Puritans and Football and Wisdom

I admit that the subject line is click bait–somewhat. Have you ever heard the argument that some men are more passionate about football than God by how they act when watching a game? They seem to show more emotion when watching football (or whatever the sport) than they would in church. I’ve always thought this was a ridiculous comparison.

Certainly there are many men who profess (or professors, as the Puritans might say) to be Christian that have more love for a sport than for God. But to insinuate that most Christian men, and some women, are more passionate about football than God, just because they get emotional during an event, is very unfair. It’s a matter of assessment.

I’ve always had a picture in my own mind about how this isn’t the case with me or many Christian men I know. As I was reading the Puritan Thomas Manton’s A Treatise Of Self Denial (a very popular topic these days, indeed), I found a perfect quote for annihilating this most absurd notion, despite the fact that it was written in the 1600s. Here he’s helping the reader to compare love of things or people with love for God. (Luke 14:26)

Though comparison be the best way to discover love, yet this love is not to be measured by the lively stirring acts of love so much as by the solid esteem and constitution of the spirit. Why? because the act may be more lively where the love is less firm and rooted in the heart. The passions of suitors are greater than the love of the husband, yet not so deeply rooted. The commotion may be greater in less love, but esteem and solid complacency is always a fruit of the greater love. […] A man may laugh at a toy, yet he cannot be said to rejoice more in that toy than in other things, because the act of his joy is more lively than it would be in a solid, serious matter. We laugh more at a trifle, but are better pleased at a great courtesy. [..] For instance, a man may have more affectionate expressions upon the loss of a child or an estate, than at God’s dishonour. A man may weep more for a temporal loss than for sin. [..] So a man may seem to have more lively joy in sensible blessings than in spiritual, and yet he cannot be concluded to be carnal. Why? because of the solid estimation of his heart; he could rather part with all these things than offend God; had rather want this and that comfort than want the favour of God. […] Therefore the judgment you are to make upon your heart, whether you love your relations and contentments more than God, is not to be determined by the rapid motion, but by the constant stream and bent of the heart.

I know the older language can be difficult. I shortened it (this is only part of one very long paragraph) so that it would be easier to read and hopefully see his point. Just because we act silly over something in the moment doesn’t mean that we love it more than something else. Suitors may swoon over a person they would like to enter into a serious relationship with, but the “love of a husband” is more deeply rooted. We may even show more delight in a humorous toy than in the serious matter of Biblical doctrine.

Though we should hate everything in this life relative to our love for God (Luke 14:26), and we should ‘order (or manage) our affections’, as the Puritans would say, we need to be careful to assess these things properly.

Extra credit:
The wisdom of some of the Puritans amazes me. Not all of their wisdom comes directly from Scripture, although it would all be in conformity to it. Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean ‘nothing but Scripture’. This also shows how reasonable they were. They didn’t usually take the stereotypical hard-line literal approach that we might think they would take. More in future posts.

Puritans

1 Response to “Puritans and Football and Wisdom”


  1. 1 Thomas Provost

    Very good Jeff. I’ve actually said that before about the excitement over a football game more than worship. The Puritans were very practical thinkers.

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