William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Charnock's Writings

by William Symington

An extract from the Life and Character of Charnock

The correctness of the composition, in these works, is remarkable, considering
that they were not prepared for the press by the author himself, and that they
must have been originally written amid scenes of distraction and turmoil,
arising out of the events of the times. The latter circumstance may account for
the manly vigor by which they are characterized, but it only renders their
accuracy and polish the more wonderful. Refinement of taste and extensive
scholarship can alone explain the chasteness, ease, and elegance of style, so
free from all verbosity and clumsiness, which mark these productions. There were
giants in literature in those days, and STEPHEN CHARNOCK was not the least of
the noble fraternity.

Charnock may not have all the brilliancy of Bunyan, nor all the metaphysical
acumen and subtle analysis of Howe, nor all the awful earnestness of Baxter; but
he is not less argumentative, while he is more theological than any of them, and
his theology, too, is more sound than that of some. "He was not," say the
original editors of his works, "for that modern divinity which is so much in
vogue with some, who would be counted the only sound divines; having tasted the
old, he did not desire the new, but said the old is better." There is,
therefore, not one of all the Puritan Divines whose writings can with more
safety be recommended to the attention of students of divinity and young
ministers. It is one of the happy signs of the times in which we live, that a
taste for reading such works is beginning to revive; and we can conceive no
better wish for the interests of mankind in general, and of our country in
particular, than that the minds of our young divines were thoroughly impregnated
with the good old theology to be found in such writings as those which we now
take the liberty to introduce and recommend. "If a preacher wishes to recommend
himself by the weight of his doctrines," to use the language of Mr Parsons, "he
will find in the writings of Charnock the great truths of Scripture illustrated
and explained in the most lucid and masterly manner. If he wishes to be
distinguished by the evangelical strain of his discourses, and by the continual
exhibition of Christ and him crucified, he will here find the characters of
Christ, and the adaptation of the gospel to the circumstances and wants of man
as a fallen creature, invariably kept in view. If he wishes for usefulness in
the Church of God, here he has the brightest example of forcible appeals to the
conscience, and of the most impressive applications of Scripture truth, to the
various conditions of mankind. And, finally, if he reads for his own advantage
as a Christian, his mind will be delighted with the inexhaustible variety here
provided for the employment of his enlightened faculties, and his improvement in
every divine attainment."

We cannot resist giving a few sentences from the original preface which his
friends Adams and Veal prefixed to the treatise On the Existence and Attributes
of God. "The sublimeness, variety, and rareness," say they, "of the truths
handled, together with the elegance of the composure, neatness of the style, and
whatever is wont to make any book desirable, all concur in the recommendation of
it.....It is not a book to be played with or slept over, but read with the most
intense and serious mind; for, though it afford much pleasure for the fancy, yet
much more work for the heart, and hath indeed in it enough to busy all the
faculties. The dress is complete and decent, yet not garish nor theatrical; the
rhetoric masculine and vigorous, such as became a pulpit, and was never borrowed
from the stage. The expressions full, clear, apt, and such as are best suited to
the weightiness and spirituality of the truths here delivered.


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