5 Reasons You Should Listen to the Puritans
In western culture, to be a Puritan means to be out of touch with the world. The word alone is a negative connotation, and rarely is it used as a term of endearment. Today, there are no Puritans. The people of the name are forever confined to a place and time in history.
Puritanism arrived on the scene in England during the 17th century as the result of the Protestant Reformation. The Puritans soon became a political force in England but never found true comradery with the ever-changing monarchy. Some of the monarchs were sympathetic to the Puritan cause, ascribing to Reformed beliefs. Others sought to kill the Puritans - most notably Mary, Queen of Scots (or Bloody Mary). Nevertheless, Puritanism thrived, especially with the creation of the colleges and universities. But soon the universities and colleges were overrun by liberalism. Seeing that their popularity was waning, and the monarchs would never give up their position as head of the church, the Puritans sought to create a new society in a new world where they could practice their religion with freedom.
It can be argued that the biblical teaching the Puritans produced is unmatched in the history of Christianity, both for its volume and fidelity to Scripture. We do well to listen to them today.
1.) Flawed Men
The Puritans did not live up to the name their fellow citizens gave them. They were flawed, and they were unafraid to show it. They certainly sought with all their might to live holy lives (thus the name) but often fell short. So when you listen to the Puritans, one obvious characteristic of their writing is the repentance of sin. They mourn over their sin, and they call their listeners to do the same.
The Puritans placed God above all else in adoration, worship, and love. They exalted God and debased man. God's glory was their chief end, and they pursued it with all their might. In holiness, obedience, and love, they structured their entire lives to worship God above all else. When we read their writings, we are always brought face to face with the living God. They let God be God.
3.) Driven to Worship
Because of their desire to glorify God, their writings about Him are not completely dry, and tiresome dissertations, but are filled with warmth and excitement. To them, theology always leads to doxology. If the study of God was to be of any worth to the Puritan, it had to drive them to worship Him. Their theology was always directed to inform, produce, and kindle the fire of worship in the believer.
4.) Focused on Happiness
Happiness is most likely near to the last of things you think about when you hear the name Puritan. However, they were happy people. It may not have always seemed like it, for they sought eternal happiness in Christ over and above earthly and temporal happiness. But their excitement for heaven's joys certainly spilled over into their experiences of life. So much so, in fact, that those who persecuted them were astonished at how calm, collected, and even joyful these Christians were as they headed to certain death.
The Puritans made themselves easy to read, writing mostly in point form. It is common for the writer to make a statement, and follow it with an explanation. If the explanation is complex, the writer breaks it down into parts. If those parts are complex, they too are broken down into parts. By writing in this way, the Puritans were incredibly thorough on any given subject, all the while easy to read.
A Help for the Present Day
The Puritans lived in a time similar to ours. It seemed their culture was spiraling out of control at a breakneck speed, yet they remained steadfast in their faith. How did they do it? They fastened their feet to the gospel. It would be difficult to guess just how dire their situation was at times if you only read their doctrinal works. They did not let their culture and circumstances dictate their understanding of Scripture. Only when you read the historical accounts of the Puritans do you see their circumstances. The Puritans are a model for those who wish to remain faithful Christians in turbulent times. Although they are removed from us by time, their works still speak to us today.
Suggested works to read:
Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity
John Owen, The Mortification of Sin
Richard Sibbes, A Bruised Reed
Thomas Boston, Human Nature in its Four-Fold State
John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin