I would like advice on Puritan authors

I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with Puritan authors.

I’ll start here: I read through Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (oh there’s that dirty word) and loved it. I wanted to move on to the Puritans. Thomas Watson’s book on Romans 8:28 was very good. Then I read Flavel’s book on providence, and it was a lot of lists and various providences. It was rather tedious and I can’t say I learned a lot except he had an incredible description of prayer as related to providence. Then I read The Art of Divine Contentment by Watson, and it was life changing as far as not murmuring, but it took a while to get there, along with a lot of lists. I looked at Burroughs’ book on contentment and saw numbers on almost every page. It must have been the writing style back then. It’s not very personal, but helps categorize things.

So I tried Edwards, thinking that surely I would like him. I chose Religious (that word again) Affections, but he was writing apologetics for something I already very much believe in and am aware of because of what God has done in me. He also had a lot of lists, but not all numbered.

So then I get to Owen’s The Glory of Christ, and I came home. Finally! Maybe it’s partly the subject matter that I like. When reading it, instead of lists, he has four subjects on beholding the glory of Christ. I couldn’t wait to read what each of them was. I can’t wait to read how we behold the glory of Christ in each way. This has such an impact that it has increased my spiritual zeal, which had gone down just a little in the last few months. I don’t see why people find him hard to read. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. There are theologians that I do find very hard to read. I’m not that smart er nothin’. I wouldn’t want an abridged version.

So given all of that, could you recommend other Puritan preachers and authors for me to read? I’m thinking ahead because I’m only part way through Owen’s book. I was thinking of trying Edwards again with The Excellency of Christ. As far as all of the rest, I don’t have a feel for them yet. I don’t need “start out with so and so because he’s easier to read.” Maybe Owen is where I should stay for a while and alternate with modern authors that I know I like. (Horton, Ferguson, Stott, Packer and many more)

Let me know what you think. There are so many Puritan authors that I’m completely unfamiliar with. Maybe this post will help others too.

John Owen

6 Responses to “I would like advice on Puritan authors”

  1. 1 Thomas Provost

    Hi Jeff. My favorite Puritan is John Bunyan. I have the three volumes of his works by Banner of Truth Publishing. Time does not allow me to read all that he has written, but what I have read is excellent. The older English is not always easy, but he has a lot of theological insights. The Glory of Christ by Owen, as you mentioned, is a great read. His book “Communion With the Triune God” is a must read. It is John Owen at his best. If you like Owen, you’ll like this book. You are more than welcome to borrow my copy. – Tom

  2. 2 Acidri

    I am currently listening to some puritan prayers that i got on line 9valley of Vision -puritan prayers and poems) and find them very inspirational (there is that word again). I have read a couple of sermons by the puritans like Flavel and Watson but I am yet to reach your level and get my hands on an John Owen volume and take a bite. (hey just a quick reminder–my blog on your blogroll changed its address -its not ‘twisted crown of thorns’ any more but ‘a twiisted crown of thorns dot com’)

  3. 3 Scripture Zealot

    Tom, thanks for the advice. I never thought of looking at Bunyan. I wonder if his other works get overlooked because Pilgrim’s Progress is so popular.

    I was actually trying to decide between Communion With the Triune God and the other one, since I have them both in electronic format. So I will definitely read that one and then go to The Puritan Library and look at Bunyan.

    Michael, I read a Puritan prayer every Sunday night (I have some on a page here on the blog) and never get tired of them. Thanks for letting me know about your address change.

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    inspirational (there is that word again)

    Ha. I almost missed that. I can always count on you to be a goofball. Does that mean they’re like reading Joel Osteen or a fluffy devotional (there’s that word too)? I’m still planning on writing a series on Christian sayings.

  5. 5 Scott Modrall

    Ok, here are my two bits to suggested Puritan books.
    1. Yep, a list, but I will keep it down to single digits! I am not one for poetry, but must agree with Acidri about Valley of Vision. I found it really rewarding, reading and re-reading. I have it both on CD and in book form. The advantage of the book form is that you can stop and ponder the words at your own pace and let your soul enter into the prayers. The audio version was done quite well too.
    2. I must also agree with Thomas Provost that John Owen on Communion with God is good. But be prepared for a good portion of the book dealing with Christ to be taken from the Song of Solomon. Quite rich, but on the edge as far as how far to take the details of the Song as allegory.
    3. I stumbled onto a less famous Puritan, David Clarkson, and was quite pleased with what I discovered. I was looking for some deeper stuff on the love of Christ and the High Priestly ministry of Christ and felt like I found a pot of gold here. There are three volumes of Clarkson put out by Banner of Truth. Half of Vol 3 has all the good stuff about Christ’s love and priestly work. The rest of that volume is spent on refuting the Catholicism of his day (something I have no interest in reading). I felt my heart warmed reading Clarkson, and he is not difficult. Vols 1 and 2 look to be good too.
    4. The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall is so long, but so good. So what if it takes forever to get through it. If every page is good, what else do you want? He covers the armor of Eph 6, but also just about everything else but the kitchen sink when it comes to the Christian life. Also easy to read. He was a pastor at a small church most all his life, but was so saturated with scripture! I have the three vol paperback abridgment also, but there is something special holding the whole dang thing in your lap that makes me want the unabridged version. I looked at both the Banner of Truth and the Hendriksen unabriged volumes before making a decision which to buy. Banner of Truth appears better bound, but Hendriksen has slightly larger print. I went with Hendriksen.

    Some last comments I can’t resist making: I am still relatively new to the Puritans myself. I may be over reacting, but I have decided that what Packer or someone else said about modern Christian authors and the Puritans is more or less right, at least most of the time: one page out of the Puritans contains more good stuff than an entire chapter from modern authors. I am a slow reader. Very slow. I don’t have time for fluff. To an extent, even the modern writers of the new Calvinism fall into the “fluff” category for me. Don’t get me wrong, I read plenty of modern stuff, mostly commentaries and theology. But on the Christian life and practical theology in general, I think the Puritan still have the upper hand page per page as far as content, depth and stuff that will challenge and warm my heart toward Christ. As a whole, the Puritans are so much more satisfying to me. My hunch is that they knew the art of meditating on the scriptures, something that is pretty much unheard of in modern Christianity, and I think it has taken its toll on the depth of devotion and insight, inspite of all our great learning tools and scholarship. We live in such a hectic, hurried world and seldom listen and contemplate. About a year and a half ago my wife and I moved from the U.S. to South Africa to enter long term mission work. Before going, I sold some of my books in order to use sue of the money to stock up a bit more on solid devotional stuff to read. What did I buy? More Puritan stuff. Solid meals to feed my soul for some time. Am I unbalanced, or have I finally caught on to something?
    I continue to enjoy your blog. I have a hunch that if the two of us were to sit down in person we would have some grand discussions! Keep blogging.

  6. 6 Scripture Zealot

    Scott, thank you so much for taking the time to write your comment. I will definitely take a look at your suggestions. I think I now agree with you on the Puritans, although there are certainly some great modern writers, but history has weeded out the not so good ones, so we have the advantage of that. 100 years from now, we won’t see 98% of the books that have been written lately.

    I’m going to read your comment again later when I have more time and really look into what you wrote.

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