Tag Archive for 'Puritan'

How We Are To Treat Others

For your consideration, a quote by the Puritan Richard Sibbs from The Bruised Reed. Brackets were added by me.

[Martin] Bucer [who influenced the development of Calvinism] was a deep and a moderate divine; upon long experience he resolved to refuse [reject] none [no one] in whom he saw aliquid Christi, something of Christ.

[Even] The best Christians in this state of imperfection are like gold that is a little too light, which needs some grains of allowance to make it pass. You must grant the best their allowance [Colossians 3:13 NLT]. We must supply out of our love and mercy, that which we see wanting [lacking] in them.

The church of Christ is a common hospital, wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or other; that we should all have ground of exercising [applying] mutually the spirit of wisdom and meekness.

This is a difficult quote. Although neither Bucer nor Sibbs are perfect, and Bucer was known for his ability to be conciliatory, it’s reflective of what Scripture says. Many of us need to offer others more grace and mercy than we do.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:12-17 NLT

Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5 CSB (and subsequent)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.
James 3:17

While much of Scripture offers us exceptions, this should be our default way of living. I often feel a very healthy (in every sense of the word) guilt when reading through my Bible and coming across verses and passages like these. It’s something the Spirit has been emphasizing with me.

As I see it, two things are lacking: contentment, which results in murmuring–often about others, and the ability to recognize our own sin, including the magnitude of it, all being a result of pride.

I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself.
Philippians 4:11

This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.
1 Timothy 1:15

Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
Titus 3:1-3

The Bruised Read

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

Quotes from The Works of William Perkins, Vol. 1 – Pt. 1

This post is in the series of Book Quotes, where various quotes are posted to give the reader an idea of what the book and author are like.

William Perkins (1558-1602) is often called a father of Puritanism, being one of the early, well-known (in the 17th century) Puritan preachers. J. I. Packer writes, “No Puritan author save Richard Baxter ever sold [books] better than Perkins, and no Puritan thinker ever did more to shape and solidify historic Puritanism itself”. It’s strange that he’s not as well-known now. He may be my favorite Puritan and one of my favorite authors in any period of history.

Here are some preliminary quotes. The first few quotes are from the introduction and offer some insight into the Puritans in general.

he devised a very simple structure in preaching and writing: exposition, doctrines, reasons, and uses.

Perkins, along with many Reformers and later Puritans used this method of preaching. They would often preach through a book of the Bible, expositing a passage or verse each day. They would also explain doctrine (teaching) that goes along with it. ‘Reasons’ are why–often using question and answer format. ‘Use’ would be what we call application. I like the word use a lot better.

“The form of justification, is, as it were, a kind of translation of the believer’s sins unto Christ, and again Christ’s righteousness unto the believer, by a reciprocal or mutual imputation.” This concept of “mutual imputation” flowed directly from Perkins’s covenant theology.

Perkins was a Puritan in terms of his piety. “For the pure heart is so little regarded,” says he, “that the seeking after it is turned to a by-word, and a matter of reproach. Who are so much branded with vile terms of Puritans and Precisians, as those that most endeavor to get and keep the purity of heart in a good conscience?” Again, “The due obedience to the moral law is nick-named and termed preciseness, and the professors thereof called Puritans and Precisians, for this cause only, that they make conscience of walking in obedience to God’s law.”

The Puritans weren’t the killjoys that the sterotype would portray. They did preach and write extensively about obedience, purity of heart, and having a good conscience. They were as much maligned for that back then as some are now.

Definitions:
‘The term experimental comes from the Latin verb experior—“to know by experience.”’
Many use the word experiential, which is more understandable to people unfamiliar with the terminology.

hurliburlies – noisy confusion – I’m not making that up. He only used it once.

mammonists – those who are greedy, among other things – I think this term should be resurrected.

sanctification or renewed holiness, whereby we are enabled to walk before God in new obedience, bringing forth the fruits of righteousness.” He uses this term more often for initial renewal than continued growth. I would look further into this.

I have some interesting quotes on affliction and the Sermon on the Mount coming up. This is one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. The hardcover is expensive, but a lot of work went into editing it which is a big help. I bought the Kindle version at a reduced price. I plan on getting Volume 2 which is an exposition of Galatians. Thankfully the Kindle version is the standard $9.99.

The Works of William Perkins Volume 1

Richard Sibbes On Being In Christ

God cannot be comfortably thought upon out of Christ our Mediator, in whom he was ‘reconciling the world to himself,’ 1 Cor. 5:19, as being a friend both to God and us [John 15:14], and therefore fit to bring God and the soul together, being a middle person in the Trinity. In Christ, God’s nature becomes lovely to us, and ours to God; otherwise there is an utter enmity betwixt his pure and our impure nature. Christ hath made up the vast gulf between God and us [Romans 5:1]. There is nothing more terrible to think on, than an absolute God out of Christ.

Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 1, The Soul’s Conflict

Especially interesting to me is “God’s nature becomes lovely to us, and ours to God”. I’ll attempt to assemble Scripture to portray that, but in reverse order. (I added references in brackets above.)

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God;
Romans 8:7a

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:1-7

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2

Richard Sibbes was an English Puritan preacher (1577-1635).

How dead guys deal with afflictions

These two paragraphs below by the Puritan Thomas Boston are more rich than the whole new book I just read [skimmed] on worry. These are just introductory remarks. He will go on in detail about how to go about this, instead of just leaving it at that and moving onto the next thing. I can see why some people are cynical about new popular level books. It’s easy to get pulled in by the blurbs and descriptions, and the newness of something. Many contemporary (even Reformed) authors also seem to be reticent to come out and say that God is the ultimate direct or indirect cause of everything, Biblical as it is (Lamentations 3:37-38).

He’s starting out using text from Ecclesiastes which is one of my favorite books in the Bible. This is my first exposure to Boston. Maybe I will especially like him.

The crook in the lot is affliction, continued for a shorter or longer period of time, as opposed to acute pain or discomfort–something that goes crooked in your allotment in life.

‘1. The remedy itself [dealing with adversity] is a wise eyeing of the hand of God in all we find to bear hard on us: “Consider the work of God,” namely, in the crooked, rough, and disagreeable parts of your lot, the crosses you find in it. You see very well the cross itself. Yea, you turn it over and over in your mind and leisurely view it on all sides. You look to this and the other second cause of it, and so you are in a foam and a fret. But, would you be quieted and satisfied in the matter, lift up your eyes towards heaven, see the doing of God in it, the operation of His hand. Look at that, and consider it well; eye the first cause of the crook in your lot; behold how it is the work of God, His doing.

2. Such a view of the crook in our lot is very suitable to still improper risings of heart, and quiet us under them: “For who can make that straight which God has made crooked?” As to the crook in your lot, God has made it; and it must continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even it, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: it will not change for all you can do. Only He who made it can mend it, or make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is a proper means at once to silence and to satisfy men, and so bring them to a dutiful submission to their Maker and Governor, under the crook in their lot.’

–Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot: Or a Display of the Sovereignty and Wisdom of God in the Afflictions of Men, and the Christian’s Deportment Under Them

J.I. Packer on the Depth of Puritan Piety

I found this quote from A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by J.I. Packer at Underdog Theology. It’s one of my favorite quotes that I’ve come across online recently. It’s not only about the Puritans, but what real spirituality should be. I’m not sure how women should take the word manliness. I would think it has to do with manly versus boyish as opposed to manly versus womanly.

To avoid any confusion, the word piety wasn’t largely viewed as negative until sometime during the last century. Pious may be a worse word for some. (Same with the word religion.) Some of us still don’t see it that way. I will be writing about those at some point. You can think of it as spirituality if you wish.

I needed to read this three times to really absorb it. The conviction is tough. He may be assuming too little of some contemporary Christians. It seems he may also be comparing Puritan writers with average evangelicals as a whole. But it seems largely accurate.

The chapter that the quote is contained in can be found online, or the book at Amazon. I added some definitions which have a dotted underline, along with book links. Emphasis is his:

“Anyone who knows anything at all about Puritan Christianity knows that at its best it had a vigour, a manliness, and a depth which modern evangelical piety largely lacks. This is because Puritanism was essentially an experimental faith, a religion of ‘heart-work’, a sustained practice of seeking the face of God, in a way that our own Christianity too often is not. The Puritans were manlier Christians just because they were godlier Christians. It is worth noting three particular points of contrast between them and ourselves.

First, we cannot but conclude that whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing. The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not. The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it. When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God. Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God. Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour. We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters. Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us. But how different were the Puritans! The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God. In private they talked freely of their experiences of God, for they had deep experiences to talk about, like the ‘three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun’ whom Bunyan met at Bedford:

Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told each other by which they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. . . . And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak. . .

And the Puritans never ceased to feel a sense of awe and wonder that access to God in peace and friendship was possible for them at all. ‘Truly for sinners to have fellowship with God, the infinitely holy God, is an astonishing dispensation,’ wrote Owen, and Puritan hearts thrilled again and again at the wonder of God’s ‘astonishing’ grace. To them it was the most marvellous thing in the world. Yet we in our day, much as we love to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ (I suppose, because we like the tune), are not inwardly amazed by grace as the Puritans were; it does not startle us that the holy Creator should receive sinners into his company; rather, we take it for granted! ‘God will forgive; that’s his job’ was the final scoff with which the French cynic went to meet his Maker. ‘God will receive; that his job’ seems to be our bland assumption today. Surely something is wrong here.

Then, second, we observe that whereas the experimental piety of the Puritans was natural and unselfconscious, because it was so utterly God-centred, our own (such as it is) is too often artificial and boastful, because it is so largely concerned with ourselves. Our interest focuses on religious experience, as such, and on man’s quest for God, whereas the Puritans were concerned with the God of whom men have experience, and in the manner of his dealings with those whom he draws to himself. The difference of interest comes out clearly when we compare Puritan spiritual autobiography—Grace Abounding, say, or Baxter’s autobiography, or the memoirs of Fraser of Brea—with similar works our own day. In modern spiritual autobiography, the hero and chief actor is usually the writer himself; he is the centre of interest, and God comes in only as a part of his story. His theme is in effect ‘I—and God’. But in Puritan autobiography, God is at the centre throughout. He, not the writer, is the focus of interest; the subject of the book is in effect ‘God—and me’. The pervasive God-centredness of Puritan accounts of spiritual experience is a proof of their authenticity, and a source of their power to present God to the modern reader. But when experience of God is told in a dramatised and self-glorifying way, it is a sure sign that the experience itself, however poignant, lacked depth, if, indeed, it was genuine at all.

Third, it seems undeniable that the Puritans’ passion for spiritual integrity and moral honesty before God, their fear of hypocrisy in themselves as well as in others, and the humble self-distrust that led them constantly to check whether they had not lapsed into religious play-acting before men with hearts that had gone cold towards God, has no counterpart in the modern-day evangelical ethos. They were characteristically cautious, serious, realistic, steady, patient, persistent in well-doing and avid for holiness of heart; we, by contrast, too often show ourselves to be characteristically brash, euphoric, frivolous, superficial, naive, hollow and shallow. Owen’s advice to ‘my fellow-labourers and students in divinity’ about the way to approach the task of upholding the faith against falsehood and folly climaxes with a call to ‘diligent endeavour to have the power of the truths professed and contended for abiding upon our hearts’; surely in saying this Owen plots the path from where we are to where the Puritans were, and where we should be, and need to be, in the quality of our own walk with God. The whole passage calls for quotation.

When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth; . . . not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the things abides in our hearts; when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for,—then shall we be garrisoned, by the grace of God, against all the assaults of men. And without this all our contending is, as to ourselves, of no value. What am I the better if I can dispute that Christ is God, but have no sense of sweetness in my heart from hence that he is a God in covenant with my soul? What will it avail me to evince, by testimonies and arguments, that he hath made satisfaction for sin, if, through my unbelief, the wrath of God abideth on me, and I have no experience of my own being made the righteousness of God in him? . . . it be any advantage to me, in the issue, to profess and dispute that God worketh the conversion of a sinner by the irresistible grace of his Spirit, if I was never acquainted experimentally with the deadness and utter impotency to good, that opposition to the law of God, which is in my own soul by nature, [and] with the efficacy of the exceeding greatness of the power of God in quickening, enlightening, and bringing forth the fruits of obedience in me? . . . us, then, not think that we are any thing the better for our conviction of the truths of the great doctrines of the gospel . . . we find the power of the truths abiding in our own hearts and have a continual experience of their necessity and excellency in our standing before God and our communion with him.

A word to the wise? There was once a day when God sent Jeremiah to say to Israel, ‘Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Jer 6:16). As we study Owen on the spiritual life, may it be that God is speaking in similar terms to us? Owen’s instructions and directions are indeed ‘old paths’, as old as the Bible, but they are paths which the Puritans as a body found to be in truth ‘the good way’. We shall do well to seek for grace to start walking in them ourselves. ‘And you will find rest for your souls.'”
–J.I. Packer, A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life

Reformed Quote of the Day: Watson on Election

It is absurd to think anything in us could have the least influence upon our election. Some say that God did foresee that such persons would believe and therefore did choose them; so they would make the business of salvation to depend upon something in us. Whereas God does not choose us FOR faith, but TO faith. ‘He hath chosen us, that we should be holy’ (Eph. 1:4), not because we would be holy, but that we might be holy. We are elected to holiness, not for it.

–Thomas Watson, All Things For Good, Puritan Paperbacks, Caps and Emphasis are his

I especially like, “God does not choose us FOR faith, but TO faith.” Or, God does not choose us for the faith that we will decide to have (even with prevenient grace), but chooses us to give us faith. “It is a gift from God, not by works” (Ephesians 2:8)

When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Acts 3:26

(Remember, the subject line says this is a Reformed quote.)

Quote of the Day: Afflictions for Good

There are no sins God’s people are more subject to than unbelief and impatience. They are ready either to faint through unbelief, or to fret through impatience. When men fly out against God by discontent and impatience it is a sign they do not believe this text. Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because afflictions work for good. Discontent is a sin which puts us upon sin. ‘Fret not thyself to do evil’ (Psalm 37:8). He that frets will be ready to do evil: fretting Jonah was sinning Jonah (Jonah 4:9). The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself at the fire. Oh, let us not nourish this angry viper in our breast. Let this text produce patience, ‘All things work for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28). Shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? If one friend should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it, should graze his head, he would not be troubled much, seeing by this means he had got a bag of money. So the Lord may bruise us by afflictions, but it is to enrich us. These afflictions work for us a weight of glory, and shall we be discontented?

–Thomas Watson, All Things for Good (Puritan Paperbacks)

~Jeff

Mystery of Providence and Prayer

Mystery of Providence by John Flavel is comprised of three parts:

  1. The Evidence of Providence
  2. Meditation on the Providence of God
  3. Application of the Doctrine of Providence

I had a hard time with the first two sections of this book. Not because it was hard to understand, but just because he listed a bunch of stuff as to what various ‘providences’ are, and how important it is to meditate on them, and again listing a bunch of them and reasons why we should. Since this is my first whole Puritan book, I was disappointed at this point to say the least. Has anyone else felt this way?

But then came section 3. What’s quoted below is a brilliant treatise on asking for things in prayer and waiting for them. What things to ask for; what things to wait for. What things are in God’s will and what things aren’t. It’s not that it was all new–I will write about waiting on God in another post using Proverbs 2 as an example and providence has been a favorite subject of mine for quite some time, it’s just that it’s such a complete and cogent treatment of this subject, so encouraging and so educational that I want to quote part of it. The problem I have is when to end it! So I just picked a place and stopped it where I did. If this subject matter is of interest to you, I’d highly recommend it. I don’t agree with everything he says later on, but what do I know.

You can find it free online or the paperback is $10, a $5 edition (I’m not sure if they’re different) or Kindle is $0.99.

I especially like how he says that we promise things for ourselves and then blame God when we don’t get them.

I have included some information about the book and author below. I’m not sure who wrote the description.

I look forward to reading more Puritan books in the near future.

Though Providence does not yet perform the mercies you wait for, yet you have no ground to entertain hard thoughts of God, for it is possible God never gave you any ground for your expectation of these things from Him.

It may be you have no promise to build your hope upon, and if so, why shall God be suspected and dishonored by you in a case in which His truth and faithfulness was never engaged to you? If we are thwarted in our outward concerns, and see our expectations of prosperity dashed, if we see such and such an outward comfort removed, from which we promised ourselves much, why must God be blamed for this? These things you promised yourselves, but where did God promise you prosperity and the continuance of those comfortable things to you? Produce His promise, and show where He has broken it. It is not enough for you to say there are general promises in the Scripture, that God will withhold no good thing, and these are good things which Providence withholds from you; for that promise (Psalm 84:11) has its limitations, it is expressly limited to such as ‘walk uprightly.’ It concerns you to examine whether you have done so, before you quarrel with Providence for non-performance of it. Ah, friend, search your own heart, reflect upon your own ways. Do you not see so many flaws in your integrity, so many turnings aside from God, both in heart and life, that may justify God, not only in withholding what you look for, but in removing all that you enjoy? And besides this limitation as to the object, it is limited (as all other promises relating to externals are) in the matter or things premised by the wisdom and will of God, which is the only rule by which they are measured out to men in this world, that is, such mercies in such proportions as He sees needful and most conducive to your good; and these given out in such times and seasons as are of His own appointment, not yours.

God never came under an absolute unlimited tie for outward comforts to any of us, and if we are disappointed, we can blame none but ourselves. Who bid us expect rest, ease, delight, and things of that kind in this world? He has never told us we shall be rich, healthy, and at ease in our habitations, but on the contrary, He has often told us we must expect troubles in the world (John 16:33), and that we must ‘through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). All that He stands bound to us by promise for is to be with us in trouble (Psalm 91:15), to supply our real and absolute needs. ‘When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them’ (Isaiah 41:17); and to sanctify all these providences to our good at last. ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). And as to all these things, not one tittle ever did or shall fail.

If you say you have long waited upon God for spiritual mercies to your souls according to the promise, and still those mercies are deferred, and your eyes fail while you look for them, I would desire you seriously to consider of what kind those spiritual mercies are for which you have so long waited upon God.

Spiritual mercies are of two sorts: such as belong to the essence, the very being of the new creature, without which it must fail, or to its well-being and the comfort of the inner man, without which you cannot live so cheerfully as you would. The mercies of the former kind are absolutely necessary, and therefore put into absolute promises, as you see, ‘And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me’ (Jeremiah 32:40). But for the rest they are dispensed to us in such measures and at such seasons as the Lord sees fit, and many of His own people live for a long time without them. The donation and continuation of the Spirit, to quicken, sanctify, and unite us with Christ, is necessary, but His joys and comforts are not so. A child of light may walk ‘in darkness’ (Isaiah 50:10). He lives by faith, and not by feeling.

You complain that Providence delays to perform to you the mercies you have prayed and waited for, but have you right ends in your desires after these mercies?

It may be that this is the cause you ask and receive not (James 4:3). The lack of a good aim is the reason why we lack good success in our prayers. It may be we pray for prosperity, and our aim is to please the flesh. We look no higher than the pleasure and accommodation of the flesh. We beg and wait for deliverance from such a trouble and affliction, not that we might be the more ready and prepared for obedience, but freed of what is grievous to us and destroys our pleasure in the world. Certainly, if it is so, you have more need to judge and condemn yourselves, than to censure and suspect the care of God.

You wait for good, and it does not come; but is your will brought to a due submission to the will of God about it?

Certainly, God will have you come to this before you enjoy your desires. Enjoyment of your desires is the thing that will please you, but resignation of your wills is that which is pleasing to God. If your hearts cannot come to this, mercies cannot come to you. David was made to wait long for the mercy promised him, yea, and to be content without it before he enjoyed it. He was brought to he ‘as a weaned child’ (Psalm 131:2), and so must you.

Your betters have waited long upon God for mercy, and why should not you?

David waited till his ‘eyes failed’ (Psalm 69:3). The Church waited for Him in the way of His judgments (Isaiah 26:8). Are you better than all the saints that are gone before you? Is God more obliged to you than to all His people? They have quietly waited, and why should not you?

Will you lose anything by patient waiting upon God for mercies?

Certainly not!

The “Mystery of Providence” by John Flavel presents the Puritan perspective on the providence of God in practical terms. The book is really a lengthy meditation and application of Psalm 52:7, which says “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” From this text, Flavel derives his “doctrine” (falling in line with typical Puritan sermon-structure): “It is the duty of the saints, especially in times of straits, to reflect upon the performances of Providence for them in all the states and through all the stages of their lives.” This theme is then unfolded in in a three-part treatise, covering 1. The Evidence of Providence, in which Flavel seeks to prove and demonstrate the reality of God’s Providential care over the lives of believers by looking at such things as birth, upbringing, conversion, employment, family affairs, preservation from evil, and sanctification; 2. Meditation on the Providence of God, where the author shows that it is our duty to meditate on Providence, directs in how to do this, and then covers ten advantage to gained from this practice; and 3. Application of the Doctrine of Providence, in which the practical implications of the doctrine are considered and the problems and questions arising in peoples minds are answered. Though not as witty or colorful as Thomas Brooks, as astute as Stephen Charnock, or as experiential as John Owen, Flavel does have merits to commend him. Having lived a difficult life, he knew firsthand how to rely on God’s sovereignty in his life. Flavel’s work cultivates a greater awareness of God’s mercy, trust in God’s wisdom, and resignation to God’s will in one’s life. Highly recommended.

About the Author

John Flavel (1627–1691) was an English Presbyterian clergyman. Flavel was born at Bromsgrove, Worcestershire and studied at Oxford. A Presbyterian, he held livings at Diptford (in Devon) and Dartmouth. He was ejected from the latter as a result of the Great Ejection of 1662; however, he continued to preach there secretly. After the Declaration of Indulgence 1687, became a minister of a Nonconformist Church there. He was a prolific and popular author. Among his works are The Mystery of Providence (1678), Husbandry Spiritualised (1669) and Navigation Spiritualised (1671), The Seamon’s Companion (1676), titles which suggest some of his characteristics as a writer. He died at Exeter, Devonshire, on 26 June 1691. Flavel is commemorated in the name of Flavel Road on Bromsgrove’s Charford Estate.

The Puritan Library

http://www.puritanlibrary.com/

Here is an answer I found to my last post. You will find loads of e-books in epub and Kindle format in addition to books in print, other web sites etc. here. In a way I wish I wasn’t studying Proverbs and the Old Testament right now so I could dig into all these great free books on my $38 reading device (an old Nokia 770 from someone on eBay).

Also see:
Who Were the Puritans?

Puritan E-Books?

Does anyone have a source for good Puritan e-books or have any recommendations for good Puritan books that are free online–legally of course? I bought a Nokia 770 for $38 on eBay. It can read PDF and all the standard generic e-book formats. (No Kindle, iPhone apps, Droid etc.) I downloaded The Pursuit of God by Tozier (not a Puritan), my favorite Christian living book ever in e-book format and it’s great. I found The Art of Divine Contentment and a few others by Watson and also Religious Affections and others by Edwards* in PDF format. I would like to know about other recommendations you would have. I’d especially like an e-book format because I love the reader on this device but PDF is OK too.

If Puritan were a denomination that’s what I’d be.

*I realize he’s a second generation Puritan.

“Signs of Living to Please God” by Richard Baxter

This has been posted on quite a few blogs. I’m not sure who to give a hat tip (HT) to or who’s copying who so I’ll skip that. In any case this writing of Richard Baxter’s is out of copyright so it’s perfectly fine to use freely.

I would like to do something a little different. I would like to find more Scripture than what has been posted previously for each item as an exercise for myself, list the Scripture before each item and post it in full so that people will be more likely to read it. I will use the KJV just for ambiance but if you click on the Scripture reference link you can view it in NLT if you would like.

Quoted text is Richard Baxter.

See therefore that you live upon God’s approval as that which you chiefly seek, and will suffice you: which you may discover by these signs.

1.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
converting the soul:
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple.
The statutes of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart:
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring for ever:
the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
yea, than much fine gold:
sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned:
and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Psalms 19:7-11

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
2 Peter 1:3-4

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?
by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
With my whole heart have I sought thee:
O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart,
that I might not sin against thee.
Psalms 119:9-11

And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
1 John 3:22

You will be most careful to understand the Scripture, to know what doth please and displease God.

2.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Colossians 3:23

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

You will be more careful in the doing of every duty, to fit it to the pleasing of God than men.

3.
Search me, O God, and know my heart:
try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalms 139:23-24

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
2 Corinthians 13:5

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your ends, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.

4.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight,
O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:14

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Matthew 6:1-6

You will look to secret duties as well as public and to that which men see not, as well as unto that which they see.

5.
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
Acts 24:16

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
John 14:26

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
James 4:17

You will reverence your consciences, and have much to do with them, and will not slight them: when they tell you of God’s displeasure, it will disquiet you; when they tell you of his approval, it will comfort you.

6.
Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
Romans 15:2

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:9-10

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious in order to the pleasing of God, and not proud and ambitious for your honour with them, nor impious against the pleasing of God.

7.
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written,
As I live, saith the Lord,
every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Romans 14:8-12Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Whether men be pleased or displeased, or how they judge of you, or what they call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interest, in comparison to God’s judgment. You live not on them. You can bear their displeasure, censures, and reproaches, if God be but pleased. These will be your evidences.

A Prayer

Expel from my mind all sinful fear and shame, so that with firmness and courage I may confess the Redeemer before men, go forth with Him hearing His reproach, be zealous with His knowledge, be filled with His wisdom, walk with His circumspection, ask counsel of Him in all things, repair to the Scriptures for His orders, stay my mind on His peace, knowing that nothing can befall me without His permission, appointment and administration.

From Openness – Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries.
http://www.eternallifeministries.org/prayers.htm