The Puritan Exegesis Project: William Fenner on 1 Cor. 11:28 and Matt. 28:46

Luther once said, “There is much divinity in pronouns.” William Fenner might say, “There is distinction in adverbs, there is blessing in adjectives.” This is not exactly the stuff that thunders from the pulpit to the awe of millions. But as they used to say, God still resides in the details.

In The Dutie of Communicants, Fenner asks his congregation to examine the state of their hearts before taking the Lord’s Supper. Fenner has made much of the need for meditation and self-reflection on scripture already. Here at the table it is more serious: examine so. The adverb (houtos) (1 Cor. 11:28) commends the one who has searched his heart to receive the supper. The manner of receiving is as important as the matter received as each are commanded. “We are all racers,” says Fenner, “we run, we must so run that we may obtain, 2 Cor. 9. 29. So pray that we may speed, so hear that we may be converted, so reprove that we may be edified; so behave ourselves in our places and callings, that we may glorifie God.” The Christian’s calling is certain, decided, and assured.

Why is the right manner so important? Only the right manner of doing duties gets the blessing. The blessed of Matt. 24:46 does not say, Whom when his master cometh, he shall find doing, but he shall find so doing. The Textus Receptus (1550 & 1624 eds.) reverse the word order of vs. 46, poiounta houtos whereas the NA27 places houtos first following the traditions of A B C D L … and several minuscules. What is the difference since the adjectival particle poiounta is translated the same either way? With little textual fuss the weight of the problem rests on the attitude and the application:

“Christ when he cometh to judgement, shall find many doing; it may be he will come in prayer time, it may be he will come in the moring, when many thousands shall be at their prayers in their families; it may be he’l come at night when all are at prayers in their houses; it may be he will come on the Sabath, when all the country is at Church, hearing of sermons, he shall finde many thousands doing and praying. But blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he comes, shall find so-praying, so-hearing, so-receiving the sacrament: He shall find many believing, but so believing gets the blessing.”

2 Responses

  1. Please elaborate a little on Fenner’s intention here. Is Fenner actually making a text-critical statement and saying the TR is wrong at this point because it reads doing-thus-so instead of thus-so-doing? Or is Fenner pointing out that it isn’t just the “doing” but that a “thus so” is attached to it. How is Thus-so-doing really different from doing-thus-so? Unless in the NA27 it means when he comes he finds them “thus so” and they are doing (which is contrary to his point) – whereas in the TR he finds them doing and they are doing thus-so. From Fenner’s comment all I can gather is that doing itself is not enough it must be a “so-doing.” From your quote, I’m not reading Fenner himself criticizing the Greek word order between different texts. Maybe that’s part of Fenner’s original work not included in this article. “So-doing is a good observation from the text showing the importance of each word found within it. – And a great example of Puritan Exegesis.

  2. Joel Heflin

    Thanks Scott for the chance to clarify. Fenner is not making a text-critical remark on the TR, but is handling the adv./adj. houtos careful and correct. The ‘so’ doing refers to the pattern of exercising faith in the old term ‘duty’ (commands: e.g. pray, taking the sacraments, meditation for forgiveness of sin, etc.) as that given according to scripture. Arguably the NT places faith and love to God prior to any act of obedience for justification which Fenner drives at everywhere. Matt. 24:46 can be rendered a few different ways with basically the same conclusion: it will be well for the servant who does the task assigned to him.

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