Wednesday, November 11, 2009




Practically everyone has heard the name Puritan. In the turmoil and cultural change of the 1960’s in America, it was an epitaph often hurled at people who refused to go along with the loose living and radical social change that was overtaking society. It is still used that way, but in this day of apostasy when relatively few are standing against sin and for the gospel, dissenters from the modern religious libertines are usually called fundamentalists. Both words have become a term of disgust in the mouths of the ungodly. Puritans, strictly speaking, began in England as a movement in the 16th century within the Anglican church to speed up the process of the Protestant Reformation in Great Britain. Because the dissent later brought about some Puritans leaving the Church of England, it affected Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, and Congregationalists during two centuries, but had effects for a lot longer period. It was probably the most profound time of sound Bible preaching since the early church. Later, I plan to give references to study their history, if you are interested; and look at the American Puritans. But for this article, I want us to look at some of the learned and pithy teaching of English Puritans. There were hundreds of them in Britain at the time. Most were Calvinists, but some were Arminian. The Puritans had a wide range of educational attainments. Some were self taught like John Bunyan, the tinker’s son. Then on the other end were the Doctors of Divinity, like Dr. John Owen, Dr. Thomas Goodwin and Dr. William Ames. Much of the work of many Puritans can be found online, and I recommend most of them for their rich spiritual insight.


“An English Puritan preacher once exhorted his people about their neglect of the Bible. One hearer reported how the preacher "personates God to the people, telling them, 'Well, I have trusted you so long with my Bible; you have slighted it, it lies … covered with dust and cobwebs; you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.'

"And he takes up the Bible from his cushion, and seemed as if he were going away with it and carrying it from them; but immediately turns again and personates the people to God, falls down on his knees, cries and pleads most earnestly, 'Lord, whatever thou dost to us, take not thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us thy Bible, only take not away thy Bible.'

"And then he personates God again to the people: 'Say you so? Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more … observe it more … practice it more, and live more according to it.' "

In response, the people broke down and were "deluged with their own tears."

This anecdote takes us to the very heart of Puritanism—a passionate movement, and above all else, a Bible movement. (J.I. Packer from Theology On Fire, Copyright © 1994 by the author or Christianity Today International./Christian History magazine).


“But his delight is in the law of the LORD: and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

“Quest. How is meditation to be defined, as it is taken in the former sense?

Answ. Meditation is a serious, earnest and purposed musing upon some point of Christian instruction, tending to lead us forward toward the Kingdom of Heaven, and serving for our daily strengthening against the flesh, the world and the Devil. Or it is the steadfast and earnest bending of the mind upon some spiritual and heavenly matter, discoursing thereof with our selves, till we bring the same to some profitable issue, both for the settling of our judgments, and the bettering of our hearts and lives.

Quest. How do prayer and meditation differ?

Answ. They are often confounded in name, but inseparably linked in nature going hand and hand together; and can no more be severed, than two twins, who live and die together; only in prayer we confer and commune more directly with God by petition and thanksgiving; in meditation we talk and confer more directly and properly with ourselves and our own souls.”

A Treatise of Divine Meditation by John Ball (1585-1640).

“Meditation is a pure and rational converse with God. It is the flower and height of consecrated reason” (Thomas Manton, 1620-1677).


“It is good for us to keep some account of our prayers, that we may not unsay them in our practice” (Matthew Henry, 1662-1714).

"The reason why our souls are so empty of joy, is because our mouths are empty of prayer" (Robert Traill,1642-1716).

“Not the people only, but those who are themselves ministers, should pray for the increase of ministers. Though self-interest makes those that seek their own things desirous to be placed alone (the fewer ministers the more preferments), yet those that seek the things of Christ, desire more workmen, that more work may be done, though they be eclipsed by it “ (Matthew Henry on Matthew 9:35-38; emphasis original).


“Because true faith has holiness joined with it, which it keeps effectual (Acts 15:9), and the profession of true faith cannot be separated from the profession of holiness, the church is variously but with the same meaning called a society of believers and a society of saints; ‘To the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians1:1;1 Corinthians1:2 compared with 2 Corinthians. 1:1; Romans. 1:7; and Colossians 1:2)”

(From The Church Instituted; Dr.William Ames, 1576-1633).

“A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was” (Joseph Hall,1574-1656).

“The way to preserve the peace of the church is to preserve its purity” (Matthew Henry, 1662-1714).


"For God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

“For the explication: ‘by our Lord Jesus Christ.’ The first title is ‘Lord’, and this is a name of dominion and sovereignty, and implies a power and strength in Christ to carry on the work of our salvation. If Christ were a Jesus and not a Lord, He could not save us.

He is the ‘Lord Jesus’. As ‘Lord’ is a title of dominion, so ‘Jesus’ is a title of mercy and bounty, and signifies a Savior. He is not only a Lord, and so has power to do us good, but He is also a Jesus, and so He has a will to do us good. The dialect of the Old Testament is the ‘Lord our God’, but never ‘the Lord Jesus’ till in the New Testament.

He is the ‘Lord Jesus Christ,’ that is, He is God's anointed. He was set apart and appointed by God to carry on the great work of man's salvation. ‘Christ’ is a name of office and function” (From Wrath and Mercy, Sermon #4; By Christopher Love, 1618-1651).

“What they shall pray in the time of their extremity, who now spit at all praying and religion! They shall be religious in their kind, when they shall cry , ‘Mountains and rocks fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb’ (Revelation 6:16). You cannot believe that a Lamb shall chase the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich man, and every bondman, and every free man, into the dens and rocks of the mountains, to hide themselves. But the Lord acteth wrath and judgment before your eyes. Men will not suppose the real story of hell. Say but with thyself, Oh! shall I weep, and gnaw my tongue for pain, in a sea of fire and brimstone? Do but forefancy, I pray you, how you shall look on it, what thoughts you will have, what you shall do, when you ‘shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power‘( II Thessalonians 1:9)”. (From Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself by Samuel Rutherford, 1600-1661).


“Election is God’s decree whereby on His own free will, He hath ordained certain men to salvation, to the praise of His glory of His grace. ‘According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.’(Ephesians1:4-6).

“This decree is that book of life wherein are written the names of the elect. ‘And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works’(Revelation. 20:12). ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity’ (2 Timothy 2:19)”.

“The execution of this decree, is an action, by which God, even as He purposed with Himself, worketh all those things effectually, which He decreed for the salvation of the Elect. For they whom God elected to this end, that they should inherit eternal life, were also elected to those subordinate means, whereby, as by steps, they might attain this end: and without which, it were impossible to attain it. ‘For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified’(Romans 8:29-30)”.(From The Order of Salvation and Damnation by William Perkins, 1558-1602).

William Perkins is said to have encountered a young condemned prisoner who was terrified not so much of death as of the impending judgment of God. The Puritan preacher knelt beside him to "show what the grace of God can do to strengthen thee." He showed him that Christ is the means of salvation by the grace of God and urged him with tears to believe in Him and experience the remission of sins. The youth did so and was able to face his execution with composure, a glorious display of God's sovereign grace. This incident should be kept in mind while studying Perkins' chart of election and reprobation. It shows his theology did not make him cold and heartless when dealing with sinners in need of a Savior. (From A Puritan’s Mind website)


Hope is a glorious grace, whereunto blessed effects are ascribed in the Scripture, and an effectual operation unto the supportment and consolation of believers. By it are we purified, sanctified, saved. And, to sum up the whole of its excellency and efficacy, it is a principal way of the working of Christ as inhabiting in us: “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Where Christ evidenceth His presence with us, He gives us an infallible hope of glory; He gives us an assured pledge of it and worketh our souls into an expectation of it. Hope in general is but an uncertain expectation of a future good which we desire; but as it is a gospel grace, all uncertainty is removed from it, which would hinder us of the advantage intended in it. It is an earnest expectation, proceeding from faith, trust, and confidence, accompanied with longing desires of enjoyment. From a mistake of its nature, it is that few Christians labor after it, exercise themselves unto it, or have the benefit of it; for to live by hope, they suppose, infers a state not only beneath the life of faith and all assurance in believing, but also exclusive of them. They think to hope to be saved is a condition of men who have no grounds of faith or assurance; but this is to turn a blessed fruit of the Spirit into a common affection of nature. Gospel hope is a fruit of faith, trust, and confidence; yea, the height of the actings of all grace issues in a well-grounded hope, nor can it rise any higher (Rom 5:2-5).(From The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded by Dr. John Owen, 1616-1683).

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