Weatherford Democrat

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February 28, 2014

FIRST-PERSON: A lesson from the Puritans

(Continued)

By the 1590s, the Puritans realized that they weren’t going to influence the monarchy or the leadership of the Church of England to reform. They had lost the political battle and “retreated” from London to Cambridge.

While the political scene in Washington might make it uncomfortable for a Christian to express belief in the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, it was illegal for the Puritans to separate from the Church of England and even gather for worship.

If anyone could have held a defeatist attitude toward the state of their country, it would have been them. However, while they had to admit their failure to influence the government the way they wanted, they didn’t give up or sound the alarm. They didn’t lament the future of their nation. They simply changed their strategy.

Rather than continually trying (and failing) to influence the monarchy to bring about reform in the Church of England, they focused on educating and influencing the next generation of leaders who were studying in Cambridge.

The Puritans embraced their minority status and changed their aim. They realized that a top-down approach wasn’t working, so they switched to bottom-up. No longer focusing solely on those in power, they went about teaching biblical truth to the next generation of leaders. While presenting the power of the Gospel to university students, many were saved and developed a biblical world view.

Many Puritans eventually separated from the Church of England and started churches that influenced theologians like John Smyth, who in turn pastored Thomas Helwys, who began the first Baptist church on English soil.

Additionally, Helwys wrote a ground-breaking work on religious liberty, “A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity,” which had lasting influence on generations of believers. He influenced greatly those who eventually helped get the Act of Toleration passed, which made it legal to worship any way you wanted in England.

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