31 May 2006

Westminster Wednesday--Philip Nye on an Oath to Reform

Along with Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye was among the Dissenting Brethren in the Westminster Assembly. Information on him from the web is scant. I found this on C. Matthew McMahon's A Puritan’s Mind (which looks like a helpful site, by the way). I have included only representative paragraphs from the address along with the introduction which I found on the page.

Mr. Nye was an Independent and a distinguished member of the Westminster Assembly. This Exhortation was given to the House of Commons amidst the ''Reverend Divines" of the Westminster Assembly before they took the Solemn League and Covenant, and was published by order of the House of Commons.

What is this but the contents and matter of our oath? What do we covenant? What do we vow? Is it not the preservation of religion, where it is reformed, and the reformation of religion, where it needs? Is it not the reformation of three kingdoms, and a reformation universal, in doctrine, discipline, and worship, in whatsoever the word shall discover unto us? To practice is a fruit of love; to reform, a fruit of zeal; hut so to reform, will be a token of great prudence and circumspection in each of these churches: and all this to be done according to God's word, the best rule, and according to the best reformed churches, and best interpreters of this rule. If England hath obtained to any greater perfection in so handling the word of righteousness, and truths that are according to godliness, as to make men more godly, more righteous: and, if in the churches of Scotland any more light and beauty in matters of order and discipline, by which their assemblies are more orderly: or, if to any other church or person, it hath been given better to have learned Christ in any of His ways, than any of us, we shall humbly bow, and kiss their lips that can speak right words unto us, in this matter, and help us into the nearest uniformity with the word and mind of Christ in this great work of Reformation.

We are now entering upon a work of the greatest moment and concernment to us, and to our posterity after us, that ever was undertaken by any of us, or any of our forefathers before us, or neighboring nations about us; if the Lord shall bless this our beginning, it will be a happy day, and we shall be a happy people. An oath is a duty of the first commandment, and therefore of the highest and noblest order and rank of duties, therefore must come forth attended with choicest graces, especially with these two, humility and fear.

Fear, not only of God, which ought to be in an eminent measure. Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac, as if he coveted to inherit his father’s grace, as well as his father’s God: but also, fear of an oath, it being a dreadful duty, and hath this peculiar, it is established by the oath of God, “I have sworn, that unto Me every tongue shall swear.” It is made the very character of a saint, he fears an oath.

Humility is another grace requisite. Set your hearts before God in an humble obedient frame. “Thou shall fear the Lord thy God, and serve Him, and swear by His name.” The apostle Paul was sensible of this engagement, even in the very act of this duty. “I call God to witness, whom I serve in my spirit;” although it be a work of the lips, yet the heart, and the whole man must be interested, if we expect this worship to be acceptable. “Accept the free-will offering of my mouth, and teach me Thy judgments.”

Semper Reformanda!

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