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