The Power of Encouragement

“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings,
The soul from purgatory springs.”

 

burningbullThus began the debate of the Reformation…

…Luther, in an angry response to the sale of indulgences, posted a notice consisting of ninety-five theses upon the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church. 

When a copy of Luther’s theses reached Rome, the pope, according to some accounts, said: “Luther is a drunken German.  He will feel different when he is sober.”

Rome, however, was worried about Martin Luther.  On June 15, 1520, Pope Leo X, in the papal bull Exsurge Domine, warned Luther that he will be excommunicated unless he recanted within the next sixty days.  The bull opened with a paragraph that compared Luther to a wild boar: 

“Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause… The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.”

The day after receiving a copy of the pope’s bull, Luther wrote to a friend, “This bull condemns Christ himself” and that he was now “certain the pope is the Antichrist.” His tone was defiant.

Although describing himself as “physically fearful and trembling,” Luther and a small band of supporters entered Worms on the early evening of April 16 in a two-wheeled cart.  A crowd of two thousand people helped escort Luther to his lodging.

As Luther was passing to the assembly-room of the Diet, he was clapped on the shoulder by a famous knight and general of the empire, Georg von Frundsberg, who said, “Monk, monk, you are in a strait the like of which myself and many leaders, in the most desperate battles, have never known. But if thy thoughts are just, and thou art sure of thy cause, go on, in God’s name; and be of good cheer; He will not forsake thee.”

But though Luther’s body was weak, his mind was strong, and it is said that, “his air quickly became calm and dignified.”

When Luther, at the Diet, was asked to recant his works, he instead described some of his writings as particularly those “in which I attack the papacy and the belief of the papists, as monstrosities, involving the ruin of sound doctrine and of men’s souls.”  

But rather than receiving the direct, “yes or no” answer he was looking for, Eck found that Luther’s answer was evasive.  He asked again, “Martin–answer candidly and without horns (as in meaning the “horns of a dilemma” or, I want a straight answer) –do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”

Luther refused to disavow these writings, because to do so would allow “Rome would make use of the disavowal, to extend her kingdom and oppress men’s souls.” After, repeating his answer in Latin as requested, (he had spoken in German) a sweating and tired Luther threw up his arms in victory and left the hall to a chorus of hisses from the Spaniards present. 

Luther would not compromise on his principles.

The disputation between Eck and Luther lasted till July 13. Luther concluded his argument with the words: ’I am sorry that the learned doctor only dips into Scripture as deep as the water-spider into the water–nay, that he seems to fly from it as the devil from the Cross. I prefer, with all deference to the Fathers, the authority of Scripture, which I herewith recommend to the arbiters of our cause.

Finally, the Emperor, on May 26, called Luther a “reviver of the old and condemned heresies” and an “inventor of new ones” and condemned him.

When we think about the great men of past ages, men who have changed the world, men who have made history, men who brought truth to the forefront, Martin Luther’s name will always be there as a shining example.  However, would it have been the case if it were not for the encouragement shown to him by a few people at just the right time?  God alone knows that, but what we do know is that God used those people to strengthen his servants when they needed it most.

My prayer is that God will use each of us to encourage those who need it. 

O Lord, do whatever You wish to do to us, but take not your Bible away!

prayingman300px[It is not often that I get to read of the personal lives of some of the great Puritan Divines.  Much of what I know about them is derived from their writings, where I only get little glimpses of their domestic lives and personalities. Sometimes a Puritan pastor can occasionally be somewhat shaky on a doctrinal point, but may have other strengths, such as being a tremendous counselor, like Baxter.  Here in this snippet is Thomas Goodwin, already a very strong theologian, and is perhaps in the prime of his life. This scene occurs during a time of widespread persecution in the country. People were suffering cruelly and dying for the Word of God –so it is precious here. In this moment, Goodwin is feeling hungry for a little personal ministry in his own life from the Word of God, and he sets off on horseback to hear John Rogers, a fiery and passionate pastor, to preach Christ, and he is not disappointed. From this snippet, we see how precious God’s word is to the true believer.  Little does Goodwin know which direction his own life will take. All either of them know is how precious the Word of God is –and that is what is conveyed. –MWP]

When the famous Puritan, Thomas Goodwin, was a youth, and a student at Cambridge, and after having heard much of John Rogers, of Dedham, he took a 35 mile journey to hear him preach on one of his week-day lectures which were very numerously attended.

Pastor John Rogers was at that time discussing the subject of the Scriptures, and on this occasion was expostulating with his hearers on the neglect of the Bible. He represented God as addressing them,  

“I have trusted you so long with my Bible; yet you have slighted it; my Bible lies in your houses covered with dust and cobwebs; you have not taken care of it, you have not to look into it. Do you misuse my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.”

He then took up the Bible from the cushion, and seemed as if he were going away with it, and carrying it from them, but immediately turned again, and, impersonating the people answering God, fell down on his knees, wept, and pleaded most earnestly,

“O Lord, do whatever You wish to do to us, but take not your Bible away from us! –Kill our children –Burn our houses –Destroy our goods –Only spare us Your Bible!”

Then he addressed the people as from God,

–Say you so?  Well, I will try you a little longer; here is my Bible for you. I will yet see how you will use it –Whether you will love it more, whether you will observe it more, whether you will practice it more, and live more according to it.”

By these actions he produced among his congregation general weeping. The great Dr. Thomas Goodwin himself, when he left to take his horse again, hung on his neck and wept for a considerable time before he had power to mount, so great was the impression produced on his mind by having been thus reproved with for the neglect of the Bible.

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Meet Thomas Goodwin, a pastor and theologian and part of your Christian heritage:  Thomas Goodwin (October 1600 –1680), known as ‘the Elder’, was an English Puritan theologian and preacher, and an important leader of religious Independents. He served as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and was imposed by Parliament as President of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1650. Goodwin is seen to be in the ‘main stream of Puritan thought’.  He studied at Cambridge from August 1613, and was an undergraduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a B.A. in 1616.

In 1619 he removed to Catharine Hall, where in 1620 he was elected fellow. At this time he was influenced by John Rogers of Dedham. Goodwin rode 35 miles from Cambridge to Dedham to hear this Puritan preacher. In 1625 he was licensed a preacher of the university; and three years afterwards he became lecturer of Trinity Church, successor to John Preston, to the vicarage of which he was presented by the king in 1632. n 1643 he was chosen a member of the Westminster Assembly, and at once identified himself with the Independent party, generally referred to in contemporary documents as the “dissenting brethren” and was one of the authors of An Apologetical  Narration. He frequently preached by appointment before the Commons, and in January 1650 his talents and learning were rewarded by the House with the presidency of Magdalen College, Oxford, a post which he held until the Restoration of 1660. He was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell from 1656. He rose into high favor with the Protector, and was one of his intimate advisers, attending him on his death-bed. He was also a commissioner for the inventory of the Westminster Assembly, 1650, and for the approbation of preachers, 1653, and together with John Owen drew up an amended Westminster Confession in 1658. From 1660 until his death, he lived in London, and devoted himself exclusively to theological study and to the pastoral charge of the Fetter Lane Independent Church.

Meet John Rogers, a passionate pastor for Christ, as well as part of your Christian heritage:  John Rogers (c. 1570–1636), sometimes referred to as “Roaring” John Rogers, for his fiery preaching style, was a well-known English Puritan clergyman and preacher. His parents were John Rogers (died 1601), a shoemaker from Moulsham in Essex, and his wife, Mary (died 1579). Richard Rogers, his uncle, provided for his education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he seems to have graduated in 1591/2. In 1592 he became vicar of Honingham, Norfolk, and in 1603 he succeeded Lawrence Fairclough, father of Samuel Fairclough, as vicar of Haverhill, Suffolk.

In 1605 he became lecturer, not vicar as some scholars believe, of Dedham, Essex, where for over thirty years he had the repute of being “one of the most awakening preachers of the age.” The vicars and lecturers are listed inside the church by the north door. On his lecture days his church overflowed. On one occasion, according to John Howe based on a report by Thomas Goodwin, Rogers rebuked the congregation for their woeful neglect of the Bible. His eloquence, some would say anointed preaching, moved many to tears and loud weeping. On market days he preached to hundreds of people from the tower by the muniment room above the north porch. This muniment room holds some early editions of his works. Cotton Mather reports a saying of Ralph Brownrig that Rogers would “do more good with his wild notes than we with our set music.” His lecture was suppressed from 1629 till 1631, on the ground of his nonconformity. His subsequent compliance was not strict. Giles Firmin, one of his converts, never saw him wear a surplice, and he only occasionally used the prayer-book, and then repeated portions of it from memory.

He died on 18 October 1636, and was buried in the churchyard at Dedham. There is a tombstone to his memory, and also a mural monument in the church on the north wall of the sanctuary. His funeral sermon was preached by John Knowles. His engraved portrait exhibits a worn face, and depicts him in nightcap, ruff, and full beard.

Character excerpts from Wikipedia