Adams Quotes 03

Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning, then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness. (From the sermon Heaven made sure on Ps 35.3)

The devil makes his Christmas-pie of lawyers' tongues and clerks' fingers.

Oh, be ashamed, Christians, that worldlings are more studious and industrious to make sure of pebbles, than you are to make sure of pearls.

Solomon tells us that it is the glory of man to pass by an offence. Herein God is most glorious, in that he passes by all the offences of his children. Lord, who can know thee and not love thee, know thee and not fear thee? We fear thee for thy justice, and love thee for thy mercy; yea, fear thee for thy mercy, and love thee for thy justice; for thou art infinitely good in both.

Despair is hope stark dead, presumption is hope stark mad.

Our mind is where our pleasure is, our heart is where our treasure is, our love is where our life is, but all these, our pleasure, treasure, and life, are reposed in Jesus Christ.

Repentance is a change of the mind, and regeneration is a change of the man.

Passion costs me too much to bestow it on every trifle.

Let us make the poor our friends by our alms, not our enemies by our scorns. We had better have the ears of God full of their prayers, than heaps of money in our own coffers with their curses.

Humility wrestleth with God, like Jacob, and wins by yielding.

Law and Gospel
The Law gives menaces but the Gospel gives promises.

There is no such fountain on earth as marriage.

Woman takes her being from man, man takes his well-being from woman.

As God by creation made two of one, so again by marriage He made one of two.

Sense of sin
Sense of sin may be often great, and more felt than grace; yet not be more than grace. A man feels the ache of his finger more sensibly than the health of his whole body; yet he knows that the ache of a finger is nothing so much as the health of the whole body.

Satan like a fisher, baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish.

Half our virtue arises from our being out of the way of temptation.

These culled from various sources

Adams Quotes 02

He that will be knighted must kneel for it, and he that will enter in at the strait gate must crowd for it—a gate made so on purpose, narrow and hard in the entrance, yet, after we have entered, wide and glorious, that after our pain our joy may be the sweeter.

Even the tired horse, when he comes near home, mends pace: be good always, without weariness, but best at last; that the nearer thou comest to the end of thy days, the nearer thou mayest be to the end of thy hopes, the salvation of thy soul.

Both in thy private sessions, and the universal assizes, thou shalt be sure of the same Judge, the same jury, the same witnesses, the same verdict. How certain thou art to die, thou knowest; how soon to die, thou knowest not. Measure not thy life with the longest; that were to piece it out with flattery. Thou canst name no living man, not the sickest, which thou art sure shall die before thee.

That which a man spits against heaven, shall fall back on his own face.

Alas! that the farthest and of all our thoughts should be the thought of our ends.

The patient man is merry indeed.... The jailers that watch him are but his pages of honour, and his very dungeon but the lower side of the vault of heaven. He kisseth the wheel that must kill him; and thinks the stairs of the scaffold of his martyrdom but so many degrees of his ascent to glory. The tormentors are weary of him. the beholders have pitty on him, all men wonder at him; and while he seems below all men, below himself, he is above nature. He hath so overcome himself that nothing can conquer him.

Source: Eternal life ministries

Adams Quotes 01

The ambitious climbs up high and perilous stairs, and never cares how to come down; the desire of rising hath swallowed up his fear of a fall.
- [Ambition]

Ahab cast a covetous eye at Naboth's vineyard, David a lustful eye at Bathsheba. The eye is the pulse of the soul; as physicians judge of the heart by the pulse, so we by the eye; a rolling eye, a roving heart. The good eye keeps minute time, and strikes when it should; the lustful, crochet-time, and so puts all out of tune.
- [Eyes]

Conscience is God's deputy in the soul.
- [Conscience]

The covetous man is like a camel with a great hunch on his back; heaven's gate must be made Higher and broader, or he will hardly get in.
- [Covetousness]

The covetous man pines in plenty, like Tantalus up to the chin in water, and yet thirsty.
- [Covetousness]

Death is as near to the young as to the old; here is all the difference: death stands behind the young man's back, before the old man's face.
- [Death]

His father was no man's friend but his owne, and he (saith the prouerbe) is no man's for else.
- Diseases of the Soul (p 53) [Enemies]

He who sends the storm steers the vessel.
- [Providence]

Source: GIGA

Contemporary London

Seventeenth Century London illustrated


Southey Quotations

Robert Southey quotes from Adams in his commonplace book,
pp 132ff.
See here on Google Books.
He is apparently the one who fixed the Puritan Shakespeare label on Adams. This what A B Grosart says in the Dictionary Of National Biography, although the quotation has never been traced.


Aspects of Piety 18

Concluding Remarks
Is this site advocating that we should we all rush to buy copies of Adams’ works for ourselves and for others? Should we be laying Bunyan, Goodwin, Owen and Watson on one side and taking up Adams?
It probably would not do us any great harm, but Adams’ strength is in his aphorisms and illustrations not in his systematic treatment of doctrines and passages of Scripture. We would probably be wise to buy the Commentary on 2 Peter before the sermons. The sermons need to be put under a gentle heat until the aphorisms are distilled and then presented in something of the style found in I D E Thomas’s collection The Puritan Golden Treasury. This may sound sacrilegious but when we consider the wealth of talent that followed Adams, it should be no surprise to us that, stood on his shoulders, they produced superior work.
Rather than completely neglecting Adams, however, let us make what use of him we can. Hunt down his The three divine sisters and his Crucifix or some of the other items mentioned and available through this site and store up his axioms as best you know how and let us be thankful for a man of God who preached faithfully and the power of the Spirit, who served his own generation and was then gathered to his fathers in glory.


Aspects of Piety 17

Other Aspects 02
Adams advocates the orderly piety that we associate with the Puritans. 'We must give the first hour of the day, the first work of our hands, the first words of our lips to the Lord'.

(Works 2, p 536)
'At night we must give account how we have spent our day; happy are we if we can make our reckoning even with God; a day misspent is lost. … I fear too many may say so of the whole day of their lives: I have lost my day.
'Time is precious; and howsoever our prise and lusts think it, God so highly prizeth it that he will punish the loss of a short time with a revenge beyond all times: the misspense of a temporal day with an eternal night. Every hour hath wings, and there is no moment passing from us but it flies up to the Maker of time, and bears him true tidings how we have used it. There I no usury tolerable but of two things, grace and time; and it is only blessed wealth that is gotten by improving them to the best. We brought with us into the world sin enough to repent of all our short day. There is no minute flies over our head without new addition to our sins and therefore brings new reason for our sorrows. We little think that every moment we misspend is a record against us in heaven, or that every idle hour is entered into God’s registry and stands there in capital letters till our repentant tears wash it out. …'. (Works 2, p 88).
He urges self-examination, another typically Puritan activity. He calls for a natural, moral and spiritual self-contemplation, remembering our souls and spirits, considering our frequent sins and searching our hearts so that we sound ‘the lowest depths of conscience’ and spy ‘blemishes in the face of whitest innocence'. (Works 2, p 384).
In his sermon on England’s sickness, Adams commends moderation, labouring in our callings, and abstinence. (Works 1, pp 426, 427). On the second of those subjects he says ‘Let the shoemaker look to his boot, the fisher to his boat, the scholar to his book’. (Works 1, p 383).
Finally, hear him on death.
'All are like actors on a stage, some have one part and some another, death is still busy amongst us; here drops one of the players, we bury him with sorrow, and to our scene again: then falls another, yea all, one after another, till death be left upon the stage. Death is that damp which puts out all the dim lights of vanity. Yet man is easier to believe that all the world shall die, than to suspect himself.' (Puritan Golden Treasury, p 69).
'Death is ready at hand about us, we carry deaths enow within us. We know we shall die, we know not how soon; it can never prevent us, or come too early, if our souls be in the keeping of God.'
(Works 3, p 32).
For the believer it is ‘nothing else but a bridge over this tempestuous sea to paradise’. Though evil in itself it cannot ultimately harm the good, as it is the door to eternal life. He likens the believer’s death to a clock mender dismantling and cleaning a time-piece to make it ‘go more perfectly’.'
(Works 2, pp 227, 228)
'… though the soul is gotten when man is made, yet it is, as it were, born when he dies: his body being the womb, and death the midwife that delivers it to glorious perfection. The good man may then well say … ‘Death shall be my advantage’ … His happiest hour is when … he can say ‘Into thy hands, Lord, I commend my soul’.

Aspects of Piety 16

Other Aspects 1
With some sadness, Adams states at one point '… as there was never less wisdom in Greece than in the time of the seven wise men so never less piety among us than now, when upon good cause most is expected. (Works 2, p 179).
With some nostalgia he compares former times with Leah, ‘blear-eyed but fruitful’ and his won with Rachel, ‘fair, but barren’. From our vantage point the disappointment expressed may be hard to accept. The suggestion that piety was diligently sown cannot be gainsaid, however. Adams himself preaches not only sin, repentance and forgiveness but many other aspects of piety too.
Assurance has been identified as a crucial element in Puritan piety, both as a root and a fruit. Adams has a sermon called heaven made sure or the certainty of salvation on Psalm 35:3 (Works 1, pp 60-70) where he asserts '1. That salvation may be made sure to man. 2. That the best saints have desired to make their salvation sure.'
He carefully applies this second point, noting that there are degrees of assurance and that even ‘The wealthiest saints have suspected their poverty’ and ‘the richest in grace are yet ‘poorest in spirit’’. Somewhere he also says that ‘Sense of sin may be often great, and more felt than grace; yet not be more than grace.’ It is like when a person’s body is well but he his more aware of his finger aching. He puts it in perspective. (Puritan Golden Treasury, p 23). Assurance is not always immediate. There is also such a thing as a false assurance. Assurance comes ‘by word, by deed, and by seal’ – Scripture, good deeds and the inward witness. It is the sweetest comfort a man can know in this life. In various ways God speaks to the soul of the believer, speaking peace to his conscience and assurance of salvation to his soul.
Adams is very clear that conversion must lead to godliness. 'A sound conversion is proved by a good conversation. But tremble ye wicked; if ye have not fought in his camp, ye shall not shine in his court.' (Works 1, pp 362, 401)
'Good deeds are such things that no-one is saved for them, or without them.'
'We know there is a sun in heaven, yet we cannot see what matter it is made of, but perceive it only by the beams, light and heat. Election is a sun, the eyes of eagles cannot see it; yet we may find it in the heat of vocation, in the light of illumination, in the beams of good works.'
(Puritan Golden Treasury, pp 127, 88).
We cannot be perfect in this life but we must seek to be thoroughly sanctified (Works 3, p 78). Adams warns against the traditional triumvirate of foes, the world, the flesh and the devil (Works 1, p 401ff).
Worldliness is ‘too much oil which quencheth our lamp’; the flesh borrows the vessel of the heart and returns it ‘broken, lacerated, deformed, defaced’; the devil is a fisherman who ‘baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish'. (Cf Puritan Golden Treasury, p 290) 'then a cannibal who feeds on human flesh; a crafty fox first and then a strong lion (Works 1, pp 431 260 220 Works 2, p 211. Worth noting is Adams’ insistence that the devil does not know who is elect, Works 2, pp 53, 147).
As one would expect, Adams is a great advocate of prayer and of getting to know the all sufficient Word of God. (‘ … now to expect revelation of things by dreams were to entreat God to lend us a candle while we have the bright sun.’ Works 2, p 16). He is keen on kneeling for prayer. ‘Never tell me of a humble heart, where I see a stubborn knee.' (Puritan Golden Treasury, p 316).
'Without fear the good child may come to his kind father. … We believe in our Father, ability to give, never denying; wisdom to give, never repenting; goodness to give, never upbraiding. This makes us cry, not speak softly, as in fear, but loud, as in assurance. When the king has promised a boon, the subject comes with special security into the presence. Are we laden with sin … privy to imperfections … Do we fear some judgement … are we haunted with a temptation … full of thankfulness … ? We have the warrant of a Father, Pray, and be comforted.
'Shake off the dust of neglect from the cover, and wear out the leaves with turning; continually imploring the assistance of God’s Spirit, that you may read with understanding, understand with memory, and remember with comfort; that your soul’s closet may never be unstored of those heavenly receipts which may ease your griefs, cure your wounds, expel your sicknesses, preserve your healths, and keep you safe to the coming of Jesus Christ.'
(Works 3, p 105; Works 1, p 303).


Aspects of Piety 15

‘God is glorious’ Adams observes ‘in all of his works, but most glorious in his works of mercy’. He suggests that this may be why Paul refers to the glorious gospel in 1 Ti 1:11. (Works 1, p 51). It is in forgiving men’s sins that God shows his greatest glory.
In his sermon Mystical Bedlam (Works 1, pp 254-293, see pp 267, 268) he says that the heart needs, emptying, cleansing and replenishing. 'If you welcome repentance, knocking at your door from God, it shall knock at God’s door of mercy for you. It asks of you amendment, of God forgiveness.'
He goes on

The heart thus emptied of that inveterate corruption, should fitly be washed before it be replenished. The old poison sticks so fast in the grain of it, that there is only one thing of validity to make it clean - the blood of Jesus Christ. It is this that hath bathed all hearts that ever were, or shall be, received into God’s house of glory. This ‘blood cleanseth us from all sin,’ 1 John 1:1. … In vain were all repentance without this: no tears can wash the heart clean but those bloody ones which the side of Christ and other parts wept, when the spear and nails gave them eyes, whiles the Son of eternal joy became a mourner for his brethren. Could we mourn like doves, howl like dragons, and lament beyond the wailings in the valley of Hadadrimmon, quid prosunt lachrymae - what boots it to weep where there is no mercy? And how can there be mercy without the blood of Christ?
This is that ever-running fountain, that sacred ‘pool of Bethesda,’ which, without the mediation of angels, stands perpetually unforbidden to all faithful visitants. Were our leprosy worse than Naaman’s, here is the true water of Jordan, or pool of Siloam ‘Wash, and be clean.’ Bring your hearts to this bath, ye corrupted sons of men. Hath God given you so precious a layer, and will you be unclean still? Pray, entreat, beseech, send up to heaven the cries of your tongues and hearts for this blood; call upon the ‘preserver of men,’ not only to distil some drops, but to wash, bathe, soak your hearts in this blood. Behold, the Son of God himself, that shed this blood, doth entreat God for you; the whole choir of all the angels and saints in heaven are not wanting. Let the meditation of Christ’s mediation for you give you encouragement and comfort. Happy son of man, for whom the Son of God supplicates and intercedes! What can he request and not have!
He doth not only pray for you, but even to you, ye sons of men. Behold him with the eyes of a Christian, faith and hope, standing on the battlements of heaven, having that for his pavement which is our ceiling, offering his blood to wash your hearts, which he willingly lost for your hearts; denying it to none but wolves, bears, and goats, and such reprobate, excommunicate, apostate spirits that tread it under their profane and luxurious feet, esteeming that an ‘unholy thing wherewith they might have been sanctified’ Heb. x. 29. Come we then, come we, though sinners, if believers, and have our hearts washed.
By his death Christ the Lamb has provided nourishment, covering and cleansing for all who trust in him.
His flesh is meat indeed … the fleece of his imputed righteousness keeps us warm, clothes our nakedness, hides out uncleanness. … His blood hath recovered our life, our health, and washed us as white as the snow in Salmon.
(Works 2, p 114)

On the fullness of forgiveness he says that ‘Sins are so remitted as if they had never been committed’ (Puritan Golden Treasury, p 110). Of course, without faith all that Christ has done is useless to us. Adams urges
'The blood of Christ runs fresh; but where is thy pipe of faith to derive it from his side to thy conscience? Say it should shower mercy, yet if thou wantest faith, all would fall beside thee. There would be no more favour for thee than if there was no Saviour.' (Works 2, p 276).


Aspects of Piety 14

RepentanceAdams speaks of repentance in one place as ‘that old laundress' (Works 3, p 273). Elsewhere he assures us that tears of repentance will not drown us but will save us from drowning. Emergent repentance is ‘the main plank that shall preserve thee from perishing’. (Works 3, p 297).
People do not care for repentance by nature. In one passage, Adams exclaims ‘O blessed repentance, how sweet and amiable art thou! Yet how few love thee!’ He identifies some of the characters who hate it – the proud great man, the greedy wealthy, the miserly ‘country Nabal’, cheating ‘avarous citizens’, the hypocritical ‘muffled lawyer’, the bloodthirsty ‘sharking officer’. The usurer, drunkard and adulterer are obvious targets but, he points out, the tragedy is that they think they will one day repent before it is too late. (Works 2, p 488).
How foolish to think repentance is something so easy. Tears alone will not do it. Judas and Esau wept as much as David and Peter but they did not repent in their souls. (Works 2, p 346). In The Black Saint, where he deals directly with superficial repentance, he warns that 'Sin is congealed, concorporated, baked on; and must be pared and digged away by greater violence than sweeping. … Impiety is habituated by custom, hardened by impenitency, incorporated to him by his affection to it; and shall he think that a formal repentance, like a soft besom, can sweep it clean? Can a few drops and sprinklings of water purge off the inveterate foulness and corruption of the flesh? There is required much rinsing to whiten a defiled soul.' (Works 2, p 56).
Some think they can ‘boldly, stain the cloth a whole vintage, and at last let one washing serve for all’ or put out a thousand fires with one tear. This is a great error.
‘Repentance’ can be thought of as ‘an ascent of four steps’. (It is interesting to compare this sermon with John Bradford’s popular 1552 sermon on repentance for their basic similarity and Adams’ increased awareness of the danger of hypocrisy). Some don’t even begin on this ascent, others only come so far. Unless we ascend all four stairs we are not really repenting. We must begin with amendment of life then preparation for Christ’s coming. The third rung on the ladder is abstaining from sin and the fourth setting out on a new path. All these are useless if they do not lead to actual repentance. That is the only ‘bulwark to defend us from the shot of God’s thunder from heaven’ and hedge against ‘his judgements on earth’. (Works 2, p 490).
Repentance ought to be a daily thing. God is very gracious but to rely on a last minute repentance is not wise. ‘It is better to make this thy diet than thy physic’. ‘He that will wear a crown in heaven must be all his life on earth preparing it'.(Works 2, p 572)
Adams also speaks of repentance and her daughter faith as ‘two most valiant and puissant (ie powerful) soldiers that are the soul’s champions’. They fight sin and lust and all the powers of evil. Repentance fights with some apparent disadvantages. She fights kneeling and ‘stoops as low as she can’. However, this invites mercy and ‘the fearful thunder of vengeance is resisted by the soft wool of repentance.’ Then there is the fact that her fellow soldiers can often fail – faith droops, hope faints, conscience sleeps. However, Holy fear wakens conscience, conscience faith, faith hope and hope repentance and there is pardon and comfort. Similarly, by bringing up the rear this ‘conquering queen’ may seem far off but ‘comes in with her reserve’ and deals with sin at last. (Works 3, p 297).
On March 29, 1625, the first Tuesday after the death of King James I, Adams preached in Whitehall. Seeking to take advantage of the sober frame that many were in, he preached on Job 42:6 Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes. (Works 1, pp 49-59). It is a brief but powerful sermon in which he refuses to ‘pull the text in pieces’ and simply works his way through Job’s words. On I repent he notes that repentance is ‘better known than practised’. He seeks to urge everyone to take advantage of this ‘universal antidote’. He especially warns against supposing it is something we can do at will. After some time on the subject he closes with this beautifully arresting paragraph.
'If I should give you the picture of repentance, I would tell you that she is a virgin fair and lovely; and those tears, which seem to do violence to her beauty, rather indeed grace it. Her breast is sore with the strokes of her own penitent hands, which are always either in Moses’s posture in the mount, lift up towards heaven, or the publican’s in the temple, smiting her bosom. Her knees are hardened with constant praying; her voice is hoarse with calling to heaven; and when she cannot speak, she delivers her mind in groans. There is not a tear falls from her, but an angel holds a bottle to catch it. She thinks every man’s sin’s less than her own, every man’s good deeds more. Her compunctions are unspeakable, known only to God and herself. She could wish, not only men, but even beasts, and trees, and stones, to mourn with her. She thinks no sun should shine, because she takes no pleasure in it; that the lilies should be clothed in black, because she is so apparelled. Mercy comes down like a glorious cherub, and lights on her bosom, with this message from God, ‘I have heard thy prayers, and seen thy tears;’ so with a handkerchief of comfort dries her cheeks, and tells her that she is accepted in Jesus Christ. '
In a sermon on Galatians 6:7 Man’s seed-time and harvest or Lex Talionis Adams lists seven general pleas or excuses given for sin. (Works 2, pp 360-374, see pp 364-367). He mentions predestination, God’s will, ignorance, outweighing good deeds, God’s mercy, Christ’s infinite satisfaction and repentance. Dealing with this latter excuse he points out that although God promises to forgive you if you repent, whereas he will always be ‘so good as his promise’ you cannot be so sure that you will be ‘so good as thy purpose’. You can only expect God to ‘forgive thee repenting’ not to ‘give thee repentance sinning’. The promise is ‘to repentance’ not ‘of repentance’. Repentance is God’s gift.
'Unless God give thee repentance, and another mind, thou shalt speed as the lost angels did; for God may as easily cast thee from the earth as he did them from heaven.' (Works 2, p 252).


Aspects of Piety 13

I D E Thomas records some typical aphorisms from Adams on this subject. 'Heaven begins where sin ends. When gifts are in their eminency, sin may be in its prevalency. Sin is the strength of death and the death of strength. Iniquity can plead antiquity (Puritan Golden Treasury, pp 133, 116, 261).
Adams is clear on original sin, as is apparent from his sermon on Ps 58:4 A generation of serpents and his Meditations on the creed. (Works 1, p 71; Works 3, pp 194ff). In a sermon on Ga 5:9 he likens sin to leaven. As leaven is ‘not bread but the corruption that maketh bread’ so ‘sin is not a created quality, but the corruption of a created quality.’ Dough becomes leaven by adding salt so ‘The very same work that might be good and acceptable to God, by addition of our pravity becomes evil.’ As sour leaven makes bread tasty, ‘so by the ungodly’s most cursed sins God will advance his glory.’ As man cannot live on bread alone, much less on leaven so ‘No man can live for ever by his righteousness and good works, much less by his sins.’ ‘Lastly, sin and leaven are fitly compared for their sourness’ to God, angels, saints and the sinner himself.' (Works 2, pp 345-349)
In the second half of The fool and his sport Adams speaks about actual sin. He says some eight things to show that it must be taken very seriously. Sin is entirely contrary to goodness. It brings on judgements even in this life and where it does not that should make us alert to the fearful judgement ahead. Though little sense of guilt is present now, there will be a very great sense of it one day. Sin provokes God to anger. What a fearful thing to fall into his hands. Sin was punished even in heaven, when the angles that sinned were thrown down. It is so loathsome that God ‘could not save his own elect because of it, but by killing his own son.’ ‘Lastly, Sin shall be punished with death’ (Cf Works 1, pp 248-253)
In another place he compares sin with leprosy emphasising that sin is ubiquitous, soul infecting, hereditary, incurable, going on beyond death, shutting us out from fellowship with God and, unpurged by repentance, from heaven itself. (Cf Works 1, pp 442, 443)
We need to see that 'Every sin dishonours God and offers to stick ignominy upon that infinite majesty; therefore deserves an infinite penalty.' (Works 1, p 53)
The trouble is that we fall to temptation too easily. 'Satan doth diversify his drinks, to keep the wicked man’s appetite fresh and sharp. If he be weary of one sin, behold another, stands at his elbow.' (Works 1, p 170). ‘Temptation misleads the navigators with a pirate’s light’. Sin is like a bloody prince that having invited several great men to a great feast flattered them one by one an then chopped of their heads.
'She hath a siren’s voice, mermaid’s face, a Helen’s beauty, to tempt thee; but a leper’s touch, a serpent’s sting, a traitorous hand to wound thee. The best way to conquer sin is by Parthian war, to run away.'(Works 1, p 222).
What we need to see, therefore, is the harm that sin does. In the second part of The fatal banquet Adams goes to great lengths to show that ‘every sin robs some’. Some sins particularly harm God - atheism, heresy, sacrilege, faction and profaneness. Others particularly harm men - irreverence, murder, adultery, thievery, slander and flattery. Still others directly harm ourselves - pride, epicurism, idleness, envy, drunkenness, covetousness. All these should be incentives to turn from sin. (Works 1, pp 175-197).
This last section highlights Adams’ determination not to preach simply against sin in general terms but against particular sins. In another listing of sins he attacks epicurism, pride, lust, hypocrisy, avarice, usury, ambition, drunkenness, idleness, swearing, lying, busy bodying, flattery, ingratitude, anger, envy, contention, impatience, vainglory and papistry. (Works 1, pp 276-287). In A generation of serpents he attacks the ‘salamander’ of contentiousness, the ‘dart’ of anger, the ‘dipsas’ of drunkenness, the ‘crocodile’ of hypocrisy, the ‘cockatrice’ of prostitution, the ‘caterpillar’ of covetousness, the ‘asp’ of the Roman Catholic infiltrator, the ‘lizard’ or ‘tortoise’ of sloth, the ‘sea serpent’ of piracy, the ‘stellion’ of extortion and the ‘draco’ or devil himself. (Works 1, pp 77-80).
Besides these sins he also attacks failing to pay debts or keep promises, extortion, duelling and other sinful practice (See Works 1, pp 145, 146; 79; 183; 2, pp 321, 322, 556. Also eg suicide ‘No man must let the tenant out of the tenement, till God the landlord call for it.’ ‘As we cannot live without a permittis, so we must not die without a dimittis.’ Puritan Golden Treasury, p 289; making images of Christ, Works 2, p 291.)
Often he is very specific regarding the sins of certain callings. He rails against the tricks of shopkeepers who hide the truth, especially apothecaries who might cause their customers’ deaths. (Works 1, pp 146, 147). In one place he lists ‘many kinds of private thieves’. These are magistrates ruled by popularity, partiality or passion; lawyers who double deal or are dishonest in other ways; officers involved in bribery; tradesmen with false weights and measures, deficient goods and preying on men’s necessities; those who take advantage of the church to line their pockets; covetous landlords; engrossers who ‘hoard up commodities and by stopping their community raise the price’; enclosers who were still taking common land for themselves (a sin that had been preached against from at least the time of John Bradford, 1510?-1555); tap-house keepers and taverners who ‘chop away a good conscience for money’ and encourage drunkenness; flatterers who think of ways for the rich to make money; brokers and breakers by which he means unscrupulous pawnbrokers and bailiffs; usurers. (Works 1, pp 276-287). Adams often opposed this latter sin, little spoken against today. (Adams takes this even further when he speaks of characteristic sins of nations – Spanish pride, French lust, Italian poisoning, German drunkenness, English epicurism. Works 1, pp 368, 369.)
With all this negative content it must not be supposed that Adams fails to encourage virtue. In his A contemplation of the herbs mentioned above he advocates humility, patience, joy, charity, contentment, continence, meekness, frugality, peaceable love, pureness of heart, confidence in God’s promises, following Christ, casting care away and good resolution. (Works 2, pp 460-467). Among the gates to the City of peace are patience and beneficence. (Works 2, pp 316-319).

Aspects of Piety 12

Aspects of Piety Intro
Style is of some importance but content is fundamental. Adams says 'Indeed, rhetorical flourishes without solid matter is like an Egyptian bondwoman in a queen’s robe' (In the preface to his 1614 set of sermons The Devil’s Banquet. Works 3, p xxxii)
In the course of his sermons, he considers a wide variety of themes. In these posts we wish to consider something of what he had to say in the central area of Christian piety. From the time of Elizabeth we can trace an increasing interest in matters of personal piety but the interest goes back to Tyndale, Bradford and the Reformers. Adams himself declares that 'The main intents of all preachers and the contents of all sermons aim to beat down sin and to convert sinners'. (Also in the preface to The Devil’s Banquet. Works 3, p xxxii)
This he seeks to do by a variety of means. We wish to outline some of his more distinctive approaches.
At the end of a sermon on Psalm 94:19 called Man’s Comfort in a passage typical of his style he likens sin, repentance and pardon to the English Spring months of March, April and May. 'Sin comes in like March, blustering, stormy, and full of bold violence. Repentance succeeds like April, showering, weeping, and full of tears. Pardon follows like May, springing, singing, full of joys and flowers.'
By way of application, he says 'If our hands have been full of March, with the tempests of unrighteousness, our eyes must be full of April, with the sorrow of repentance; and then our hearts shall be full of May, in the true joy of forgiveness.'
Sin, repentance and forgiveness are themes that Adams often deals with and an examination of what he says on these three great subjects will give us a good idea of his approach. Adams spoke of sin in order to excite repentance and repentance in order to help people to find forgiveness. He tends to spend more time on sin and less on repentance and forgiveness. As he himself might have put it, in his sermons March is longer than April and May.
Posts will follow we trust then on these three subjects.


Aspects of Piety 11

Some Examples 2
5. The points themselves are fleshed out with quotations, sayings, classical allusions, illustrations, stories and fables, similes, metaphors and similar devices. Adams argues ‘God has given us … liberty … not only to nakedly lay down the truth, but with the helps of invention, wit, art, to prevent the loathing his manna. … But … all our hopes can scarce help one soul to heaven.’ (Works 1, p 335).
He often uses Latin and, rarely, Greek, but this is nearly always translated. Often he quotes the Latin to show an alliterative connection not found in English. His favourite ecclesiastical authors are early church fathers such as Augustine, Ambrose and Chrysostom and Bernard of Clairvaux. He also quotes from secular classical authors, Reformers and near contemporaries.
One can get the flavour from these quotations, chosen almost at random,
It is not a sufficient commendation of a prince to govern peaceable and loyal subjects, but to subdue or subvert rebels. It is the praise of a Christian to order refractory and wild affections, more than to manage yielding and pliable ones (Works 1, p 265).
He runs about the seats like a pick-purse; and if he sees a roving eye he presents objects of lust; if a drowsy head, he rocks him asleep, and gives him a nap just the length of the sermon; if he spies a covetous man, he transports his soul to his counting house; and leaves nothing before the preacher but a mindless trunk (Works 2, p 39).
… which way soever a wicked man uses his tongue, he cannot use it well. … He bites by detraction, licks by flattery; … All the parts of his mouth are instruments of wickedness .… lips, teeth, throat, tongue. The psalmographer on every one of these has set a brand of wickedness … This is a monstrous and fearful mouth; where the porter, the porch, the entertainer, the receiver, are all vicious. The lips are the porter, and that is fraud; the porch, the teeth, and there is malice; the entertainer, the tongue, and there is lying; the receiver, the throat, and there is devouring (Works 3, p 21).
6. The love of brief and pithy, often alliterative sayings is a characteristic of his work. Examples abound. Again we choose at random
… many go to hell with the water of baptism on their faces and the assurance of salvation in their mouths.
Generation lost us; it must be regeneration that recovers us.
If men were God’s friends, they would frequent God’s house: there is little friendship to God where there is no respect of his presence, nor affection for his company.
Worldly friends are but like hot water, that when cold weather comes, are soonest frozen.
If we open the doors of our hearts to his Spirit, he will open the doors of heaven to our spirit. If we feast him with a ‘supper’ of grace, Rev 3:20, he will feast us with a supper of glory.
(Works 1, pp 62, 256; Works 2, pp 83, 138; Works 3, p 37)
7. The scriptural hermeneutic is generally sound, though some expositions are rather idiosyncratic. Sometimes individual words are taken up and expounded in a surprising but generally profitable way. Scripture serves both as a source book for illustrations and supporting arguments.
8. Another feature is the way Adams will often take up a minor point and expand on it. Because Pro 14:9 speaks of fools in the plural Adams distinguishes the sad, glad, haughty and naughty fool. In A contemplation of the herbs it is the one word herbs from Heb 6:7 that leads to his consideration of some 13 herbs or flowers, to each of which he attaches a virtue, which he then expounds.
Adams’ method means that almost every line is rich with spiritual teaching. One cannot read very far in his sermons without finding something spiritually striking and wholesome.

Aspects of Piety 10

Some Examples 1
It is perhaps the superior homiletical and literary quality of his work that stands out in Adams. It is one of the things that makes him notable. In these areas he shows strength at every point.
1. There are the very titles of some sermons (Baker says that ‘the many provocative titles of Adams’ sermons’ suggest that ‘he appealed to the popular taste for the sensational evident in the drama of his time.’) The works contain nearly 60 different ones. Many are striking. For example, A generation of serpents; Mystical Bedlam; The sinner’s passing bell; England’s sickness; The Black Saint; Majesty in misery; The White Devil; Spiritual Eye-salve; Love’s copy. Giving good titles to sermons is perhaps a dying art in some quarters that could be usefully revived.
2. He often has good introductions. For example
A true Christian’s life is one day of three meals, and every meal hath in it two courses. His first meal is … to be born a sinner, and to be new born a saint. … His second meal is … to do well, and to suffer ill. … His third meal is, … to die a temporal death, to live an eternal life.
The great bishop of our souls now being at the ordination of his ministers, having first instructed them in via Domini, doth here discipline them in vita discipuli; ...
(Works 3, p 22; Works 2, p 109)
3. Angus commends the choice of texts, each of which is for him a sermon in itself. ‘Have we rightly appreciated in the modern pulpit’ he asks ‘the importance of a good text?' (p xxv)’ Sometimes the texts are carefully placed in their context; often they are not. The printed sermons range from Genesis to Revelation. Some 27 are from Old Testament texts. Over 60% of these are, perhaps unsurprisingly, from the wisdom books. (John H Primus, Richard Greenham: Portrait of an Elizabethan Pastor, Macon, Georgia, Mercer UP, 1998 notes that Greenham had a similar preference for Psalms and Proverbs). Of the 38 New Testament texts, over 30% are from the Gospels and nearly half from Paul and Hebrews. In some instances we have brief consecutive series of sermons (Series of consecutive sermons are found on Ge 25:27 (2); Ps 66:12, 13 (3); God’s bounty Pr 3:16 (2); The fatal banquet Pr 9:17, 18 (4); Je 8:22 (4); Mt 2:11, 12 (2); Ep 5:2 (3); Heb 6:7, 8 (5)
4. The structure of the sermons is not the later Puritan pattern of exposition, then doctrine then uses or application. Among stranger approaches include The Gallants Burden which includes sketches, in the tradition of the medieval descriptio, of four ‘scorners’ who destroy the commonwealth - atheists, epicures, libertines and ‘common profane’ clergy; the way The White Devil includes a series of 12 characters modelled on Joseph Hall and, most unusually, the examination of the nature, cause, symptoms and cure of 19 bodily diseases with an allegorical scrutiny of parallel vices that plague the soul, in Diseases of the Soul from 1616. Other examples are the figure of the hunt in Politic Hunting (1629) where he structures his characters of the powerful who prey on the weak by picturing the depopulator as a wild boar, the cheater as a crafty fox, the usurer as a wolf, the grain engrosser as a badger. We have mentioned his approach in A Generation of Serpents (1629), he uses a similar one in his references to thorns, briars and brambles rending the flesh of the commonwealth in A Forest of Thorns, 1616. In Eirenopolis he allegorises London’s gates in an appeal for peace amid the growing factionalism of the time.
Even when his sermon structure is formally typical, Adams often transcends it with striking ways of presenting the material. On Heb 13:8 he has three points but speaks, most engagingly, of a centre, a circumference and a mediate line. The immovable centre is Jesus Christ. The circumference, that runs around about him here, is eternity …. The mediate line referring them is, ó aùtos, the same: …
In one particularly striking example, on Ecc 9:3, he takes the phrases in order The heart of the sons so men is full of evil, then and madness is in their heart while they live:, finally and after that they go to the dead. His powerful imagination is so active that he comes up with no less than six conceits in which to couch his three points. Grammar - man’s comma, colon, period; journey – setting forth, peregrination, journey’s end; arrow – born from the bow, wild flight, into the grave; argument – harsh and unpromising proposition, wickedness; hopeless proposition, madness; inevitable conclusion, death; race - man’s beginning full of evil, the further he goes the worse it is, in frantic flight he falls into the pit; stairs – a three step descent.


Aspects of Piety 09

Style 1c
There is evidence that Adams had read the works of several of his predecessors and contemporaries and he has been compared with nearly all the writers we have named. His scholarship reminds the reader of that ‘great gulf of learning’ Bishop Andrewes. (Though Adams is often compared with Taylor, Andrewes and Donne [see pic], a scholar like Seaver is still clear on the difference between ‘a witty sermon preached by Lancelot Andrewes or John Donne’ and ‘one in the plain style of Richard Sibbes or Thomas Adams’. Cf Seaver, p 181).
In sketching a character he is not inferior to Overbury or Earle. In fearless denunciations of sin, in pungency and pathos, he is sometimes equal to Latimer (1485-1555, Protestant Reformer and martyr. See pic of him preaching.) or to Richard Baxter. For fancy, we may, after Southey, compare him for imagination, with Taylor; for wit, with Fuller. In one sermon at least, that on the Temple, there is an occasional grandeur that brings to memory the kindred treatise of Howe. Joseph Hall is probably the writer he most resembles in richness of scriptural illustration and in fervour of feeling; in soundness of doctrine he is certainly equal; in learning, and power, and thought, he is superior. (Angus, xxi)
To the names mentioned here perhaps we could add those of the early Puritans Greenham and Smith. (Henry Smith was a disciple of Richard Greenham (1531-1591) who laboured for 20 years in the village of Dry Drayton and became famous for his counselling work). William Haller writes of the characteristic of Greenham and Smith’s sermons as being ‘plain and perspicuous’ in that they are composed in straightforward lucid sentences not without wit but avoiding preciosity and the ostentation of erudition.
They were also influenced by the mediaeval tradition of making war on wickedness ‘by attacking its several varieties’, leading to ‘more or less realistic description of actual manners and morals’, the creation of ‘characters’ and the portrayal of social types. Haller goes on to say that these traits in Greenham and Smith are also found, in varying degrees, in other Calvinists and Puritans of the time. Alluding to Southey’s statement, he cites Adams as 'No Shakespeare but a late and extreme though brilliant example of the persistence of these traditions'. (William Haller, Rise of Puritanism, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972, pp 30, 31).

Aspects of Piety 08

Style 1b
Angus assembles a host of names from the worlds of literature and divinity that have been linked with Adams. In his youth he was the contemporary of the race that adorned the reign of Elizabeth, – Spenser, Shakespeare and Jonson, Bacon and Raleigh.
Note: Edmund Spenser (1552/3-1559) wrote the long allegorical poem The Faerie Queene. William Shakespeare (1564-1615) and Ben Jonson (1572-1637) were the chief dramatists of their day and accomplished poets. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) lawyer, statesman, philosopher and master of the English tongue, served as Lord Chancellor 1618-21. He is remembered both for his literary and his political skills. Walter Raleigh (1554?-1618) was the enigmatic adventurer and writer and favourite of Elizabeth later accused of treason and executed in James’ reign.
Among the men of his own age were Bishops Hall and Andrewes, Sibbes, author of the Bruised Reed and the Soul’s Conflict, Fuller the historian, and now in the church and now out of it, Hildersham and Byfield and Cartwright.
Note: Joseph Hall (1574-1656) [pic 1] was at the Synod of Dort, 1618, and a bishop by the early 1640s. A moral philosopher and satirist, remarkable for his literary versatility and innovation. He wrote the first English satire successfully based on Latin models and emulated ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus with Characters upon Vertues and Vices 1608. Adams calls him ‘our worthy divine and best characterer’. Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) [pic 2] was a theologian and master of rhetoric. He earned a reputation as an eloquent and learned court preacher, seeking to defend and advance Anglicanism. Both were influenced by Puritanism in early life.
Puritan Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) celebrated in Dever’s book, mentioned elsewhere on this site, Arthur Hildersham (1563-1631), Nicholas Byfield (1579-1622) and Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603) – all popular Puritan authors
Earle was busy writing and publishing the Microcosmography and Overbury had already issued his Characters. A little before him flourished Arminius and Whitgift, Hooker and Reynolds; and a little after him Hammond and Baxter, Taylor and Barrow, Leighton and Howe.
Note: John Earle (1601?-1665) Bishop of Salisbury in his final years, wrote Microcosmography, a collection of witty characterisations, his best known work, 1628. Thomas Overbury (1581-1613) was an enormously popular poet and essayist. His sketch in verse, A Wife (1614), outlines his idea of the perfect wife. To it he appended over 80 character sketches, ‘a collection marked by its extravagant fancy, pungent wit, and flippant mockery of social folly’ according to Baker. She says ‘One of the most striking literary features of Adams’ sermons is his ubiquitous use of the satiric prose character, a form introduced into English prose by Joseph Hall. … Drawing upon both Hall and the Overburians, Adams shapes characters appropriate to his preaching of conversion.’
Controversial theology professor Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609); Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift (1530-1604); architect of Anglicanism, Richard Hooker (1554?-1600) are well known figures. Westminster divine Edward Reynolds (1599-1676) became Bishop of Norwich. Henry Hammond (1605-1660) a Royalist scholar and preacher. Oratory admired by Charles I. Richard Baxter (1615-1691) prolific Puritan writer and activist. Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) mathematician, chaplain to Charles II, controversial writer of weight, chiefly against the papacy. Adams ‘may be fitly compared to Barrow in the thoroughness which exhausts his subjects’ (sic) says Stowell (p xvi). Presbyterian Robert Leighton (1611-1684) celebrated for his commentary on 1 and 2 Peter, was cruelly persecuted for attacking the bishops. John Howe (1630-1705) chaplain to Cromwell, was ejected 1662.

Aspects of Piety 07

Style 1a The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica says that Adams' 'numerous works display great learning, classical and patristic, and are unique in their abundance of stories, anecdotes, aphorisms and puns.' It argues that his printed sermons ‘placed him beyond all comparison in the van of the preachers of England’. It also quotes Robert Southey’s oft-repeated suggestion that he be considered ‘the prose Shakespeare of Puritan theologians’.
Britannica itself suggests he ‘had something to do with shaping John Bunyan’ and, following Southey, draws favourable comparisons with Thomas Fuller, for wit, and Jeremy Taylor, for imagination. Southey's actual statement is that Adams was ‘scarcely inferior to Fuller in wit or Taylor in fancy’ (see New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia here). Stowell (p xvi) speaks of ‘the poetic splendour of the imagery’ in Taylor and Adams.
Note: Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) was a historian and preacher and one of the 17th Century’s most witty and prolific authors. (Left above). Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) a theological and devotional writer, was a distinguished preacher and author of many noted works. He was made a bishop after the Restoration. (Right above). Along with Adams’ known friendship with Donne, it is no surprise that he, like Bunyan and some few others, has attracted the attention of University English departments as well as historians and evangelical believers. See Moira Baker's essay here.
(Note: she lists 5 dissertations – her own The Homiletic Satires of Thomas Adams, Notre Dame, 1982; Cabell V Flanagan, A Survey of the Life and Works of Thomas Adams, Pennsylvania, 1954; David Mills Harralson, The Sermons of Thomas Adams, Kent State, 1969; Laurence Hedges, Thomas Adams and the Ministry of Moderation, California Riverside, 1974; Francis Xavier Prior, Animal Analogy in the Writings of Thomas Adams, St Johns, 1969.) Adams has been spoken of as being ‘weighty in thought and vigorous in style’. (See Schaff-Herzog on preaching). Walsham refers to him as ‘That most poetical of Jacobean preachers’ (p 281).


Beeke and Packer

Thomas Adams (1583-1652)
Thomas Adams graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge ... Northill ... Adams's parishioners signed a petition stating that he had "behaved himself soberly in his conversation, painfully in his calling, lovingly amongst his neighbors, conformable to the orders of the Church, and in all respects befittingly to his vocation" (J. Maltby, Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England, p. 78). This testimony may have assisted Adams in securing an appointment the following year as vicar of Willington, Bedfordshire. ... Wingrave ... London ...
Adams was a powerful preacher, much-quoted writer, and influential divine. Prominent leaders in church and state, such as John Donne and the earl of Pembroke, were among his friends.
Adams was a Calvinist Episcopalian in terms of church polity. He was not opposed to kneeling to receive communion and feared that the abolition of episcopacy advocated by some Puritans would lead to Anabaptism. Nonetheless, Adams embraced Puritan theology, polemics, and lifestyle. J. Sears McGee writes, "Like Puritans he craved careful observation of the Sabbath and was deeply hostile to Rome, the Jesuits, and the papacy, as well as to idleness, over-indulgence in worldly pleasures, and conspicuous consumption in all its forms" ...
Adams shared the Puritan concern to purge the Church of England of remaining vestiges of Roman Catholicism or "popery," as it was then called. His open expression of this concern and his identification with the Puritans in many areas, offended William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury; doubtless, this hindered his preferment in the church. At the same time, Adams was staunchly loyal to the king, and so found himself in disfavor with Cromwell and probably suffered being sequestered under the Commonwealth, left to live out his days dependent on charity in what he called, in the dedication of his posthumously published Anger and Man's Comfort (1653), his "necessitous and decrepit old age."
In 1629, Adams organised his sermons into a massive folio, subsequently printed in three volumes in the Nichol's series reprint of 1861-1866 ... Adams's sermons have been admired since their first printing; they "placed him beyond all comparison in the van of the preachers of England, and had something to do with shaping John Bunyan.... His numerous works display great learning, classical and patristic, and are unique in their abundance of stories, anecdotes, aphorisms, and puns" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed).
Volume 1 of Adams's works contains his sermons on Old Testament texts, such as "God's Bounty" on Proverbs 3:16, and "Mystical Bedlam" on Ecclesiastes 9:3. Volume 2 contains his sermons on New Testament texts, and volume 3 contains the remaining corpus of New Testament sermons as well as meditations on the Apostles' Creed and a fifty-page memoir of Adams by Josiah Angus.
Adams's sermons are evangelically eloquent and biblically faithful. James I. Packer writes:
His fondness for evangelical allegorizing and verbal pyrotechnics, however, makes his sermons lively rather than weighty. His doctrine is unambiguously Calvinistic, but with a pastoral rather than a speculative or controversial orientation. He does not go deeply into the subject of Christian experience, but is warmly evangelical in extolling the power of Christ, and grace, and faith. The themes on which he is most constant and full, however, are the varieties of sin, the anatomy of hypocrisy, and the stratagems of Satan. Like all the Puritans, he is a thoroughly theocentric thinker, and says much that is illuminating on the ways of God in dealing with sinners in both mercy and judgment. He shows no sympathy with the Puritan program of church reform, but dismisses it as he does all forms of sectarianism and separatism. He is vigorously outspoken against Rome (Encyclopedia of Christianity, ed. Edwin H. Palmer, 1:63)
Not included in Adams's works, is his magnum opus, A Commentary on the Second Epistle General of St. Peter, an extensive commentary first published in 1633 and last reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria in 1990, and happily, reprinted again now by Solid Ground Christian Books. It was never included in any edition of his works. However, the 900 pages of double-columned print was edited by James Sherman and printed in London in 1839. The work is exegetically reliable and stylistically adept. Much useful theological knowledge is conveyed in striking phrases. Spurgeon commented that this book was the best Puritan commentary printed under James Sherman's editorship. It was "full of quaintness, holy wit, bright thought, and deep instruction; we know of no richer and racier reading," Spurgeon said.
This commentary is full of quotable material. For example, on 2 Peter 3:9 ("The Lord is not slack concerning his promise"), Adams writes, "Another cause of the Lord's seeming slackness to deliver us for the present, is our slackness to praise him for deliverances past. Unthankfulness; this is the witch, the sorceress, whose drowsy enchantments have made us even forget God himself. If we forget him, can he be blamed for slackness to remember us?" (p. 688).
Adams is unsurpassed on Second Peter. Though the print is small, the content is rich, and is well worth patient perusal. Here is a feast for ministers and all serious Bible students.
Little is known of the latter part of Adams's career. He appears to have written nothing for print during the last twenty years of his life. He died in 1652. Alexander B. Grosart wrote of him: "Thomas Adams stands in the forefront of our great English preachers. He is not as sustained as Jeremy Taylor, nor so continuously sparkling as Thomas Fuller, but he is surpassingly eloquent and brilliant, and much more thought-laden than either."
Joel R. Beeke, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, MI

Aspects of Piety 06

The first of Adams’ sermons at Paul’s Cross (The Gallant’s Burden) appeared as early as 1612 and had passed through three printings by 1616. The 1613 sermon, The White Devil, became his most popular and had gone through five editions by 1621. Other single and collected sermons followed and in 1616 he completed his short treatise Diseases of the Soul. In 1618 he issued The Happiness of the Church, consisting of 27 sermons gathered for the press, probably during a period of illness. In 1629 and again in 1630 his works appeared in a full folio edition of over 1200 pages.
Because of his peculiar position, Adams was neglected in the 18th Century but in 1847 some sermons were reprinted. Editor W H Stowell, president of the Independent College in Rotherham, thought there was little likelihood of the works being reproduced as a whole (p xlii). However, in the 1860s a group of six Scottish ministers came together to expedite publication of the Works in three unequal volumes ‘Being the sum of his sermons, meditations and other divine and moral discourses’. The General Editor was Thomas Smith. A further selection appeared later under the editorship of John Brown, The Sermons of Thomas Adams, The Shakespeare of Puritan Theologians (London, Cambridge UP, 1909). See here.
These volumes contain some 65 sermons, set out in biblical rather than chronological order. They include The soul’s sickness, a 35 page treatise, plus the 180 page Meditations on the creed. The volumes also contain a memoir by Baptist Dr Joseph Angus and other brief introductory materials. The memoir was originally to have been executed by C H Spurgeon, also a Baptist, but he was unwell. (Clearly Baptist interest in Adams is not new). They were reproduced by a California based company called Tanski in 1998. I own a set of these. They were a birthday present from my parents-in-law a few years ago.
Apart from two final sermons from 1652 (God’s Anger and Man’s Comfort) added to the later collected works from copies found in the British Museum, Adams’ only other published work is his massive commentary on 2 Peter. He appears to have worked on this major project from 1620-1633, the year of its first appearance. According to Moira Baker,
A learned and elegant capstone of his career, the Commentary reaches a more sophisticated level of scriptural exegesis and theological analysis than possible in the sermon form.
It was revised and corrected by James Sherman of Surrey Chapel and published in 1839. It was reproduced in the 1990s by another American publishing house, Soli Deo Gloria and is due for publication soon by Solid Ground Christian Books with a new introduction by Joel Beeke. See here.


Aspects of Piety 05

Latter daysIt is difficult to explain the abrupt disappearance from public view that follows. Much of Adams’ preaching would have been distasteful to Laud, Bishop of London by 1628, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633. He increasingly worked to silence any suspected of Puritan leanings. It may be significant that Adams’ friend and patron, metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631), died in 1631. Donne had been Dean of St Paul’s since 1621. His removal may have diminished Adams’ standing.
[Donne, ‘England’s greatest love poet’ and leader of the metaphysical school, is also noted for his religious verse, treatises and sermons. Adams dedicated The Barren Tree, preached at Paul’s Cross, 1623, to Donne. Daniel Doerksen (‘Milton and the Jacobean Church of England’, Early Modern Literary Studies 1.1, 1995) helpfully points out how in the 1620s ‘ … there was no great divide between moderate conformists like John Donne and moderate or even fully conforming puritans.’ He notes that Donne was not only Adams’ friend but had been able to ‘satisfy the benchers at Lincoln’s Inn, where his predecessor and successor as reader in divinity were the moderate puritans Thomas Gataker and John Preston.’ He says ‘There is good evidence to show that … Donne … was not essentially a Laudian, but identified strongly with the rather Calvinist Jacobean Church.’]At the same time, Adams’ staunch defence of the monarchy and ecclesiastical hierarchy must have counted for something. Perhaps it was his strong Calvinism, his view that matters of ceremony were ‘indifferent’, his fierce criticism of the popish ‘idolatry’ that threatened to creep back in and his popularity, that combined to bring about his disappearance from public view.
For evidence of Adams' Calvinism see Angus, Works 3, pp xxvii, xxviii. In a piece of unwarranted hyperbole, Angus says ‘Adams is as fair a representative of Calvinistic doctrine as Calvin himself.’!
Thinking on the Jacobean church has altered greatly since the 19th Century. It is no longer acceptable to posit the idea that Anglicans and Puritans were distinct and coherent groups, with no middle ground. It is incorrect to suppose that there were no moderate or non-separatist Puritans or that only Puritans were Calvinists and interested in doctrine and preaching. Doerksen says that Milton’s high esteem for Calvin was probably shared by most leaders of the Jacobean church. Anti-popish sentiments abound in Adams. To complaints of excess he answers ‘I can often pass his door and not call in; but if he meets me full in the face and affronts me, for good manners’ sake, … I must change a word with him.’ (Works 1, p 203).
Ironically, he had few friends on the Puritan side and their rise to power in the 1640s would not have helped him either. Phrases such as this could have been seized upon ‘The unicorn – that is, the hypocrite – the foul-breasted, fair-crested, factious Puritan hath but one horn; but therewith he doth no small mischief,’ ‘And there be bawling curs, rural ignorants; that blaspheme all godliness under the name of Puritanism.’ (Works 2, pp 118, 119). He was denounced in a 1647 Puritan tract as ‘a known profane pot-companion, ... and otherwise a loose liver, a temporising ceremony monger, and malignant against the parliament.’ (Cf Baker, Dictionary of Literary Biography)
His loyalty to the king, tolerance of ceremony and support for episcopalian church government would have made him objectionable to many. Unable to escape the political vicissitudes of his times, Adams, may well have been sequestered as were many clergy unsympathetic to the Parliamentarian cause. (Cf Angus, relying on Newcourt’s Repertorium, Works 3, pp ix, xiii). Angus is sceptical and suggests that other factors may have brought the living to an end. By 1642 he was probably no longer Rector of St Benet’s, though probably remaining in the rectory.
Stowell and Angus helpfully speak of Adams as a ‘Doctrinal Puritan’ in order to emphasise that although he was Calvinistic, Anti-papist and a preacher of the Word, he did not make a stand on issues of rites, forms and ceremonies from the church’s Roman past. ( Cf Angus, Works 3, p xiii; Stowell, p xiv). Adams prized unity and often railed against the schismatic tendencies of some in the Puritan party. (He speaks of Anglican efforts to deal with Roman ceremonies by reducing them ‘for their number to paucity, for their nature to purity, for their use to significancy’. ‘Separate we not then from the church’ he says ‘because the church cannot separate from all imperfection’. Works 2, p 156.)