Hearts Sweetly Refreshed: Puritan Spiritual Practices Then and Now by Tom SchwandaWhat the Bible says about Godly Meditation through the Word
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Abstract: The Puritans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have often been relegated to neglect or disdain. However, a more accurate understanding recognizes that Puritanism was in essence a devotional movement that sought to renew the spiritual life of individuals and the church. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Puritans have produced some of the most descriptive and extensive literature on spiritual formation or to use their preferred term, piety. This article examines the contribution of Isaac Ambrose (1604–1664) and his teaching and practice of personal spiritual disciplines. A significant component of Puritanism was their strong emphasis on experimental or practical piety. After examining Ambrose’s understanding of the nature and purpose of spiritual disciplines, a brief survey from his writings will reveal both his personal experiences and the benefits that he received from engaging them. Significantly, Puritan piety has much to teach the contemporary church and the question of retrieval of wisdom for today rounds out this essay.
In recent years Protestants have been rediscovering their spiritual heritage. Early efforts in the historical act of retrieval have uncovered many rich but forgotten treasures of how Christians from previous centuries sought to cultivate their relationship with the Triune God. My own particular interest lies in the Puritans who have produced some of the most extensive literature in the field of Christian spirituality. Their sermons, devotional manuals, theological treatises, letters, diaries, and related writings cover every conceivable aspect of the spiritual life. However, before proceeding further there must be some attempt to address the often debated theme of defining Puritanism.1
Patrick Collinson accurately reminds readers that the word “[p]uritan was never a term of ecclesiological or confessional precision.”2 More accurately it was a pejorative word of slander or rebuke and the Puritans themselves often preferred the term “the godly.”3 John Coffey and Paul Lim introduce their study of Puritanism by using five themes to describe and frame a clearer perspective of this term. They maintain that the Puritans were descendants of the Reformation, with Calvinistic roots, who originated within the Church of England, who eventually proved to be divisive and that their influence quickly overflowed into the European context.4 While scholars continue to wrestle and wrangle over definitions and boundaries and wonder who might or might not have been Puritans, some even suggesting it is more accurate to speak in terms of “Puritanisms,”5 John Spurr helpfully comments “that the puritans [themselves] could recognize each other as brethren.”6 Therefore, for the purpose of this article, “Puritanism” refers to those from the mid sixteenth through the seventeenthcentury who were nonconformists as well as some conformists who worked toward a continuing reformation of piety and were known as “the godly,” demonstrating a penchant for affectionate practical divinity. While originally birthed in England, Puritanism later spread to New England as well as sections of Europe. The foregoing treatment and understanding of Puritanism is supported by some of the best scholarship in the field of Puritan studies. Peter Lake asserts, “I would wish to see Puritanism as a distinctive style of piety and divinity.”7 Numerous other scholars have advanced the premise that at the heart of it “Puritanism was a devotional movement, rooted in religious experience.”8
Further, I believe there are at least three valid reasons for examining the nature and dynamics of Puritan piety.9 First, a careful examination into the theological foundation of Puritan spiritual practices and the resulting spiritual texts and experiences will assist in revealing a more accurate picture of a frequently denigrated and grossly misconstrued tradition. This rehabilitation would provide a more accurate and balanced understanding of a significant movement of the sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies. Second, to include Puritanism within the conversation with other traditions of Christian spirituality elevates the validity and authenticity of Puritan piety. There are those within the Reformed and Evangelical traditions who are apologetic or even embarrassed when discussing the topic of spirituality today.10 Due to historical amnesia many contemporary Christians are unaware of the richness of their spiritual roots. The greater the attention of scholars to Puritan piety, the more these forgotten but valued principles can be reclaimed. Third, an awareness of the distinctions of Puritan piety can expand the conversation within the larger study of Christian spirituality. What were the roots, challenges, unique spiritual practices, and writings of Puritan piety and how can their distinctive emphases contribute to the study of Christian spirituality?
Therefore, this article will focus on the Puritan understanding and practice of spiritual disciplines. Since the literature on this topic is extensive, I will narrow my development both according to the type of spiritual practices and further by a specific Puritan writer on this topic. The Puritans typically approached spiritual disciplines by dividing them into three categories of secret, private, and public.11 Secret duties described the individual’s personal spiritual practices and reflect Jesus’ command that we should withdraw to a place of privacy to practice our piety (Mt. 6:6), and this will be the focus of this essay.12 “Private” refers to a small group such as a family or friends gathered in your house and “public” described the larger gatherings in the church building for worship or other spiritual exercises. Additionally, this article will focus on Isaac Ambrose (1604–1664), a moderate Lancashire Puritan minister.13 To develop my examination of Ambrose’s use of secret spiritual practices I will first provide some background and context for him.
Next I will explore his understanding of the nature and dynamics of spiritual practices, his own personal usage of these spiritual exercises, the devotional intensity that was present in Ambrose as well as many other Puritans, and then conclude with the practical question of retrieval of what wisdom or guidance the contemporary church can learn from Ambrose.
Introduction to Isaac Ambrose
Ambrose has received little scholarly attention and this is unfortunate since he has much to teach the church. He was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford and while Cambridge was the more prominent center for educating many Puritan pastors, Ambrose and others from Lancashire were attracted to Brasenose College for their preparation for ministry. Ambrose served as one of the King’s preachers. This was part of a select group of four itinerant preachers who were originally charged with preaching the Reformation doctrines in Lancashire, which was strongly Roman Catholic and therefore quite resistant to the Protestant emphasis on grace. However, by the time Ambrose had been appointed to this position the “conversion of the Catholics had been given up as hopeless” and this position evolved to provide for a preached sermon for the specific needs of the region rather than the more common practice of the clergy merely “reading” a sermon from a collection of homilies.14 After serving two smaller congregations for short periods of time, Ambrose became the pastor at St. John’s Church, Preston in c.1640. He remained here until c.1657 when he moved to the more obscure location farther north in Garstang. Ambrose specifically states his need to retire to a less stressful location due to the challenges of both Roman Catholicism as well as the inherent and residual effects of superstition that was also rampant in this region.15 Serving as a nonconformist minister of the Church of England, Ambrose was ejected from his pulpit by the Act of Uniformity of 1662.
Ambrose was also an able author who is best known for his massive work Looking Unto Jesus. Frequently the subtitles of books from this time period provide an accurate summary of the text. In this case, the subtitle is A View of the Everlasting Gospel; or, The Soul’s Eying of Jesus, As Carrying on the Great Work of Mans Salvation, from First to Last.16 However, the primary text related to my topic is Ambrose’s work on sanctification entitled Media: The Middle Things, In Reference to the First and Last Things: or, The Means, Duties, Ordinances, both Secret, Private and Public, for Continuance and Increase of a Godly Life, (Once Begun,) Till We Come to Heaven.17 Once again the descriptive subtitle communicates the nature of this work that is devoted to the nature and use of spiritual practices for maturing in Christ. Media was first published in 1650 and was Ambrose’s only work that was enlarged and revised in a second edition in 1652 and a third expanded edition in 1657.18
Nature and Purpose of Spiritual Disciplines
While Ambrose does not offer a specific definition of spiritual duties it is clear from his descriptions and examples that spiritual disciplines are any practices that awaken, strengthen, or deepen a person’s relationship with the Triune God. Ambrose begins his teaching by recognizing the need for a fresh voice to address this topic. He acknowledges that spiritual duties were not popular in his day, due in part to the reality of antinomianism that was prevalent in his region of Lancashire. This tended to minimize the necessity for spiritual disciplines since they believed that Jesus had already accomplished all that was required and therefore, there was no need to spend one’s time in cultivating a deeper personal relationship with God.19
Ambrose provides a compelling metaphor of spiritual disciplines when he asserts that, “[t]he saints look upon duties (the Word, Sacraments, Prayers, & c.) as bridges to give them a passage to God, as boats carry them into the bosom of Christ, as means to bring them into more intimate communion with their heavenly Father, and therefore are they so much taken with them.”20 Clearly spiritual disciplines have the ability to create a reciprocal relationship of deepening intimacy between the believer and God. John Flavel (1628–1691), a fellow English Puritan who wrote in appreciation of Ambrose’s Looking Unto Jesus indicates that Ambrose had addressed the subject of meditating on Jesus and “done worthily” and provided guidance for his own work.21 Flavel asserts the same dialogical principle of spiritual practices using a different metaphor than boats and bridges, “God hath instituted every ordinance, and duty, whether public or private, to beget, and maintain communion betwixt himself and our souls. What are ordinances, duties, and graces, but perspectiveglasses to give us a sight of God, and help us to communion with him.”22 Further, the communion cultivated by spiritual disciplines is marked by a growing intimacy that is nurtured by love. In fact, earlier in this same work Ambrose challenges his listeners, “how can we love Christ, and neglect [spiritual] duty to Christ?”23 Therefore, he urges believers, “to be oft in Christ’s company, is to be much in” spiritual duties.24
Ambrose cautions his readers that there is nothing unique about these practices and great care must be exercised so as not to use them to bargain with God. He is quick to remind others that spiritual practices “cannot save [a person], but they let the soul in to Christ.” Therefore, the faithful cultivation and practice of these disciplines “bring you in to Christ and are evidences when you are in Christ.”25 He stresses that these duties are a source of delight and joy “because in duties they come to see the face of God in Christ: Hence duties are called the face or presence of God.”26 Further, practicing them brings a portion of heaven to that person, “[h]ence they who meet with God in duty, usually find their hearts sweetly refreshed, as if Heaven were in them.”27 In other words, spiritual practices can both confirm the reality of God’s presence to us as well as provide a foretaste of heaven’s joy because we have been joined with Christ.
Ambrose’s descriptive language on the effect of cultivating spiritual disciplines must not be ignored. He contends a person who is faithful in practicing these spiritual duties will find their “hearts sweetly refreshed.” This indicates a critical dimension of Puritan piety that while their focus was always on the intellect they never excluded the affective dimension of the soul. In reality the Puritans challenge contemporary Christians with the muchneeded balance between head and heart. On the one hand, some today are overly cognitive with little attention to how Scripture, worship, or spiritual practices might affect them. To ignore the transformative power of these spiritual means is unwise since they are intended as reminders of
God’s presence and desire to be in communion with us. On the other hand, there is an equal danger. There are some people today who are so mesmerized and intent on seeking experiences that they display little sensitivity to the origin of that experience. The Puritans were spiritually alert to recognize that the Holy Spirit was not the only one who was present in the spiritual realm and therefore, understood the necessity to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).28
This intentional combination of integrating the head and the heart did not originate with the Puritans but has had a long history within Christian spirituality. The writings of many Puritans reveal a deep appreciation for Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153). More specifically, Ambrose quotes directly from Bernard’s method of employing both the intellect and the will, which was often synonymous with the affections, when he asserts, “holy contemplation has two forms of ecstasy, one in the intellect, the other in the will; one of enlightenment, the other of fervor.” Ambrose summarizes this insight in declaring “[t]he proceedings of our meditation are in this method.
1. To begin in the understanding, 2. To end in the affections.” 29 This integrated approach of balancing the intellectual with the affective reflects the experimental or, as we would say today, experiential piety in Puritanism.
J. I. Packer maintains, “Puritanism was essentially an experimental faith, a religion of ‘heartwork’, a sustained practice of seeking the face of God.”30 The writings of Isaac Ambrose breathe with the inspired pulse of a person who has experienced the love and joy of God. Significantly, he urges his readers to, “[l]abor so to know Christ, as to have a practical and experimental knowledge of Christ in his influences, and not merely a notional [one].” The Puritans stressed this message repeatedly because they knew people could receive “some notional, speculative brain knowledge of Jesus Christ, but they are not changed, their hearts are not overpowered.”31 Ambrose was interested in changed hearts, beginning with himself. He and his fellow Puritans recognized that this sort of transformation was dependent upon God’s inner working through the Holy Spirit in the human heart. In one section in which Ambrose emphasizes the importance of God’s inward teaching he declares this perennial truth, “man may teach the brains, but God only teaches the reins [i.e. the heart]; the knowledge which man teaches is a swimming knowledge; but the knowledge which God teaches is a soaking knowledge.”32 This does not limit the importance of knowledge or the human effort that is motivated by God’s initiative of grace but rather emphasizes the critical dimension of depending upon the guidance of the
Holy Spirit in the cultivation of the spiritual life. Further, the connection must be made to what may appear to be two divergent but parallel tracks. The Puritans, like their earlier Reformed guides (such as Calvin), always sought to connect the Word with the Spirit. One can trace this theme throughout the history of the church. When the church has been careful to maintain a healthy balance, a vibrant spirituality flourished. However, when either the Word or the Spirit was elevated to the exclusion of the other, aberrant theology and piety was the result. Geoffrey Nuttall acknowledges that George Fox and his fellow Quakers “disturbed this conjunction . . . between God’s Word in Scripture and the Holy Spirit.”33 While not specifically naming the Quakers, Ambrose no doubt has them in mind when he warns “the holy Ghost works not by enthusiasms or dreams,” instead, a person can find reliable guidance through “the promises of the Gospel.”34 Therefore, Ambrose summarizes the great need for maintaining this balance when he declares, “the testimony of God’s Spirit is ever agreeable to the Word.”35
Consequently, it is not surprising that Ambrose asserts that the accumulation of knowledge, even that of biblical knowledge is of limited value unless it is applied to one’s life. This principle guides both his personal method for meditation on Scripture as well as his instruction to others in the act of reading and praying Scripture. Further, one can clearly detect this in the transparent structure of Looking Unto Jesus. As he approaches each new section of his examination of Christ’s life he asserts, “we shall first lay down the object; and then direct you how to look upon it.”36 Laying down the object is Ambrose’s language for creating a detailed exegesis of the various biblical teachings of each aspect of Jesus’ life. This is equivalent to recognizing an awareness of the objective truth of Scripture. Looking is more than a casual glance. For Ambrose it is descriptive of a very intentional type of experience of Jesus. He defines it further by maintaining that a person must have an “inward experimental looking unto Jesus, such as stirs up the affections in the heart.”37 Ambrose consistently follows this pattern throughout his work, first studying the objective truth of Scripture and then applying it to his heart so that he might experience the subjective nature of those same passages of Scripture. The following challenge is a fitting summary to this foundational principle of how to approach spiritual disciplines, “[s]tudy therefore, and study more, but be sure thy study and thy knowledge be rather practical than speculative; do not merely beat thy brains to learn the history of Christ’s death, but the efficacy, virtue, and merit of it; know what thou knowest in reference to thyself.”38
There is a significant connection between the Puritan understanding of experimental piety and practical knowledge and the contemporary study of Christian spirituality. It has become increasingly common to speak of the “selfimplicating nature” of the academic study of spirituality.39 Scholars of Christian spirituality are recognizing the reality that it is difficult for any reader to approach a text completely objectively. The combination of questions inherent within the reader as well as the potential for the specific writing to provoke and even transform the person creates a dynamic intersection that resembles the earlier Puritan practice of experimental piety.
Being a good Reformed theologian, Ambrose recognized that the human infirmity due to sin distorts a person’s ability to perform these spiritual practices properly. Indeed even one’s best efforts are “tainted . . . and mingled with sin.”40 Therefore, a central theological principle in Ambrose’s understanding of spiritual duties was a person’s union with Christ. The Puritans frequently called this spiritual marriage. Union was seen both as the beginning of the Christian life through justification and something into which a person would continually deepen and grow more fully throughout life until one reached heaven. Ambrose captures the depth of intimacy as well as the proleptic desire that continually hungers for Christ’s refining love to purge and create an evergreater awareness of Christ’s indwelling love within him. All of these desires coalesce in his meditation on the soul’s love to Christ,
[i]s it thus, O my soul? hath the Lord Christ indeed discovered his will, to thee for his spouse? What, he that is so holy, to marry such an impure wretch as thou art? O how should this but meltthee into a flame of love? .. . O my soul, henceforth cling to thy Savior, go out of thy self, and creep to him, and affect not only union, but very unity with him; bathe thy self hereafter again and again, many and many a time in those delicious intimacies of thy spiritual marriage.41
Clearly Ambrose is amazed that despite the huge gap between human sin and divine purity that God still desires us. This divine embrace floods the soul with love and invites humanity into a deepening and delightful intimacy of union and communion with God. Ambrose again employs the bridal language that was common to Bernard of Clairvaux and earlier medieval Christians declaring that if we are “married to that Bridegroom Christ” that he will purge and perfect our spiritual practices and present them whole to God.42 Later he asserts the same comforting truth with greater clarity “[f]or Christ perfects, perfumes, and presents our duties to his heavenly Father.”43 This is all possible because Jesus “removes the failings in our duties” before presenting them to God.44 This understanding of Christ’s role and participation within the human practice of spiritual disciplines underscores the significant role of Christ’s Ascension in Ambrose’s theology.
Summary of Ambrose’s Practices of Secret Spiritual Disciplines
In reviewing Ambrose’s list of secret spiritual duties readers recognize the normal spiritual disciplines that one would expect to see including reading and meditating on Scripture, various types of prayer, fasting, selfexamination, and keeping a journal, but one also discovers practices that are no longer common today. In particular, Ambrose practiced meditating on heaven that was often closely connected with the contemplative gazing upon God, watchfulness, and the person’s experience and evidence of God that would create a growing sense of assurance of the believer’s relationship with Jesus. He also engaged in what he called the life of faith that taught the importance of adhering to God’s promises regardless of what temptations or troubles a person might face, and the more unusual practice of the saints’ suffering. To appreciate the final discipline of the saints’ suffering one must recognize the turbulence of seventeenthcentury England especially during the 1640s and the three different periods of the civil war that often created great tension for nonconformists such as Isaac Ambrose. The Battle of Preston, in the very town in which Ambrose was a minister, ended the second civil war.45
Due to the rich variety of Ambrose’s teaching on this topic, and the restrictions of space, I will limit myself to the most unique aspect of Ambrose’s spiritual life. Every year he withdrew to the woods for an annual monthlong retreat. Edmund Calamy comments upon this pattern, “’[t]was his usual custom once in a year, for the space of a month to retire into a little hut in a wood, and avoiding all human converse to devote himself to contemplation.”46 This practice appears to have been fairly unique to Ambrose.47 One wonders whether he first began this spiritual discipline by following the practice of his biblical namesake. Genesis 24:63 records, “and he [i.e. Isaac] went out to the field one evening to meditate.”48 The first recorded experience of these retreats was May 1641. The complete entry from May 20, 1646 provides both an example of the framework Ambrose followed during his retreat as well as some of the ways in which he experienced God:
I came to Weddicre [i.e., one of the woods to which he withdrew for his annual retreats], which I did upon mature resolution, every year about that pleasant spring time (if the Lord pleased) to retire my self, and in some solitary and silent place to practice especially the secret duties of a Christian: In this place are sweet silent woods, and therein this month, and part of the next, the Lord by his Spirit wrought in me evangelical repentance for sin, gave me sweet comforts, and spiritual refreshings in my commerce, and intercourse with him, by prayer, and meditation, and selfexamination, & discovered to me the causes of my many troubles and discouragements in my ministry: whereupon I prayed more fervently, pressed the Lord with his promises, set his power, and wisdom, and mercy on work; and so waited and believed, till the Lord answered every petition, and I could not but observe his hand in it. This was a comfortable time to my soul.49
Through his vivid and highly descriptive language, Ambrose provides a number of insights to this particular retreat experience. He was both conscious of and dependent upon the Holy Spirit to lead him to a greater awareness of his sins and to experience the accompanying refreshment that brought him into a deeper personal communion with God. As he broadened his use of spiritual practices, he gained valuable insight and discovered the causes for his troubles and discouragement in ministry. His spiritual intensity reflects his devotion and love for God. His attentiveness to God’s presence renewed and guided him to pray boldly, waiting until God responded with an answer to each of his petitions. This retreat experience also utilizes the language of banking, depicting how he exchanged his sins for the “sweet comforts” of God’s presence. Clearly Ambrose’s heart was sweetly refreshed by his experience of God through his use of spiritual disciplines. Additionally, a component that consistently appears in all of Ambrose’s retreat entries is that of meditation. The framework and method of meditation that balances both the intellect with the affect was previously examined. However, at this stage it is significant to recognize that meditation was a foundational spiritual practice and could be applied not only to meditating upon Scripture, but also on the experience of every conceivable aspect of life.50
Significantly, while Ambrose could not withdraw permanently to a monastery as contemplative Christians did in the Western Catholic tradition, he adapted this practice through his annual retreats for prolonged periods of communion with God. Amazingly, he kept his annual retreats while he was married with three children.51 As a result of this practice, Edmund Calamy characterized him as a contemplative. Others have followed a similar pattern describing Ambrose as the “most meditative Puritan of Lancashire,”52 as having the “mind of the contemplative order,”53 and as a
On May 17, 1648, Ambrose described another retreat, in which his use of spiritual disciplines cultivated the contemplative experience of perceiving and enjoying God,
[a]t several times I ran through the duties of watchfulness, selfexamination, experiences, meditation, the life of faith; and many a time I felt many sweet stirrings of Christ’s Spirit: the Lord Jesus appeared to my soul, gave me the kisses of his mouth, especially in my prayers to, and praises of his Majesty. Surely thou art my Lord, and I will praise thee: Thou art my God, and I will exalt thee. Hallelujah.56
Once again it is clearly evident that Ambrose’s use of spiritual duties cultivated a contemplative experience of deepening intimacy that was dependent upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit and also employed the sensual language of Song of Songs 1:2. Another indication of the importance of the Holy Spirit is given in his opening words in Media where Ambrose confesses that secret duties, because of their highly personal nature, have the least to do with others and are most dependent upon the Holy Spirit.57 Further, his experience of the sweetness of God’s exalted nature inspired him to echo the highly personal language of the psalmist in declaring his praise to God.
Intensity and Benefits of Spiritual Disciplines
Ambrose recognizes that while we benefit from practicing spiritual disciplines, “the main end of duties, is the glory of him who hath redeemed us with the price of his blood.”58 In other words, gratitude should be a primary motivation for engaging in these devotional exercises. While the Puritans often practiced spiritual disciplines with great intensity, Ambrose accurately reminds his listeners that the power and effectiveness of spiritual duties is not dependent upon “the fervency in the performance of [these] duties,” rather it is “when duties are performed as to the Lord, and for the Lord, and not to and for our selves.”59
Since these duties contained such potential, the Puritans often engaged them with great intensity. On the continent, Theodorus a Brakel, one of the primary leaders of Dutch Pietism, which exhibited numerous parallels to English Puritanism, was known for his rigorous spiritual practices that could incredibly occupy up to eight hours a day even though he was married with children.60 It is little wonder that these examples, which were more the norm than the exception, inspired Packer to refer to Puritanism as “reformed monasticism.”61 Similarly, HambrickStowe asserts, “[t]he contemplative [Puritan] is distinguished from the common practicing believer by the regularity, protractedness, and continuing intensity of the exercises.” And further due to the intensity of Puritan devotional practices “perhaps most of the clergy—and women . . . might be described by the phrase ‘Puritan contemplative.’”62 However, not every one was able to endure the intensity of the ascetical demands of Puritanism. Therefore, it is no surprise that a major backlash arose from these excessive devotional demands and expectations. This was in part motivated by antinomianism that as previously mentioned tended to minimize the importance of spiritual practices.63
While it would be possible to list many benefits from Ambrose’s practice of these spiritual disciplines, three will provide a helpful overview. First, spiritual practices cultivate a greater sense of God’s triune presence and desire for us. This is clearly manifested by Ambrose’s description that the development of these disciplines is able to sweetly refresh one’s heart. He declares, “[i]n right performance of duties, we come to have fuller union with Christ, and by this coming to him, we come to, and see the Father by him.”64 Indeed the cultivation of spiritual habits creates a greater hunger for God and the result is a deeper experiential awareness of both love and knowledge. This foundational reminder once again brings us back to the importance of union with Christ or spiritual marriage. This parallels the wisdom of John’s Gospel that “[i]f you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Therefore, all of Christ’s benefits flow from this union with Christ. Second, spiritual practices provide strength to combat suffering and protection from temptations. Ambrose alerts his readers that, “looking on Jesus will strengthen patience under the cross of Christ.”65 Further, he encourages others to “pray also for heavenlymindedness, and thou wilt not be disquieted with worldly troubles.”66 Ambrose recognized that the more his mind was focused on God and the more he meditated upon Scripture, the greater he was able to face the challenges and sorrows of daily life. Ambrose found renewed strength among troubling times and temptations through the fortifying power of Scripture and God’s providence, “[o]n this day [he] understood . . . that some snares were laid for him, and by a special providence at the same time he opened the Bible, and cast his eye on Psa. 37.v. 32, 33, 34 to his great encouragement and comfort.”67
Third, and again closely connected with this deepening union with Christ, is that cultivating these spiritual practices can create contemplative experiences that include ravishment. The term “ravishment” is typically absent from our contemporary spiritual vocabulary, but it was common for the seventeenthcentury Puritans (and they in turn were following the examples of Calvin and Luther, and even more so, Bernard of Clairvaux in the twelfthcentury). In one of Ambrose’s retreat experiences he combines the importance of the Holy Spirit’s role in interacting with spiritual duties to produce this intense delight and enjoyment of God. Ambrose declares, “[t]he unspeakable joy of God’s Spirit, which sometimes I have felt in and after ordinances and especially once, when for the space of two days I was carried away into ecstasy and ravishment.”68 With these personal experiences of Ambrose—especially this last one that caught him up into heaven for two days—there is no wonder why he spoke of his heart being sweetly refreshed in his use of them. Significantly, this robust experience of love is not due to the intensity of his human effort through engaging in these spiritual practices. Rather, it is a gift of God’s grace expressed through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Wisdom for the Contemporary Church
Unfortunately, some people today view the Puritans as odd curiosities of an earlier century. However, that uninformed view is typically the result of lack of awareness of the actual writings of the Puritans. Scholars and lay readers who examine the primary sources of the Puritans’ teaching on the spiritual life will typically discover a different perspective. Therefore, I want to raise the practical question of retrieval—does Isaac Ambrose matter for the contemporary church; and if so, what might the church recover from his teaching and practice of spiritual disciplines? Based on our brief examination of Ambrose’s use of secret spiritual duties in this article I believe that there are four insights that are worthy of recovery.
First, Ambrose’s understanding of union with Christ or spiritual marriage is greatly needed today. Most Evangelical Christians recognize the importance of our union with Christ. However, it is typically limited to the forensic nature associated with justification.69 Clearly that is a critical element that must not be neglected. However, Ambrose and his fellow Puritans not only spoke of union with Christ but equally of the relational dimension of fellowship and communion with the Triune God.70 While Jesus saves and forgives a person’s sins, he also draws that individual into a deepening intimacy with the Trinity. Therefore, Ambrose asserts, “[u]nion is the ground of our communion with Christ; and the nearer our union, and the greater our communion.”71 For Ambrose this is both personal and corporate and the contemporary church would significantly benefit from expanding its understanding of union with Christ to include the full doctrine of communion or spiritual marriage with Christ and thus enjoying the relational intimacy that Jesus offers to all who will embrace it. That would then enable individuals as well as the church to join with Ambrose in experiencing the deep heart to heart communion declaring, “[o]h it’s an happy thing to have Christ dwell in our hearts, and for us to lodge in Christ’s bosom! Oh its an happy thing to maintain a reciprocal communication of affairs betwixt Christ and our souls!”72
Second, Ambrose challenges the church today regarding the motivation for cultivating spiritual disciplines. In many sections of the Evangelical church there is a strong emphasis, whether consciously or not, on the externals of faith with far less attention to the importance of the interior life. That is, we tend to ask we can receive from any given activity, what it will do for me, and the allimportant practical question—is it an efficient use of my time? Ambrose would be concerned with this overly pragmatic and functional usage of spiritual disciplines. Instead he approaches spiritual practices from a radically different perspective. This is clearly illustrated by his meditation on the soul’s love to Christ.73 This sample meditation captures the importance of love and gratitude and the interaction of the Holy Spirit as the inspiration for cultivating spiritual disciplines. Ambrose is not reticent to express the desires of his heart as he seeks to draw closer to God, let me see the beauties and glorious excellencies, and by this means blow my love into a pure flame . . . O kindle, inflame, and enlarge my love that it may rest largely in thee . . . I may abundantly love thee, and do not only come much but come often into me, and let my spirit often be one spirit with thee, in communicative and fruitive unions, for such often unions with thy Spirit, will make my spirit more spiritual, and the more spiritual she is, the more will she love thee . . . by an heavenly excess, transport me into an heavenly love, that I may embrace Christ who is the Lord from Heaven with a love like himself74
This passage richly depicts Ambrose’s desires and experiences of God. Significantly he challenges us to cultivate a similar desire for God through gratitude for what God has already done for us rather than merely seeking God’s gifts for what we might gain from this relationship.
Third, Ambrose challenges the contemporary church to integrate and maintain the critical balance between the objective and subjective nature of reading and praying Scripture. As previously mentioned this requires a balanced interaction between the Word and Spirit. An immediate benefit of this intentional commitment to both the intellect and affective nature is to create a more biblical theology of experience that avoids the all too common contemporary expressions of fragmentation and compartmentalization. Significantly, Ambrose reminds readers that this is solely dependent upon the guidance of the Spirit for, “if the Spirit of Christ come along with the Word, it will rouse hearts, raise spirits, work wonders.”75 Clearly, Ambrose would be alarmed to discover the growing tendency among his Reformed and Evangelical descendants to reduce or ignore the importance of Scripture as well as overemphasizing either the intellect or the affections to the neglect of the other. A close corollary is the development of a sanctified imagination for reading Scripture. While there is a growing receptivity to spiritual reading today this has not always been well received in some sections of the Evangelical or Reformed tradition. To form healthy and biblically balanced disciples of Jesus, the restrictions of binary thinking must be transformed into a welcome dependency upon the Word and Spirit through a sanctified imagination to experience the fullness of God, including contemplative experiences of God.
Fourth, the combination of spiritual marriage, love, and gratitude creates a fertile soil in which contemplation can develop. Increasingly more Evangelicals and Reformed Christians are recognizing the importance of recovering a greater appreciation for contemplation. James Houston, Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster, Bruce Demarest, and Robert Webber are representative of this growing trend.76 Caution must be used however, since any spiritual practice is open to misuse and abuse and perhaps that is more likely with contemplation than other practices.77 Yet contemplation that is focused on God and cultivated through meditation on Scripture or other orthodox means can revitalize both individuals as well as the church. Ambrose can serve as a reliable guide for the church in this retrieval. In Looking Unto Jesus he provides a wonderful metaphor and declares, “contemplation is soulrecreation, & recreation is kept up by variety; but O what variety is in Jesus.”78 One of the specific means of soul recreation is the use of spiritual duties to cultivate this attitude and awareness and therefore, Ambrose challenges his readers to “[g]et we into our hearts an habit of more heavenlymindedness, by much exercise, and intercourse, and acquaintance with God, by often contemplation, and foretaste of the sweetness, glory, and eternity of those mansions above.”79 One can hear the urgency in Ambrose’s speech as he stresses that this practice should not be occasional but needs to be a daily activity of focusing our life upon Christ who lives in heaven:
It is the Lord’s pleasure that we should daily come to him . . . he would have us to be still arising, ascending, and mounting up in divine contemplations to his Majesty. And is it not our duty, and the saints disposition to be thus? . . . if Christ be in heaven, where should we be but in heaven with him? for where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. Oh that every morning, and every evening, at least, our hearts would arise, ascend, and go to Christ in the heavens.80
Clearly Ambrose’s emphasis on heavenly meditation is not an escape from the struggles of life but rather a longing for Christ to enlarge the enjoyment of spiritual marriage already begun. Approaching and applying the spiritual disciplines in this manner can create a greater contemplative attitude and desire for God. Further, while I have limited myself to only Ambrose’s use of the secret or personal spiritual practices it is clear from his other writings that this contemplative love for God also overflows in love and service for one’s neighbor.
The growing interest in Christian spirituality among Protestants is to be commended. More specifically it is encouraging to recognize that the existence of this Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care is a validation that Evangelicals are also devoting more attention to this critical but long neglected subject. Efforts need to continue both in the academic study as well as in the cultivation of spiritual practices. This article has argued that Evangelical and Reformed Christians do not need to be embarrassed about their spiritual heritage. To illustrate this rich heritage I have focused on the writings of one person, Isaac Ambrose, and his use of the secret or personal spiritual disciplines to demonstrate the vibrancy of Puritan piety that is only recently being discovered. Significantly, these spiritual practices and the resulting experiences of God reveal that Ambrose’s piety is in no way inferior to the devotional masters of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox spirituality. Further, I want to affirm and encourage greater appreciation among Evangelicals and Reformed believers of the richness of these various traditions of Christian spirituality. However, having said that, I realize that for some Christians it is easier to embrace the rich resources that have already been recovered in those traditions rather than engage the difficult task of discovery and recovery of similar treasures that have not yet been retrieved. That is the critical task for scholars within the Reformed and Evangelical traditions. Indeed, one of the best ways to explore other spiritual traditions is by first discovering one’s own heritage. Moreover, the greater one’s awareness of their own spiritual treasures the more they can recognize the points of continuity and discontinuity within the broader tradition of Christian spirituality. To that end may Isaac Ambrose and his piety challenge and guide the contemporary church. His intentionality and intensity in cultivating the spiritual disciplines created a growing desire for intimacy with God that both refreshed his soul and renewed his life to love God and his neighbor.
Author: Tom Schwanda. Title: Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry. Affiliation: Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL). Highest Degree: Ph.D., Durham University. Areas of interest/specialization: history of Christian spirituality, contemplativemystical piety of Puritanism, and the transforming power of worship.
1 The literature surrounding this debate is massive. John Coffey provides a succinct and valuable summary of this long running debate including the significant scholars and issues surrounding the word “Puritan.” See John Coffey, “Puritanism, Evangelicalism and Evangelical Protestant Tradition,” in Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities, eds. Michael A. G. Haykin and Kennth J. Stewart eds. (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2008), 255–61. In addition to Coffey, the best writings on this topic include John Coffey and Paul C. H. Lim, Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 1– 7; Kelly M. Kapic and Randall C. Gleason, eds., The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 16–8; John Spurr, English Puritanism, 1603–1689 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 3–8; Christopher Durston and Jacqueline Eales, eds., The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560–1700 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 1–31; Patrick Collinson, “Puritans” s.v. in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, Vol. 3, ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 364–70; Peter Lake, “Defining Puritanism—again?” in Puritanism: Transatlantic Perspectives on a SeventeenthCentury AngloAmerican Faith, ed. Francis J. Bremer (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1993), 3–29; David D. Hall, “Narrating Puritanism,” in New Directions in American Religious History, eds. Harry S. Stout and D. G. Hart (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 51–83; and David R. Como, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in PreCivil War England (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 1–32. Older but still valuable is Michael Finlayson, “Puritanism and Puritans: Labels or Libels?” Canadian Journal of History 8, no. 3 (1973): 201–23. cf. Randall Pederson, “Puritan Studies in the TwentyFirst Century: Preambles and Projections” unpublished ETS paper November 19, 2009.
2 Collinson, “Puritans.” s.v., 3:364.
3 Patrick Collinson, Godly People: Essays on English Protestantism and Puritanism (London: Hambledon Press, 1983), 1–17; Tom Webster, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c. 1620–1643 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), esp. 3, 4, 95–121; and Ann Hughes, “The Frustrations of the Godly,” in Revolution and Restoration: England in the 1650s, ed. John Morrill (London: Collins & Brown, 1992), 70–90.
4 Coffey and Lim, Cambridge Companion to Puritanism, 2–7.
5 John Coffey, “A Ticklish Business: Defining Heresy and Orthodoxy in the Puritan Revolution,” in Heresy, Literature, and Politics in Early Modern English Culture, eds. David Loewenstein and John Marshall (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 109.
6 Spurr, English Puritanism, 8.
7 Lake, “Defining Puritanism—again?” 6, cf. 4. See also Collinson, “Puritans.” s.v., 3:368.
8 Charles E. HambrickStowe, The Practice of Piety: Puritan Devotional Disciplines in Seventeenth Century New England (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), vii, cf. 23, 38, 53, 113. cf. J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 28; Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., The Spirituality of Later Puritans: An Anthology (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987), xi; and William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957), 9.
9 The best introduction to this topic is HambrickStowe, The Practice of Piety. Other helpful sources that examine Puritan piety and their use of spiritual practices include Gordon S. Wakefield, Puritan Devotion: Its Place in the Development of Puritan Piety (London: Epworth Press, 1957); Webster, Godly Clergy; Theodore Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2004) and Arie de Reuver, Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation, trans. James A. DeJong (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007). Older but still helpful are Horton Davies, Worship and Theology in England: From Andrews to Baxter and Fox, 1603–1690, vol. 2 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975) and Haller, The Rise of Puritanism. Donald Whitney reveals an awareness of and appreciation for Puritan piety and how their spiritual practices can inform the contemporary church. See especially Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991).
10 While I consider myself to be a Reformed Evangelical I recognize that not all Reformed Christians are Evangelical or that all Evangelicals hold to a Reformed theology though, both historically as well in the contemporary scene, there has often been considerable overlap between these two categories. This also indicates my support of John Coffey and others who disagree with David Bebbington’s thesis that evangelicalism originated in the eighteenthcentury. See Coffey, “Puritanism, Evangelicalism and the Evangelical Protestant Tradition,” in The Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities, eds. Michael A. G. Haykin and Kenneth J. Stewart (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2008), 252–77.
11 Isaac Ambrose, Media (1657), t.p. and 42. cf. Westminster Directory for FamilyWorship, subtitle.
12 While the focus of this article is limited to Ambrose’s usage of the secret spiritual practices that should not suggest that he did not also demonstrate a robust spirituality in the private and public arena of piety as well. A review of his diary indicates that he also engaged in the spiritual disciplines of family worship, public fasting, spiritual direction and conferences, and public worship with a special attention to preaching and celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Further, the rich devotional experiences that will be evident in this article through his secret or personal spiritual exercises can be duplicated in the other more public arenas of his life.
13 For additional background material on Isaac Ambrose see Benjamin Nightingale, Ejection Worthies of 1662 I. Isaac Ambrose, Of Garstang and Preston: King’s Preacher and Religious Mystic (Preston, UK: George Toulmin & Sons, 1912) and Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 33–7.
14 Ernest Axon, “The King’s Preachers in Lancashire, 1599–1845,” Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, vol. 56 (1941–42): 85. On Isaac Ambrose as one of the King’s Preachers see 86–9, 91–2.
15 See for example, Isaac Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus (1658), 256–7.
16 This work was originally published in 1658 and is still in print today as Looking Unto Jesus (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1986). The Christian Warrior: Wrestling with Sin, Satan, the World, and the Flesh (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997) that was originally published in 1661 under the title War with Devils is the only other work of Ambrose that is currently in print.
17 I have modernized and standardized all seventeenthcentury spellings and also removed the common tendency to use italics or capitalization for emphasis.
18 The remaining works of Ambrose’s corpus includes Prima, The First Things or Regeneration Sermons (1640) and Ultima, The Last Things or Meditation Sermons (1640), Communion with Angels (1662) and a funeral sermon entitled Redeeming the Time (1658) for Lady Margaret Hoghton, one of his primary benefactors.
19 Ambrose, Media (1657), To the Reader, [5–6] and Como, Blown by the Spirit, 35 (resistance to spiritual duties) and esp. 315–21 (antinomianism in Lancashire).
20 Ambrose, Media (1657), 33, cf. 27 for another use of the “boat” imagery and also Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 22. John Flavel also employs the same “boat” imagery in his discussion of spiritual duties. John Flavel, England’s Duty, Under the Present Gospel Liberty, vol. 4 of The Works of John Flavel (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1997, reprint 1820), 253.
21 John Flavel, The Fountain of Life Opened Up, vol. 1 of The Works of John Flavel (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1997, reprint 1820), 23, 272.
22 Flavel, England’s Duty, 4:253
23 Ambrose, Media (1657), 14.
24 Ibid., 41.
25 Ibid., 24.
26 Ibid., 33.
27 Ibid., 34.
28 All Scripture is quoted from Today’s New International Version unless otherwise noted.
29 Ambrose, Media (1657), 222. The Bernard citation is from his Sermons on the Song of Songs, 49.4.
30 Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 215.
31 Ambrose, War with Devils, 87, 88.
32 Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 188, cf. 20, 47.
33 Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1946, 1947, 1992), 26. cf. Geoffrey F. Nuttall, “Puritan and Quaker Mysticism,” Theology 78, no. 664 (Oct 1975): 522 and The Puritan Spirit: Essays and Addresses (London: Epworth Press, 1967), 174–5. For a helpful treatment of the issues surrounding this conflict see Peter Adam, Word and Spirit: PuritanQuaker Debate (London: Barnard & Westwood, 2001). 34 Ambrose, Ultima in Prima, Media, Ultima (1654), 197. Ambrose specifically names Quakers as “dreamers.” Looking Unto Jesus, 1157. 35 Ibid., 199. 36 Ibid., 129. 37 Ibid., 22.
38 Ibid., 619.
39 For a helpful introduction to this expanding topic of integration see Elizabeth A. Dreyer and Mark S. Burrows, Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality (Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), 61–151; David B. Perrin, Studying Christian Spirituality (New York and London: Routledge, 2007), 7–9; Belden C. Lane, “Writing in Spirituality as a Self Implicating Act: Reflections on Authorial Disclosure and the Hiddenness of Self” in Exploring Christian Spirituality: Essays in Honor of Sandra M. Schneiders, IHM., ed. Bruce H. Lescher and Elizabeth Liebert, SNJM, (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2006), 53–69. Lane illustrates one possible expression of the selfimplicating nature of spirituality through an extended reflection of the rough and desolated physical landscapes of life combined with his own mother’s lengthy struggle with Alzheimer’s and eventual death through cancer. Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).
40 Ambrose, Media (1657), 16.
41 Ibid., 235 (incorrectly numbered 237)–236.
42 Ibid., 16.
43 Ibid., 39.
44 Ibid., 17, 18.
45 For a helpful summary of the Battle of Preston see Austin Woolrych, Battles of the English Civil War (London: Phoenix Press, 2000), 153–84.
46 A. G. Matthews, Calamy Revised: Being a Revision of Edmund Calamy’s Account of the Ministers and Others Rejected and Silenced, 1660–2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 9.
47 Joseph Alleine also withdrew in solitude for retreats but they were shorter in duration than those of Ambrose. See Theodosia Alleine, The Life and Death of Mr. Joseph Alleine (1672), 43–4. Mary Rich spent much time in contemplation in her garden or “wilderness.” See Antonia Fraser, “Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick,” History Today 31, no. 6 (1981): 49. Thomas Shepard used his garden for his meditations. See Michael McGiffert, ed. God’s Plot: Puritan Spirituality in Thomas Shepard’s Cambridge, rev. expanded ed. (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1972, 1994), 122, 126.
48 Elsewhere Ambrose draws upon this text to indicate that evening might be the best time for some people to practice their spiritual duties. Media (1657), 217.
49 Ambrose, Media (1650), 74.
50 For a helpful overview to the Puritan understanding and practice of meditation see Davies, Worship and Theology in England, vol. 2; Joel R. Beeke, “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” in Puritan Reformed Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Press, 2004), 73–100; U. Milo Kaufmann, The Pilgrim’s Progress and Traditions in Puritan Meditation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1966); HambrickStowe, Practice of Piety, 161–8; Barbara Lewalski, Protestant Poetics and the SeventeenthCentury Religious Lyric (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), 147–68; Ian Green, Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 277–88; and J. Stephen Yuille “Puritan Meditation: The Gateway from the Head to the Heart,” forthcoming.
51 Space does not permit the development of Ambrose’s rationale for this unusual practice of an annual monthlong retreat. However, his decision was carefully articulated through sound reason and based upon both his awareness of Jesus calling him apart to the wilderness and his perception that his congregation desired him to be better prepared to lead them to grow more fully in their faith. I plan to address Ambrose’s theology of solitude in a future article.
52 Robert Halley, Lancashire: Its Puritanism and Nonconformity, vol. 2 (Manchester, UK: Tubbs and Brook, 1869), 195.
53 Nightingale, Ejection Worthies I. Isaac Ambrose, 20.“Lancashire Nonconformist of contemplative disposition.”
54 Contemplation typically refers to a loving or grateful gazing upon God, some aspect of God’s creation, or Scripture. The following illustration from Ambrose reveals that he had a similar understanding of contemplation: “[w]hat, shall he ascend, and shall not we in our contemplations follow after him? Gaze, O my soul, on this wonderful object, thou needest not fear any check from God or Angel, so that thy contemplation be spiritual and divine.”55 Clearly Ambrose is drawing upon Luke’s Ascension account in Acts 1:10 in which Jesus’ disciples gazed on him as he withdrew to heaven. Similarly Ambrose approached his spiritual disciplines with a contemplative attitude that often experienced a deepening sense of God’s loving presence.
54 Wakefield, Puritan Devotion, xiii.
55 Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 871–2.
56 Ambrose, Media (1650), 79.
57 Ambrose, Media (1657) To the Reader , cf. 38–40 for the Spirit’s role in spiritual duties.
58 Ambrose, Media (1657), 27.
59 Ibid., 29.
60 De Reuver, Sweet Communion, 167–8, cf. 107, 109 for the example of Willem Teellinck. For an excellent English introduction to a Brakel’s spirituality see de Reuver, Sweet Communion, 162–99.
61 Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 28, 331.
62 HambrickStowe, Practice of Piety, 285, 287. cf. Bozeman, Precisianist Strain, 103, 174, 177; Richard F. Lovelace, The American Pietism Cotton Mather: Origins of American Evangelicalism (Washington, D.C.: Christian University Press, 1979), 124–6; and E. Glenn Hinson, “Puritan Spirituality,” in Protestant Spiritual Traditions, ed. Frank Senn (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1986) 172, 177.
63 For additional treatment of antinomianism see Bozeman, Precisianist Strain; Como, Blown by the Spirit; Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., Puritans and Predestination: Grace in English Protestant Theology, 1525–1695 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1982) 113–22; and Herrick Pingtong Liu, Towards an Evangelical Spirituality: A PracticalTheological Study of Richard Baxter’s Teaching and Practice of Spiritual Disciplines with Special Reference to the Chinese Cultural Context (Hong Kong: Alliance Bible Seminary, 2000), 43–68.
64 Ambrose, Media (1657), 74.
65 Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 42.
66 Ambrose, War with Devils, 146, cf. 111–2.
67 Ambrose, Media (1650), 110, cf. 102 for a similar event and how Ambrose received strength from Scripture.
68 Ambrose, Media (1657), 214, cf. 36, 162, and 256 for the use of spiritual duties in ravishment.
69 For example, while Andrew Purves emphasizes union with Christ in his writings his focus is essentially forensic. See Andrew Purvis, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).
70 Two excellent examples of this are John Owen’s classic Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in Vol. 2 of The Works of John Owen (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965, reprint 1850–53) and Richard Sibbes twenty sermons on the Song of Songs that bear that contemporary unappealing title, Bowels Opened as well as his The Spouse, Her Earnest Desire After Christ also based on the Song of Songs in Vol. 2 of The Works of Richard Sibbes (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1979–82, reprint 1862–64), 6–208.
71 Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 913.
72 Ibid., 40.
73 Ambrose, Media (1657), 223–36. 74 Ambrose, Media (1657), 234 (incorrectly numbered 236). 75 Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 723.
76 Eugene H. Peterson, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 74–86; The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989, 1993); and Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 109–17; Bruce Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), 157–86; Richard J. Foster, Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992) 155– 66 and Streams of Living Water (New York: HarperSanFrancisco), 23–58; Joyce Huggett, The Joy of Listening to God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), esp. 32–74; Richard Peace, Contemplative Bible Reading: Experiencing God through Scripture (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1996); Robert E. Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 16, 20–1, 26, 37, 43–55; James M. Houston, “Reflections on Mysticism: How Valid is Evangelical AntiMysticism?” in Loving God and Keeping His Commandments, ed. Markus Bockmuehl and Helmut Burkhardt (Giessen, Basel: BrunnenVerlag, 1991); The Transforming Friendship: A Guide to Prayer (Oxford and Batavia, IL: Lion Book, 1989), 115–6, 191–222, 261–8; and In Pursuit of Happiness: Finding Genuine Fulfillment in Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1996), 253–66.
77 See for example Richard Foster’s caution regarding contemplative prayer in Foster, Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home, 156–7.
78 Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 21.
79 Ambrose, Media (1657), 55.
80 Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 1152.