[K:NWTS 22/1 (May 2007) 26-27]

Thomas Cartwright on Israel's Inheritance of the Land1

So that salvation is a portion among God's saints, which portion is in light (Col. 1:12), where we see that the state of God's children is compared to a part or portion, and that by lot, viz., an inheritance, as it was by lot. It is so said because in the old law the people of God used to divide their inheritances by lot, as in dividing of the land of Canaan, [in] which Joshua and the priests and the chief elders did cast lots for the inheritance of the tribes.

Seeing that it is an inheritance, it shows that it is by grace, and not by any merit. For even as the father gives the child his land and inheritance, not for any desert, but for his love to him, though he never deserved, nor never will deserve so much at his hands; . . . therefore the child does not have the inheritance by desert. And seeing it is no stipend, but an inheritance which we have of God, we do not deserve it.


1 Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603) was a leader of the Elizabethan Puritan movement, especially the so-called Classical Presbyterian movement in Elizabethan England. He was educated at Cambridge University and became Lady Margaret professor there in 1569. In the spring of 1570, he delivered his sensational lectures on the book of Acts in which he challenged the episcopal polity of the Church of England. He was forced to resign his chair and traveled to Geneva where he fellowshipped with Calvin's successor, Theodore Beza. Back in England in 1572, he gave his support to the Admonition authors, John Field and Thomas Wilcox. Both the first and the Second Admonition to Parliament (1572), defended Presbyterian church government. Forced to leave England again in 1573, Cartwright remained abroad until 1585. On his return, he again promoted the fledgling Puritan Presbyterian movement, but was arrested in 1590 and imprisoned until 1592. He may have had a hand in the famous Millenary Petition of 1603, which was presented to King James I on his journey from Scotland to ascend the throne of England after the death of Elizabeth I. That document (alleged to have been advanced by a thousand Puritan ministers) humbly requested a further "godly reformation" of the Church of England, i.e., the maturing of Puritan hopes from the 16th century. Cartwright died before the Hampton Court Conference of 1604 in which James allegedly made his infamous remark that he would "make (the Puritans) conform themselves, or harrie them out of the land or do worse." James got his wish when many abandoned England for Holland and New England in the course of his reign. The excerpt above is from Cartwright's "Seventh Sermon" (on Col. 1:12-14), A Commentary upon the Epistle of Saint Paul written to the Colossians (1612) 47-48. The spelling and punctuation have been modernized.