“The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance: but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time: but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence” – Westminster Larger Catechism
I first encountered the Puritans  while a member of the small Anabaptist group I was brought up in . Deep theological inquiry was never really encouraged in the community, at least not in the sense of encouraging the use of materials outside of a small selection of internally-produced materials. And yet, I had a voracious appetite for books, and eventually I encountered the Puritans.
I’m unsure as to the details of exactly when I first encountered the Puritans. I do know that relatively early on in my Christian life I encountered Matthew Henry and John Bunyan and by 2003 began to become familiar with most of the major Puritan authors . Henry and Bunyan are two of the more well known Puritans, and while they may not know much about them, your average Evangelical Christian has at least heard of their name and could identify what they are famous for. Interestingly enough, the first encounter with John Bunyan’s name that I can recall was someone stating that he felt Pilgrim’s Progress was good as literature but not as theology or doctrine.
Faithful, Godly People Of Days Gone
The Puritans are a complex bunch, hard to classify, and, even though sometimes people may make it seem otherwise, they were not all the same! There is a lot more diversity among them than some would assume. That said, there are some general overarching patterns one can find.
For various reasons, the way Puritans generally recognized experiential, God-centered piety and attempted to apply God’s Word thoroughly captivated me. They were certainly known for melding hearty piety with rigorous intellectual prowess! I’ve come to see that if we learn about them, read their writings, and learn from them and thoughtfully apply what we’ve learned, we will be greatly blessed. It is not at all about being “stuck in the past”, but rather it’s a discerning company-keeping with faithful, godly people of days gone by for the benefit of the present! Some things never change and you’d be surprised at how relevant Puritan writings are to our day and age! And their writings are also of great interest to those of us (such as myself) who are neither pastors nor theological scholars, they are powerfully practical!
This interest that stirred up in me at my first church has continued at my second and current church, a Reformed Baptist congregation . My church has its theological roots in the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 , a confession associated with the Baptistic and Congregational segment of Puritanism. Recently, I’ve been really enjoying reading William Bridge, Samuel Rutherford, John Flavel, John Owen, Richard Baxter, Richard Alleine, Richard Sibbes, Jeremiah Burroughs, Benjamin Keach, and others as I have opportunity.
A Rich, Deep Well
Believe it not, the last several decades have been an incredibly productive time in regards to the reprinting of old Puritan works. Back in 1950, a lot of Puritan works were a much less accessible! There is a rich, deep well available to us in the writings of the Puritans.
Some Puritan works are best suited to particular times in our lives. Part of the trick can sometimes be to know when to take on what particular work. I’ve seen this worked out very practically in my life. For example, I found that I discovered “A Lifting Up For The Downcast” by William Bridge at just the moment when I was feeling particularly downcast, and it spoke volumes to me. Another example would be the way some of Samuel Rutherford’s letters were perfectly suited to a time when God’s love for me didn’t feel very evident. Read at a different time in my life, these books may have been profitable, but probably wouldn’t have had as much impact as they did at the right time.
Having read a diverse group of Puritans, I can state that I have never regretted reading any of them– even in cases where I gave up!  Some have been more enjoyable and relevant than others, but all have been beneficial. Besides diving right into some of the easier to read Puritans, I’d also recommend the purchase of the excellent Meet The Puritans: With A Guide To Modern Reprints. It’s an excellent work that gives you short, simple bios of a plethora of Puritans and its a great way to learn about lesser known Puritans and track down their writings.
If you listen to audio more avidly than you can read, you may like to check out the MP3 narrations done by Mark Dever or Thomas Sullivan . I’ve also been working on some narrations too, you can see them posted to this blog..
- I will use this term fairly loosely. Though I am not defining it explicitly, the definition I implicitly use is largely formed by Joel Beeke and Randall Peterson’s Meet The Puritans: With A Guide To Modern Reprints and Ian Hugh Clary’s Hot Protestants: A Taxonomy of English Puritanism.
- The Apostolic Christian Church (Nazarean), known as the Evangelical Baptists in Western Europe and the Nazareans in Eastern Europe. Interestingly enough, their founder, before he had a body of his own writings, would suggest his followers read The Saints Everlasting Rest by Richard Baxter.
- I had writings by Owen and Bunyan on my website in the summer of 2003 and wrote a book review of Pilgrims Progress in October 2003. By 2005 I had ordered Bunyan’s Holy War and Samuel Rutherford’s letters. It wasn’t until September 2008, however, when I bought Meet The Puritans new for $12, that I started to get interested in some of the lesser known Puritans.
- London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689
- I bought this used in February 2009 for $9.74
- I bought this new in November 2005 for $5.25
- An example would be Owen’s The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ which I started but gave up on a number of years ago. Some day I would like to return to it.
- Mark Dever is recording Richard Sibbes sermons; and Thomas Sullivan has been reading all kinds of Puritan sermons and writings for many years and some are available at his website.
(9 paper books, 0 e-books, and 3 audio book)
- Angela’s Airplane by Robert Munsch
- The Dark by Robert Munsch
- Hints for Parents: With Gospel Encouragements by Tedd Tripp by Gardiner Spring
- Time To Say Good Night by Sally Lloyd-Jones
- Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
- The Godly Home by Richard Baxter
- The Take of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter
- Mmm, Cookies! by Robert Munsch
- Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer: How To Calm, Connect, and Communicate With Your Baby by Tracy Hogg
- Daniel Defoe by William Minto
- The Reformation: A History by Patrick Collinson
- iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak
- Andrew Rozalowsky has interviewed my friend Ian Clary.
- Tim Challies has a nice post in recognition of the 224th anniversary of Charles Wesley’s death.
- Christopher Hitchens seems poised to posthumously make the short list for the Orwell Prize for political writing next month.
Local (Windsor / Essex County) Interest
- A man from Amherstburg has reported seeing a cougar. There is no record of a wild, free-roaming cougars in Southern Ontario since the 1800′s. It’s almost certainly either an escaped pet cougar or not a cougar.
“[Daniel] Defoe did as much as any one man, partly by secret intrigue, partly through the public press, perhaps as much as any ten men outside those in the immediate direction of affairs, to accomplish the two great objects which William bequeathed to English statesmanship–the union of England and Scotland, and the succession to the United Kingdom of a Protestant dynasty. Apart from the field of high politics, his powerful advocacy was enlisted in favour of almost every practicable scheme of social improvement that came to the front in his time…few Englishmen have lived more deserving than he of their country’s gratitude.” – William Minto in Daniel Defoe (1879)
- Librivox has released an audio book of The Well Beloved by Thomas Hardy
- A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones (coming out in mid 2012) looks really, really good.
- Carl Trueman has an interesting post melding theology and literature, George Eliot and the First Celebrity Megapastor.
- The Reformed Forum has had two excellent podcast episodes recently, An Interview With Derek Thomas an Engaging Philosophy As A Christian
- The Art of Manliness has an excellent photo essay on a straight razor shave
- This academic paper (downloadable as PDF), War and Presidential Greatness by David Henderson and Zachary Gochenour is a fascinating exploration of the connection been the perceived greatness of a U.S. president and the loss of American lives in war during his term in office.
- So, apparently U.S. aid to Egypt is restored. “Mrs. Clinton used her authority under the new law to waive a requirement that she certify Egypt’s protection of human rights.”
I’ve just recorded and uploaded the mp3 for Chapter 7 (Of God’s Covenant) of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.