Gleaning from the Puritans

A selection of Banner of Truth Puritan publications.


There has been a revival of Puritan literature and studies for at least 40 years.  There are more Puritan books in circulation now than perhaps at any time in history.  More, I suspect, than during the Puritan eras of England and America.  Reprints abound.  Puritan books can be found in formats ranging from easy to read paperback extracts from larger works to hard to read, small print facsimile editions to beautifully bound collections.

Many pastors and theologians have combed through their favorite Puritans and are able to sprinkle Puritan quotes throughout their writings.  Jerry Bridges, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, J. I. Packer, and numerous other writers both reference Puritans and echo their theological insights.  Quite a few scholars and preachers have assembled anthologies of Puritan writings on particular topics.  Whole publishing houses, such as Banner of Truth, Soli Deo Gloria, and Reformation Heritage Books, have reprinted lots of sets and individual volumes of Puritan theology and history.

I have quite a few such books, but no where near all of the Puritan books available.  As is often the case, I would love more Puritan books.  But I am relatively satisfied with my current collection.  Puritans didn’t have all the answers, and for our times, they didn’t know all the questions.  But there is a richness, a level of devotion, an intensity found in Puritan theology that is humbling to us modern Christians.  It is no wonder that many have seen them as giants and seen ourselves as dwarfs, theologically speaking.

I recently read two small Puritan books.  They went into the reading stack for two reasons.  One was for my morning reading, which centers on theology, Bible study, and devotion.  The other reason was because of the upcoming need to teach on the Puritan era of English history.

Puritan Evangelism: A Biblical Approach is by Joel R. Beeke.  Joel Beeke is one of the best students, promoters, and teachers of Puritan theology today.  Some of his weightier, meaning, much bigger, books include the following:


    Meet the Puritans, which Beeke compiled along with R. J. Pederson, is a biographical introduction to a large number of Puritan preachers and writers.  It is both historically helpful and spiritually useful.  It is a great resource.

    A Puritan Theology:  Doctrine for Life, compiled by Beeke and Mark Jones, is the best collection of Puritan theology around.  This is a massive book, but easily broken down into readings by topic.

   Puritan Reformed Spirituality includes more than just the Puritans, but it too is a good collection of Puritan works devoted to the soul.

All of this is to say, that any book by Beeke on the Puritans is worthwhile.  Puritan Evangelism was given as a series of talks.  The book focuses upon the content of Puritan preaching, with additional sections on catechism instruction and prayer.  Since the English communities were largely Christianized, it was the pastoral visits and family instruction in the catechism that they used for evangelism.  As has often been noted, evangelism really begins in the church.

This is a very easy and readble book.  Don’t neglect the footnotes.  They include lots of references to Puritan works and studies done on Puritan preaching and theology.

The second book I recently read was The English Puritans: The Rise and Fall of the Puritan Movement by John Brown.  It is published by Christian Heritage.  The author, John Brown, lived from 1830 to 1922.  He was a respected Congregational pastor, author, and historian in England.

I expected this book to be another light read and another book simply devoted to praising the Puritans.  Instead, this book is a weighty, but small history of the movement.  (I should have read the subtitle more carefully.)  Puritan Christian had to fight for their convictions.  As much as I admire the reign of Queen Elizabeth (and she was an improvement on her sister and father), her opposition to the rising Puritan movement was brutal at many points.  Puritans went to prison and sometimes death over convictions.  One might question some of their particulars regarding the rituals of the Anglican Church or the vestments required for clergy.  I agree with the Puritans on these matters, but not sure if I would see them as “the line in the sand.”  It was, however, the doggedness of the Puritans, their unswerving commitment to Scripture, that kept the pressure on the state church.  They paved the way for the religious freedoms we enjoy today.

I will only give a brief mention of The Theology of the Family right now and give a more extensive review in a later post.  This is a hefty book of some 700 plus pages.  It is edited by Jeff Pollard and Scott T. Brown and is published by The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches.  This book is a gold mine of Puritan selections along with lots of preachers and writers in the following centuries.  The sub-title is Five Centuries of Biblical Wisdom for Family Life.  As it states on the web-site, this book features some fifty-six authors, including John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, William Gouge, Matthew Henry, Martin Luther, A.W. Pink, J. C. Ryle, R. C. Sproul, Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Watson. This massive hardback book is on sale for $21.95 on the link given above.  Once you scan the table of contents, you will quickly see that this is a great bargain and blessing.

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