Eight Reasons We Need the Puritans
|Gallery of famous 17th-century Puritan theologians: |
Thomas Gouge, William Bridge, Thomas Manton, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, Stephen Charnock,
William Bates, John Owen, John Howe and Richard Baxter
By Jeff Robinson - Posted at Banner of Truth:
For many years before entering vocational ministry, I worked as a journalist in the dog-eat-dog world of secular media. While working as a reporter for a metropolitan daily newspaper in Georgia, one of my more progressive colleagues teased me good-naturedly about being a ‘conservative boy’ from a small town in the sticks of North Georgia. She said, ‘You know what you are? You’re a Puritan!’ At the same time, I didn’t really know what to make of this remark. Today, I would see it as a high compliment.
In the minds of many, Puritanism equals scrupulous rules-keeping, dour Christianity, or, as the inimitable American journalist H. L. Mencken famously quipped, ‘Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.’
Over the past few decades, thanks in large part to the publishing efforts of Banner of Truth and the advocacy of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the English and American Puritans have made a strong comeback among Reformed evangelicals. During my years in seminary, I fell in love with the puritans. Now, I delight in teaching about them, and during my time as pastor, men like John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, and John Owen were among my shepherds through their deeply devotional theological writing. Though dead, they certainly still speak and we need to hear them.
Granted, they could be maddeningly eccentric and sometimes ran to extremes. The Puritans never met a rule they didn’t seem to relish. They had a decidedly underdeveloped view of recreation and leisure; their writing tended toward wordiness, often stating and then restating the same point several times; and their moralizing of life experiences and spiritual introspection often knew no bounds. For example, Cotton Mather once saw his sinful heart as the cause of a toothache, as he told his diary: ‘Have I not sinned against my teeth? How? By sinful, graceless, excessive eating, and by sinful speeched?’ Quoted in Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints). They were, after all, sinners saved by grace.
Still, for all their humanness, they represent a high point of (to borrow a favorite phrase from John Piper) Christ-centered, Scripture-saturated, God-entranced living.