Spiritually there is a great hunger today for contemplative and more satisfying experiences with God. Puritanism might seem to be an unlikely source for this, yet few groups in the history of Christian spirituality have written more extensively or wisely on the subject. Isaac Ambrose (1604-64), a relatively forgotten English Puritan, developed a theological foundation for the spiritual life based upon the Christian's intimate union with Christ, which the Puritans often called "spiritual marriage." Schwanda demonstrates that this vibrant relationship of union and communion with Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was manifested in a deep contemplative piety of gazing lovingly and gratefully upon God. At the same time, Ambrose did not neglect loving his neighbors. This study reveals how heavenly meditation was one of the significant practices engaged by Ambrose to cultivate spiritual intimacy and enjoyment of God. Further, his experiential reading of Scripture, in particular the Song of Songs, provided him with a language of ravishment and delight in God. This book provides a distinctively Protestant foundation for recovering the contemplative life while recognizing the significant contributions of the Western Catholic tradition.
"As Tom Schwanda shows in this fascinating study of Isaac Ambrose's spiritual delight in the ravishing beauty of Christ, such a piety is typically Puritan and also of enormous value for our day. Forgetfulness, nay rejection, of the way the Puritans read texts like the Song of Solomon has hindered contemporary appreciation of their piety and its exegetical basis. May a renewed appreciation of their exegesis lead to an ever-deepening recognition of the importance of Puritan piety!"
—Michael A. G. Haykin
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"While mystical ideas must always be sifted with biblical discernment, it is undeniable that the Reformed and Puritan tradition contains a richly experiential emphasis on delighting in God through Christ. Tom Schwanda has done us a great service in probing that tradition in this study of Isaac Ambrose in his historical context. He offers a nuanced explanation of Ambrose's view of being ravished with Christ, the Bridegroom of the church. He . . . encourages evangelicals to return to our Reformed roots in order to grow in authentic spirituality."
—Joel R. Beeke
President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids