Meet The Puritans

Article by   March 2008

Packer...Piper...Ferguson...Sproul...Ryken...Duncan...Thomas...the list goes on and on. Meet the Puritans almost seems to blush with all of its accolades and endorsements. This impressive work finds its genesis with a series of articles written in the 1980's for the Banner of Truth (U.S.) entitled, "Meet the Puritans...in Print!" and bears the quality of a lifetime of study.

Knowledgeable and seasoned guides often improve travels. Similarly, your journey with the Puritans will be greatly enhanced if you wade through their voluminous writings with Beeke and Pederson as your guides along the way.

Why Meet the Puritans

The authors offer six characteristics that are pervasive throughout the literature of the Puritans, each of which makes studying them a worthy endeavor. (1) They shape life by Scripture. (2) They marry doctrine and practice. (3) They focus on Christ. (4) They show how to handle trials. (5) They show how to live in two worlds. (6) They show us true spirituality.

It can be difficult to know where to begin when dealing with a body of literature as extensive as that of the Puritans. To the novice they suggest: "begin with Thomas Watson's Heaven Taken by Storm, John Bunyan's The Fear of God, John Flavel's Keeping the Heart, Thomas Brooks's Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, and Richard Sibbes's Glorious Freedom, then move on to the works of John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, and Jonathan Edwards" (xxiv). But the novice is not merely within its purview, the well-versed will reap abundantly from its pages, as well.

Format

Each Puritan, some 125 of them, is introduced with a brief biographical sketch followed by annotated bibliography of their writings that are available today. The Preface offers some reasons why this volume has been written and discusses some very basic matters, such as defining a Puritan.

The appendices alone (over 200 pages) would be worth the price of the book. They offer, among other things, information on collections of Puritan writings and the Scottish Divines.

Devotional

Yes, you read that correctly, I said, "devotional." I knew that this volume would be an excellent resource, but I had no idea that it would be so heartening and, at times, convicting to read. It would take a cold heart indeed not to be stirred with affection for Christ and conviction over sin as one reads what was written about John Flavel by a child of his, "He was always full and copious in prayer, seemed constantly to exceed himself, and rarely made use twice of the same expressions" (248). There are numerous other examples contained in this work that express the way these men married their doctrine with their practice.

Relevant

The authors successfully draw out the relevance the Puritans have on our world today. "In a day when the desire for personal happiness and self-esteem have replaced the biblical mandate for holiness of life, a reading of Alleine's life and letters can be a real tonic to the soul" (26). Or take Nathaniel Vincent's A Discourse Concerning Love, "His chapter on 'the vanity of excuses for the want of love' is convicting. How desperately the body of Christ still needs to read this chapter today, be convicted of its sin, and fly to the only remedy, Christ Jesus" (598). These are just two of the many pastoral gems that are offered along the way.

Informational

Meet the Puritans is chock-full of interesting data about the Puritans and their works. Want to know which theologian studied eighteen to twenty hours a day throughout his teen years? Are you curious which Puritan entered Harvard at the age of 11? Want to know which Puritan's writing prompted Martin Lloyd Jones to say: "[It] was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil.... [it] quieted, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed me"? Meet the Puritans copiously offers fascinating facts all throughout its pages.

Practical Advice

Meet the Puritans is also sensible in its recommendations to the more financially challenged. For instance,

We recommend Thomas Brooks highly. He communicates profound truths in a simple manner and is appropriate reading for young people and adults. His writings exude spiritual life and power and are particularly comforting for true believers. If limited to the purchase of a few sets of Puritans works, be sure to buy and read Brooks (98).

As a seminary student, it is a great help to possess such information as one attempts to build his library on a limited budget.

Beeke and Peterson also offer advice about delving into the works of certain authors. For instance, they suggest a five-step plan of attack for The Works of Thomas Goodwin, of whom Packer is quoted saying, "John Owen saw into the mind of Paul as clearly as Goodwin--sometimes, on points of detail, more clearly--but not even Owen ever saw so deep into Paul's heart" (279).

Conclusion

Although Meet the Puritans is not exactly a sit down read, it definitely should be read cover to cover. It is hard to imagine a more helpful volume than this on the Puritans and their works.

The Puritans preached the heights of glory as they plumbed the depths of Scripture. Yet, it could be said of William Perkins, "As his preaching was a comment on his text, so his practice was a comment on his preaching" (Fuller, Abel Redevivus, 2:148, 151, quoted in Meet the Puritans, 473). In an age when our lives are often as mediocre as our sermons, we would do well to learn from these men who wielded the sword of the Spirit in such a way that God was glorified and men were forever changed.

Meet the Puritans points its reader to a vast array of resources that will aid the Christian during every season of life. I heartily commend this volume to all who are seeking tools to help them grow in their respective walks with Jesus Christ.

Joel Beeke & Randall J. Pederson / Reformation Heritage, 2006
Review by Nick Reid, Master of Divinity Student, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS


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