Sermons of the Great Ejection – A Review by David Burke
It is said that the best sermons make good listening but poor reading. Why then should we read a volume of sermons1 that were preached in the early 1660’s and in very different times to our own? Read on!
The Lord Jesus warned that persecution would come from the unbelieving world (eg. John 15:18) and every issue of New Life tells of this. Paul also warns that troubles would arise from within the church (Acts 20:29, 30). The troubles from within are harder to bear – for these are people who claim to be brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Such a scene lies behind this volume of sermons. They arise from the confused religious landscape of England in the early 1660’s. The rough and tumble of the 17th Century saw the national church change in character, parliament rebel against King Charles I and execute him, the rule of Oliver Cromwell and then a period of chaos. Finally, many of those who had supported the revolt joined in the request for restoration of the Stuart monarch and so King Charles II came to the throne.
Now came the trouble from within. Part of the settlement included restoration of a national Anglican Church of a somewhat compromised character. The 1662 Act Of Uniformity gave little flexibility to those of a more tender conscience and who sought a more biblical church order. The result was the great eviction of August 1662. About 2,500 pastors were ejected from their ministries and subjected to great restrictions on their ability to minister as independents or members of the various dissenting groups.
What do you say in your last sermon when the ‘Christian’ government and bishops have evicted you? These sermons are the result. The seven sermons in the book did not come from wild-eyed rebels. Most of the preachers were educated in Oxford or Cambridge; two of them had opposed the execution of the king, and some had supported the recall of the Stuart monarchy. They occupied significant ministries and one was offered a bishopric before he refused the oath and was ejected. These were good, reliable and godly men! And these preachers are a model of restraint. They directed their people to the Word of God that they might consider its consolations in distress, its encouragements in hardship, and its warnings of God’s judgment. In the language of the day, they applied a ‘sweet cordial’ to those who drank from the wells of bitterness. Underneath the tumult of their times and its difficulties they saw the comforting hand of divine providence.
These men were rejected and ejected, but certainly not dejected. So why republish these sermons from 1662 in 2012 and why should anyone read them? For the following reasons:
- Christians remain under external persecution and these words of encouragement, warning, and comfort are still a ‘sweet cordial’ to us.
- Issues such as same-sex marriage and the linked consequences are resulting in biblically faithful Christians coming under pressure and exclusion from within mainline denominations. These ‘last words’ from the 17th Century speak directly to such a situation as this.
- These preachers and those who stood with them burned with faithfulness in the 1660’s. The pressure came off them with the 1672 Act of Toleration and they soon gained an accepted place in the nation. But easy times are dangerous times and the Dissenters were only a shadow of their former selves when the 18th-century revival started. The later cold embers of the fire once represented by these sermons is a warning to the godly of all ages.
- The book closes with a Nonconformist’s Catechism which succinctly states why the ejected generation felt they could not remain in the Established Church. It challenges today’s church regarding the introduction of extra-biblical elements to its life and practice.
Like many books published by Banner, this book is a warm read and nourishment for the soul. It’s well worth the modest effort to enter into the world of 1662 and hear a word for 2012.
It is said that the best sermons make good listening but poor reading. Why then should we read a volume of sermons1 that were preached in the early 1660’s and in very different times to our own? Read on! The Lord Jesus warned that persecution would come from the unbelieving world (eg. John 15:18) and […]
Taken with permission from Australia’s online magazine New Life, December 1, 2012.
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