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The Puritans on Habits and Spiritual Maturity

Greg E. Gifford, MA, PhD Student

ggifford@masters.edu

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Introduction

In the history of the church and particularly counseling within the church, there has been a house, of sorts, that is developing. Faithful, competent men and women are slowly building the house of biblical counseling on a solid foundation.[1] One of these men—Jay Adams—spoke into the some of the load-bearing walls within this house. Jay Adams said one load-bearing wall is that,

Few, if any, recent theologians have discussed the relationship of habit to behavior. Their efforts have been expended on important questions having to do with Adam’s sin, the effects of sin upon the nature of his descendants, and the process by which sin has been transmitted to his posterity. These are all vital questions, as I have noted in the earlier chapter. But so is the matter of habit—especially for counseling.[2]

Jay Adams did not create biblical counseling, but is perhaps the father of biblical counseling as it is modernly known. He shows that no “recent theologians” have dealt with the important issue of habits within the house of biblical counseling.[3] Therefore the question should be asked, “what historical theologians did discuss the relationship of habits to behavior and what did they say?” The theologians that the researcher has selected to analyze are the English Puritans, with the inclusion of the American Jonathan Edwards.[4]

The Puritans were selected because of the theological approach that they take to most of their writings, addressing issues from national sins to the place of penance in their sermons and writings.[5] In regards to habits, from Jay Adams’s original statement, the Puritans had much to say. The Puritans believed that habits were a means of cultivating spiritual maturity in the believer by giving a believer a greater capacity for future obedience, by uniting a believer’s will to God’s, and by conforming a believer to the image of Christ. The method of research to accomplish this claim is through a survey of the way the Puritans spoke of habits, synthesis of their voices to a singular definition, and to develop an understanding of their view of habits in relationship to spiritual maturity. At the end of this synthesis, the reader will have a better understanding of habits and their relationship to the house of biblical counseling within a historical perspective. Most importantly, the reader will be emboldened to speak more of habits in counseling and, perhaps, see that an emphasis on regular action is a necessary part of spiritual maturity.[6]

Scope and Delineation

The scope of this paper is to keep within the confines of the Puritanic thinking in regards to habits, and the place those habits play in regards to spiritual maturity.[7] There are many who have written before and after the Puritans who have spoken into habits, but the emphasis is given to these men due to their theological treatment of such issues. Thus, a quick definition of terms is warranted for sake of clarity.

Definition of Terms

The term habit is used by the Puritans in many ways, all suggesting the same thing. In this paper, habit simple means a learned, automatic or frequent action. There are varying facets of this definition, but by-and-large this simple definition encapsulates the scope of varying opinions on habits.[8] It should be noted that a habit does not need to occur every occasion, however, the researcher is using this term in its common usage, which implies a consistent, regular action.[9]

The term Puritan, although originally a pejorative term, was coined to describe the group of Englishmen who wanted to purify the Church of England from the practices of Catholicism.[10] The date that these men lived, preached, and wrote was between the 17th and 18th century, with the North American Jonathan Edwards as the final of the Puritans and his passing in 1758.

The term cultivate is used in the sense that spiritual maturity is existent within a person and that spiritual maturity is being developed, or advanced.[11] Cultivate is commonly seen as an agricultural term that insinuates a plant is already existent, but that it is fed, nourished, and grown by further means of nutrition. This common understanding is the way in which the researcher seeks to employ this meaning, and the idea of spiritual maturity as being existent is a primary component of the researcher’s delineation.[12]

Oswald Sanders states it succinctly: “Viewed from another angle, spiritual maturity is simply Christlikeness. We are as mature as we are like Christ, and no more. He was the only fully mature man. His character was complete, well balanced, and perfectly integrated. All His qualities and capacities were perfectly attuned to the will of His Father, and this is the model, the standard God has set for us.”[13] This common understanding of spiritual maturity will be developed in regards to the capacity of a believer to obey, the conformity of a believer’s will to God’s will, and overall greater Christlikeness in the believer (cf. Eph. 4:12-16).

As will be displayed, the Puritans had much to say about the role of habits in regards to the effects of habits in cultivating spiritual maturity. In order to see the effect of frequent practice, though, the reader must understand the Puritanic perspective of habits. After an overview of the Puritanic perspective of habits, the researcher will seek to synthesize the various Puritans perspective in order to show their effects on cultivating spiritual maturity.

A Puritanic Understanding of Habits

Regenerate Habits

To begin the conversation of habits, it is important to note that the Puritans had a high view of the need for regeneration within a person in order for them to perform any deeds to the glory of God. This regeneration prepared the ground of habits and also propelled forward the ability for habits. Richard Sibbes said, “Hence it is that trust is an obsequious [i.e., obedient to a servile degree] and observing grace, stirring up the soul to a desire of pleasing God in all things, and to fear of displeasing him. … Obedience of faith and obedience of life will go together … [emphasis added].”[14] Sibbes is suggesting that saving propels towards obedience. In addition, Thomas Watson cautions: “It is not how much we do, but how much we love. If a servant does not do his work willingly, and out of love, it is not acceptable. Duties not mingled with love are as burdensome to God as they are to us.”[15] As seen in Sibbes and Watson’s warning, the Puritans never represent a poor understanding of the need for regeneration in the enabling of a believer to perform habits that cultivate spiritual maturity. Jonathan Edwards’ “Divine and Supernatural Light” displays this understanding, too.

Potentially, none of the Puritans spoke to the enabling-effect of regeneration as much as Jonathan Edwards. Edwards believed that at regeneration the very nature of a person’s character is changed. “This light [referring to salvific regeneration], and this only, has its fruit in an universal holiness of life. … But this light, as it reaches the bottom of the heart, and changes the nature, so it will effectually dispose to a universal obedience. It shows God as worthy to be obeyed and served [emphasis added].”[16] Edwards is suggesting that a new nature is what takes place at regeneration, making the believer capable of seeing God as “worthy to be obeyed and served” and desirous of obeying God in every aspect of life (i.e., “universally”).

In order to understand the Puritanic perspective of habits, one must see that the Puritans never believed that these habits could create right standing with God.[17] Rather, they believed that regeneration enables the believer towards obedience in all areas of life, and motivated them towards obedience and good works. It is only from this understanding that the Puritanic perspective of habits can truly be discerned.

Various Expressions of the Same Idea

Habit

The most common way of speaking about frequent actions was, in fact, to use the modern day term habits. Richard Sibbes, Jonathan Edwards, Peter Vinke, John Owen, David Clarkson, and John Gibbon all speak of the importance and effects of habits, using the term habit to describe this frequent action or practice. Peter Vinke spoke in regards to habits saying:

Indeed, after conversion and regeneration, nothing increases the habits of grace more than the actings of grace; and in this natural and infused habits do agree: they are both strengthened by acting of them. Whatsoever grace you would have strong and lively in the soul, let it be conscientiously and frequently exercised, and it will become so: this hath many a probatum est [“proof”] amongst the children of God.[18]

Peter Vinke is offering insight into how he views habits and the importance of those habits. He interchanges “actings/acting” and “frequently exercised” when speaking of habits. The language Vinke used is almost identical to Stephen Charnock’s: “And a frequent exercise of this method [thinking about God] would beget and support a habit of thinking well, and weaken, if not expel, a habit of thinking ill.”[19] The habit, according to Vinke and Charnock is strengthened through the frequent act. And the act enlivens the grace that has enabled that act or weakens the habit, according to Vinke and Charnock. Vinke and Charnock are not alone in this belief as John Gibbon also agrees with them.

John Gibbon was preaching in regards to resisting temptation and the nature of true justification when he spoke of habits. His argument was that, “for as frequent acts strengthen the habit of sin, so the habit facilitates the acts.”[20] And Thomas Neaste said something quite similar to Gibbon: “The best way to strengthen any habit, is to be often repeating its acts. We cannot do any thing better to increase love, than to be often acting love.”[21] Again, the idea of frequent practice is communicated with effects of the habit being displayed, as well. Both tell of their understanding of habits as being frequently practiced. What they show, as did Vinke and Charnock, is that he viewed habits as simply frequent practice.

Still others have argued the same thing, using the term habit to describe frequent practices. David Clarkson said, “Besides, the act strengthens that good motion and disposition which leads to it, and so makes you more ready for another act; and that disposeth to more acts, and those to better; and repeated acts beget a habit; and this, as the philosopher tells us, is μονιμωτερον τι, ‘something that will stay by you.’ [emphasis added]”[22] The beginning of a habit, according to Clarkson is nothing more than frequent practice. He does not articulate how frequent of practice, but is only wanting his hearers to understand the importance of the “good motion” and acting upon the good motion while one has the inclinations to do so.

Vinke, Gibbon, and Clarkson all use the term habit to describe frequent practices or frequent actions, yet there are many more who use this term to represent frequent practices.[23] Two more puritans are Jonathan Edwards and John Owen who also use the term habit to describe frequent practice. Edwards says, “The degree of religion is rather to be judged of by the fixedness and strength of the habit that is exercised in affection, whereby holy affection is habitual, than by the degree of the present exercise. … No habit or principle in the heart is good, which has no such exercise.”[24] Edwards was equating the exercise of such affections as a habit. John Owen believed that lusts were “habit[s] or inclination to unrighteousness,” saying that these habits worked as a consistent inclination of the person towards certain ends that were frequently practiced.[25] The idea of frequent practice as being a habit is common within the Puritanic understanding of actions. However, there are other ways that Puritans would describe this same idea of frequent action; one, in particular, is the idea of holy efforts.

Holy Efforts

Thomas Watson and Richard Baxter are the primary Puritans to use this idea of “holy efforts.” Watson wrote towards the character of a Christian, and in his work, A Godly Man’s Picture, he said,

What I have spoken is to encourage faith, not indulge sloth. Do not think God will do our work for us while we sit still. As God will blow up the spark of grace by His Spirit, so we must be blowing it up by holy efforts. … The smoking flax shall not be quenched, but we must blow it up with the breath of our effort [emphasis added].[26]

He believed that love was the primary holy effort of man, but that love would be accompanied by labor. His illustration of a spark blown into a flame is something that he repeats throughout his work, suggesting that a person must conduct their holy efforts to help sustain their spiritual walk: “we must blow it up with the breath of our effort.”[27] In other words, love alone is not enough for spiritual maturity from what Watson was suggesting; it also takes holy efforts.

Richard Baxter also spoke into the types of efforts that he believed to be important for the pastor, and in these discussions, he showed what he believed about the nature of frequent practice. Baxter argued that the efforts of the pastor were to daily “study their own heart” and to be diligent in ministerial efforts.[28] If these were not regular practices of the pastor, they would (1) starve their hearers, and (2) bring themselves into temptation with their people.[29] Although Baxter does not spend as much time identifying the nature of those holy efforts, he does speak a great deal into how holy efforts can orient a person towards spiritual maturity.[30] Furthermore, he illustrates that he is thinking about a regular practice when speaking of these duties. Yet, both Baxter and Watson use this idea of holy efforts as being essential to the spiritual maturity of a believer. Thus, habits and holy efforts have been used by the Puritans to describe the same idea of regular or frequent practice. In addition, Richard Sibbes, Jeremiah Burroughs, and Thomas Mallery add a few more ways of expressing this idea of habits—namely, they add the ideas of labor and duties.

Labor and Duties

Richard Sibbes is commonly known for his work on The Bruised Reed. What is interesting is one of the main pieces of counsel that Sibbes provides to for those who are struggling with depression (i.e., melancholy) is the following:

The way to cure this malady [melancholoy] in us is (1) to labour to bring these risings of our souls in the obedience of God’s truth and Spirit (2 Cor. 5:5). … It is necessary that God by his word and Spirit should erect a government in our hearts to captivate and order this licentious faculty.[31]

In fact, he argues that these duties are what God uses to strengthen the believer who is obedient, even when they are averse to those duties.[32]

Likewise, Thomas Cole urged for the frequent practice of duties.

Frequent acts beget a habit and frequent acts maintain it. We can never perfect holiness but by a constant tenor in holiness, going on from day-to-day in the practice of it. Some trees—though they bring not forth much fruit, yet that as is [brought forth], is the bigger and fairer. But it is not so in a Christian: the less you are in duty, the more lank and lean are your duties [emphasis added].[33]

He considered that holiness, or spiritual maturity, would come through the discharge of one’s duties and one’s duties are the “day-to-day … practice.”

Jeremiah Burroughs agreed with Sibbes and Cole, employing the use of the term duty to articulate this idea of frequent practice. In regards to contentment he says, “A carnal heart thinks, I must have my wants made up or else it is impossible that I should be content. But a gracious heart says, ‘What is my duty of the circumstances God has put me into?’ … Let me exert my strength to perform the duties of my present circumstance.”[34] Burroughs is arguing for duties as a means to contentment saying again, “You should labor to bring your heart to quiet and contentment by setting your soul to work in the duties of your present condition.”[35]

Burroughs, Sibbes, and Cole were saying the same thing that Edwards, Baxter, Cole, Vinke, and Clarkson said in regards to habits and holy efforts. There is a wide-display of information to show that the Puritans used different terms to represent the same idea of frequent practice. As if those were not enough evidence, Thomas Brooks employs the use of the terms holy works and heavenly services to describe the same thing.

Holy Works and Heavenly Services

Thomas Brooks’ most popular work is his lengthy treatment of Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. Throughout this work he would offer a snare of the devil and then offer the biblical solution to that snare; the work is very theological, thus his answers are systematic and comprehensive. On many occasions he, too, refers to the importance of holy and heavenly works. He says,

To look after holy and heavenly works, is the best way to preserve the soul from being deceived and deluded by Satan’s delusions, and by sudden flashes of joy and comfort; holy works being a more sensible and constant pledge of the previous Spirit, begetting and maintaining in the soul more solid, pure, clear, strong, and lasting joy. … Look that you cleave close to holy services; and that you turn not your backs upon religious duties.[36]

His synthesis of all of the remedies is that the best remedy is to “look after holy and heavenly works.” Then, just a few lines further down, he interchanges the use of holy services and religious duties. He, like the other Puritans, spoke, wrote, and preached that this idea of frequent and regular practice can be termed habits, holy works, labors, duties, heavenly services, or holy efforts. However, in using these varying terms, the Puritans were all suggesting the same thing: they were suggesting the idea of frequent, consistent action.

Synthesis of the Puritan’s Use of Habits

            An integral part of the researcher’s thesis is that the Puritans’ did, in fact, believe and speak into the frequent practice of man, especially believers. Peter Vinke, John Gibbon, and Thomas Cole all speak most clearly into the way in which habits are formed and what makes a habit, a habit. Their viewpoints can summarily be seen in the following statements:

  • Peter Vinke: “Nothing increases the habits of grace more than the actings of grace. … Whatsoever grace you would have strong and lively in the soul, let it be conscientiously and frequently exercised … .”[37]
  • John Gibbon: “For as frequent acts strengthen the habit of sin, so the habit facilitates the acts.”[38]
  • Thomas Cole: “Frequent acts beget a habit and frequent acts maintain it. We can never perfect holiness but by a constant tenor in holiness, going on from day-to-day in the practice of it.[39]

Therefore, it can be seen that even though various terms of habits are employed throughout Puritanic writing, the idea of habit as being a regular practice is a common understanding among the Puritans. Moreover, all of the Puritans stated would agree that a habit—defined as a frequent, regular practice—has great significance in the means of and cultivation of spiritual maturity.

Habits Cultivate Spiritual Maturity

The reason that the Puritans spent so much time teaching in regards to habits is that they firmly believed that habits cultivate spiritual maturity. By spiritual maturity, the Puritans always believed that this could only be a discussion for those who were in the Spirit.[40] To use the example of Watson, the smoking flax must be blown up by the believer’s efforts—but notably there is a smoking flax with which to begin.[41] This spiritual maturity looks like three primary evidences in the believer’s life, according to the Puritan’s: (1) greater capacity for future obedience, (2) a believer’s will is conformed to God’s will, and (3) greater Christlikeness.[42]

Greater Capacity for Future Obedience

Many of the Puritans believed that habits gave a person the capacity for greater obedience in the future. Oliver Heywood said, “In keeping the commandment there is this reward, that every act of obedience doth increase the ability to obey. Every step reneweth strength. Saints go from strength to strength, for the way of the Lord is strength to the upright.”[43] Heywood is stating something very bold: the frequent practice of obedience enables a believer to obey more. Thomas Cole said,

As all graces grow up together in the heart, in an apt disposition to actual exercise, when occasion is given to draw them forth; and as no grace in the heart grows up alone; so no duty thrives in the life alone. One duty borrows strength from another, is bounded within another. As stones in a wall do bear up one another; so a Christian is built up of many living stones, many graces, many duties.[44]

Duties borrow strength from another. There is a compounding of sorts, according to Cole. The more one does something, the more strength and capacity it gives them to do it again. He later said, “present obedience gives understanding for the future.”[45]

David Clarkson said similar things as Heywood and Cole. Clarkson believed that “the act strengthens that good motion and disposition which leads to it [emphasis added].”[46] Therefore, he advises to quickly act upon an inclination to a good work, since good works enable for more consistent obedience.[47] Clarkson, too, is saying something very bold—when a believer acts on a godly inclination, their actions strengthen the desire to do it again.

Thomas Watson also said similar things. He said, “There are two things that provoke appetite. Exercise: a man by walking and stirring gets a stomach to his meat. So by the exercise of holy duties the spiritual appetite is increased. ‘Exercise thyself unto Godliness’ … [emphasis added].”[48] Watson is speaking from Matthew 5:6, stating that the exercise of holy duties enables and promotes one to hunger and thirst for righteousness. And through that exercise of duty does the spiritual appetite increase.

Thomas Woodcock reiterated what Watson, Burroughs, and Clarkson said; he said, “Every step a man takes he goeth into a new horizon, and gets a further prospect into truth. Motion is promoted by motion, actions breed habits, habits fortify the powers, the new life grows stronger and fuller of spirit. The yoke of Christ is easier, smoother, and lighter, by often wearing it.”[49] The regular practice of habits, “fortify the powers.” Woodcock is saying what the other Puritans would say, and that is that habits promote the ability of greater obedience. Through the regular practice of habits, the new life is stronger and fuller, according to Woodcock.

It is apparent that the Puritans had no problem saying that when a believer is obedient to God, it makes them capable of greater obedience.[50] If one pauses to consider what is being said, they can see that these are very bold statements; statements that are asserting the ability of the one to obey developing through regular practice. Habits affect the ability of the believer to be obedient. This ability advances the spiritual maturity of a believer. And in addition to this ability, the Puritans also see habits as influencing the will of the believer growing in conformity to the will of God.

A Believer’s Will is Conformed to God’s Will

            Jeremiah Burroughs is known because of his work in regards to contentment, however, what is little known about Burroughs is that he taught that a believer’s will is conformed to God’s will through the practice of their duties. He pointedly says,

A gracious heart is contented by the melting of his will and desires into God’s will and desires; by this means he gets contentment. … It is not by having his own desires satisfied, but by melting his will and desires into God’s will. So that in one sense, he comes to have his desires satisfied though he does not obtain the thing that he desired before. … This is a small degree higher than submitting to the will of God.[51]

Notably, this contentment comes through practice of duties.[52] Burroughs is saying that as a believer practices their duties, their wills are melted into God’s will so that they want what God wants (Ps. 37:4; Phil. 2:13). Therefore, to submit to the will of God is something quite different than to actually want what God wants—Burroughs notes this difference, too. The point is that Burroughs argued for the practice of duty that, in turn, brings about contentment. And that contentment is created through a person wanting what God wants.

Thomas Jacombe stated this principle just as directly as Burroughs, perhaps there is a literary dependence between the two as Thomas Jacombe was also writing on contentment. He said, “Grace rectifies the will—Thus in causing it to comply with, and yield unto, the will of God. Whenever this supernatural habit is infused into a man, there is a melting of his will into God’s will; so that there is but one and the same will between them.”[53] What Jacombe does is show that there is a supernatural endowment of the habit that then melts the believer’s will into God’s. The habit is that a believer frequently wants what God wants, thus contentment is attained. Both Burroughs and Jacombe believed that the habit or duty led to the melting of a will to God’s. However, they offer nuances regarding the development of those habits, as Jacombe believed it was God who aligned the will and provided the habit, and Burroughs believed through the practice of duties, the will was aligned to God’s. Nevertheless, both believed that habits promote conformity of a believer’s will to God’s will.

Thomas Watson said that the profits that come from performing spiritual duties are as follows: “It enfeebles corruption; it increases grace; it defeats Satan; it strengthens our communion with God; it breeds peace of conscience; it procures answers of mercy; and it leaves the heart always in better tune.”[54] Watson taught that as a believer performed their duties, they were drawn into a greater communion with God. Moreover, this communion is only brought about through the habits of a believer with the working of the Spirit.

Richard Baxter weighs in on the subject of habit and spiritual maturity by saying,

Keep yourselves to the holy use of all your mercies, and let not the flesh devour them, nor any inordinate appetite fare ever the better for them when you have them, and this will powerfully extinguish the inordinate desire itself. … You are able to do much in this way if you will. If you cannot presently suppress the desire, you may presently resolve to deny the flesh the thing desired, (as David would not drink the water though he longed for it, 2 Sam. xxiii. 15, 17) and you may presently deny it the more of that you have [emphasis added].[55]

Baxter is arguing that when a person denies an inordinate desire, it extinguishes the desire. He is suggesting that as a person denies opportunities for inordinate desires through practice, they actually extinguish the desire. Thus, a person’s desires are more like God’s through the practice of extinguishing inordinate desires.

Richard Sibbes speaks to this, as well. He says, “As we set about duty, God strengthens the influence he has in us. … God often delights to take advantage of our averseness, that he may manifest his work the more clearly, and that all the glory of the work may be his, as all the strength is his.”[56] When a believer is obedient, God strengthens them to want to do it more, according to Sibbes. God uses the faithful obedience of those who do not want to obey, to change their desires so they want to obey.

The second way that Puritans viewed habits in developing spiritual maturity is through aligning a believer’s will to that of God’s. Through habits, or frequent practice, the Puritans would say that a believer begins to now want what God wants by being regularly or frequently obedient to Him. God works through the regular obedience of a believer to conform their desires to His.[57]

Habits Promote Greater Christlikeness

Perhaps the most generic of the Puritanic understanding of habits is the effect of habits in promoting Christlikeness. The Puritan’s argue for this in both a positive and a negative sense, the working of duties as being Christlike, and characteristics of Christlikeness developing through habits.

Peter Vinke argued for both the positive effects and negative aspects of habits in forming Christlikeness. He said, “Holiness is indispensably necessary unto all justified persons. Departing from iniquity is the duty of all that name the name of Christ. … Departing from iniquity (the aforementioned duty) hath an influence upon our salvation, though it be not a cause of our salvation [emphasis added].”[58] He goes on to say that this duty of departing from iniquity promotes Christlikeness in the believer’s life.[59] Without the duty of departing from iniquity, there would be no greater Christlikeness, according to Vinke. Thus, “Whatsoever grace you would have strong and lively in the soul, let it be conscientiously and frequently exercised.”[60]

Arguing from the negative perspective, Edward Veale noted the potential danger in the pull of ungodly habits towards un-Christlikeness. “Men are naturally backward to good, but much more when habituated to evil. For the more inclined they are to evil, the more averse they are to good; and the more accustomed they are to sin, the more inclined they are to it.”[61] Habits can pull away from the believer’s Christlikeness, pulling them towards evil.

Edward Vincent took a nuanced perspective in that he believed the very act of a holy duty, was an act of Christlikeness. So far, Veale and Vinke have addressed the results of the duty but Vincent pointed out something distinct, yet very similar: “Christ is to be followed in his manner of performing holy duties. Never was he negligent in an ordinance. His ‘cries’ were ‘strong,’ his ‘tears’ many (Heb. 5:7). And how does he wrestle with his heavenly Father!”[62] Being like Christ is actually performing the holy duties themselves! Not only did the Puritans believe that the holy duties have a result of Christlikeness, but in their performance there is Christlikeness.

John Owen is notorious for his writing on The Mortification of Sin, in which he greatly deals with duties and their effects on spiritual maturity. In this work Owen calls mortification the duty of every believer.[63] This duty has a result and reward for believers, according to Owen, and that is that “‘you shall live’. … Now perhaps the words may not only intend eternal life, but also the spiritual life in Christ, which here we have.”[64] Owen is offering throughout this work that the duty of mortification of sin affects the spiritual life in Christ. What is little known of Owen is that he preached a sermon addressing popery and preservations against it. In it he said:

As God made us without ourselves, so Christ redeemed us; but what he doeth in us, he doeth also by us; what he works in a way of grace, we work in a way of duty. And our duty herein consists, as in the continual exercise of all gracious habits, renewing, changing, and transforming the soul into the likeness of Christ, (for he which hopes to see Him ‘purifieth himself as He is pure,’) so also in universal, permanent, uninterrupted mortification unto the end, whereof we shall speak afterwards.[65]

Owen was clear in that he believed God works in the believer towards greater Christlikeness as the believer performs their duties and habits, especially the duty of mortification.

Two other Puritans—Jeremiah Burroughs and Thomas Watson—again weigh in on this aspect of the effects of habits. What they do is speak into Christlike characteristics, rather than using the term Christlikeness. Burroughs refers to the way to gain contentment and Watson speaks of purity.[66] The way of growing in Christlikeness, particularly godly contentment, is by doing the duty of one’s present circumstances, according to Burroughs. Or for Thomas Watson, greater Christlikeness comes about in the regular practice of spending time with those who are Christlike.[67] But he also said in his sermon entitled, “The Good Practitioner” that, “Scripture knows no other way to happiness, but by practice.”[68] Watson was not arguing for a momentary emotion of happiness, but was interchanging blessedness as a result of obedience. Both Watson and Burroughs believed that characteristics of Christ were developed through duties. Thus, to be more like Christ necessitated regular practice.

As has been displayed, the Puritans by-and-large believed that habits help promote the capacity to obey, the will of a believer being conformed to God’s, and the promotion of greater Christlikeness in a believer. All of that to say that historically the habits of believers have been of great significance within the Puritanic perspective in regards to spiritual maturity. Therefore, when Jay Adams mentioned that no recent theologians have talked of the importance of habits, he was right. However, historical theologians have dealt much with this in regards to spiritual maturity.

Conclusion and Synthesis

Yes, the house of biblical counseling is somewhat new, but its foundations and load-bearing walls are not. What Jay Adams noted about the historical development of counseling in regards to habits has not changed in the thirty-seven years since he wrote it. The Puritans believed that habits are what cultivate the spiritual maturity of believers. As has been displayed, the Puritans believed that habits were a means of cultivating spiritual maturity in the believer by giving a believer a greater capacity for future obedience, by uniting a believer’s will to God’s, and by conforming a believer to the image of Christ. The implications of this are vast, but a specific few must be noted.

Historically, the actions of a believer were considered as very directional in regards to the spiritual maturity of the believer. This means that if a person were to spend time with corrupt company, shop inordinately, or give themselves ample opportunity to sin—all things the Puritans spoke of—it would erode at their spiritual maturity.[69] Counseling has to become okay with focusing on the regular practices of counselees; what are they doing? Because what they are doing is shaping their spiritual maturity! The Puritans talked much about habits and their relationship to spiritual maturity but in thirty-seven years since Jay Adams gave his observation, nobody has published a resource on habits for biblical counseling—not one.

The final implication the researcher must state is that if one sheet-rocks over this load-bearing wall of habits through ignorance or intentionality, it will hinder the facilitation of spiritual maturity. The Puritans taught this. Therefore, their historical perspective is invaluable to the conversation of counseling in the history of the church. Habits do cultivate spiritual maturity. As Oliver Heywood said:

Rest not satisfied with a bare outside of duties, or a trudging in the common road or round of formality. If you look not beyond ordinances in the use thereof, you will get no more treasure than a merchant whose ship sails to the Downs, and quickly returns again. He that would be rich must use duties as a bridge or boat to bring his soul to God, and as a chariot to bring God to his soul.[70]

 

 


[1] Biblical counseling has been known as a nouthetic confrontation, according to Jay Adams in Competent to Counsel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1970). John Babler provides a concise definition of biblical counseling by saying, “Biblical Counseling is a ministry of the local church whereby transformed believers in Christ (John 3:3-8) who are indwelled, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) minister the living and active Word of God (Heb. 4:12) to others with the goals of evangelizing the lost and teaching the saved (Matt. 28:18-20).” John Babler, “What Is Biblical Counseling?,” Theological Matters, January 3, 2012, accessed November 17, 2016, http://theologicalmatters.com/2012/01/03/what-is-biblical-counseling/. Simply put, biblical counseling is discipleship.

[2] Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 163-64.

[3] Yet, Jay Adams is not alone in this process of spotting gaps. David Powlison has argued that “it seems to be that the critics of nouthetic counseling have been right in discerning a gap, or at least relative inattention, in our treatment of motivation. … I propose we hear their criticism, in addition to avoiding their alternatives.” David Powlison, The Biblical Counseling Movement (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2010), 246. David Powlison is the primary reason that biblical counseling speaks of heart idols and motivations within the counseling context, publishing an article in 1995 that would shape the language and direction of counseling. David Powlison, “Idols of the Heart and ‘Vanity Fair,’” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 13, no. 2 (1995): 35–50. He said, “Idolatry is by far the most frequently discussed problem in the Scriptures.” Powlison rightly oriented people towards an understanding of idolatry, but also did not emphasize the role of regular action.

[4] The reason for including Jonathan Edwards is that he is commonly known as the “last of the Puritans,” despite his writings and living at least 50 years after the English puritans. Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 193. “Jonathan Edwards, often called America’s greatest theologian and philosopher and the last Puritan, was a powerful force behind the First Great Awakening, as well as a champion of Christian zeal and spirituality” (193).

[5] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 6 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981). The Puritans addressed everything from the Sabbath, the ways a business man may preserve godliness all the way to the open attacks against Catholicism.

[6] “That habit plays a large part in our every day living, and that the Scripture writers frequently speak about habit, are facts that careful investigation of their writings will confirm” (161), Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, 161. Jay goes on to say, “Understanding of biblical teaching about habit is essential for every Christian counselor” (162).

[7] The researcher is aware and intentionally seeking to avoid the types of habits to be discussed. Although the Puritans did address the types of duties, the type of duties is beyond the scope of this paper. Cf. the following works for the some of the types of Puritanic duties: William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties: Eight Treatise (Norwood, NJ: Walter J. Johnson, 1976) and Thomas Watson, The Duty of Self-Denial and Ten Other Sermons (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1675).

[8] Jay Adams said, “Habit—the capacity to learn to respond unconsciously, automatically, and comfortably—is a great blessing” (161) Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979). Examples of habits—good, bad, and neutral—are getting dressed, driving a car, going to church, and discerning between good and evil (161-62). John Macarthur believes that a habit is something that starts in the beliefs or mind (1) John Macarthur, “How Can I Overcome a Bad Habit?,” Grace to You, n.d., accessed March 11, 2016, http://www.gty.org. Jerry Bridges said, “Habits are the thoughts and emotional patterns engraved in our minds” (131-32) Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 2006). James Smith argues that habits are made and become what has been traditionally known as dispositions in James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009), 54.

Secular opinions would not agree entirely with what Adams has stated. B.R. Andrews, “Habit,” The American Journal of Psychology, vol. XIV (Spring 1903:No 2): 139. Stephen Covey suggest that a habit is “the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire,” The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 47. “Habit is a mode of mental functioning in which repeated processes are in mind. A habit is one such mode of functioning; and there are as many habits as repeated processes (emphasis added).” And a final definition of habits that is secular comes through Duke researchers: David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, and Jeffrey M. Quinn, “Habits: A Repeat Performance,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 15 (2004: Issue 4): 199 or William James, Habit (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1914), 49.

[9] Ivan Pavlov argued for associations and reflexes that would suggest this level of automaticity and he would disagree that a habit does not need to occur every time. He wrote extensively on his perspective of habits in his work, Ivan Pavlov, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes (New York, NY: New York International Publishers, 1928). He is one of the primary thinkers that has encouraged modern thinkers to somewhat blur the lines of habit and automaticity.

[10] Cf. “A Brief History of English Puritanism” in Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 3-9. “Puritans should not be limited strictly to radical protestant nonconformists, but rather to a much broader movement of individuals distinguished by a cluster of characteristics that transcends their political, ecclesiastical, and religious differences” (17), these differences are, “[an] individuals personal conviction that they have been personally saved by God, elected to salvation by a merciful God by no merit of their own; and tha, as a consequence of this election, they must lead a life of visible piety, must be a member of a church modeled on the pattern of the New Testament, and must work to maker their community and nation a model of Christian society” (18) in Kelly M. Kapic and Randall C. Gleason, eds., The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004). Kapic and Gleason believe the term puritan can be fit into a historical and theological paradigm (32). However, the Puritans actually preferred the not-so-modest term, the godly. Part of the reasoning for this is that Puritan was used in such a way to connote strict rigidity rather than great theological purity, as is now almost the common understanding of Puritan. Cf. Encyclopaedia Brittanica, s.v. “Puritanism,” Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 2014.

[11] Merriam-Webster, accessed October 29, 2016, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cultivate, s.v. “cultivate.” It is important to note that cultivate heavily depends on preceding existence, therefore the researcher is not suggesting that cultivate suggests habits bring spiritual maturity into existence.

[12] A significant clarification and observation is that spiritual maturity can only be cultivated if it is existent. Thus, John Flavel says: “Mortification of our sinful affections and passions [i.e. spiritual maturity] is on half of our sanctification. … Now there are two means or instruments employed in this work. The Spirit, who affects it internally (Rom. 8:13), and Providence, which assists it externally” (99) John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2002). John Flavel is arguing that mortification takes place with the Spirit driving the vehicle of providence. Providence sets up blockades for a person to continue sinning. These are only things that can be accomplished by the Holy Spirit who indwells believers (Rom. 8:8, 3:10; Gal. 5:18-23; John 15:5). This idea will be further clarified in the section entitled, “Regenerate Habits.”

[13] Oswald Sanders, “What Constitutes Christian Maturity?,” in In Pursuit of Maturity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 19-25. Oswald wrote prolifically on Christian living, and is employed because of his ability to succinctly state the definition of spiritual maturity and the broad acceptance of his writings. John Macarthur said, “Spiritual growth is simply matching my practice with my position. Now, my position in Christ is perfect: I am complete in Him. I have all things that pertain to life and godliness. I have received all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. But I need to progress in my practical life in a way that is commensurate with my position.” John Macarthur, “Back to Basics: The ABC’s of Christian Living,” Grace to You, n.d., accessed November 16, 2016, http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5202/keys-to-spiritual-growth-introduction. The Puritans did not specifically use the term spiritual maturity, but did employ the concepts that comprise this modern term as will be displayed.

[14] Richard Sibbes and Grosart, Alexander ed., The Works of Richard Sibbes (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1862), 224.

[15] Thomas Watson, All Things For Good (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1663), 88. Thomas Watson agreed with Sibbes in regards to the importance of duties and would argue that, “The life-blood of religion flows through the veins of obedience.” Thomas Watson, “The Good Practitioner” (Sermon, Sermonindex.net, n.d.), accessed September 8, 2016, http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/index.php?view=category&cid=169.

[16] Jonathan Edwards, “A Divine and Supernatural Light” (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1834), 16. He goes on to say this light “shows God as worthy to be obeyed and served. It draws forth the heart in a sincere love to God, which is the only principle of a true, gracious, and universal obedience; and it convinces of the reality of those glorious rewards that God has promised to them that obey him” (16). And again, “So this new spiritual sense is not a new faculty of understanding, but it is a new foundation laid in the nature of the soul, for a new kind of exercises of the same faculty of understanding. So that new holy disposition of heart that attends this new sense is not a new faculty of will, but a foundation laid in the nature of the soul, for a new kind of exercises of the same faculty of will.” Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections in Three Parts (Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 199AD), section 3, 266.

[17] In fact, Edward Veal preached a sermon entitled, “Whether the Good Works of Believers be Meritorious of Eternal Salvation—Negatum Est.” In it he argues that, “Eternal life is the gift of God; and therefore is not deserved by our good works. … That therefore eternal life is a gift, none can deny that will not deny the plain words of Scripture; and that then it will follow, that good works to not deserve it, will appear by the opposition that there is between a free gift and a due reward: that which is of grace is not of debt, and that which is of debt is not of grace (Rom. 11:6).” James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 4 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981), 192.

Peter Vinke said, “Departing from iniquity hath an influence upon our salvation, though it be not a cause of our salvation. … It is true, good works do not go before justification, but follow after; for being sanctified also when we are justified, ‘we are created unto good works in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:10.) Till we have a being, we cannot act; and till the root be made good, the fruit cannot be good. Amongst the moralists it may still be a rule, Bona agendo, sumus boni; ‘By doing good we become good;’ but this must not be so strictly urged in divinity, where the fountain must be cleansed before the stream can run pure [emphasis added].” James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 4 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981), 273.

His words are echoed by many of the Puritans, including a specific treatment by John Owen, The Mortification of Sin (Lexington, KY: N.p., 2013), Chapter 2, I., (2). John Owen says, “Mortification is the work of believers” in Mortification of Sin, 49. Also, he says, “This whole work, which I have described as our duty, is affected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Spirit, in all the parts and degrees of it” (135). Oliver Heywood said, “It is the power of the Spirit that must make ordinances effectual; though the gospel be the ministration of the Spirit, yet the choicest truths, promises, sermons, sacraments, will be but a dead letter and law of death to the soul without the Spirit: therefore, you are to wait for the Spirit to breath and blow upon the garden of your souls, that the spices, divine graces, may be nourished, and so may flourish in our hearts and lives.” Oliver Heywood, The Works of the Reverend Oliver Heywood, ed. William Vint (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1825), 118.

Finally, Richard Baxter believed that the opposite was true: although he believed a person must be regenerate he also believed that the unregenerate were held captive through sinful habits. He said, “As the Spirit of God is present with the worst, and maketh many holy motions to the souls of the impenitent; but he is
a settled powerful agent in the soul of a believer, and so is said to dwell in such, and to possess them, by the habit of holiness and love:
even so Satan maketh too frequent motions to the faithful; but he possesseth only the souls of the ungodly by predominant habits of unbelief and sensuality.” In James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 3, 261.

 

[18] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 4, 273.

[19] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 2, 411.

[20] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 4, 305-306.

[21] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 1, 193.

[22] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981), 558-59. The effects of the habits to which Clarkson is referring will be addressed in the section, “Habits in Relation to Spiritual Maturity.”

[23] “Our habits of grace cease acting, if God suspends the influence of grace: as we see in Peter’s case; both upon the waters, when he began to sink, till the Lord gave him a hand; and [when he] went-on denying his Master, till the Lord looked upon him, and melted him into tears. (Luke 22:61, 62).” James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 3, 134-35. Also cf. volume 1 of Puritan Sermons, 276. Edward Veale said, “In these, I grant, there may need time to unlearn and extirpate those vicious habits they have so long been contracting, and to acquire new ones by a long series of, and accustoming themselves to, better actions (351),” in Puritan Sermons, vol. 4.

[24] Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections in Three Parts (Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 199AD), 240. Edwards was suggesting that the frequent practice of affections were really habits, and that the habitual inclinations of those affections are the very nature of religion.

[25] John Owen, The Mortification of Sin (Lexington, KY: N.p., 2013), 41. “And a sinful, depraved habit or as in many other things, so in this, differs from all natural or moral habits whatever: for whereas they incline the soul gently and suitably to itself” (42). Owen believed that habits could have the adverse effect of inclining a person away from God, towards themselves. In fact, the mortification of sin in a believers life consists primarily of mortifying this continual inclination towards one’s self, according to Owen.

[26] Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666), 237-38.

[27] Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture, 238. Watson even argued that diet was part of the holy duties of a believer: “A godly man holds the bridle of temperance and will not allow his table to be a snare” (170).

[28] Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1656), 62, 112.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Cf. the below section entitled, “Habits in Relation to Spiritual Maturity.”

[31] Richard Sibbes and Grosart, Alexander ed., The Works of Richard Sibbes (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1862), 180.

[32] Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 53. More will be discussed on Sibbes’ perspective of the duties of man and their resultative importance on spiritual maturity in the below section, “Habits In Relation to Spiritual Maturity … .”

[33] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 3 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981), 483-484. His sermon entitled, “How May the well-discharge of our current duty give us assurance of help from God for the well-discharge of all future duties?” is one of the most direct revelations of how a Puritan thought about duties and their place.

[34] Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1648), 51.

[35] Burroughs, 51-52.

[36] Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011), 126.

[37] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 4, 273.

[38] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 4, 305-306.

[39] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 3 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981), 483-484. His sermon entitled, “How May the well-discharge of our current duty give us assurance of help from God for the well-discharge of all future duties?” is one of the most direct revelations of how a Puritan thought about duties and their place.

[40] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 4 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981), 192. Peter Vinke said, “The fountain must be cleansed before the stream can run pure.” James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 4 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981), 273. His words are echoed by many of the Puritans, including a specific treatment by John Owen, The Mortification of Sin (Lexington, KY: N.p., 2013), Chapter 2, I., (2). Cf. the above section entitled, “Regenerate Habits.”

[41] Watson, A Godly Man’s Picture, 237.

[42] Arguably, there could be two more clear distinctions of greater fruit of the Spirit and greater conformity to the image of Christ. However, the researcher contests that those are manifested in the three ways that are being described. Capacity for obedience indicates fruit of the Spirit is manifest in a believer’s life (Cf. James 4:6, “God gives more grace to the humble”) and Christlikeness is to include that conformity to the image of Christ. Furthermore, the Puritans did not use the term spiritual maturity but did frequently use the concepts that comprise spiritual maturity, as will be displayed.

[43] Oliver Heywood, The Works of the Reverend Oliver Heywood, ed. William Vint (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1825), 109. He was speaking primarily in regards to humility, and how growth in humility means God will give more grace from the James 4:6 passage (cf. 109-111).

[44] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 3, 483-484.

[45] Ibid., 483.

[46] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 1, 558-59.

[47] “Good motions, when they are once reduced into act, are thereby, as it were, knit, and brought to more consistency. They are then well past one of their critical periods, where most miscarry, and so are more like to live and continue with you.” James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 1, 558.

[48] Thomas Watson, The Beattitudes (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1660), 134. Interesting, too, is that he believes suffering to be the other means of increasing spiritual appetites (cf. 134-35).

[49] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 4, 376. “He that doeth best, knoweth best; for he seeth the actions as they are in themselves and circumstances” (376). Woodcock was preaching for the practice of practical godliness in a believer’s life. Thus, his current comments were under the benefits of duties, Woodcock seeing that “the practice of holy duties clearly commanded is the ready way to have our minds enlightened in the knowledge of principles” (376).

[50] For further study in regards to enabling of a person towards greater spiritual maturity, cf. Jonathan Edwards, A Divine and Supernatural Light (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1834) in regards to the disposition of a believer towards God being cultivated through practice (Intro.). Also, cf. Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 53-54. He talks of God working in the believer as they are obedient. In their obedience, God “strengthens His influence” upon them. Or also cf. Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1648), where he speaks of by practicing contentment, the soul is fitted to receive mercy and to do service for God (124).

[51] Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1648), 53. Although not a Puritan, C.S. Lewis agreed with Burroughs by stating, “If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically. The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort—it is to want Him.” C.S. Lewis, “Three Kinds of People,” in Reflections, 2011, accessed November 2, 2016, http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/893.

[52] Cf. Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 52.

[53] Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 2, 581.

[54] Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture, 165-66.

[55] Richard Baxter, A Christian’s Directory (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1996), 279. This is the idea of mortification that John Owen argued for in The Mortification of Sin (Lexington, KY: N.p., 2013), 9. “Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if let alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, curse, scandalous, soul-destroying sins.” Owen argued that mortification is what would capacitate a person toward future spiritual maturity.

[56] Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 53-54. “Hence it is that trust is an obsequious and observing grace, stirring up the soul to a desire of pleasing God in all things, and to fear of displeasing him. … Obedience of faith and obedience of life will go together … .” Richard Sibbes and Grosart, Alexander ed., The Works of Richard Sibbes (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1862). In other words, faith stirs our soul to want to please God and faith is cultivated through obedience.

[57] As Burroughs says, “This is a small degree higher than submitting to the will of God.” Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 53. Also see Peter Vinke’s comments: “Our regeneration, or being born again, which the gospel insists so much upon, is in being made like unto God. ‘Partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pet. 1:4), enabled to love what he loves, and to hate what he hates, and to be conformed unto him in all things; so that God and regenerate ones have but one will [emphasis added].” James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 4, 276.

[58] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 4, 274.

[59] “Our regeneration, or being born again, which the gospel insists so much upon, is in being made like unto God. ‘Partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pet. 1:4), enabled to love what he loves, and to have what he hates, and to be conformed unto him in all things; so that God and regenerate ones have but one will. Thus they are said to be ‘created’ again ‘unto good works’ (Eph. 2:10).” James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 4, 276. Richard Baxter argued in the negative for habits, as well. He said, “The principle help against sinful anger is, in the right habituating of the soul, that you live as under the government of God, with the sense of his authority still upon your hearts and in the sense of that mercy that hath forgiven you, and forbeareth you, and under the power of his healing and assisting grace, and in the life of charity to God and man [emphasis added.” Richard Baxter, A Christian’s Directory (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1996), 284-85.

[60] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 4 (Wheaton, IL: R.O. Roberts, 1981), 273.

[61] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 4, 354. John Sheffield said, “But a third, or more frequent relapse [in regards to giving in to sin], is like the putting of an arm out of joint, again and again; [which] not being well bound and looked-to in time, becomes habitually loose, and never keeps the place. So it is here: crebrous [sic] and frequent acts of sin beget an habit and custom in sin; and then as soon may ‘the Ethiopian change his skin, and the leopard his spots,’ as one ‘accustomed to do evil,’ ever learn to do well (Jer. xiii. 23)” in Puritan Sermons, vol. 1, 79.

[62] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 4, 444.

[63] John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, 3, 9. Also see Owen’s sermon entitled, “How May We Bring our Hearts to Bear Reproofs?” in which he said, “Take heed of cherishing habitually such disorders, vices, and distempers of mind, as are contrary unto this duty, and will frustrate the design of it.” James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 2, 613.

[64] Ibid., 7. “The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.”

[65] James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 3, 245.

[66] Burroughs said, He says, that “ … I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties in the immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation.” Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1648), 51-52.

Thomas Brooks also argues that Christ reveals himself as motivation to the believer in their struggle to be obedient. Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011), 118. Thus, obedience both fuels greater Christlikeness and Christ is the motivator for future obedience, but Christ reveals Himself to the believer who is obedient.

Thomas Watson also said, “If you would be pure [i.e., greater Christlikeness] walk with them that are pure.” Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1660), 195.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Thomas Watson, “The Good Practitioner” (Sermon, Sermonindex.net, n.d.), accessed September 8, 2016, http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/ index.php?view=category&cid=169. “Obedience is rather an evidence of blessedness, than a cause of blessedness.” This blessedness is a characteristic of believers according to Christ (Matt. 5:3-11).

[69] Cf. Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011), 66-67, 99 and Richard Baxter, A Christian’s Directory (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1996), 279.

[70] Oliver Heywood, The Works of the Reverend Oliver Heywood, ed. William Vint (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1825), 115.

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