What the heck is A Compleat Body of Divinity?


You’ll note a menu listing and a button on the left for ‘A Compleat Body of Divinity by Samuel Willard’.  What is that?  It’s a book of theology written almost four hundred years ago.  I stumbled across it and it has had a major impact on my life and my faith.  Don’t have the time or money to go to seminary?  Read the book.  You’ll get an amazing education.  Samuel Willard’s view of God will take your breathe away.

I love this book.  Really love it.  Love it like you’d love a friend.  Most of it thrills me and some of it annoys me.  That’s how you love a friend.  A close, dear friend.

Samuel Willard was, by all accounts, a remarkable man who loved God deeply.  He was intelligent, articulate and could move a crowd when he talked about faith in God.  He was the pastor of the Old South Church in Boston from 1678 until his death in 1707.  While there he taught the catechism class to the young people in his congregation.  That’s something like having Bill Gates teach your 7th grader’s Introduction to Microsoft Word class.  Because of his reputation, he began teaching monthly lectures on Tuesdays starting on January 31, 1687 to adults who were interested in his teachings on the catechism.  According to the book, these lectures were attended by ‘knowing and judicious persons from town and college’.  He was ill for a length of time in 1707 and recovered but then suddenly died.  His last public lecture on the catechism took place on April 1, 1707 and he died on September 12, 1707.  He was greatly mourned as an important and influential member of the area.

His lectures were so well received and his teachings so well respected that there was a push to publish his lectures in book form.  It took until 1726 before that happened.  It was the largest work published to date in Boston at that time.  The original was a two volume set with just over 1,000 pages.   I’m up to page 636.  And keep in mind, he hadn’t finished.  Nope, hadn’t finished.

Samuel and I don’t see eye to eye on everything.  He was a Calvinist and a Covenant Theology guy.  I’m more of an Arminianist (so I’m told) and a Dispensationalist.  But he was a bad Calvinist.  He insists on predestination and election and then goes on and on about free will.  When he writes about free will, my heart sings.  We part ways on covenant theology.  But, as I pointed out to a friend, Samuel is dead now so he knows he was wrong.  I can still hardly wait to meet him when I reach heaven.  We’re going to sit in a corner for a couple of millennia and have the best time EVER.  Add into it, we’re related.  He’s either a many times removed great-grandfather or a many times removed great-uncle.

Remember how God said that he would punish those who hate him to the third and fourth generation but show loving kindness to thousands of generations of those who love him?  Well, here I am, four hundred years later, blessed by God through the work of a man who loved him all that time ago.  Twenty years for a generation to produce children divided into four hundred years…..twenty generations.  I want Samuel Willard to be a blessing to his descendants for another nine hundred and eighty generations.  This is why I’ve put his work into modern English.  He’s blessed me.  Let him bless you too.