A Puritan Library Wish List

 

Puritans are a hated lot today, by Christians and non-Christians alike. The famous American journalist H. L. Mencken wrote in 1917, “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” He wrote in one of his books that a Puritan believer’s “utter lack of aesthetic sense, his distrust of all romantic emotion, his unmatchable intolerance of opposition, his unbreakable belief in his own bleak and narrow views, his savage cruelty of attack, his lust for relentless and barbarous persecution” was a big burden on America.

Dr. Joel Beeke, one of the foremost scholars on Puritanism, critiques a song by Propaganda in “Propaganda: Giving the Puritans a Bad Rap:

A new rap song by Propaganda has caught the attention of a number of Christians in the blogosphere (lyrics here). It styles itself as a series of questions to a pastor who loves to quote the Puritans, criticizing them for their culpability in the slavery of African-Americans. The rap repeatedly uses the phrase “your precious puritans” in a way that is ironic, to say the least. It is sad that “precious” becomes a piece of sarcasm, for the Lord Himself said to His people that we are “precious in my sight” and “I have loved thee” (Isa. 43:4).

Dr. Beeke has another useful introductory article, “Why You Should Read the Puritans.” In this article, he recommends a few books written by the Puritans, listing them in nine different categories. He introduces the Puritans in these paragraphs:

Just who were the Puritan writers? They were not only the two thousand ministers who were ejected from the Church of England by the Act of Uniformity in 1662, but also those ministers in England and North America, from the sixteenth century through the early eighteenth century, who worked to reform and purify the church and to lead people toward godly living consistent with the Reformed doctrines of grace.

Puritanism grew out of three needs: (1) the need for biblical preaching and the teaching of sound Reformed doctrine; (2) the need for biblical, personal piety that stressed the work of the Holy Spirit in the faith and life of the believer; and (3) the need to restore biblical simplicity in liturgy, vestments, and church government, so that a well-ordered church life would promote the worship of the triune God as prescribed in His Word (The Genius of Puritanism, 11ff.).

Doctrinally, Puritanism was a kind of vigorous Calvinism; experientially, it was warm and contagious; evangelistically, it was aggressive, yet tender; ecclesiastically, it was theocentric and worshipful; politically, it aimed to be scriptural, balanced, and bound by conscience before God in the relationships of king, Parliament, and subjects; culturally, it had lasting impact throughout succeeding generations and centuries until today (Durston and Eales, eds., The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560-1700).

1. Puritan writings help shape life by Scripture:
Puritan Pulpit Series by Soli Deo Gloria

2. Puritan writings show how to integrate biblical doctrine into daily life:
Justification by Faith Alone by Jonathan Edwards
The Instructed Christian by William Lyford
The Evil of Evils by Jeremiah Burroughs
The Sincere Convert and the Sound Believer by Thomas Shepard
Practical Godliness by Vincent Alsop

3. Puritan writings show how to exalt Christ and see His beauty:
Rejoicing in the Lord Jesus by Robert Asty

4. Puritan writings reveal the Trinitarian character of theology:
Communion with God by John Owen
On the Trinity by Jonathan Edwards

Thomas Boston, Scottish Pastor (1676 – 1732)

5. Puritan writings show you how to handle trials:
The Crook in the Lot: The Sovereignty and Wisdom of God Displayed in the Afflictions of Men by Thomas Boston

6. Puritan writings explain true spirituality:
Heart Treasure by Oliver Heywood

7. Puritan writings show how to live by wholistic faith:
The Puritans on Prayer (compilation)
The Character of an Upright Man by Richard Steele
Case for Family Worship by George Hamond
Help for Distressed Parents by Cotton Mather
Dealing with Sin in Our Children by Arthur Hildersham

8. Puritan writings teach the importance and primacy of preaching:
The Art of Prophesying by William Perkins
The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter[ref]”Baxter’s approach to justification has been called neonomianism (that is, “new law”); he said that God has made a new law offering forgiveness to repentant breakers of the old law. Faith and repentance—the new laws that must be obeyed—become the believer’s personal, saving righteousness that is sustained by preserving grace. Baxter’s soteriology, then, is Amyraldian with the addition of Arminian “new law” teaching. Happily, these erroneous doctrines do not surface much in Baxter’s devotional writings, which are geared mainly to encourage one’s sanctification rather than to teach theology.” from “Excerpt from Meet the Puritans by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson[/ref]

9. Puritan writings show how to live in two worlds:
The Saint’s Everlasting Life by Richard Baxter
Heaven Opened by Richard Alleine

Where to Begin:
The Fear of God by John Bunyan
Keeping the Heart by John Flavel
The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson

Introductions to the Puritans and their literature:
Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson
Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were by Leland Ryken
The Genius of Puritanism by Peter Lewis
Who are the Puritans? And What Do They Teach? by Erroll Hulse
A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by James I. Packer
Puritan Reformed Spirituality by Ligon Duncan

 

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