Tag Archive for 'Puritans'

Recommendation for Your First Puritan Book

Of the Puritan books that I’ve read so far, what I would recommend as the first book for someone who’s interested in starting to read them would be All Things for Good, by Thomas Watson. This is an excellent exposition of Romans 8:28. In addition to being relatively short and easy to read, it’s representative of Puritan thought on God’s sovereignty, providence, and grace as it applies to our lives. Here are two quotes from this book.

Question. What shall we do to love God?
[short] Answer: Study God.
[long] Answer: Did we study Him more, we should love Him more. Take a view of His superlative excellencies, His holiness, His incomprehensible goodness. The angels know God better than we, and clearly behold the splendour of His majesty; therefore they are so deeply enamoured with Him. Labour for an interest in God. “O God, thou art my God” (Psalm 63.1). That pronoun “my”, is a sweet loadstone to love; a man loves that which is his own. The more we believe, the more we love: faith is the root, and love is the flower that grows upon it. “Faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5.6). Make it your earnest request to God, that He will give you a heart to love Him. This is an acceptable request, surely God will not deny it. When king Solomon asked wisdom of God, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart” (1 Kings 3.9), “the speech pleased the Lord” (verse 10). So when you cry to God, “Lord, give me a heart to love Thee. It is my grief, I can love Thee no more. Oh, kindle this fire from heaven upon the altar of my heart!” surely this prayer pleases the Lord, and He will pour of His Spirit upon you, whose golden oil shall make the lamp of your love burn bright.

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)

If you would like other ideas, Joel Beeke has some recommendations in an article Reading the Puritans, which is from his book Meet the Puritans.

The Puritans can be difficult to read. Their wording, grammatical structure, and detail can be hard for the contemporary mind to grasp. It is best to read short books from some popular Puritan writers before atempting to read Puritans of more theological profundity, such as Owen and Thomas Goodwin (1600–1679). I recommend beginning with Puritan divines like Tomas Watson (c. 1620–1686), John Flavel (1628–1691), and George Swinnock (c. 1627–1673). Watson wrote succinctly, clearly, and simply. His Art of Divine Contentment, Heaven Taken by Storm, and The Doctrine of Repentance are good places to begin.

Flavel, who was pastor at the seaport of Dartmouth, became known as a seaman’s preacher. He is one of the simplest Puritans to read. His Mystery of Providence is flled with pastoral and comforting counsel. Swinnock showed a special sensitivity to the Scriptures and could explain doctrines with great wisdom and clarity. You might try his The Fading of the Flesh and The Flourishing of Faith, recently edited by Stephen Yuille and printed in a contemporary style.

I’ve read Watson’s Art of Divine Contentment. I think All Things for Good would be an easier read. I’ve also read Flavel’s Mystery of Providence, which is an excellent choice, in addition to A Saint Indeed: Or the Great Work of a Christian in Keeping the Heart in the Several Conditions of Life (or just Keeping the Heart), which is an exposition of Proverbs 14:23 which I really liked a lot and would also highly recommend.

All Things for Good

Repost: Important Revelations (1 of 2)

As I’m taking a bit of a respite from blogging, I remembered that I can do what other slackers do and just repost stuff I’ve written before. How easy is that?

This one is serious though. I feel it’s the most important thing God has shown me and that I’ve posted in a long time.

When we’re convicted of sin, or spoken to by God, or our eyes are opened to something in Scripture, we can’t expect it to have the same impact on others as it has had on us. It’s very frustrating to read authors who feel that everybody has the same weaknesses. People are on different timetables and have different strengths and weaknesses. But aside from that, the sin of murmuring, as Thomas Watson puts it, is something I see a lot of that goes largely unnoticed, including myself of course, until recently. I mean noticed, not taken care of. That will come. But I’ve made progress already. The post is recent, from July 2.



This is a sin I haven’t really been aware of much lately. It isn’t talked about often. Thomas Watson writes about this in The Art of Divine Contentment. I’ve been making an effort to think more positively, or less negatively, but when he uses the word murmur and explains it like he does, it’s very convicting. I can see how this is subtly insidious, and the devil would love to see a lot of it, without our ever really realizing it as long as it stays under the radar, so to speak. I can also see how profitable this would be if it could be reduced by working on it with God’s grace.

Thou that art a murmurer art in the account of God as a witch, a sorcerer, as one that deals with the devil: this is a sin of the first magnitude. Murmuring oft ends in cursing: Micah’s mother fell to cursing when the talents of silver were taken away, (Judges 17:2) so doth the murmurer when a part of his estate is taken away. Our murmuring is the devil’s music; this is that sin which God cannot bear: “how long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?” (Num. 14:27) It is a sin which whets the sword against a people: it is a land-destroying sin; “neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” (1 Cor. 10:10) It is a ripening sin this; without mercy it will hasten England’s funerals. O then how excellent is , which prevents this sin! To be contented, and yet murmur is a : a contented Christian doth acquiesce in his present condition, and doth not murmur, but admire. Herein appears the excellency of contentation; it is a spiritual antidote against sin.

I think that letting this happen is one way that nice young people can become cranky old people. Not cranky like Carl Trueman, but truly mean and destructively negative people. But remember not to murmur about them. Some are in a lot of pain in one way or another, have systems in their brain or hormones that are out of whack, or who knows what. And some people have a heart of gold under that protective veneer.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
Philippians 2:14 NIV

Also see (because people murmur a lot about politics and whatnot):
The Contemporary Calvinist: Christians Have a Choice to Make: God or Country?

Being content
In rhetoric, a solecism is defined as an offense against the rules of grammar by the use of words in a wrong construction; false syntax.

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

Puritans On Counseling and Dealing With Affliction and Grief

Eight Helps for Coping with Affliction by Joel Beeke

The Puritans really had a good handle on counseling, suffering and psychology. Here are some examples:

Word of the Day: Suffenus

It has been the presumption of some, and especially of youths who profess to have dedicated themselves to this study but who have hardly gone further in evangelical studies than the reading of three or four volumes, to behave as if they alone were experts, and to consider that they are deserving of a glorious reputation among the great scholars. Such arrogance! Better it would be if such Suffenuses did not also go on to despise those who are truly endowed with the wisdom that they so foolishly boast of having attained to (emphasis mine).

–John Owen, Theologoumena, Book VI, Ch. 1, p. 1. / Biblical Theology, 591.

From: Thomas Goodwin

Also see if you dare:
A Warning from Owen to Students at Meet the Puritans

Who Were the Puritans?

This post is a little off topic for this blog.

I see the term Puritan/Purintans/Puritanism misused all the time, even by Christians. The first chapter of the book Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics is available online at Westminster Bookstore titled Who Were the Puritans? (PDF file).

Someday I want to read a lot more of the Puritans and their successors like Jonathan Edwards. As time goes on more and more of their writings are becoming available.