Posted in theology

Fun with the Puritans

By Elizabeth Prata

Mayflower replica, at Plymouth Mass. EPrata photo

I love the Puritans. These are the men of the faith who followed Martin Luther into a reformation of the church. Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as-

Puritanism, a religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th centuries that sought to “purify” the Church of England of remnants of the Roman Catholic “popery” that the Puritans claimed had been retained after the religious settlement reached early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Puritans became noted in the century for a spirit of moral and religious earnestness that informed their whole way of life. (Source).

Far from being an esoteric area of study, I grew up in Rhode Island where Puritanism was all around. The puritans were real life to me. You couldn’t miss the giant statue of Roger Williams looming over Providence, which he founded, as well as the state. School field trips included visits to the Mayflower replica and Plymouth Village, a replica of the original settlement. Exiled Puritan rebel Anne Hutchinson founded Portsmouth the town next to Newport. As I read the plaques and saw the statues and visited the historical sites, I always wondered what on earth would make people leave their homeland for the sake of religion. Religion?! It floored me.

Now I know, of course, but these questions ignited my imagination and nestled a seed of religious interest that would later blossom in the timing of God.

I’d sort of been picking up bits and pieces about the Puritans as my elders would mention one, or when I came across a piece at Monergism (lots of free, edifying material there), or GraceGems (more great stuff), or Chapel Library (incredible ministry).

I read a few Puritan Paperbacks, a series of Puritan writings from Banner of Truth that present slightly modernized, lightly edited Puritan works. There’s also the Pocket Puritan series, even shorter, and a great introduction to these lions of the faith.

I enjoyed Tony Reinke’s Puritan Series, here is his blurb:

The Puritan Study was born out of two convictions. First, the faithful Puritan preachers offer much biblical wisdom to the 21st century. Secondly, the church aims to remain faithful to the expositional ministry of the Word. Without advocating an exposition that overlooks the insights of previous generations, nor placing an improper emphasis on Puritan literature over Scripture, the church needs to think about how we can complement our expositions of Scripture with the great Puritan literature. This conviction pushed me to rethink my own use of the Puritans and to re-build a Puritan library specifically suited for expositional preaching.

Reinke’s Main series posts

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

I also enjoyed Derek Thomas’ lecture series Part 1 and Part 2 of Puritan John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I took it at Ligonier for pay but recently it came up again for free. These links are to the (currently) free series of part 1. Thomas’ soothing voice, cool accent, and calm demeanor really helped me open up the sometimes mystifying allegories and symbols Bunyan used in his tremendous work.

The City of Destruction
The Wicket Gate
The Interpreter’s House
The Cross & Sepulcher
The Hill Difficulty
The Palace Beautiful
The Valley of Humiliation
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
The Godless City: Vanity Fair
The Castle Of Giant Despair
The Delectable Mountains
The Celestial City

But my bits and bobs approach, as the British say, was good, but I wanted something more organized in my learning about the Puritans. This is where Media Gratiae came in.

I always buy myself something for Christmas (practical) and I get something for my summer break (since I don’t go on a vacation anywhere). I splurged on the Puritan streaming package from Media Gratiae. It was on sale for $50. It included the 2-hour Puritan documentary and all 35 short bios of various Puritans. I’d already bought the workbook (which is really a book) that accompanies the bios.

Each bio in the workbook has a timeline of the Puritan’s life, a famous quote, a Did You Know?, and the highlights of his legacy. Each entry ends with questions to ponder and a bibliography. It’s a great resource and easy to digest.

I am enjoying watching one of the bios each day, purposely going through slowly so as to make sure I absorb all the nuggets. Yesterday was about Matthew Henry, he of the famous Whole Commentary on the Bible. This list was presented as the principles by which he grounded his work:

  1. That religion is the one thing useful.
  2. That divine revelation is necessary to true religion.
  3. That divine revelation is not now to be found nor expected any where but in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
  4. That the scriptures of the Old and New Testament were purposely designed for our learning.
  5. That the holy scriptures were not only designed for our learning, but are the settled standing rule of our faith and practice.
  6. That therefore it is the duty of all Christians diligently to search the scriptures, and it is the office of ministers to guide and assist them therein.

Good stuff, eh? It’s why I like studying these men. As Reinke said we don’t study them to the exclusion of the Bible itself, but their work was important. The Lord raised them up for a reason. In fact, when The Great Ejection occurred, the time when Puritan reformers were banished, jailed, or martyred, it ended up actually being a good thing. Since these men weren’t pastoring or preaching…they wrote. It’s why we have such a body of work from them today that remained preserved.

This essay has been an attempt to spark your own curiosity for the Puritans, and to offer some solid resources in which to browse. I hope you enjoy! Do you have a favorite Puritan? Or do you enjoy another era from Church History? Let me know in the comments. 🙂

Posted in books, theology

Sale! Sale! Sale! All things Puritan

By Elizabeth Prata

Here are a couple of sales to alert you to right now. They are too good to pass up.

I love the Puritans. I grew up in Rhode Island, founded by exiled Puritan Roger Williams, and Anne Hutchinson, exiled Puritan woman who founded Portsmouth RI (next to Newport). Our 4th grade field trip was to Plymouth to visit the replica Mayflower, the ship that transported the Puritans to New England in 1620. Some of my friends lived in homes built in the 1600s. Others attended Harvard, founded by Puritans. You couldn’t get away from the Puritan shadow of these mysterious and incredible people (to me, growing up). I have long been interested in them!

Only God knew that He would save me from His wrath and bring me into the faith of these selfsame Puritans, and how great is the grace that He gives me to learn about them with Christ’s mind. And, someday to be with them in glory.

Here are some good, solid resources for you if you’re interested in learning about these particular forefathers and mothers.

The American Puritans, by Perry Miller (Editor). Published in 1956, this book was the standard until interest very recently revived and modern books and anthologies have been published looking at the Puritans again, at long last! (see below). Yet still recommended, it stands the test of time.

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Arthur Bennett. One way to get to know the Puritans is to read their collected prayers and devotions, giving insight into their love and fervor for the Lord. They way they thought about Christ, their Christian Life, and others is amazing to read.

The Puritan Paperbacks Series at Banner of Truth includes some of the most classic Puritan works published by the Banner of Truth. These books are selections of larger works from the Puritans, published in small paperbacks to make them more accessible and affordable. Notable titles include The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes, The Mortification of Sin by John Owen, and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. Other notable Puritan writers in this series include Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Watson, John Flavel, Richard Baxter, and John Bunyan, et al.

The Pocket Puritan Series is a collection of short, accessible writings from the Puritan, again offered by Banner of Truth. Small enough to fit in your pocket, these books cover topics ranging from sin, to heaven, to growing one’s love for Christ. These are great works of ‘spiritual theology,’ and can go with you as you travel. Some notable titles include a collection of Prayers on the Psalms and selections of the writings of John Flavel, titled None but Jesus.

The Pilgrim’s Progress (Penguin Classics), John Bunyan, Roger Pooley edition. In continuous print since first published in 1678, it is considered a masterpiece of the English Puritan tradition. After The Bible, Valley of Vision and The Pilgrim’s Progress are two most loved books by Christians and are definitely the top two Christian books in the English Language.

Sale! Sale! Sale!

If you were excited about the documentary Puritan, but sad at the price (I totally understand) then this is the sale for you! The deluxe edition of Puritan: All of Life to the Glory of God, is half off at Ligonier today (I don’t know for how long, it’s part of the Friday Sale).

This feature-length documentary (6 DVDs) and hours of accompanying teaching sessions feature several of our Teaching Fellows and other gifted scholars and leaders. The Deluxe Edition includes a special, decorative, exclusive hardback book by Dr. Joel Beeke and Dr. Michael Reeves and the Workbook. The DVDs, Book, and Workbook are offered for $75. That’s less than $10 per item in the bundle.

The Puritan Combo: Puritan Theology and Meet The Puritans is on sale at Reformation Heritage Books! These two hardcovers are bundled to include A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, a systematic theology by Dr. Joel Beeke a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; and Meet the Puritans, a collection of mini-biographies and book reviews that also includes helps on which reprinted editions are best. The two together are on sale where you save $58. You can also buy either of them separately on sale too. I bought Meet the Puritans.

The American Puritans by Nate Pickowicz is a new book out by this Gilmanton NH pastor and writer of Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation, Reviving New England: The Key to Revitalizing Post-Christian America, John Cotton: Patriarch of New England

(The American Puritans Book 1) and others, recently published The American Puritans with Dustin Benge. This book tells the story of the first hundred years of Reformed Protestantism in New England through the lives of nine key figures: William Bradford, John Winthrop, John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepard, Anne Bradstreet, John Eliot, Samuel Willard, and Cotton Mather. It is on sale at Reformation Heritage Books.

The super saving sales are at Ligonier’s $5 Friday sale, Reformation Heritage Books. You can also find these items at Banner of Truth Books, and of course Amazon. Enjoy!