It’s easy to beautify and idolize the past. Many think of a “Puritan Era” in England and America which never existed (side note: the popular literature of the day mocks and makes fun of Presbyterians and Puritans). And for those who appreciate the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, we might think that the men who edited such a document surely pastored a people who lived in a more civilized and outwardly moral time. We might even bewail the state of our nation’s outward morality, etc., wishing for bygone days.
As a reality check, take note of the fact that in the Petty France church, pastored by Nehemiah Coxe and William Collins, the following sins were recorded as disciplinary issues in their congregation between 1675-1689:
- Practical: consulting a conjurer, stealing, lying, adultery, kidnapping, spousal abuse, servant abuse, going to a prostitute, deceitful business practices, prolonged and intentional neglect of church attendance.
- Doctrinal: Quakerism, Church of England, paedobaptism.
The list is not exhaustive. If there is anything “golden age” about this picture, it is that on the one hand the church openly and directly confronted these sins, and on the other hand that they always sought repentance and restoration.
There is nothing new under the sun.