The Puritan Exegesis Project: William Fenner on Prov. 29:1 (Part 1)

We have been looking at the exegesis of Puritan William Fenner (1600 – 1640). His method is remarkably straight forward. Fenner takes key passages and develops his message according to the immediate context with occasional support from similar texts. Scripture interprets scripture. We have been comparing his use of the Textus Receptus with the NA27, arguably the standard academic text today (also the LXX & SBH). As our study progresses one thing is clear: Fenner knows his stuff. He is doing more than simply giving doctrinal expositions based on a proof text. He is not making assertions from simple concordance studies. This is not enough to overthrow conventional wisdom that deems pre-modern exegesis quaint and unscientific. But we’re getting there.

The Dutie of Reprovers, and Persons Reproved is a sermon based on Prov. 29:1. This verse can be read two ways, He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. The other reading is He that reproveth another, and hardeneth… Most everyone including Fenner takes the first reading to be correct. But Fenner presents each reading to his audience as an opportunity to derail hypocrites and Pharisees and defend the Lord who doth not destroy man willingly.

If a minister says Fenner, or any Christian, cannot exhort others in grace, wisdom, compassion, it risks judgment (Rom. 2:1). Admonishing someone else for sin and faults incurs the same guilt and both will face judgment. On the other hand the “wicked” hate reproof and the reprover, Isa. 29:21. Fenner’s diatribe cuts through the hard-hearted tension too common in interpersonal-relationships:

“A man cannot reprove his brother for his sinne, but it is a thousand to one if he cannot: all mens eyes are upon him, and they look strictly and straightly, as if anything in the world would be amisse, they will be sure to mark it, and to make more of it, to make mountains of Mole-hills. When the blind man did but find fault with the Pharisees, and reprove them a little for persecuting of Christ, what say they? Art thou altogether conceived and born in sin, and wilt thou teach us? John 9:34. […] If we mean to reprove another, let us labour to be unblameable, to be Godly and holy, to reform our own wayes … lest God be dishonoured.” (Fenner, 1657, 126)

Leave a Reply