Munus triplex in the English separatist tradition, 1580 to 1620, with particular attention to Henry Barrow and Henry Ainsworth
Gessner, Timothy Craig
This study explores the use of the doctrine of the offices of Christ (prophet, priest, and king) in the literature of the English separatists Henry Barrow (c.1550-1593) and Henry Ainsworth (1569-1622). No study to date explores the English separatists’ use of the doctrine in ecclesiological debates. During the period 1580 to 1620 the doctrine was more commonly referenced when discussing soteriology. Barrow and Ainsworth provide some of the clearest expressions of the doctrine of the offices of Christ in separatist works and their steadfastness in those beliefs in light of opposition make them good candidates for this research. This study sets out to answer the question: what was the significance of participation by the elect in the offices of Christ as used in Barrow and Ainsworth’s writings? This research focuses on the theology of Barrow and Ainsworth and does not consider the social or experiential aspects of their professed beliefs. This study provides a detailed analysis of the writings of Barrow and Ainsworth particularly noting their use of the offices of Christ in discussions of the visible church. It then examines the relationship of Barrow and Ainsworth’s Christology and ecclesiology, expressed through the offices of Christ, in their understanding of the visible church. Finally, this research compares their usage with works published in England from 1580 to 1620, considering whether their usage was distinct. Its findings challenge the traditional historiographical suggestions that purity, polity, discipline, and covenant were the central themes of Barrow and Ainsworth’s ecclesiology. This research suggests that, for Barrow and Ainsworth, the visible church was the visible expression of Christ on earth and the continuation of his earthly ministry begun at the incarnation. They believed that the visible church was the result of union with Christ, not the means of it. Through union with Christ, all the elect participated in Christ’s offices. Barrow and Ainsworth’s understanding of the visible church incorporated their understanding of Christ’s continuing work expressed in his offices of prophecy, priesthood, and kingship. Christ was immediately present in his visible church, working in the elect and through the elect as prophets, priests, and kings. The visible elect, when gathered, became the body of Christ on earth and as his body they continued the work of prophecy, priesthood, and kingship that he had begun.