When, early in the seventeenth century, the puritan pastor Anthony Wotton started to circulate manuscript statements of his theological revision, he was courting danger. Wotton was at once bold and subtle, a provocation to clerical brethren yet a skilled exponent of their technical disciplines. He addressed matters of fundamental importance: Christs redemptive suffering and the imputation of justifying righteousness, Gods saving grace and the moral law, faith and works, the gracious covenant and the legal covenant. Crucially important, for Wotton, was the interpretation of St. Pauls epistles in relation to the justification of sinners. This book examines Wottons revisionary writings and the bitter doctrinal controversy that they stimulated, and traces the Wottonian complexion of the theology of John Goodwin, who became, over the course of a period of thirty years, a prolific exponent of unorthodox notions -- perhaps the most provocative of Englands learned heretics and blasphemers in the age of the Long Parliament and the Interregnum.
Contemporary responses to Wotton and Goodwin reveal how fixed were the core positions of orthodoxy and how worrisome were the challenges posed to them. Wotton and Goodwin trespassed -- often in the name of John Calvin -- upon some of the borderlands at which unusual uses of technical language became intolerable to the custodians of Calvinist truth. At these points, the contingency of theological language was uncomfortably exposed, and interlocutors discovered how rubbery were the signifiers of doctrine and how unstable the communication of truth could be.