Anglican John Whitlock: Remember, Hold Fast, Repent
Jan 20, 2017
"Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent." (Revelation 3:3; KJV)
Local Anglican pastor John Whitlock (1625-1708) is the last minister in our reading of the Puritan Paperback, Sermons of the Great Ejection. “The Great Ejection” was the expulsion of 20% Anglican ministers from their cures in the 1662 Act of Uniformity. A graduate of Cambridge, Whitlock was given the cure of St. Mary’s, Nottingham (pictured left) in 1651 where his life-long friend William Reynolds became the lecturer. After 11 years of outstanding ministry, he was indicted in June 1662 for failure to keep the Book of Common Prayer in regular use and was quickly suspended. St. Mary’s being the oldest and at the time the largest parish in the City of Nottingham, the church had a majority of high profile members among the upper classes, the Lord Mayor, the Sheriff (yes the Sheriff of Nottingham), and wealthy lace merchants who objected to his ministry explains the speediness of his ejection. His farewell sermon we have here is the second part of two delivered on Friday, 6 July 1662 rather than one of the Sundays of August. Whitlock continued his ministry as a “non-conforming” Anglican about 14 miles north in Mansfield. After a later period of imprisonment from 1685-1687, he returned to Nottingham in 1687-88 to soldier on for Christ for another twenty years until his death in 1708. His son succeeded him in Nottingham.
There is a sense of urgency in Whitlock’s introduction to his sermon text of Revelation 3:3 as the speed of his ejection took him unawares. He had planned to spend several sermons here but, he says, he must try to do it all in one!
Whitlock explains the reason for this text is in the value of its imperatives for the believer. The words are Christ’s own counsel to a languishing church and weakened Christians for their restoration and strengthening. What better resource could there be for a people embarking on an uncertain future in troubling times? His sermon is an exposition of the sufficiency of the Christ in the Scriptures. He therefore implores his hearers to remember the soul-saving doctrines of the Scriptures that they have heard, received and enjoyed from the pulpit and confirmed in the regular reception of the sacraments. In the first of the seven benefits Whitlock explains how remembering scriptural principles that extol and present Christ clearly protects the Christian from errors in doctrine that will corrupt their right worship of God. The warning signs he gives are as relevant today as when he preached them in 1662.
If doctrines come to be preached that tend to the bearing down of the power of godliness and the practice of holiness, or that are opposed to the free grace of God in election or justification (crying up conditional decrees upon a foresight of faith, or works, or perseverance, or introducing man’s work’s in the business of justification); or if men preach such doctrines as advance the power of nature, the freedom of man’s will, or if they teach that true believers may finally and totally fall from grace–the remembrance of what you have received and heard, with the experiences of the work of God in your own hearts (you who are saints), will preserve you from such errors, and help you to confute these and such like false doctrines and teach you to say, “We have not so learned Christ.”
“We have not so learned Christ” reminds us that the reason why saints fall into new errors or old ones with new clothes is because they have let slip their Savior from their memory. We have a great love of Christ when we understand our great need of Christ.