October 23, 2017

Why Should You Read the Puritans?

It’s been over two hundred years since the Puritans passed into eternity (as we looked at here), but they left a rich legacy of sermons and writings that speak to the whole of our being. Their works address the mind, confront the conscience, and engage the heart.

Those who make the effort to mine their works carefully reap rich rewards! 

Their teachings offer fresh perspective of sin, society, and holiness; frank discussions of biblical truth; and transparent exposition of Scripture. But their works are not dusty tomes best left to academia; they are vital and relevant messages for us today!

"I have found no other group of works to be so devotional, yet spiritually challenging and timely . . . They serve as great counselors of the soul, striking at our sinful hearts with the precision of a skilled surgeon wielding a scalpel and the care and compassion of the most humble pastor." - James Johnson

Our world has changed drastically in the last few hundred years (good grief, it’s changed in the last fifty!), but God’s truth stands eternal and unchanging. And while the Puritans were only human, and were certainly not inspired like the human authors of Scripture, they held a high view of the supremacy and sufficiency of God’s Word that is clearly reflected in their teaching.

In fact, it’s difficult to find modern books, even in the Christian nonfiction realm, that have quite so much depth and clarity as the writings of the Puritans. To be sure, there are good books being published every year; but there’s something about the Puritans’ writing that surpasses even the best modern-day authors.

"Reading the Puritans in this 21st century helps bring us back to the plain language of Scripture without superfluous thoughts, ideas or words. Which may sound contradictory, since many Puritans are wordy in their books. But their words are counted and measured in a way that many modern writers are not." - Kim Pina

Puritan writings are packed with clarity and depth, particularly as it relates to fleeing sin and pursuing holiness, which stands in direct contradiction to our post-modern society with its watered-down truth.

Many of our religious “experiences” have become shallow, self-centered events that promise little and deliver even less. The world has tried to make truth relative, denying its unchanging nature, and has diminished (or even thrust aside) the urgency of obeying God’s commands.

"Their writing on sin is always a wakeup call. They call sin what it is and seem to have clearer vision about it than the modern church does. Modern writing tends to casually rename sin to make it seem like it’s respectable, unavoidable, or inevitable. They handle the topic quite seriously." - Sarah Beals

But the quality of their writing and their strong view of sin are not the only reasons to dive into their depths! Joel Beeke, author and president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, expounds on nine things the modern-day Christian can learn from their works:

  • how to shape life by Scripture,
  • how to integrate biblical doctrine into daily life,
  • how to exalt Christ and see His beauty,
  • how to handle trials,
  • how to live by “wholistic” faith,
  • how to live in two worlds,
  • the nature of true spirituality,
  • the Trinitarian character of theology, and
  • the importance and primacy of preaching.

While the Puritans did make errors — for instance, they held poor or undeveloped views of eschatology, political liberty, and equality — Beeke makes note of five areas where their writings are especially helpful for the church today:

  • glimpsing the majestic glory of God,
  • keeping Christ as the focal point of all truth and experience,
  • reflecting deeply on man’s rebellion against a righteous God,
  • understanding the nature of true obedience in worship, and
  • recognizing the necessity of personal sacrifice for the sake of the following God’s principles.

There are almost as many good reasons to read the Puritans as there are Puritan authors!

If you want to consider their significance in more depth, take some time to read this article by Joel Beeke, this one by Brian Hedges, or this article and its sequel by Sinclair Ferguson.

Next time we’ll look at some favorite Puritan authors and works — and some suggested places to start, if they’re new to you!

 

* Special thanks to Kim Pina, Sarah Beals, and James Johnson for contributing to today’s article!

Comments

  1. Enjoying this series! Not one that you read about frequently 🙂 Might be adding one of their books to my summer reading plans!

    • Glad you’re enjoying it! I needed to learn a little more & consider it for my own benefit, and hoped that others might enjoy reading about it too! And of course, I really appreciate you (& others) sharing your thoughts on the subject too. 🙂

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