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Why we should read the Puritans (and resources on how to build a Puritan Library and actually read them!)

Does it ever make you feel awe-inspired to know that you and I are in a line that extends all the way back? That people like Ruth and David and Paul and Justin Martyr and Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon and John MacArthur are in the same line we are in? Because of Christ’s blood, we are part of a Godly lineage that from one generation to another that is passing the baton of faith forward.

It’s a shame more people don’t study and read about church history. It’s fascinating.

One thing I do know, our elder says that it’s good to read ‘old books’, you know, the dead old guys. We in the present time can’t see our blind spots, but when we read the older tomes, we can. Here is John MacArthur’s take on it:

If I want to test my interpretation of Scripture, invariably I go backwards to those in the past who have the noble, proven, interpreters of Scripture whose books are still in print because they have stood the test of time and the scrutiny of scholarship. And I go back to make sure that I’m not inventing something. I just want to take the baton from somebody. I want to interpret the Word of God the way it’s always been interpreted and I want to be faithful to those in the past who were led by the Spirit of God to understand the Word of God. ~Source

Our elders quote the Puritans a lot. Currently Jonathan Edwards and John Owen are getting heavy rotation, lol, to use old disc jockey lingo. There are a lot of Puritans worth reading. They are so edifying. John Bunyan for example, wrote so much more than Pilgrim’s Progress, though that book is the most famous Christian book after the Bible and has never been out of print for 340 years!!

From a purely literary viewpoint, The Pilgrim’s Progress is without a doubt the greatest allegory ever written. Critics have called it “a hybrid of religious allegory, the early novel, the moral dialogue, the romance, the folk story, the picaresque novel, the epic, the dream-vision, and the fairy tale” (Lynn Veach Sadler, John Bunyan, Twayne Publishers, 1979). The world over, The Pilgrim’s Progress is the second best-selling book in history (the first is the Bible) and has been translated into over 200 languages. ~Source

John Flavel, Thomas Manton, Thomas Brooks, Richard Sibbes…and so many more are worthy of a good visit.
Admittedly, some of the Puritans are an easier read than others. Tim Challies has a list that progresses from recommendations for beginners to all the way up. Beginners should definitely read Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed, hope for the suffering. Flavel’s Providence is a little harder and John Owen, well, he takes some commitment. But they are worth it.
As a bonus, many of these Puritan books are free on ccel.org, free on Kindle, or discounted in hard copy at places like Monergism, Ligonier, Banner of Truth, or Westminster Books.

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Where does one begin, though? Tony Reinke has a wonderful series of a type of “Puritan Reading Plan”.  Here is the link and his introduction to the study-

The Puritan Study (Part 1) The Delights and Pains of a Puritan Study

Here begins a several part study on building (and using) a Puritan library of your own. Of all the areas of my library, the Puritan section is the most useful.

The “Puritans” are a group of people I (very) loosely define as faithful Christians of the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as those who carried on the Puritan tradition into the 18th and 19th centuries. My definition includes John Bunyan and John Owen (true Puritans), Jonathan Edwards (post-Puritan), and Charles Spurgeon (who carried the Puritan tradition). Other names you may not be familiar with include Brooks, Boston, Burgess, Sibbes, Flavel, Reynolds, Ames, Manton, Rutherford, Newton and Clarkson. You will become more familiar with the names as we continue on.

This series is based upon two fundamental convictions.

First, the church today benefits most from leaders and preachers who are burdened to present expositional messages – sermons drawn from principles clearly demonstrated in scripture. The preacher is to “preach the Word” by taking every precaution in the name of accuracy and then exhorting and encouraging by earnest application.

Secondly, an efficient and workable library of the best Puritan literature is a great way to faithfully preach and apply scripture to the hearts of your hearers. The Puritans are no substitute for careful exegesis and use of contemporary commentaries. But once the foundational research is complete, the Puritans will open up new threads of understanding and application on your text. Pastors and congregations today truly need the Puritans.

I would not be writing this series if I were not personally acquainted with the great fruitfulness of Puritan study. The Puritans have matured my understanding of God, the Christian life, the idols of my heart, marriage and parenting. I have a deeper appreciation for the Cross, grace and the resurrection because of their words.

Well, there ya go.

Click here to access all posts in Reinke’s The Puritan Study series.

Part 1: The delights and pains of Puritan study
Part 2: The rules of a Puritan library
Part 3: The people of a Puritan library
Part 4: Why our effective use of the Puritans begins with our Bibles
Part 5: Print book searches
Part 6: Electronic searches
Part 7: Using the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Part 8: To quote or not to quote?
Part 9: The strategy of building a Puritan library
Part 10: Concluding thoughts, part 1
Part 11: Concluding thoughts, part 2
Part 12: Q&A > Which Puritan should I start with?
Part 13: Photographs of the Puritan Library

And under that, there’s another set of links reviewing various Puritan books.

Here are even more resources for you.

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Tim Challies:

Recommended Puritans

The Puritans: John Bunyan, Thomas Boston, Stephen Charnock, Richard Baxter (and so on!)

A few practical lessons from the Puritans

Search at his site challies.com by plugging in ‘Puritans’, there are even more search results that come up than I have posted here

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Mt. Zion Library

Phil Johnson says of the Mt. Zion Bible Chapel online library

A wonderful collection of literature and sermons from Mt. Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, FL. This church’s literature ministry has quietly, faithfully been sowing seed for years. Only heaven will reveal how bountiful the harvest has been. The Web site has an amazingly full collection of choice documents—including the complete works of John Bunyan. Mt. Zion supplied many Spurgeon sermons for The Spurgeon Archive

They have free study guides and courses. For example, there’s a study guide to go along with reading Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. So wonderful! A plethora of resources.

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Enjoy!

ship rose

HMS Rose (I THINK!) in the Chesapeake in the early 1990s.
Hey, it looks like a ship the Puritans could have come over on. I was struggling
to find a photo to go with the essay! Don’t judge me…

Jesus Vomits: State of the Church 2015, part 2

State of the Church 2015, part 1
State of the Church 2015, part 3

Four years ago I assessed the State of the American Church in a multi-part series, writing from my own perspective in my own opinion based on Bible prophesies and warnings. (The links are on the right sidebar, scroll down.) How is the American church doing now, four years later?

Four years is not a long time in an adult’s life. But in the church’s life, these past four years have been like dog years. According to this canine aging scale, a large dog’s age compared to a 4 year old human would be 34 years now since I wrote the last State of the Church essay.

It has been a whirlwind of satanic activity and visible decline since the last time I’ve had an opportunity to prayerfully discern the State of the Church.

At the end of part 1 I’d said that persecution seems like it is about to begin in America. We have already endured soft persecution such as legal judgments, employment firings, vandalism, and public marginalization. Is hard persecution about to begin? Will we be able to retain our Religious Liberty?

This essay outlines why I believe it is. In addition. I further believe the persecution is going to be worse than we imagine. Again, I’ll offer a reason why I believe this.

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

The Great Wave of Kanagawa, Japanese woodblock, 1832

Jesus was dictating a letter to John regarding the Laodicean church. Jesus knew their works, but hated their indifference in doing the works. He hated their apathy, their laziness, their self-conceit, their self-delusion. He said He will VOMIT. It is the strongest physical act. Pulpit Commentary aptly stated,

Vomiting is used as a figure in which to express the abhorrence of Christ for those who lacked zeal in his service!

The Lord’s abhorrence of the Laodicean church’s works was described in the most graphic physical terms. This is not the first time such a reaction is promised from our Lord. Look at two verses from Leviticus 18,

and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. (Leviticus 18:25)

But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, … lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. (Lev 18:26, 28)

His promise is a condition, IF you do X, THEN Y will happen. It was one that was spoken to the Old Testament saints but its principles are applicable today, given that Jesus reiterated it in Revelation 3:16.

In addition, we read in Luke 12:48,

But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

In that passage, Jesus is preaching about the Bridegroom returning, and the virgins with the lamps. The section from which this verse is taken is titled “You must be ready.”

Gill’s Exposition says of the verse,

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall, much be required: the more knowledge a man has, the more practice is expected from him; and the greater his gifts are, the more useful he ought to be, and diligent in the improvement of them:

In the Old Testament God destroyed sinning nations. Do we not believe He is coming again to judge the nations? (Psalm 110:6). If much was given to a man and much will then be required, what about a nation to whom much was given?

America has been uniquely blessed. Our founding was based on the principles of religious freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. The Puritans instilled biblical principles in the succeeding generations, and exhorted them to holy living. As for our works, our first universities were seminaries in which the point was to train up Christian men to go forth and witness. We became a sending nation of missionaries all over the globe. We grew rich and used that money for Holy endeavors, building churches, printing bibles, supporting missions overseas, exporting radio and television programs, etc.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1914

America has enjoyed a unique length of time free from persecution, or even trouble. Except for one battle in the War of 1812 and Pearl Harbor, until September 11, 2001, this nation has been largely free from military invasion on these shores. Religious persecution of Jews is unknown and congregations of other religious persuasions have been free to worship.

To America, much has been given. For a while, America rose to the task of much having been required. But like the Laodicean church, America has grown fat, lazy, lukewarm. We have said, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” (Revelation 3:17a)
Calvin’s Commentary says of Luke 12:48,

48. To whomsoever much hath been given. Christ shows by another circumstance, that the more highly favored disciples ought to be visited with severer punishment, if they despise their calling, and abandon themselves without reserve to every kind of licentiousness; because the more eminent a man is, he ought to consider that so much the more has been entrusted to him, and on the express condition that he shall one day render an account of it. In the same proportion, therefore, as any of us is endued with higher gifts, if he does not, like a field which has been cultivated at greater expense, yield to the Lord more abundant produce, the abuse of that grace which he has profaned, or uselessly withheld, will cost him dear.

This is why I believe that our persecution in America will be WORSE than we think, because we have abused His grace. We have received an unusual-for-biblical-history reprieve and have been the beneficiaries of a long period of peace. We have grown hollow inside the church. We have become lazy, don’t take the word seriously, gotten rich, sought more riches, and have supplanted truth for the world in many cases. We have squandered His blessings, and we will pay for this because now the American section of the global church is an abomination to Jesus. The winds of satan easily blow down a hollow house.

In Leviticus 18:25-28, Jesus promised the Israelites that He would vomit them out of the land if they ‘did any of these abominations.’ What were the abominations they were not supposed to do as a nation?

And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her. 21You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

In America, we not only do these abominations, we are defined by them.

1. Do not lie with your neighbor’s wife. California passed a “no-fault divorce” act in 1970, sparking a revolution in divorce in America. Prior to 1970 in CA, divorce was an adversarial process through which one party had to be proved at fault, such as adultery. After CA passed no-fault divorce with other states following suit, and without one party having to publicly declare a shameful act of adultery, divorce became easy to obtain and therefore the stigma of adultery was diminished. Today, adultery is not only accepted as a likely given within marriage, adultery is even the basis for television entertainment programs. (Mistresses, Wife Swap, Mad Men…)

2. Do not offer our children to Molech. Molech was a false god who required parents to place their babies in the Molech-statue ‘belly’ and burn them alive. Child sacrifice is an abomination to God. Yet in America since abortion was legalized, there have been about 55 million babies killed. By the age of 45, one-third of American women will have had at least one abortion.

3. Do not lie with a male as with a woman. We all know of the June 26, 2015 decision by the Supreme Court legalizing homosexual ‘marriage’ in all 50 states. The highest court has institutionalized perversion by redefining marriage, thus creating an abomination out of what was supposed to be a holy picture of Christ and His bride.

4. Do not lie with an animal…America is the largest importer, exporter, producer, and the fourth largest consumer of pornography in the world. Enough said about that.

Despite the military peace and spiritual blessings we were given these past few hundred years, America still slid from Puritans to Mistresses. We have used this time of peace and prosperity for self-indulgent, licentious endeavors. We have not only ignored God in the process, but we’ve purposely spit in His eye. Given what we know about our holy God, He will have something to say about that.

In part 3 I’ll look at two other scriptures, some recent news, and in the Conclusion, the remedy.

1 Peter 4:7, The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

1 Peter 4:17, For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

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State of the Church 2015, part 1
State of the Church 2015, part 3