The Church in the Seventeenth Century
In this brief clip from his teaching series A Survey of Church History, W. Robert Godfrey examines how the English Puritans came to view the church in the seventeenth century. Watch this entire message for free.
By the seventeenth century, especially amongst the English Puritans, but also elsewhere in the Reformed world, there’s a new attitude growing that we could call, “Christ as the glorifier of his church.” It’s not just that he will build his church, but he will give the church earthly glory and success to dominate the world; not dominate it politically, that’s not what the Puritans were interested in, but dominate it spiritually, that millions and millions and millions would be drawn to Christ, and his church around the world would be dominant, it would be the dominant religion. There is coming a golden age for the church when Christ will be glorified on earth. The promise was made to Abraham, “That as the sands of the sea, so will your children be,” and that’s what they expected would happen in the most literal sort of way, dominating the world.
And, you know, that view of Christ as the glorifier of the church, came to dominate in the Reformed churches for the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; that’s what most Presbyterians at Princeton believed in the nineteenth century, it’s what Jonathan Edwards believed in the eighteenth century, and it’s what many believed, particularly the Congregationalists believed, like Oliver Cromwell, in the seventeenth century. It’s not what everybody believed, and that’s why the Westminster Confession of Faith doesn’t require a belief in that, but there were many at the assembly who believed that. And, of course, it’s a kind of nice thought, isn’t it, it’s very attractive in its own way. And I’m not saying that they believed it just because it was a nice thought, they really believed there was solid biblical evidence for that, I’m not persuaded myself, but what a wonderful thing to think, “The church, even though there are going to be ups and downs, is going to go from strength to strength;” isn’t that encouraging? “Christ is going to be victorious, we’re going to see it in this world;” isn’t that encouraging?