On Sunday, Josh recommended several books from a variety of categories. One of these categories was books written by the Puritans. Specifically, he mentioned
- Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan
- Mortification of Sin and Death of Death by John Owen
- The Religious Affections
- Freedom of the Will, On Charity and It’s Fruits and Original Sin by Jonathan Edwards.
Interest in reading the Puritans has been steadily growing since the mid-twentieth century, and continues to grow into this century. But who are these guys? And why should we read them?
The Puritans were a group of seventeenth-century ministers from England and New England who wanted the church purified. They wanted to make the church more Scriptural, and less dependent on meaningless rituals and unscriptural ceremonies. Because of these views, they were often persecuted by the king and other officers of the national church. (Jonathan Edwards lived in the eighteenth century, but he’s usually called a Puritan because he thought like one).
Books by the Puritans have had a significant impact on my life. So what makes their writings worth reading?
- They were deeply God centered. All of their works lead you to think more deeply about God, and to leave you in awe of His greatness.
- They were first-rate thinkers. They could take a truth from Scripture, and meditate on the implications and ramifications of that truth, and come back with a veritable treasure trove of jewels, which they then shared with their readers.
- They were very practical. Their words were not, as they are often mischaracterized, “stale intellect”. Rather, the Puritans were preachers of the highest rank. They presented truth, and then applied it practically to the life. In fact, at least a third of their sermons usually contained a “use”, or what we would call an “application”.
- The Puritans are helpful for stirring up one’s affection, love, and passion for God. When they preached, they exhorted and encouraged their listeners with passion and conviction. It is said of the Puritans that they preached with “light and heat”; that is, they would illuminate the head, then preach warmly to the heart.
Here is my list of top ten Puritan books worth reading:
- The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs (who is incidentally my favorite Puritan author)
- Overcoming Sin and Temptation, by John Owen, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor (Note: Owen is very hard to read; you’ve got to think about every sentence. For those willing to put in the work, though, this is probably the best book written on this topic. An easier-to-read book which gleans from Owen is Kris Lundgaard’s The Enemy Within.)
- The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes
- The Mystery of Providence , by John Flavel
- The Existence and Attributes of God, by Stephen Charnock
- The Glory of Christ, by John Owen
- A Lifting Up for the Downcast, by William Bridge
- The Christian in Complete Armor, by William Gurnall (This book is actually 3 Volumes, but they are in short paperback form)
- Gospel Worship, by Jeremiah Burroughs
- All Things for Good, by Thomas Watson (Watson is called “the readable Puritan”; books by him are a good place to start if you haven’t read the Puritans yet.)
Does anybody else have other Puritan books they like besides these?