Build Your Library – Books on the Puritans

For the beginner wanting to build a Classic library, or for someone who has not yet encountered any Puritanical writings here come some recommendation as to where to start from The Banner of Truth Trust, UK:

When thinking ‘Puritan,’ we will limit ourselves to the period 1600–1688 (alas, no Ryle!). In addition to the evangelical party of the Church of England (‘the Puritans’ proper), we ought also to consider the works of Independents, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc. My goal here is to whet your appetite from each of three areas: the praying Puritan, the contented Puritan, and the frowning Puritan. Then I’ll suggest a Puritan companion. Perhaps you’ll want to read more from the Puritans to learn better how to live the pilgrim life in this hostile world, for the alien life wasn’t just the lot of the patriarchs of Genesis or the saints of the New Testament church — it will ever be the life of Christ’s people until he comes. No one has produced better reflections upon the pilgrim life than the Puritans.

1. A wonderful introduction to the Puritan at prayer is the collection edited by AArthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision. Meditate on a prayer each day upon first waking, and allow a great saint to lead you into God’s presence. Get the little leather edition, if you can.

2. The Puritans were pre-eminently preachers of the heart. And they could warm a right stony heart at that. Try this little gem: Thomas Watson, All Things for Good. He preached these messages on Romans 8:28 in 1663, the year after two thousand pulpits were vacated by order of the Crown.

3. The Puritans carried the rod to the pulpit as well. Prepare to be quite stunned upon reading Joseph Alleine, A Sure Guide to Heaven (sometimes entitled Alarm to the Unconverted). Am I really a Christian after all?

4. Lastly, what sort of companion do you want? Frequently chosen over the years have been John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (you can’t go wrong if you get the story of your life from the pen of the tinker, for we are all pilgrims on our way to the heavenly city), William Guthrie’s The Christian’s Great Interest, Samuel Rutherford’s Letters, William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour, Henry Scudder’s The Christian’s Daily Walk, Thomas Brooks’s Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, and John Owen’s The Glory of Christ.

Most of these books have been reprinted by Banner of Truth and are extremely reasonably priced.


Al Baker – A New Kind of Fasting (from the world)

via Banner of Truth Trust UK

Do not love the world. (1 John 2:15)

It is no coincidence that the men whom God uses powerfully in the work of his kingdom always have one thing in common. This is true with the early church fathers — men like Irenaeus, Origen, and Polycarp. And this one thing in common is also found with men of a more modern era, whether they be Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Phillip Melanchthon of the sixteenth century; John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, or Joseph Alleine of the seventeenth century; Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, or George Whitefield of the eighteenth century, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Daniel Baker, or Charles Spurgeon of the nineteenth century, or A.W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers, or Martyn Lloyd-Jones of the twentieth century. And what is that one common thing? All these men had a holy hatred of worldliness.

Consider the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne in a sermon on 1 Peter 1:14-19, preached in 1838,

My dear friends, if you wish to obey the word of God here laid before you, flee from all circumstances, from all places or companies, where you know you may be tempted to sin . . . do you know a company where holy things are slighted, where things are spoken that should not be named, where late, unholy hours are kept, where you have already been tempted to sin? Then, child of God, I charge you not to cross that threshold again, no, not once. I charge you, flee temptation, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear . . . I fear, young persons, a holy provocation, after the holiest exercises, plunging into the unholiest companies, praying in the house of God, or in a class for religious instruction one hour, and entering into ungodly company the very next.1

M’Cheyne hated anything that drew his people away from God.          So should we!

The Apostle John commands us in his epistle not to love the world or the things of the world. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones so ably puts it, John is not referring to mountains or rivers, nor is he writing generally of life in the world of family, business, or state. Instead, by world John means living independently of God. It is an outlook, a mindset that ignores God and his Word. John further explains what he means by the world, calling it the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Simon Kistemaker calls the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes sinful desires while the boastful pride of life refers to sinful behaviour. Lloyd-Jones suggests that the lust of the flesh deals with physical bodies, living for sensual gratification. The lust of the eye refers to living for the ungodly values of outward show. And the boastful pride of life means self-glorification. So by this John is saying that living for the world means living independently from God, and thus taking and owning the temporal and sensual values of the unredeemed world.

Paul commands us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and to make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Rom. 13:14). We all battle the debilitating effects of indwelling sin, a strong craving to do the very things we are commanded not to do. As believers we, at the same time, have a regenerate heart that loves God and hates sin, giving us a desire to obey God. So we can say we have within us a pig (indwelling sin) that loves to eat anything, including garbage; and we have a lion (the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus) which lives within us by the Holy Spirit. The lion is a carnivore, as it were, which lives off the meat of the Word of God. So, if we feed the pig with garbage then he gets bigger and the lion gets smaller. On the other hand, if we feed the lion the meat of God’s Word then he gets stronger and the pig gets weaker. Holiness comes through a strengthened lion and a weakened pig. So in order to see progress in holiness we must limit the garbage we take into our eye and ear gates; and we must increase the quality and quantity of the meat of the Word of God.

And herein lies our problem. Even if we are careful not to take into our eye and ear gates ungodly music, DVD’s, or television programming; even if we don’t read books, magazines, or internet sites saturated with an ungodly worldview; the simple truth is that we daily battle the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the boastful pride of life. We are not called to be hermits. We live in the world. However, after a hard and stressful day of work, when you finally make it home at night, you may decide to watch a little television to see your favourite team, or catch a couple of hours of news commentary before going to bed. Now, I am not saying we should never watch television, but I am reminding you that television is an amusement (a means ‘no’ and muse means ‘to think’, that is no thinking), a totally passive exercise. Neil Postman brilliantly put forth this thesis years ago in Amusing Ourselves to Death4. Just watch your children when they watch television. What are they doing? Nothing! When you read to them you see in their eyes their little minds brimming with imagination, and that is a very good thing.

So here’s my proposal — should we not consider a new kind of fasting, a fasting from anything that feeds the pig and starves the lion! Consider this analogy — most of us today must be intentional about physical exercise. We pay money for gym or health club memberships, we join running or cycling clubs, or we find friends with whom we can walk daily or several times per week. Coming up with exercise programmes was unheard of one hundred years ago. That’s because most people engaged in some form of physical labour or they walked to work. Today, of course our work and life styles are very different. We are sedentary and must find ways to maintain or improve our physical health.

Likewise, due to the incessant exposure to worldliness, perhaps we should consider cutting back on our television and movie time? We struggle with progress in holiness because worldly distractions suck the life out of us. We have far too many options. One hundred years ago there was no television so people read at night or they talked with one another. Many of us now sit like zombies in front of the screen for hours. These worldly amusements feed the pig and starve the lion. Why not fast for a month from television and other things that feed the pig within you? Should you not at least consider cutting it way back from present levels, and spend that time in reading, holy contemplation, or edifying conversation? You will feed the lion and growth in holiness will surely result.

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