Monday, June 17, 2019

Puritan Author Sarah Symmes Fiske 1652-1692

Sarah Symmes Fiske was born in 1652, in Charleston, Massachusets, and died in 1692, in Braintree, Massachusetts. Sarah, only 40 when she died, was the grandaughter of Zachariah Symmes, a noted New England minister. Her father William Symmes held the respected position of justice of the peace for the county of Middlesex, Massachusettes, and died just one year before his daughter. Her mother, also named Sarah, died when baby Sarah was only a year old.

Sarah married Harvard graduate and the new minister of the Braintree congregation in Norfolk County, Moses Fiske, when she was 19; and then she delivered 14 babies in 17 years. Moses, the son of clergyman John Fiske and Ann Gipps who had immigrated to the colonies from Suffolk, England, was ten years older than Sarah.

The huge family lived in a house on 6 acres of fenced land in Quincy. It was a hectic and frugal life. Her husband's stipend was paid partially in corn and wood. The congregation's meeting house was stone and furnished with a bell plus benches for seating women on one side and men on the other. There were 71 families in the Church of Braintree. During Fiske's ministry 147 members were added to the church. Sarah would not live to see three of her surviving sons attend college like their father, or her surviving daughters marry.

When she was 25 and in the midst of raising her young family, Sarah made time to write her spiritual autobiography like many others preparing for admission into membership in the church congregation. The minister's wife's document A CONFESSION OF FAITH: OR, A SUMMARY OF DIVINITY. DRAWN UP BY A YOUNG GENTLE-WOMAN, IN THE TWENTY-FIFTH YEAR OF HER AGE impressed the congregation, her family, friends and the wider community; and it was passed among members of her church for years after her death in 1692, before it was published in 1704. Writings by 17th and 18th century women were often not published until some time after their death.

Many spiritual autobiographies penned by New Englanders in the 17th century were dramatically written to convey the emotional turmoil of the congregant's wrenching quest for personal salvation. But Sarah Fiske decided to approach the mandatory confession in an impersonal, reasoned fashion. Because she married a minister at 19 and her grandfather was a minister, she was familiar with Ramist logic, the system of religious reasoning used by the New England Puritans in their theological discourses.

She presented a thoughtful religious examination topic by topic writing about the Bible; God's Creation; Man's Fall from Grace; The Punishments of Sin and Death; Grace and Predestination, and the promise of Jesus Christ. According to Sarah, all of these factors exhibited the overall redemptive plan of a great God.

Her work reflected on the organization of the contemporary church and the symbolism and importance of the sacraments. She concluded her examination with her brief vision of the apocalyptic end of this world reminiscent of the book of Revelations in the Bible.

Her work is important not just because of its analytical approach, but also because she was a woman writer deemed worthy of publication.

I Believe, That the Holy Scriptures, the Books of the Old & the New Testament, Penned by the Pro|phets & Apostles, are the Infallible Word of God, the Subject of true Divinity; That only Rule of Faith & Manners, teaching what man ought to Believe concerning God, and what Duty God requires of man.

I Believe, GOD is a most Pure, Powerful, Eternal, Un|changeable Being, Independent, Incomprehensible, Invsii|ble & Glorious; in whom all Fulness dwells, both of Holi|ness & Righteousness, Grace & Mercy, Wisdome & Truth.

I Believe, That there is but ONE God, and that there are Three Persons in the God-head; The Father, the Son, & the Holy Ghost. The Father is of Himself; The Son of the Father; and the Holy Ghost from the foregoing Persons in the Trinity.

I Believe, The Decrees of God are His Determinate Purpose of Effecting all things, by His Allmighty Power, according to the Counsel of His Will.

I Believe, God doth Execute His Decrees, in the works of Creation and Providence.

I Believe, The work of Creation is that, whereby God made the world & all things therein, of nothing, and very good.

I Believe, The Providence of God is that, whereby He accom|plisheth in His Creatures, what He intended in his Counsel.

I Believe, That as Man at first, was formed of the Dust of the Earth, consisting both of Soul & Body, being made Up|right, Cloathed with the Image of God; the Effects where|of, were a sweet and blessed Harmony of Union and Com|munion with God; so from this estate of happiness, all men fearfully Fell in Adam, thro' wilful Disobedience, in contradicting the Express Commandment of God, by Eat|ing the Forbidden Fruit. The Act of this Transgression, was compleated by our First Parents Eating that forbidden Fruit; in the Guilt of which Act, all the natural Posterity of Adam, are by the just imputation of God involved. The principal (blameable) cause was their abusing their Free|will: The helping cause was the Devil. Altogether un|blameable was the Command of God, against which Adam dashing himself, as a stately Vessel against a mighty Rock, made Ship-wreck of his whole estate. The Consequents whereof, were Guilt, Filth, and Punishment.

Guilt, is that Obligation, whereby the sinner is tyed to undergo due Punishment.

Filth, is that Spiritual Pollution, whereby the sinner is made void of all comeliness and honour, and is become vile.

Punishment, is the Reward of Evil, inflicted upon the sin|ner because of sin; which is, Death, both Spiritual & Corporal.

I Believe, That the sin which follows this Fall, is either Original, or Actual.

Original Sin, is an habitual inclination to walk contrary to the Law of God.

Actual Sin, is a continual Exercise of the Act, in going contrary to the Command of God. This comprehends both Sins of Omission and Commission.

The inchoation of Corporal Death, lies in a miserable pri|vation of the good things of this Life; the consummation whereof, is the separation of Soul and Body.

Spiritual Death, is a miserable privation of the comforta|ble life and happiness [especially] of the inner man. The Inchoation whereof consists in a desperate privation of the sweetness of Gods favour and presence. The Con|summation whereof is a final Dejection from the face of God, into Hell; of the Soul immediately after the First Death, & of the Soul & Body, joyned together at the day of Judgment.

And tho' all are thus fallen, yet,

I Believe, That there are some, (tho' but a few,) their number and names, being only known unto God, who shall be everlastingly saved from sin and sorrow, and freely re|ceived into everlasting life; being such as the Lord in His infinite wisdom hath made choice of, before the world was, to be His Militant Servants on Earth, & to be His Triumphant Saints in Heaven, thro' Riches of, Grace in Christ Jesus.

Restitution, is that whereby a man is lifted up, from a state of Sin and Death, into a state of Grace and Life. The parts whereof are Redemption and Application.

Redemption is that, whereby a man is freed from the Bon|dage of Sin & Satan, thro' the satisfaction of a Redeemer.

I Believe, That this Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, by in ineffable Generation, the Eternal Son of God, whom the Father hath appointed from all Eternity, to purchase the Salvation of all the Elect of God; who willingly gave up himself to be a Sacrifice, for the sins of his People, & in order hereunto, took upon Him our Nature, in every thing made like to us, Sin only excepted, & the manner of His subsist|ing; and therefore He was made a fit, and suitable Re|deemer, both in respect of His Person in that He was God|man, and His Offices which he hath freely taken upon him, accomplishing from time to time, his Prophetical, Priestly, and Kingly Mediatorship. His Prophetical, in Revealing to man the deep things of the Wisdom and good Pleasure of God. His Priestly, in Expiating for Sin, and purchasing Favour with the Father, and making continual Intercession for us. His Kingly, whereby he leads men to the attain|ment of Holiness & Blessedness by an uncontroulable Power: Conquering his & our Enemies, & at last Raising us from the Dead. Thus Christ Redeems his Elect both by his Humi|liation and Exaltation. His Humiliation, in that Abasement of Christ, whereby he became subject to satisfy Divine Justice, for our Offences, and to merit life & happiness. His Exaltation, whereby he obtains a stately Victory, full of Glory and Triumph, over His and our Enemies.

I Believe, That the Effectual & saving Application of Christ and all his purchased Grace, in a Gospel way, is Exhibited in due season, to every one that belongs to the Election of Grace; which consists in Vnion and Communion with Christ.

Vnion with Christ, is the consent and agreement, whereby a Believer is joyned to Christ, as his Spiritual Head. This Union is begun, in the powerful Ministry of the Law, whereby the Soul is convinced of Sin, & the necessity of a Saviour; but it is accomplished in Vocation, which is a fruit of the Covenant, whereby the Lord powerfully accompanying his Word by his Spirit, doth not only graciously Invite, but effectually Draw the Soul to accept the Tender of Grace, and to embrace Fellowship with Christ Jesus. The special Graces here required are, Repentance and Faith.

Faith is that Grace of God, whereby the Soul is brought to confide, and acquiess in the Lord Jesus Christ, both for the Grace it stands in need of here, and for Glory hereafter.

Repentance is a turning of the whole man, from Sin unto God, with a resolution of, and endeavours after New Obedience.

Communion with Christ, is that whereby the People of God do participate with him, in all his Benefits revealed in Scripture▪ having his Righteousness imputed, together with his Active & Passive Obedience, for their Justification; and withal, the Priviledges of Son-ship or, Adoption, the Im|press of Christs likeness, upon their Souls in Sanctification; made Perfect in the Heavenly world, in a state of Glorification.

Justification is an Act of Gods free Grace; whereby he blots out all the Debts and Arrearages, of every believing sinner, for Christ his sake, and withal gives him a Bill of Dis|charge, from all the Accompts, that were between God and his Soul, receiving him as Righteous in his sight, both for the satisfaction of his Justice, & glory of his Mercy.

Adoption is that Grace of God, whereby he receives every believing sinner, in owning Himself to be their Father, and they to be His Children, and consequently, that they have right unto, and in due time shall have the possession of the promised Inheritance, which appertains to such a Relation. The effects whereof are Freedom from Sin, and Boldness to approach before God in Prayer.

Prayer is a going to God in the Name of Christ, by the help of the Spirit, whereby we present our desires before him, for things according to his Will.

I Believe, That Sanctification is a Work of Gods power, whereby sinners are translated from the pollution of sin unto the perfection of the Image of God; which is begun

in a state of imperfection in this life, made perfect & com|pleat in the world to come. The parts whereof, are Mor|tification, and Vivification. Mortification is a putting off the Image of Adam, by applying the Death of Christ. Vivifi|cation is a putting on, the Image of Christ, by applying the power of His Resurrection.

I Believe That Glorification is that perfecting Grace of God, whereby the number of his Elect, having compleated their warfare & work in this world, according to the will of God, are freely discharged of their sin and the events thereof, forever; and made Fellow-heirs with Christ, of all the promised Inheritance.

I Believe, the Church, the Subject of this blessing, is either General or Particular.

I Believe, That there is but one General, Universal, Invisible Church of the Saints, in which is contained, the whole num|ber of Gods Elect, that one Mystical Body, Christs Bride; the particular Members whereof, have the same Father, the same Christ, the same Spirit, the same Faith & Baptism. This Church is not compleated here, at one and the same time; for it is partly Militant, & partly Triumphant.

I Believe, That a Visible Particular Church, is a Society of Faithful ones, with their Seed, who are in Ecclesiastical Confaederation with God, and one with another. Or, a convenient Number of Faithful ones, Saints & their Seed, Order|ly, Solemnly, & Religiously, Covenanting with God, & each other, for the advancement of the Kingdom of God, and their own mutual Edification, by the improvement of all those means that are appointed to that end.

I Believe, This Church being compleat, consists of Officers and Members.

The Officers are Pastors Teachers, Ruling-Elders, & Deacons.

The Office & Work of a Pastor, is that whereby he bends himself, especially to apply the Word to the hearts of his Hearers, according to their several occasions & necessities.

The Labour of the Teacher is that, whereby he bends himself, especially to open the Scriptures, & divine principles, refuting errors

The Work of a Ruling-Elder, consists in waiting at the Doors of the Sanctuary, watching over the Church, and wayes of Church-Members.

The Office of a Deacon is to collect & distribute, the outward Estate of the Church, providing for the Table of the Lord,  Ministers, & the Poor, & that with all Chearfulness & Fidelity.

I Believe, That this Church thus constituted, & thus fur|nished, hath a right of Administring, both Seals & Censures.

The Seals are Baptism, and the Lords Supper. The former of Initiation the other of Education.

I Believe, That Baptism is that washing of the Flesh with wa|ter, in the Name of the Father, Son & Holy Ghost, whereby is signified, Christ in the promise, by whom we are washed from Sin, & made Righteous, deliverd from Death, & restored to Life.

I Believe, That the Lords Supper, is the second Sacrament of the New Testament, instituted by Christ, wherein by the signs of bread & wine, & the actions that concern the same, is shewed forth his death; and God doth signifie, seal, & exhibit the body & blood of Christ, with all the benefits of his Death & Passion, to every worthy receiver, for his Spiritual Nou|rishment, and Growth in Grace.

The Censures are Admonition & Excommunication. Admonition is that whereby a Brother openly offending, or not hearing his Brethren in private, is convinced, that he may be gained. Excommunication is that, whereby a Brother offending, and not hearing the Church, is excluded from the Communion of the Saints, for the cure of his Spirit, and the preserva|tion of the Church.

I Believe, That as the world had a beginning, so it shall have an end: At what time, both those that are Dead, and Alive, shall be gathered together before the Lord Jesus Christ to Judgment, at the sound of the last Trumpet; where every one shall receive a full Reward of their works: The Sheep being set at his right hand, are acquitted of sin, & re|ceived into glory; but the Goats at his left hand, are Sen|tenced irrevocably to suffer Everlasting Torments, with the Devil and his Angels, in the Lake of Unquenchable Fire and Brimstone.