Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings
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Willard's Style

The volume that I have is reprint, now sadly out of print, from the Johnson Reprint Corp. The Compleat Body was reprinted as part of their "Series in American Studies," I would suppose as a reflection of its worth as an example of early American literature. Indeed, that is the impression one first gets from Willard's sermons: here is a work of clear, workman-like literature.

Edward Griffin (not the preacher) in his introduction to the reprint edition, uses the following passage as an illustration of Willard's style:

"But the Holy God, whose spotless providence was not idle, in the permission of Man's fall, had glorious ends in his so permitting it; intending it to be a foil on which he could draw in most lively colours the portraiture of his rich grace. We are therefore here led by the hand, from the sorrowful and heart-breaking consideration of man's inexpressible infelicity by his apostacy, to the pleasant and soul refreshing contemplation of his Anastasy, or restitution, which is the other thing observable in this special Government. In this Answer then we have, 1. The Doctrine of man's restitution asserted. 2. A full description of it laid down. In which we have, 1. The subjects of it, some. 2. The first original or leading cause of it, His meer good pleasure. 3. The foundation of it, His electing of them from all eternity to everlasting life. 4. The ratification or establishment of it, He entered into a Covenant of grace. 5. The restitution itself with the terms of it, to deliver them from a state of sin and misery. 6. The way in which it was brought about, by a Redeemer...."

Griffin continues:
"By using metaphor to introduce this difficult topic, Willard vividly reinforces the idea of God's perfectly arranged blueprint for creation and also shows us that positive value may arise from apparent evil. To express the perfect design of Providence, Willard implicitly compares it to a spotless sketch, unmarred by any such smudges as the Fall; this sketch, moreover, is not only unsullied by black marks, it is to be completed by the application of the brightest, most resplendent of colors: God's rich grace. To continue this idea of completion, of orderly progression from step to step in the divine plan, Willard's next sentence quickly introduces both metaphor—"We are therefore here led by the hand" —and balanced antitheses: "sorrowful and heart-breaking" versus "pleasant and soul refreshing"; "consideration" and "contemplation";"apostacy" and "Anastasy." Having thus forcefully established a context in which to consider Question 20, he immediately gets to the business at hand, methodically reduces the doctrine to its component parts, and proceeds with his explication."

Indeed, Willard uses all the tools in the wordsmith's toolbox, metaphor, simile, contrast, illustrations from philosophy, history, and nature; also occasionally humor and always common sense.

Observe this comment on Question 75, which appears in a list of sins forbidden by the Eighth Commandment:

[And here is forbidden] "pursuing their business so as to deny themselves the necessary relaxation which God has allowed them. When they are so eager in plotting and pursuing their affairs, that they give their very bodies no ease, and their cares will not allow them to sleep in their beds; so that they utterly bereave themselves of all present comfort, except what they extract from their present gain: thus the Wise Man describes them in Eccles. 2:23, "For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity." And what is this but to presume to make themselves happy, by rendering of themselves remarkably miserable."

Here is yet another example that the Puritans were not at all like the caricatures of 20th century critics. Willard's book "bears the personal impress of its author on every page, and reveals him as the virtual embodiment of those qualities for which we should honor our Puritan legacy: lucidity, simple, practical beauty, and moral strength." (Griffin)

     My Experience in Reading Willard

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