham (1622-1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel”.  I wonder which individual would write an article like that?  You can see a fuller description of contents as well as how to purchase here and here.  (Bonus marks for spotting the typo in the table of contents).

Coming to a journal near you soon…

August 27, 2009

The blog will be back soon.  I’m almost done on a brief post on Durham’s view of the Mosaic economy and its relation to the covenant of grace.  Things are very busy at the moment as I’m frantically trying to finish writing things up on the thesis front.  It is going well but today has been frustratingly slow.  Simply too much material, way too much material.

Anyway take a peek at the contents of the 2009 Confessional Presbyterian Journal and you will see that the name of James Durham makes an appearence –  This is also the second year in a row that there is a substantial article on Rutherford which can only be a good thing!

Durham on Christ and Old Testament Believers

July 25, 2009

I’m frantically trying to finish off an essay on James Durham and the Song of Solomon for the Confessional Presbyterian Journal (nine thousand words down – a few more to go).  One of the objections he considers to reading the Song through the lens of “Christ and the church” is that it would have been impossible for an OT believer to read the Song like that as, well, Christ had not come yet.  Here is my understanding of what Durham has to say on the matter:

The second objection Durham raises is that some might argue reading the Song as an allegory of Christ’s love to his church is to “make this Song look more like the gospel of the New Testament, than a song of the old.” His answer to this objection is forthright and depends heavily on the underlying unity of the covenant of grace. He states that Old Testament believers had “the same gospel” as New Testament believers and that “their faith and communion with God stood not in outward ceremonies, which were typical; but in the exercise of inward graces, faith, love, &c. which are the same now as then.” He goes on to argue that Christ was the “same” to believers in the Old Testament and in the New. They had “the same [S]pirit, covenant, &c. and so the same cases and experiences … [as] are also applicable to us now.” The fact that Christ had not yet come in the flesh did not mean that Old Testament believers had “another gospel, covenant, faith, yea, nor church; we being grafted in that same stock which they once grew upon, being by faith heirs of the same promises, which some time they possessed.”

Anyway – back to writing the essay!

Ryken on Puritan Preaching

June 27, 2009

The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century series has been something of a mixed bag (as multi-author sets tend to be) but here is a good quote from Philip Ryken on the Puritan understanding of preaching:

The way the law leads men to Christ is by showing them that they will surely perish without him.  “Make known to the lost sheep the utter misery of their condition outside of Christ.  No one ever comes to Christ who stands on his own.  The Prodigal does not race back to his father until he has to, lest he perish on his own.”  While the law shows the sheep that they are lost, only the gospel will bring them home, and thus all preaching is to be evangelistic.  The main work of the gospel minister is to preach Christ, who is “the Alpha and Omega of the ministry.”  To preach Christ is to take his person, his work, and his benefits and offer them freely to sinners.
Philip Ryken, ‘Oliver Bowles and the Westminster View of the Gospel Ministry’ in J. Ligon Duncan, ed., The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, 2:421-2

Ryken here is writing on Oliver Bowles’ De Pastore Evangelico –  a work Durham was familiar with.  We have seen comments similar to Ryken’s before:

The Puritans did not regard evangelistic sermons as a special class of sermons, having their own peculiar style and conventions; the Puritan position was, rather, that, since all Scripture bears witness to Christ, and all sermons should aim to expound and apply what is in the Bible, all proper sermons would of necessity declare Christ and so be to some extent evangelistic. 
‘The Puritan View of Preaching the Gospel’, How Shall They Hear?, Papers Read at the Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, December 1959, p 11-21, Rept. Tentmaker

Who knows – Ryken and Packer might be right 🙂

It’s been a long time…

June 18, 2009

So I’ve been away from the blog for a long time.  We moved house, twice (kind of), in the past few weeks, then there was a (successful) week long fishing holiday and now I’m in America for work so I have had neither the time, not the ability, to blog.  I’ll get back to posting regularly next week, DV, but for now my only news is that my article ‘James Durham and the Free Offer of the Gospel’ has been accepted for publication in the Puritan Reformed Journal December edition (sadly it was not in early enough to make the June edition).

Durham’s Top Five Theological Opponets

May 9, 2009

The list below contains what Durham regarded as the top 5 major theological errors if we judge by volume of references in his writing/strength of his language when mentioned (not in descending order):

1) Socinianism

They were “the enemies of Christ’s satisfaction,” “blasphemers” and “wretched.” Indeed so far had they sunk into error that they “are not worthy to be disputed with, nor accounted Christians; but rather to be joined with, and reckoned among, Heathens, or the followers of Mahomet…”

2) Arminians

Arminians were the “enemies of grace” who made conversion dependent not of the sovereignty of God but “on man’s fee will.” Durham felt it was easy to demonstrate “how dangerous and damnable this error is.” Arminians indeed deserved to be listed among “’the most gross heretics of old and of late.” Durham’s opposition to Arminianism arose in part from his belief that Arminian tenets “overthrow the design of grace in the salvation of sinners.”

3) Popery

To cite just two examples:

“… that blasphemous conceit and fancy of the Papists, who account their abominable Mass a propitiatory sacrifice … which … is most horrid blasphemy…”

“… nothing doth more natively breed anxiety and spiritual torment than the principles contained in the Popish Doctrine…”

4) Antinomianism

In some respects an opposite error to Popery, “…the Antinomians … make all sanctification to be justification … the Papists make all justification to be sanctification; therefore we would learn to distinguish these two, yet not so as to separate them.”  They get particluar criticism each time Durham broaches their view of justification.

5) Sects

Particulary “that foolery of Quakers.”  They didn’t hold back in their polemics in these days!

Does “offer” really mean present?

April 8, 2009

Not according to Durham as I have argued elsewhere:

One of the most common images Durham uses to define offer is that of wooing and beseeching. He explains that “The offer of the gospel … is set down under the expression of wooing … and supposes a marriage, and a bridegroom, that is by his friends wooing and suiting in marriage…” So in understanding what the gospel offer is it is appropriate to think of a man trying to persuade the woman he loves to marry him. This image, of course, carries with more than a simple presentation of facts. It would be an absurdity for a man to try and win the affections of a woman simply by presenting a few facts about himself. No, the image carries with it the ideas of an attempt to win the girl by earnest persuasion. And so it is with the Gospel where Christ, “doth beseech and entreat, etc. that thereby hearts may be induced to submit cheerfully to Him.” We can “Consider further how our Lord Jesus seeks and presses for this satisfaction from you; he sends forth his friends and ambassadors, to woo in his name, and to beseech you to be reconciled … he pleads so much and so often, and entreats every one in particular when he is so very serious in beseeching and entreating, it should, no doubt, make us more willing to grant him what he seeks.” So simply from this one image Durham uses it is clear that offer is, for him, more that a presentation of facts. 

Now who do you think understands 17th century English better-  Durham or modern critics of the free offer?