Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – Aug. 17, 1723

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via A Puritan’s Mind.Scroll down to the bottom of article for a 19 minute audio (in video form) of this list

A list of the resolutions that Edwards read once every week to keep his mind on his duty before God.

Signature of theologian Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions

(written at 19 years of age)

In an effort to be helped spiritually by Edward’s idea in inscribing his resolutions and then reading them each week, I also made a list of my own Maxims, which may also be of help to you – even if they simply spark you to make a list of your own (See my Maxims in the list on The Christian Walk page). Some are very similar to Edwards, some are exactly the same, and some are completely different. In any case, enjoy these Resolutions and Maxims in your daily walk.

Resolutions 1 through 21 were written by in one sitting in New Haven in 1722.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don’t hinder.

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

21. Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit anything, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is

perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Prov. 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects. Dec.26, 1722.

34. Resolved, in narration’s never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.

35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.

38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

39. Resolved, never to do anything that I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or no; except I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s, agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.

44- Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan.12, 1723.

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan.12 and 13.1723.

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eve: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5,1723.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether ~ have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May27, and July 13, 1723.

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July ii, and July 13.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” June 25 and July 13, 1723.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14′ and July ’3′ 1723.

64. Resolved, when I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those “breakings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be wear’, of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Aug. 17, 1723

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards


Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – Aug. 17, 1723

This video was the list of the resolutions that Jonathan Edwards read once every week to keep his mind on his duty before God.

Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions
(written at 19 years of age)

In an effort to be helped spiritually by Edward’s idea in inscribing his resolutions and then reading them each week, I also made a list of my own Maxims, which may also be of help to you – even if they simply spark you to make a list of your own (See my Maxims in the list on The Christian Walk page). Some are very similar to Edwards, some are exactly the same, and some are completely different. In any case, enjoy these Resolutions and Maxims in your daily walk.

Resolutions 1 through 21 were written by in one sitting in New Haven in 1722.

VIDEO by turning2jesus

Thomas Brooks (Puritan) – There is nothing that the great God hates– but sin…

Much of what is known about Puritan Thomas Brooks has been ascertained from his writings. Born, likely to well-to-do parents, in 1608, Brooks entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1625, where he was preceded by such men as Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, and Thomas Shepard. He was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel by 1640. Before that date, he appears to have spent a number of years at sea, probably as a chaplain with the fleet.

After the conclusion of the First English Civil War, Thomas Brooks became minister at Thomas Apostle’s, London, and was sufficiently renowned to be chosen as preacher before the House of Commons on December 26, 1648. His sermon was afterwards published under the title, ‘God’s Delight in the Progress of the Upright’, the text being Psalm 44:18: ‘Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from Thy way’. Three or four years afterwards, he transferred to St. Margaret’s, Fish-street Hill, London.

In 1662, he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity, but he appears to have remained in his parish and to have preached as opportunity arose. Treatises continued to flow from his pen. (Photo and biography via wikipedia)

Poem via

Oh that the Christian reader would seriously consider these twelve things:

There is nothing that the great God hates–but sin.
There is nothing that He has revealed His wrath from heaven against–but sin.
There is nothing that crucifies the Lord of glory afresh–but sin.
There is nothing that grieves the Spirit of grace–but sin.

There is nothing that wounds the conscience–but sin.
There is nothing that clouds the face of God–but sin.
There is nothing that hinders the return of prayer–but sin.
There is nothing that interrupts our communion with God–but sin.

There is nothing that embitters our mercies–but sin.
There is nothing that puts a sting into all our troubles and trials–but sin.
There is nothing that renders us unserviceable in our places, stations, and conditions–but sin.
There is nothing that makes death the king of terrors, and the terror of kings, to be so formidable and terrible to the sons of men, as sin.

And therefore under all your sorrows and sufferings, crosses and losses–
make it your great business . . .
to arm yourselves against sin,
and to pray against sin,
and to watch against sin,
and to turn from sin,
and to cease from sin,
and to get rid of sin,
and to stand forever in defiance of sin!

Thomas Brooks Works:

  • English: Traditional portait of Thomas Brooks,...

    English: Traditional portait of Thomas Brooks, puritan preacher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 1, Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines, Puritan Period, with General Preface by John C. Miller, D.D.; Rev. Thomas Smith, General Editor, Edinburgh, James Nichol, 1866. Titles include: Grosart’s Memoir of Brooks; Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices; The Mute Christian Under The Smarting Rod; A String of Pearls

  • Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 2, Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines, Puritan Period, with General Preface by John C. Miller, D.D.; Rev. Thomas Smith, General Editor, Edinburgh, James Nichol, 1866. Titles include: An Ark for All God’s Noahs; The Privy Key of Heaven; Heaven On Earth
  • Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 3, Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines, Puritan Period, with General Preface by John C. Miller, D.D.; Rev. Thomas Smith, General Editor, Edinburgh, James Nichol, 1866. Titles include: The Unsearchable Riches of Christ; A Cabinet of Jewels
  • Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 4, Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines, Puritan Period, with General Preface by John C. Miller, D.D.; Rev. Thomas Smith, General Editor, Edinburgh, James Nichol, 1866. Titles include: The Crown and Glory of Christianity
  • Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 5, Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines, Puritan Period, with General Preface by John C. Miller, D.D.; Rev. Thomas Smith, General Editor, Edinburgh, James Nichol, 1866. Titles include: The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures
  • Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 6, Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines, Puritan Period, with General Preface by John C. Miller, D.D.; Rev. Thomas Smith, General Editor, Edinburgh, James Nichol, 1866. Titles include: London’s Lamentations; The Glorious Day of the Saints’ Appearance; God’s Delight in the Progress of the Upright; Hypocrites Detected; A Believer’s Last Day His Best Day; A Heavenly Cordial; The Legacy of a Dying Mother

Smooth Stones Taken from Ancient Brooks – Spurgeon on Renowned Puritan Thomas Brooks (296 pages) Online Book

spurgeon 2
Spurgeon book on Thomas Brooks


As a writer, Brooks scatters stars with both his hands: he hath dust of gold; in his storehouse are all manner of precious stones. So wrote C.H. Spurgeon in his Preface to this book. He counted Thomas Brooks among his favourite Puritan authors, and it is not hard to see why. Brooks’ popularity lies both in his subjects – practical truths, central to the Christian life – and in the manner of his presentation. He is ever direct, urgent, fervent, full of Scripture, and able to choose words which make his sentences stick in one’s mind.

This book is a collection of sentences, illustrations, and quaint sayings from this renowned Puritan. Gathered by Spurgeon out of the 6 volume set of Brooks’ Works, it remains an excellent introduction to both the man and his writings.

Vezi acest document pe Scribd

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The Valley of Vision – a Puritan Prayer


prayer.. (Photo credit: aronki)

Click here for PRAYER Page (includes links to 3 free e books about prayer)

The strength of Puritan character and life lay in prayer and meditation. In this practice the spirit of prayer was regarded as of fi rst importance and the best form of prayer, for living prayer is the characteristic of genuine spirituality. Yet prayer is also vocal and may therefore on occasions be written. Consequently in the Puritan tradition there are many written prayers and meditations which

constitute an important corpus of inspiring devotional literature. Too often ex tempore prayer lacks variety, order and definiteness. The reason for this lies partly in a neglect of due preparation. It is
here that the care and scriptural thoroughness which others found necessary in their approach to God may be of help. This book has been prepared not to supply prayers but to prompt and encourage the Christian as he treads the path on which others have gone before. This Christian Classic would make a wonderful gift which will be treasured and read throughout the coming year.

Uploaded by  on Feb 17, 2010

The most powerful sermon ***

Preachers have their own set of temptations!  That fact can be illustrated by an event in the life of John Bunyan.  Bunyan had preached an unusually anointed sermon.  Immediately after the service, a layman jumped from his pew and raced to shake Bunyan’s hand exclaiming, “Bunyan, that was the most powerful sermon I have ever heard!”  Bunyan replied with brutal honesty, “Man, you need not tell me that. The devil whispered it to me before I was well out of the pulpit.”

Preachers face the temptation to “enjoy the sound of their own voice,” to secretly revel in the compliments they hear, and as in the case of Bunyan, to give ear to our adversary’s commendations on our preaching.

The Puritan View of Holiness

Also read –

Dr. Joel Beeke (via)

The Puritans wrote a great deal about how to live a sanctified life. Little of what they preached and wrote contains anything unique or strange,measured by their doctrinal heritage. What is special about the Puritan view of holiness is its fullness and balance,rather than its distinctive shape.

The Puritan classic definition of sanctification is well known;we find it in The Westminster Shorter Catechism,questions 35 and 36:

”What is Sanctification? Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.

”What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification,adoption and sanctification? The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification,adoption and sanctification are:

  • assurance of God’s love
  • peace of conscience
  • joy in the Holy Ghost
  • increase of grace
  • and perseverance therein to the end.”

From these two questions it is obvious that sanctification in the Puritan mind encompasses all Christian living—the entire process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. It is a process which begins at the moment of the new birth,and presses on throughout the entire life of the believer until his last breath. The Puritans wanted to see people growing up into strong assurance of God’s love,great peace of conscience,and authentic joy in the Holy Spirit. They said that the way to receive these blessings is through Spirit-worked sanctification. They advised their people:If you don’t seek sanctification,you not only dishonor God,but you also impoverish your own spiritual life.

What did they actually mean by sanctification? Here are four elements in the Puritan view.

Universal and moral renewal
First,sanctification for the Puritans is a divine work of renewal,involving a radical change of character. It springs from a regenerated heart,which is something deeper than any psychoanalyst or counselor could ever reach. God works in the heart,and out of the change of heart comes a new character.

This work of renewal is (using Puritan language) universal. This means that it touches and affects every area of the person’s entire life. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 that everything is to be sanctified—every sphere of life.

Holiness is an inward thing that must fill our heart,our core being,and it is an outward thing that must spill over into every detail of our lives. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says,“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Many Puritans preached on that text. Sanctification is to be universal.

But sanctification is also moral,said the Puritans. By this they meant that it would produce moral fruits,the very fruits we read of in Galatians 5—love,joy,peace,longsuffering,gentleness,goodness,faith,meekness,and temperance. Had you asked a Puritan—what really do these fruits mean when you combine them all together?—he would have said that they represent the moral profile of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

That is what the Spirit is doing in sanctification. He is patterning the believer after the profile of Christ. He is reproducing Christ’s qualities in the lives of His own people. God’s people are those in whom the “Christ nature” (the sum total of all that His human life was) finds new,albeit imperfect,expression. That is the Puritan concept of sanctification.

True repentance
Second,sanctification for the Puritans consists of repentance and righteousness—the two-sided activity of turning from sin to obedience. Repentance,said the Puritans,is turning from sin,and it is a lifelong activity. We must repent every day of our lives,and as we do so,we must also turn to righteousness.

Repentance,they said,is a work of faith. Without the Holy Spirit there is no repentance. The Puritan concept of repentance goes much deeper than mere remorse,or than saying,“I am sorry.” The Puritan idea of repentance certainly starts with remorse,but it goes deeper into an essential change of life. Repentance is an actual turning. It is a hating the things I loved before,and a loving the things I hated before.

Repentance involves mortification,said the Puritans,and vivification. By mortification they meant putting the sword through sin;killing sin;putting sin to death,as the apostle says in Romans 6. By vivification they meant coming alive to righteousness,and giving ourselves more and more to practice and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

A holy war
Third,Puritan sanctification is progressive,operating through conflict. The Puritans said conflict is inescapable in sanctification,because indwelling sin remains in the Christian,to his great sorrow. It engages him in great warfare and many battles. Indwelling sin works from the inside,the Puritans said,while the world exerts ungodly pressure from the outside. The devil,who plays the role of ring- leader,wants to take those outside pressures and use them along with the internal pressure to regain lost territory. So,although a person conquered by the Holy Spirit seeks to expand and gain the territory of sanctification universally in his life,the devil together with the world and the indwelling old nature,form a front-line of battle in the soul. A holy war is raging.

That is why Bunyan called his book,The Holy War. Sanctification involves conflict with myself,with my flesh,with the world,and with Satan. If a Christian is not battling with sin,the Puritans would say that person should question whether he is a Christian at all.

One Puritan painted this picture. He said that to be a Christian is to walk a narrow,straight path. On both sides of the path there are hedges. Behind those hedges Satan has all the powers of evil at his disposal. He uses his army of demons,and even our internal inconsistencies,and our proneness to fall into backsliding. He uses all these things as arrows,and every step we take along the spiritual pilgrimage he shoots through and over the hedge,aiming at our feet,our heart,our hands,and our eyes. Every step of the way is a battle.

Accepting a struggle
Thomas Watson said the way to heaven is “sweating work.” There is a battle raging,but the work of sanctification,happily,will advance. Sanctification is not stagnant. The Puritans employed Paul’s words of 2 Corinthians 3:18,that we will be changed from one glory to another if we walk in the Spirit. So the true Christian is one who accepts that there will be conflict,but at the same time rests in the truth that the ultimate victory is his. He may lose many skirmishes,but the war will be won,because he is in Christ. The Holy Spirit will lead him,and he will increasingly advance.

However,there is a snag,said the Puritans,because the Christian will often not be able to see any progress in himself. One Puritan said that a woman who dusts her furniture may think she has cleaned away all the dust,until the sunlight shines into her room revealing all the remaining dust. So the more the Sun of righteousness shines in our hearts,even though we may be growing in holiness (and others may see it),we shall see increasingly the motives of our heart.

The important question is not—”Do I view myself as growing more and more holy?” but—”When I look back in my life,say three or five years ago,does Christ mean more to me today than He did then? And do I think less of myself today than I did then? Is Christ increasing and am I decreasing? Am I growing in appreciation of Christ,and in self-depreciation?” This is the Puritan way of examining ourselves with regard to holiness.

Another Puritan way of evaluating progress in holiness is to ask how we are currently battling with temptation. If we are not battling the forces pressing in upon our flesh,we are backsliding. In order,therefore,to make progress the believer must pray at the throne of grace:“Help me to be strong today,Lord. Help me to be pure today. Help me to do righteousness today.” This is the constant desire of the Christian who is making progress in sanctification.

The inner,private person
Fourth,Puritan sanctification is imperfect though invincible. In this life it is never complete. Our reach will always exceed our grasp. Many people do not understand the Puritans at this point. They think that they are introspective,or that they lead us into legalistic bondage,and even into spiritual depression. This is not true.

The Puritans certainly had a very profound concept of sin and of righteousness,while many of their modern detractors have a dreadfully low concept of sin and righteousness. The Puritans felt the imperfection of their sanctification,precisely because they had God’s standard of righteousness before them. They did not compare themselves with their neighbor,but with God’s holy law. Righteousness for the Puritan was motivational in character. What lives inside of you is important. What you do and say reflects who you are within.

One Puritan said,what a man is in private,that is what a man really is in the sight of God. They would want us to ask ourselves:What do you think about? What motivates you? Are you really motivated by love to God? Are you motivated by Samaritanship to others,loving them,doing good to them,and laying out yourselves for their benefit and spiritual welfare? This is the heart of a Puritan righteousness. With this high concept of holiness they naturally felt deeply their imperfections. Perhaps this is nowhere more vividly expressed than in the Westminster Larger Catechism’s questions and answers on the ten commandments. Read them if you will and notice how precise they are,how they probe the heart and how they insist you must love God and your neighbor as yourself.

When,therefore,you read about how Puritans bemoaned themselves,and when you see in their diaries how they grieved over their own wretchedness,remember they are comparing themselves to the perfect God and to His holy law. They were men and women who truly felt Paul’s groaning:“I delight in the law of God after the inward man . . . O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” They felt their need to flee to Christ every day to be washed afresh. And that is the root of all genuine holiness. Such holiness is invincible. It will never die,but will one day be perfected in and with Christ forever.

This article was adapted from an address given by Dr. Beeke at the Metropolitan Tabernacle School of Theology in 1998,and printed in Sword &Trowel.

The English Puritans: Perhaps the most remarkable body of men which the world has ever produced

We are extremely thankful for the ongoing digitization of older books, manuscripts and periodicals (magazines)  which will no doubt be of great benefit, otherwise, this fine writing would have otherwise been confined to small geographic areas and populations. This is another article from, an organization who has uploaded many older periodicals onto their website. This article also comes from Foundations 37 (Autumn 1996) edition, as did the Martyn Lloyd-Jones material, recounting his stance at the New Delhi Evangelical Alliance Conference 30 years earlier. Here’s a sampling of recent assessments of the Puritans:

It is now generally acknowledged that the typical Puritans were not „wild men…religious fanatics and social extremists, but sober, conscientious, and cultured persons: persons of principle…excelling in the domestic virtues, and with no obvious shortcomings save a tendency to run to words when saying anything important”. The great Puritan pastor-theologians (to go no further)- Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, Howe, Perkins, Sibbes, Brooks, Watson, Gumall, Flavel, Bunyan, Manton, and others- „were men of outstanding intellectual power, as well as spiritual insight”. „For more than two centuries, since Daniel Neal’s History ofthe Puritans, it has been usual to define the Puritan movement in terms of the power struggle that went on in church and state”; and this, of course, is part of the truth, but it leaves the issue of Puritan motives unresolved. According to JI Packer, Dr Irvonwy Morgan supplies the vital clue. He writes:

The essential thing in understanding the Puritans was that they were preachers before they were anything else…Into whatever efforts they were led in their attempts to reform the world through the Church, and however these efforts were frustrated by the leaders of the Church, what bound them together, undergirded their striving, and gave them the dynamic to persist was their consciousness that they were called to preach the Gospel.

Puritan family, England cca. 1600’s
The Puritan Movement in England by Peter Golding (via)

The Puritans were men whose minds had derived a peculiar interest from the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests…Perhaps the most remarkable body of men which the world has ever produced.

Lord Macaulay
Wherever the religion, the language, or the free spirit of our country has forced its way, the Puritans of old have some memorial. They have moulded the character and shaped the laws of other lands, and tinged with their devouter shades unnumbered congregations of Christian worshippers, even where no allegiance is professed, or willing homage done to their peculiarities. It is a party that has numbered in its ranks many of the best, and not a few of the greatest men that England has enrolled upon her history;

JB Marsden, History ofthe Early Puritans The Puritans, as a body, have done more to elevate the national character than any class of Englishmen that ever lived.

Bishop JC Ryle of Liverpool
Puritanism entered our bone and sinew; it gave an immense strength and discipline to our nation in the days of its grandeur.

Professor AG Dickens, The English Reformation
According to the church historian, Thomas Fuller, „Puritanism” as a recognised descriptive term first came into use about the year 1564. But who were the Puritans, and what was Puritanism? Surprisingly perhaps, these questions are more easily asked than answered.

I . A confused issue
In the words of Dr John Brown, „Puritanism was not so much an organized system as a religious temper and a moral force” . This is clearly borne out in the history of the period under review, for the term was by no means confined to those who separated from the Church of England, but included many who remained within her pale. However, as a modern writer puts it, „the definitions of ‘Puritan’ and ‘Puritanism’ have been, since their earliest use in England, a matter of crowded debate and widespread confusion”. Ferguson puts it similarly: „The problem of defining the concept ‘Puritan’ in historical terms has been frequently and inconclusively discussed”.

That being the case, some consideration needs to be given at the very outset to an understanding of the Puritan ethos, and hopefully also to a working definition of Puritanism as an historical phenomenon. In doing so, one must not be influenced by a popular misconception „the assumption that the Puritans were primarily strict and dour moralists, kill-joys and even hypocrites.” This is the most common modern sense of the word, but „to read it back into history is an error”. As one of the greatest modern authorities in this field expresses it, „Puritanism… should be defined with respect to the Puritans, and not vice versa”.

The Methodists of the 18th century, and to some extent the Fundamentalists of the 20th, have both suffered from a similar misconception. No doubt there were some associated with the Puritan movement who fell into the above-mentioned categories, and the popular image dies hard, but to stigmatize Puritanism as a Whole in that way simply will not stand up to historical investigation: and rigorous historical investigation above all is what is required here. For example, an article in the Daily Telegraph of 3 August 1991 describes the Puritans as those who „enjoyed smashing stained-glass windows”. An earlier report on the recent emphasis on physical health and fitness in the US referred to it as „the new Puritanism in the workplace,” and „the new Puritanism which is flaunted even within the White House”F „Puritan” may well have been used as a term of opprobrium during the period under investigation (as will be shown), but only by its opponents and enemies, who were hardly unbiased. Anyone seeking to grasp the nature of Puritanism, therefore, has to free his mind from popular prejudice and misunderstanding.

The fact of the matter is that, like Christianity itself, Puritanism is an historical phenomenon; and as such, „it must be investigated on the basis of historical evidence,” and „can be determined only by an examination of (its) beginnings…”.

2. The problem of definition

How then do we define Puritanism? John Adair writes: „In fact, ‘Puritan’ was one of several names applied by contemporary critics and enemies to ‘the hotter sort of Protestants'”. But although indicative oftheir zeal, this gives little information as to their distinctive outlook and beliefs, the rationale by which they were motivated. „The hotter sort of protestants are called puritans”, explains the Elizabethan pamphleteer Percival Wibum in his A checke or reproofe ofM. Howlet’s untimely schreeching,10 – but he was „innocent of the sophistication of later discussions of the problem”. In similar vein, GR Elton in his history of England under the Tudors, describes these men as „puritans” because they wanted „a religion ‘purified’ of all the works of Rome”. This too is inadequate. It provides a good definition of „protestant”, butis too simplistic as a description of „puritan”. In his introduction to a study of the Puritan doctrine of Assurance, a recent contributor to the Westminster Theological Journal raises the issue thus:

What was it that defined English Puritanism? Was it essentially a theological movement, emphasizing covenant theology, predestination, and a reformed church service? Or was the heart of the matter political, asserting the inalienable rights of conscience before God, the rule of natural law over arbitrary prerogative courts, the dependency ofthe king in parliament, the foundation of state authority in the people? Some modem research has pointed to a third possibility, that the essence of Puritanism was its piety, a stress on conversion, on existential, heartfelt religion.

No small testimony to the creativity and far-reaching influence of the Puritans lies in the fact that a steady stream of works exploring Puritan contributions in these three areas continues to be produced. The fact is that because the English Puritans engaged in such a diversity of effort, it is inevitable that scholarship should appear to present such a fragmented picture of them. For instance, Prof. John Fiske, „who has been ranked as one of the two greatest American historians”, says:

It is not too much to say that in the seventeenth century, the entire political future of mankind was staked upon the questions that were at issue in England. Had it not been for the Puritans, political liberty would probably have disappeared from the world. If ever there were men who laid down their lives in the cause of all mankind, it was those grim old Ironsides, whose watch-words were texts of Holy Writ, whose battle-cries were hymns of praise.

For more detailed consideration of the political aspect, (in the 17th century), William Hailer’s brilliant study Liberty and Reformation in the Puritan Revolution should be consulted. To some students of the period, if Oliver Cromwell and his secretary John Milton were Puritans, then Puritanism must have been a political movement. To others, if John Owen was a Puritan, then it must have been a theological movement. While to still others, if John Bunyan was a Puritan, then it must have been a pietistic movement. To this kind of approach, it is almost inconceivable that such disparate people should not only be identified with, but be organically related to one essential movement. But the thesis of this study is that this fissiparous tendency in Puritan scholarship needs to be countered with what it is hoped to establish as the unifying principle, the definitive core of Puritanism. In a paper delivered in 1990 entitled, The Nature of Puritanism, AA Davies expresses this desideratum somewhat humorously as follows: „Like the National Debt, inflation, and the girth of the middle-aged, the meaning of the term ‘Puritan’ has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished!” Today, it is applied, usually with contempt, to people who are, or who are regarded as, „strict, precise, or scrupulous in religion or morals”. John Adair speaks of „the Puritan within us”, identifying five characteristics which he believes we have inherited from our Puritan forebears: the Puritan ethic of hard work (and virtually possessing redemptive value); the concept of marriage as a union of spirit, mind and body; cultural simplicity, whether of music, architecture, clothes, or preaching; the belief that scientific investigation is more important than traditional authority; and Puritan values such as involvement in public life, contractual responsibilities, political realism, and self-examination. Nor is this expansion of the term a modern phenomenon; it happened in the 17th century as well. For example, „Puritan” was used in a political sense of those who favoured the restricting of the power of the monarchy by parliament, or even those people „who opposed a Spanish foreign policy”. Archbishop Whitgift, James I, and even Prince Charles have been dubbed „Puritans”! When used religiously, the term included on the one hand „rigid Calvinists” who favoured the Synod of Dort (1618), and on the other any who sought, like Richard Baxter’s father, to read the Bible when others were Morris- dancing etc. on the Sabbath, to pray at home, to reprove drunkards and swearers, and to speak sometimes afew words regarding the life to come.

The truth is that, as Elizabethan society became more secular, affluent, and worldly, „the criteria for determining who was a Puritan became progressively weakened and widened so as to include most serious-minded Protestants who dared to question the freedom of Englishmen to say or do as they pleased on any day of the week”. „He that has not every word on oath…they say he is a puritan, a precise fool, not fit to hold a gentleman company,” wrote a certain Barnaby Rich. By 1641, Henry Parker was complaining about people who enlarged the term to include „any civil, honest, Protestant”, and then contracted it so that it was used of „none but monstrous abominable heretics and miscreants”. Such has been the inflation of the term that CH and K George have argued that the word „Puritan” is the x of a social equation: it has no meaning beyond that given it by the particular manipulator of an algebra of abuse.25 However, inflation needs to be brought under control, and we need to strip away subsequent accretions to the name in order to arrive at an accurate historical definition.

„Puritan” itself was an imprecise term of contemptuous abuse, which between 1564 and 1642 (these exact dates are given by Thomas Fuller and Richard Baxter) was applied to at least five overlapping groups of people: – first, to clergy who scrupled some Prayer Book ceremonies and phrasing; second, to advocates of the Presbyterian reform programme broached by Thomas Cartwright (Lady Margaret Professor ofDivinity at Cambridge), and the 1572 Admonition to the Parliament; third, to clergy and laity, not necessarily non-conformists, who practised a serious Calvinistic piety; fourth, to „rigid Calvinists” who applauded the Synod ofDort, and were called doctrinal Puritans by other Anglicans who did not; fifth, to MPs, JPs, and other gentry who showed public respect for religion, the laws of England, and the rights of subjects.

The description of Puritans as „rigid Calvinists” first appeared in print in M Antonius de Dominis, The Cause of his Return, out of England. The equation had already been made, however, in a private document drawn up by John Overall, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, some time between 1610 and 1619, in which Overall contrasts the tenets of „the Remonstrants or Arminians, and the counter-Remonstrants or Puritans”.

In reply to Professor and Mrs George, then, „there was a specific, though complex and many sided, reality to which all these uses of the ‘odious name’ really did pertain”. This was a clergy-led movement „which for more than a century was held together, and given a sense of identity too deep for differences of judgement on questions of polity and politics to destroy”.

The introductory references to Puritan greatness may seem an unwarranted exercise in hagiography. Pillorying the Puritans, in particular, has long been a popular pastime on both sides of the Atlantic. „Puritan” as a name was, in fact, mud from the start. Coined in the early 1560s, it was always a satirical smear word implying peevishness, censoriousness, conceit, and a measure of hypocrisy, over and above its basic implication of religiously motivated discontent with what was seen as Elizabeth’s Laodicean and compromising Church of England.

Later, the word gained the further, political connotation of being against the Stuart monarchy, and for some sort of republicanism; „its primary reference, however, was still to what was seen as an odd, furious, and ugly form of Protestant religion”Y In England, anti-Puritan feeling was let loose at the time of the Restoration, and has flowed freely·ever since. During the past half-century, however, a major reassessment of Puritanism has taken place in historical scholarship, „Fifty years ago the academic study of Puritanism went over a watershed with the discovery that there was such a thing as Puritan culture, and a rich culture at that, over and above Puritan reactions against certain facets of medieval and Renaissance culture”.32 In fact, North America has been in the van of this new assessment with four classic studies published within a period of only two years which ensured that Puritan studies could never be the same again. These were: William Hailer, The Rise ofPuritanism (1938); ASP Woodhouse, Puritanism and Liberty (1938); MM Knappen, Tudor Puritanism (1939), described as „magisterial” by Professor Patrick Collinson, himself author of another, more recent classic, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (1991); and Perry Miller, The New England Mind, Vol. /: The Seventeenth Century (1939).

3. Recent reassessment

As a consequence, the conventional image has been radically revamped, and a plethora of more recent researchers have confirmed the view of Puritanism which these four volumes yielded. It is now generally acknowledged that the typical Puritans were not „wild men…religious fanatics and social extremists, but sober, conscientious, and cultured persons: persons of principle…excelling in the domestic virtues, and with no obvious shortcomings save a tendency to run to words when saying anything important”. The great Puritan pastor-theologians (to go no further)- Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, Howe, Perkins, Sibbes, Brooks, Watson, Gumall, Flavel, Bunyan, Manton, and others- „were men of outstanding intellectual power, as well as spiritual insight”. „For more than two centuries, since Daniel Neal’s History ofthe Puritans, it has been usual to define the Puritan movement in terms of the power struggle that went on in church and state”; and this, of course, is part of the truth, but it leaves the issue of Puritan motives unresolved. According to JI Packer, Dr Irvonwy Morgan supplies the vital clue. He writes:

The essential thing in understanding the Puritans was that they were preachers before they were anything else…Into whatever efforts they were led in their attempts to reform the world through the Church, and however these efforts were frustrated by the leaders of the Church, what bound them together, undergirded their striving, and gave them the dynamic to persist was their consciousness that they were called to preach the Gospel.

In other words, Puritanism was at heart a spiritual movement, passionately concerned with the glory of God and the life of godliness. It was this from its inception. So it was not, as William Hailer often implies, that the Puritan clergy turned to preaching and pastoral work as a means to the end of building-up a lay constituency strong enough to secure the reformation in church order which by 1570 they found was unattainable by direct action.

The truth is rather that, as Edward Dering’s John Knox-like sermon before Elizabeth in 1570 and the 1572Admonition (to look no further) make plain, the end to which all church order, on the Puritan view, was a means, and for which everything superstitious, misleading and Spirit-quenching must be rooted out, was the glory of God in and through the salvation

of sinners and the building up of lively congregations in which people met God.
The basis of this outlook was to be found in the Puritan view of Scripture as the „regulative principle” of doctrine and practice (and more especially of church worship and order- of which more anon). Puritanism, then, was in Packer’s words, „a movement · for church reform, pastoral renewal and evangelism, and spiritual revival”.40 In addition, and as an immediate expression of its zeal for the honour of God, it was a world-view, a total Christian philosophy and way of life. To summarise: the Puritan aim was to complete what the English Reformation had begun: to finish reshaping Anglican worship, to introduce effective church discipline into Anglican parishes, and to establish righteousness in the political, domestic, and socio-economic fields. So Prof. Basil Hall points out that we should use the term historically, as it was used by those who made it: i.e. of those „restlessly critical and occasionally .rebellious members of the Church of England”, who desired the further purification of their Church, in membership, worship, and government.

4. The essential concern

Historically, then, the essential concern of Puritanism was that the Protestant Reformation begun in the reign of Henry VIII, and furthered under Edward VI, should be completed. Clearly, that is the way Thomas Fuller understood it in 1655 when, writing of the year 1564, he said that „Puritan” was an „odious” nickname of abuse thrown at those ministers who refused to subscribe to the liturgy, ceremonies, and discipline of the established Church urged upon them by the bishops.42 This understanding of the term was confirmed by John Geree in his The Character ofan old English Puritane, or Non-Conformist (1646); by William Bradshaw in his English Puritanism (1605), and by Richard Baxter in his Autobiography.

Ifit is confined to this narrower sense, it will exclude the Separatists, who did not protest within but seceded from the national Church. However, „both Puritans and main- stream Separatists shared common ideas and ideals, and desired greater purity in the Churches and in the lives of their members”. The difference between them was initially one of „strategy, patience, and timing.” The Puritans were patently much closer to the Separatists in a theological and spiritual sense than they were to the Roman Catholics, or even to the Anglicanism of Laud or Hooker. As Professor Hall admits: „perhaps nothing can now prevent most writers from describing Browne, Penry, Robinson, Milton, Cromwell, Bunyan as Puritans, alongside of Cartwright, Travers, Perkins, and Preston who were Puritans in fact”.

Considered from this dual standpoint, Dr DM Lloyd-Jones, a modern „Puritan”, was not self-contradictory in defining Puritanism in two different ways. On the one hand, „Essential Puritanism”, he argued, „was not primarily a preference for one form of church government rather than another; but it was that outlook and teaching which put its emphasis upon a life of spiritual, personal religion, an intense realization of the presence of God, a devotion of the entire being to Him”.46 Elsewhere, in dealing with the perennial problem that people will persist in thinking of Puritanism as „just a narrow view of ethics, and of morality, and of conduct…as just a negative protest against pleasures, he adds:

But that is not Puritanism. The essence of Puritanism was a desire that the Reformation in the Church of England should be completed.

From this standpoint, Lord Macaulay gets to the nub of the issue. The Puritans, he says, were men „convinced that the reform which had been effected under King Edward (VI) had been far less searching and extensive than the interests of pure religion required”.48 From its beginnings in the early days of Elizabeth’s reign (1558-1603), the Puritan movement had this clear objective. In the words of William Hailer, one of the greatest modern authorities in this field, „The Puritans sought to push reform of government, worship, and discipline in the English Church beyond the limits fixed by the Elizabethan settlement”.49 When Elizabeth came to the throne, „the Reformation was secure but not complete. It was the Puritans’ aim to make it complete”.

It is true that in this purpose they failed, „and if this had been all, Puritanism would never have become the revolutionary force it proved to be in the life of the English people, and of people within the English tradition throughout the world”_ Certainly, Puritanism was much bigger than the desire to reconstitute the ecclesiastical organization of society. It was in fact „nothing but English Protestantism in its most dynamic form”, and before it had run its course, „it had transfused in large measure the whole of English life”. Hence the Puritan movement developed down to the outbreak of revolution in 1649 not only as a campaign for reorganizing the institutional structure of the church, but also as a concerted and sustained enterprise of preachers for setting forth in pulpit and press a conception of spiritual life and moral behaviour. In this sense, Puritanism was not incompatible with any given ecclesiastical system, episcopalian, presbyterian, or congregational, and in so being, „it changed the face of both church and nation far more radically than all their ecclesiastical and political planning could have done”.

However, the Puritans were all of one mind in this, whatever their other differences, that from the ecclesiastical standpoint, the Reformation of the Church of England had, because of political expediency, been stunted before it could be conformed to the primitive simplicity of the New Testament model. „Neither the civil nor ecclesiastical powers, they maintained, had the authority to add to, subtract from, or modify the sufficient, definitive teaching of the New Testament in its pattern of Church government and Church life”. „In sum, all Puritans were against any priest or ceremony being interposed between the Christian soul and its Maker,” says Maurice Ashley in his History ofthe Seventeenth Century.56 The whole discussion can be summed up by another modern authority on this period, MM Knappen:

The term „Puritan” is used … to designate the outlook of those English Protestants who actively favoured a reformation beyond that which the crown was willing to countenance and who yet stopped short ofAnabaptism. It therefore includes both Presbyterians and Independents, Separatists and Non-Separatists. It also includes a number of Anglicans who accepted the episcopal system, but who nevertheless desired to modelit and English Church life in general on the Continental Reformed patte

Such was the Puritan ethos as it developed under Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I, and blossomed in the Interregnum, before it withered in the dark tunnel of persecution between 1660 (Restoration) and 1689 (Toleration).

Related Articles

The Use of Your Time (Jonathan Edwards) – Steve Lawson

via On Jonathan Edwards’ 1723 Resolutions

You can read or listen to Jonathan Edwards resolutions being read in the preceding post here.

Videourile Vodpod nu mai sunt disponibile.

The Use of Your Time (Jonathan Edwards) – Steve…, posted with vodpod

Puritan Advice on Discovering God’s Will via Jonathan Parnell, Desiring God


John Flavel:

If therefore in doubtful cases you would discover God’s will, govern yourselves in your search after it by the following rules:

  1. Get the true fear of God upon your hearts. Be really afraid of offending him. God will not hide his mind from such a soul. „The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (Psalm 25:14).
  2. Study the Word more, and the concerns and interests of the world less. The Word is light to your feet (Psalm 119:105), that is, it has a discovering and directing usefulness as to all duties to be done and dangers to be avoided. . .
  3. Reduce what you know into practice, and you shall know what is your duty to practice. „If any man do his will he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). „A good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Psalm 111:10).
  4. Pray for illumination and direction in the way that you should go. Beg the Lord to guide you in straits and that he would not permit you to fall into sin. . .
  5. And this being done, follow Providence so far as it agrees with the Word and no further. There is no use to be made of Providence against the Word, but in subservience to it.

The Mystery of Providence, 1678, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 188-9, emphasis mine.

Who was John Flavel (via)

jfla.jpgJohn Flavel (1628 – 1691)

John Flavel (or Flavell) was born in 1628 in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. He was the son of Richard Flavel, a minister who died of the plague in 1665 while in prison for nonconformity. John Flavel was educated by his father in the ways of religion, then “plied his studies hard” as a commoner at University College, Oxford. In 1650, he was ordained by the presbytery at Salisbury. He settled in Diptford, where he honed his numerous gifts.

He married Joan Randall, a godly woman, who died while giving birth to their first child in 1655. The baby died as well. After a year of mourning, Flavel married Elizabeth Stapell and was again blessed with a close, God-fearing marriage, as well as children.

In 1656, Flavel accepted a call to be minister in the thriving seaport of Dartmouth. He earned a smaller income there, but his work was more profitable; many were converted. One of his parishioners wrote of Flavel, “I could say much, though not enough of the excellency of his preaching; of his seasonable, suitable, and spiritual matter; of his plain expositions of Scripture; his talking method, his genuine and natural deductions, his convincing arguments, his clear and powerful demonstrations, his heart-searching applications, and his comfortable supports to those that were afflicted in conscience. In short, that person must have a very soft head, or a very hard heart, or both, that could sit under his ministry unaffected” (Erasmus Middleton, Evangelical Biography, 4:50-51). read more….

Excerpt from Meet the Puritans by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson


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.


Who was Richard Sibbes

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)

Image via Wikipedia

Excerpt from Meet the Puritans
by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson

Richard Sibbes was born in 1577 at Tostock, Suffolk, in the Puritan county of old England. He was baptized in the parish church in Thurston, and went to school there. As a child, he loved books. His father, Paul Sibbes, a hardworking wheelwright and, according to Zachary Catlin, a contemporary biographer of Sibbes, was “a good, sound-hearted Christian,” but became irritated with his son’s interest in books. He tried to cure his son of book-buying by offering him wheelwright tools, but the boy was not dissuaded. With the support of others, Sibbes was admitted to St. John’s College in Cambridge at the age of eighteen. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1599, a fellowship in 1601, and a Master of Arts degree in 1602. In 1603, he was converted under the preaching of Paul Baynes, whom Sibbes called his “father in the gospel.” Baynes, remembered most for his commentary on Ephesians, succeeded William Perkins at the Church of St. Andrews in Cambridge.

Sibbes was ordained to the ministry in the Church of England in Norwich in 1608. He was chosen as one of the college preachers in 1609 and earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1610. From 1611 to 1616, he served as lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. His preaching awakened Cambridge from the spiritual indifference into which it had fallen after the death of Perkins. A gallery had to be built to accommodate visitors in the church. John Cotton and Hugh Peters were converted under Sibbes’s preaching. During his years at Holy Trinity, Sibbes helped turn Thomas Goodwin away from Arminianism and moved John Preston from “witty preaching” to plain, spiritual preaching.

Sibbes came to London in 1617 as a lecturer for Gray’s Inn, the largest of the four great Inns of Court, which still remains one of the most important centers in England for the study and practice of law. In 1626, he also became master of St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge. Under his leadership, the college regained some of its former prestige. It graduated several men who would one day serve prominently at the Westminster Assembly: John Arrowsmith, William Spurstowe, and William Strong. Soon after his appointment, Sibbes received the Doctor of Divinity degree at Cambridge. He became known as “the heavenly Doctor,” due to his godly preaching and heavenly manner of life. Izaac Walton wrote of Sibbes:

Of this blest man, let this just praise be given,
Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.

In 1633, King Charles I offered Sibbes the charge of Holy Trinity, Cambridge. Sibbes continued to serve as preacher at Gray’s Inn, master of St. Catharine’s Hall, and vicar of Holy Trinity until his death in 1635.

Sibbes never married, but he established an astonishing network of friendships that included godly ministers, noted lawyers, and parliamentary leaders of the early Stuart era. “Godly friends are walking sermons,” he said. He wrote at least thirteen introductions to the writings of his Puritan colleagues.

Sibbes was a gentle man who avoided the controversies of his day as much as possible. “Fractions breed fractions,” he insisted. His battles with Archbishop Laud, Roman Catholics, and Arminians were exceptions. He also remained close friends with many pastors and leaders who wanted more radical reform than he did for the Church of England.

Sibbes was an inspiration to many. He influenced Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, and Independency, the three dominant parties of the church in England at that time. He was a pastor of pastors, and lived a life of moderation. “Where most holiness is, there is most moderation, where it may be without prejudice of piety to God and the good of others,” he wrote.

The historian Daniel Neal described Sibbes as a celebrated preacher, an educated divine, and a charitable and humble man who repeatedly underestimated his gifts. Yet Puritans everywhere recognized Sibbes as a Christ-centered, experiential preacher. Both learned and unlearned in upper and lower classes profited greatly from Sibbes’s alluring preaching.

Sibbes wrote, “To preach is to woo…. The main scope of all [preaching] is, to allure us to the entertainment of Christ’s mild, safe, wise, victorious government.” He brought truth home, as Robert Burns would say, “to men’s business and bosoms.” Catlin wrote of Sibbes, “No man that ever I was acquainted with got so far into my heart or lay so close therein.” In our day, Maurice Roberts says of Sibbes, “His theology is thoroughly orthodox, of course, but it is like the fuel of some great combustion engine, always passing into flame and so being converted into energy thereby to serve God and, even more, to enjoy and relish God with the soul.”

David Masson, biographer of John Milton, wrote, “No writings in practical theology seem to have been so much read in the mid-seventeenth century among the pious English middle classes as those of Sibbes.” The twentieth-century historian William Haller said Sibbes’s sermons were “the most brilliant and popular of all the utterances of the Puritan church militant.”

Sibbes’s last sermons, preached a week before his death, were on John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…. I go to prepare a place for you.” When asked in his final days how his soul was faring, Sibbes replied, “I should do God much wrong if I should not say, very well.” Sibbes began his will and testament, dictated on July 4, 1635, the day before his death, with “I commend and bequeath my soul into the hands of my gracious Savior, who hath redeemed it with his most precious blood, and appears now in heaven to receive it.” William Gouge preached Sibbes’s funeral sermon.

Monergism offers several of Sibbes written works here as well as links to his 7 volume set in .pdf form-

Sinclair Ferguson- The Puritans, can they teach us anything today? via Desiring God

you can read this and other articles at the Banner of Truth website here.

On October 20, 2005 at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Dr. Ferguson delivered a lecture titled „The Puritans: Can They Teach Us Anything Today?” Download or listen to the lecture here.

[A lecture given at the Dedication of the Puritan Resource Center Grand Rapids on October 20, 2005]

Because Dr Joel Beeke, the President of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary is a long-standing friend, propriety and the privilege of years of friendship demanded that I should come and begin to answer this question: „The Puritans: Can They Teach Us Anything Today?”

I suppose the answer to that question depends in some respect on who the „us” refers to. No doubt there are many different people who can learn very different things from the Puritans. If we were, as I take it we are not, a group of educationalists, we would be able to learn a remarkable amount from Puritan education, much of which we badly need to restore to our own educational systems. If we were sociologists or politicians, there is much that we could learn from the social and political vision of the Puritans. If we were historians or theologians, there is much that we could learn about history and theology from the Puritans.

Perhaps one or two among us are educationalists, sociologists, even politicians, historians, or theologians. But most of us here this evening are fundamentally, first and foremost, Christian believers. It is as Christian believers that we want to try to learn whatever we can from those we know as the Puritans.

I want this evening to think about four areas in which the Puritans have something to teach us. It is not my intention to expound the whole of the Puritan vision or deal with every point of theology; rather, I wish to suggest to you that there are a number of general but vital lessons that we can learn today from the struggles, the agonies, the successes, and yes, even the failures of these great Christians who went before us. But before we begin let us ask this question;

Who were these Puritans?

A great Scottish individual with very mixed religious convictions, Thomas Carlyle, once said that the real father of the Puritan movement in England was actually the Scotsman, John Knox. And in many ways there is truth in that statement. John Knox had this burning vision to reform the Church of Jesus Christ so that it no longer had a face that looked as though it had come from Scotland, or from England, or even from Geneva, which he himself said was the most perfect school of Christ since the days of the apostles; but a church that was reformed according to the Scriptures, and understood that it had a place and a time and a location in history. Yet it looked not simply to the status quo or to tradition, but to the Scriptures to discover what the gospel was, what the Christian life was, what the Church was, and what the need of the world was. At great personal cost, Knox sought to reform the church in England, and then later the church in Scotland, in order that the church might be conformed to the New Testament pattern.

In England particularly, where the Reformation had been dominated not by Calvinism and Presbyterianism so much as by Episcopalianism and the government of the church by archbishops and bishops, the Puritan movement took hold: men rising up here and there with a great burden to see what had begun by God’s grace in the later period of Henry VIII, then in the reign of Edward, and then in some measure by individuals in the reign of Elizabeth I in the second half of the sixteenth century. They wanted to see what had come from God make advances, and not be stymied by reaching a level of reformation that contented the Episcopal government but not those who sought a radical, biblical reformation. So towards the end of the sixteenth century, we find individuals arising who, by their very lifestyle and by the summons they gave to the church as a whole to become more like an apostolic church, were described in somewhat demeaning terms as either precisionists or Puritans. Puritans were individuals who wanted to see the church purified according to the teaching of Scripture, and also wanted to see their lives, in great detail, purified by the Word of God. In a way, they took as their motto text the prayer of the Lord Jesus in John 17: „Sanctify [or purify] them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

From the late sixteenth century into the middle and latter seventeenth century, a whole wave of individuals were swept into this extraordinary movement-this experiment and gospel transformation that we now look back on these hundreds of years later and speak about as our Puritan forefathers. In many ways their desires were disappointed. In some ways they may have expected too much. Certainly by the close of the seventeenth century, the Puritan movement had run out of energy. For about one hundred years, this swell of piety grew, and then waned once again. And yet, for all the relative failure of their vision, we’re able to look back on them and say, „There are certain principles here, certain emphases here, certain burdens that the church of Jesus Christ in the early twenty-first century needs to recapture all over again.” At root, and at its best, the Puritan movement was a twin-pronged burden to see the reformation of the church according to the teaching of the Scriptures, and the revival and renewing of the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. I want to suggest to you four particular things that seem to me, as I read and study the Puritans, to be things we need to learn.

1] A Sense of Spiritual Brotherhood

The first of them is this: the Puritan movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly but not exclusively of England, underlines for us the significance of spiritual brotherhood in the movements of the Holy Spirit.

In some ways, generally speaking, the early Puritan movement hoped that the church might be reformed and revived through the normal channels of church government. In a rather wonderful way, some of those men who had been touched by God found themselves proceeding through the hierarchy of the Church of England. And yet it has probably always been true that the church of Jesus Christ has never been reformed and revived simply through ordinary channels. Given the fact that the monarch was the governor as well as the protector of the Church of England, the efforts of these early Puritans to revive and reform the church through the normal channels faced obstacles, not least the obstacle of the power of the monarchy.

But these were men with passion. When some of these Puritans saw that they could press their Episcopalian leaders no further, it had at least this salutary effect upon them: they needed to wait upon God and to seek the blessing of God – not so much by the structures of church government, but more directly, by the power of the gospel, the power of prayer, and the help of the Holy Spirit. And just at that period something rather striking began to happen. Individuals gained burdens, a little like the burden of the apostle Paul who, whether very deliberately or simply by a sense of spiritual intelligence, always seemed to go to places where the gospel might invade, take hold, and spread to other places and institutions.

In the sixteenth century, some of these Puritans began to realize that the place to start was in one or both of the two great universities in England, and to capture the institutions of learning by and for the gospel-and if that couldn’t be done, then at the very least, capture young men’s hearts and train and tutor them in the gospel.

click photo for podcast-Who are the Puritans?

So, particularly in the days of Elizabeth and her successor, James I, we find a number of these men called into ministry, particularly in the university city of Cambridge. The most significant figure there was, of course, the great William Perkins with his long ministry in Cambridge. There, under the ongoing, regular teaching of the Word of God, young men were converted and called into the ministry. They understood, in a sense, that this was actually the biblical pattern-that the church would not be revived by acts of Parliament, but by schools of the prophets, whether they be in the time of Elijah and Elisha, or whether through the disciple band of our Lord Jesus, or the apostolic band with which we are familiar from the letters of the apostle Paul. One might think here of the famous Cappadocian fathers, a brotherhood concerned to defend the glory of Jesus Christ; or of Augustine and his little group around him, concerned to defend and expound the sovereignty of God’s grace; or of Calvin, Farel, Beza, and others in Geneva-not simply associates together in the government of the church with a formal relationship to one another, but brothers who listened to one another preach, who prayed with one another, who shared one another’s burdens and called upon God to come down and bring sovereign blessings to His church.

It is very interesting as you survey the early period of the Puritan movement that it is almost possible to create a spiritual „family tree” of some of the most notable Puritans of the seventeenth century. One only needs to know a little about their lives to discover how deeply they are interconnected; through one, another would be converted, and by reading his book, another would be converted. The familiar names of the Puritans, like William Gouge, or the Culverwells, or the famous master, John Dodd, or Thomas Hooker, Cotton Mather, Richard Sibbes, John Preston, John Cotton, William Perkins, Thomas Goodwin, William Ames, Paul Baynes, John Owen, or Richard Baxter-as you read their biographies you realize that there is a spiritual progeny here, a spiritual family tree. God was binding them together with a common vision and a common burden, a common prayer life, and therefore a common goal in the ministry of the Word of God.

We badly need that today, don’t we? We need a spiritual brotherhood of brothers in the ministry, spread throughout the nation and the world. Yes, one the spiritual father of another, and another the spiritual brother of another-no hierarchy, no formal supremacy, not seeking to establish their own kingdoms in this world, but bound together by the gospel to establish the kingdom of Jesus Christ in a world that is in such desperate need. I dare say that God ordinarily does great things when ordinary ministers of the gospel are bound together as blood brothers, to live and die together. Then God has in His hands the kind of vessels He is pleased to use as vessels of honor for his glory.

That is something we can learn, especially since we are here with a particular concern for a theological seminary. Beside the excellent teaching and the care that the men who come to the seminary receive from the church, if they are bound together with a common bond of gospel grace to live and die together, then perhaps we may see something on the horizon the size of a man’s hand that will bring to us the showers of God’s blessings. And that leads us to the second thing we can learn from the Puritans, because it is intimately connected with it.

2] Recovering the Pulpit

The Puritan movement teaches us the vital significance of the recovery of the pulpit for the recovery of the church. I said that the Puritans had the vision of capturing the university towns for the gospel because they wanted to capture the pulpits of the land for the gospel. A sociologist today might say what they were doing was seeking to capture the media, and that what we learn from the Puritans is that the true Christian church needs to learn to capture the media. Doubtless that would be true, but it would not quite be the point that the Puritans were making. They did, to a certain extent, capture elements of the seventeenth-century media, but they wanted to capture the pulpits not because they were instruments of the media, but because they were the places where the Word of God could be preached with power. They were dominantly concerned with this.

I suppose one could understand a Christian in the twenty-first century saying, „Well, of course, people came to church; preaching was the great thing in those days.” But that is not true. People often did not come to church. Preaching was impoverished, if it even existed. What was needed was preaching that would break through the common expectations of men and women that preachers say nothing vital to life, in order that the gospel might penetrate into the little societies of rural England as well as the great cities like London, and bring men and women, boys and girls, to the knees of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, seeking salvation.

One of the phrases used with some regularity in the first half of the seventeenth century, when people who knew something spoke about the ministry, was, „What we really need is a godly, resident, educated ministry.” By that they meant a ministry, not that was simply educated in worldly knowledge, but a ministry that was educated so that ministers were actually experts in teaching the gospel.

In my home country of Scotland I dare to say that the Christian ministry is perhaps the most despised profession that exists. Even schoolteachers rate higher than ministers. It is easy to lament, „Oh, for the old days!” But the sad truth of the matter is that if ministers are not experts in teaching the gospel, there is a sense in which we deserve every despite that comes to us, because that is our calling and our profession. The ministry had become a despised profession in the seventeenth century. The pulpits needed to be recaptured by men who understood the gospel line by line and were clearly, powerfully, and spiritually able to articulate that to the people who listened.

Related posts


„Remember that women are ordinarily affectionate, passionate creatures, and as they love much themselves, so they expect much love from you.” A puritan said what?

The more I read the Puritans, the more I learn how much respect I should have for those before us and what they knew. I decided I wanted to read more about the Puritans. The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1559, as an activist movement within the Church of England. Puritans by definition felt that the English Reformation had not gone far enough, and that the Church of England was tolerant of practices which they associated with the Catholic Church. They formed into and identified with various religious groups advocating greater „purity” of worship and doctrine, as well as personal and group piety.

I came across this writing from Richard Baxter, written as an exhortation for men and women  on the treatise of marriage. What is truly impressive, is the understanding that Baxter has of women, and the sensitive treatment he accords them in the marriage relationship. For example here are a couple of points that are very well made:

  • in point#9 he says – Don’t magnify her imperfections until they drive you crazy. (Consider also your own infirmities, and how much your wives must bear with you.)
  • in point#11 he says – A good husband is the best means to make a good and loving wife.
  • point #3 he says – Fighting chills love, fighting makes your spouse undesirable to you in your mind.
  • in point #7 he says – Your dissension will expose you to the malice of Satan, and give him advantage for many, many temptations.
  • Do not forget that you are both diseased persons, full of infirmities; and therefore expect the fruit of those infirmities in each other; and do not act surprised about it, as if you had never known of it before. Decide to be patient with one another; remembering that you took one another as sinful, frail, imperfect persons, and not as angels, or as blameless and perfect.

and my absolute favorite one:

  • Agree together beforehand, that when one of you is sinfully angry and upset the other shall silently and gently bear it until you have come to your sanity.

Mai mult

John Owen – The effect and strength of indwelling sin (short video)

John Owen (1616-1683)

John Owen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683.

You can access a John Owens 36 video playlist on Youtube where you can listen to short (approx. 10 minute) readings of first chapters to some of John Owen’s books. There  are also  14 (10 minute)  videos (readings) to the entire book ‘The Mortification of sin in Believers’ by John Owen.

The Puritans – Getting to Know John Owen, the most prominent theologian of the 17th century

In many ways, the great Puritan theologian John Owen (1616-1683) was not unique for his day. This is not simply playing the contrarian. It is important to emphasize that he was one of many “hotter sort of Protestants;” one of many who bemoaned that the church in England was still “halfly reformed.” Owen’s theology was certainly not unique, but was one representative within the broader movement of Reformed orthodoxy. Many of his contemporaries had similar influence, some with even more political clout and others with seemingly more effective preaching. It is also necessary to note that Owen had his critics. Many of these critics, not surprisingly, strongly disagreed with his theology. But he also faced some disparagement for his persona: some thought he was too overbearing, too stern; and many more thought his knee-high leather boots and cocked hat were far too ostentatious for a university vice chancellor. Even today, he’s as famous (or infamous) for his long and lumbering writing style as much as almost anything else—a reputation that Owen seems to have garnered even in his own day.

All of that being said, I do think there are at least three ways in which Owen was particularly important for his time and in the church since.

Here is Carl Trueman, Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary with a synopsis on John Owen:

Great Literary Output

His literary output was unique for its volume, diversity, and importance. The sheer magnitude of material Owen produced is staggering, especially when we today consider that it was under candlelight, with quill pen, and alongside many competitions for time and concentration (e.g., civil war, poor health, family deaths, persecution, ecclesiastical-political leadership, running an almost decimated Oxford University, etc.). His Works stretch 23 volumes in the still-in-print Banner of Truth edition, 24 volumes in the 1850-55 edition. A few of Owen’s contemporaries produced a similar amount of writing, such as Thomas Manton, whose works reach 22 volumes. But in the case of Manton, the majority of his works are published sermons. Owen’s Works contain two volumes of Parliamentary sermons, but ten-fold are the significant works of polemics, doctrinal treatise, practical theology, and one massive commentary on Hebrews with more than 1,000 pages of prefatory material and 2,500 pages of commentary (Vols. 17-23 in the Banner edition).

This and several other works have proven to be unique contributions to the church. His several works on Reformed spirituality have become somewhat movement-defining (Vols. 1, 2, and 4). Abraham Kuyper thought that Owen’s massive work on the Holy Spirit (Vol. 3) was unparalleled. Of course, even those who disagree with Owen’s view of particular redemption know that it is unavoidable to interact with the standard-bearer, The Death of Death (Vol. 10). Owen attempted at least one work on the nature and structure of theology. This Latin work, Theologoumena Pantadapa (1661), is sadly not included in the Banner edition of Works, though there is a paraphrastic English translation (Biblical Theology [Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994]). There are certainly some forgettable sections (one that defends the inspiration of the Masoretic vowel points); but it is nevertheless an important and often overlooked representative of 17th-century “Federal Theology”—a biblical-historical model of theological organization. In short, the enormity, variety, and effect of Owen’s work stands out in his day—or any day for that matter.

Leader in His Day

Owen was a prominent figure in the very “Puritan-esque” times of England’s Revolution and Restoration. He preached to Parliament the day after the king was executed for treason. With the king out of the way, the army and Parliament leaned heavily in the Puritan direction; thus, the 1650s looked to be an unprecedented time to implement many Puritan ideals. Owen enjoyed a unique relationship with Oliver Cromwell, functioning as a leading adviser to the Lord Protector on the complex and ever-changing ecclesiastical-political climate. Indeed, Owen was one of only a handful to construct several legislative proposals for settling a state church during the Protectorate—one that would be healthy, godly, effective, and uncoercive.

All the while, Owen was both vice chancellor of Oxford University and dean of one of its leading colleges, Christ Church. For almost a decade, Owen had the charge of restoring order and glory to England’s oldest university. He was also increasingly a leading figure of the growing movement of Congregational churches in England (and America). This leadership became more apparent and more needed when in 1662 the Independents were ejected from their churches and forbidden to preach publically. Many Puritans, like John Bunyan, suffered years of imprisonment. Though Owen preached and conducted house meetings during these days, he did not face similar persecution (likely because of the already well-established respect he had broadly earned). But Owen did not take such freedom for granted: he constantly pleaded for the release of his imprisoned brethren, wrote many defenses of Reformed non-conformity, repeatedly appealed to the king for liberty, and gave financial aid to many persecuted Puritans and their families.

In these latter days, he was offered the presidency of Harvard and the pastorate of the highly esteemed First Congregational Church of Boston, but he turned them down to remain in his diverse, needed work in England. Therefore, it is an understatement to say that Owen had his fingers in many pies. Whether literary, pastoral, theological, political, academic/educational, or social, his efforts were indeed diverse and he held a prominent place in each. He was not just a “jack of all trades,” but more like a “master of many.” And, whether the Puritans were “in season” (Revolution) or “out of season” (Restoration), he was not only faithful but prominent.

Long and Lasting Influence

The influence of Owen’s life and writing is also quite telling. He has not enjoyed the notoriety of a Luther, Calvin, or Edwards, but it is difficult to think of any contemporary of Owen’s who has had a broader and longer-lasting influence. A few, such as Thomas Goodwin, were indeed very significant in the mid-17th century, but they have not had the same effect on the centuries to follow. Conversely, Owen has been the focus of approximately 30 books and dissertations over the last 20 years. Four significant scholarly works on Owen were published in 2008 alone. More than a few scholars have a major academic work on Owen in process. And, of course, he’s not just of interest to scholars. His practical writings are as widely enjoyed as ever, thanks in part to the modern, unabridged versions edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor (Overcoming Sin and Temptation [Wheaton: Crossway, 2006] and Communion with the Triune God [Wheaton: Crossway, 2007]). Owen’s stock seems to be rightly on the rise, further confirming Charles Spurgeon’s commendation of more than a century ago: “It is unnecessary to say that he is the prince of divines.”

A version of this article first appeared in the Forum section of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol 14, No. 4 (Winter 2010).

A 10 minute  reading of the first part of John Owen’s book „Apostasy from the Gospel” interesting to see how John Owen studied the Church Fathers and how they reacted toward church member who sinned.

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