“The Puritans [were] burning and shining lights. When cast out by the black Bartholomew Act, and driven from their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in a special manner wrote and preached as men having authority. Though dead, by their writings they yet speak: a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour.” George Whitfield (1714-1770)
After yesterday’s introduction to the subject of the Puritans, you may be asking yourself this question: Why the Puritans? What possibly could we glean from a group of pastors, parishioners and churches who existed for a brief period of time 300-400 years ago? In England no less!
Dr. Joel Beeke explains, “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.”
Do the Puritans have anything to offer the church today from what they experienced, learned and wrote in their own day and time? I believe they do. I submit the Puritans, their personal history along with their valuable and voluminous writings, can contribute much to the health and stability of today’s evangelical church and the biblical gospel. When many churches, and pastors, are content to engage today in frothy Bible study and man-centered entertainment as a substitute for God-centered worship, the Puritans are a breath of fresh air in their singular devotion to the glory of God.
Let me remind you that the word “Puritan’ originated in the 1560’s as a bit of pejorative hurled at people who wanted further reformation in the Church of England. While some social historians think the term should be abandoned due to various ways it was used at that time, there are others who continue to defend the terms “Puritan” and “Puritanism.” The word “Puritan” originated from the Greek word katharos meaning pure.
Don’t misunderstand me. The Puritans were not perfect. They were men and women much like ourselves. They were susceptible to the same temptations we face. They struggled with the same issues we encounter. If this be the case, what then sets them apart for this special study?
First, the Puritans possessed and sought to foster a consistent and dynamic fellowship with God that shaped not only their thinking, but also their emotions and their wills. In short, their souls. Their grounding was in the God of the Bible: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The church today must return to such a “focus”, which in large measure it has forsaken for popularity and acceptance by the culture.
Second, the Puritans possessed a passion for God’s Word. They not only sought to know as much as they could from God’s Word, but they also wrote about their acquired knowledge of biblical theology in many books and published sermons. Theirs was a passion for biblical truth. As one author comments, “The distinctive character of Puritanism was its quest for a life reformed by the Word of God.” The church today must return to such a foundation”, which in large measure it has forsaken for popularity and acceptance by the culture.
Third, because of their common spiritual quest for God’s Word and unity in the Christian faith and gospel, the Puritans established a network of relationships among believers and ministers. The Puritans sought to apply God’s Word in every area of life. The church today must return to such a “fervor”, which in large measure it has forsaken for popularity and acceptance by the culture.
On author notes that, “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.”
It is obvious that the vision for life and ministry which consumed the Puritans in the 16th and 17 the centuries should be seriously considered by the evangelical church today in the 21st century.
Soli deo Gloria!