I was recently directed to the Westminster Conference by a reader. This is the same Westminster Conference that Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J. I. Packer began in 1951. Speaking about those who formed this conference the site has this to say:
They were not uncritical followers of the Puritans but saw them as outstanding Christian teachers whose challenges could not be ignored. The Puritans helped to establish an important tradition of Biblical thinking and pastoral theology which was often recovered in later times of revival. For these reasons, fairly early on, the interest was broadened beyond the Puritans and the Conference was advertised as being for “theological and historical study with especial reference to the Puritans.”
I will certainly be sampling message from this site as I have time.
John Owen is an unusual, larger-than-life figure of Puritan church history, and arguably one of the few towering theologians Britain has ever produced. And who better to provide a helpful introduction to this incredible man, than Michael Reeves.
Owen was a mild mannered, wealthy academician by day, and a political conspirator by night, while producing some of the most magisterial theological works of the Puritan generation. He had eleven children, all of whom he would bury.
As we’ve come to expect, Reeves is a wonderful teacher who knows his subject well and is able to capture your attention and paint a picture of life in past ages. I thoroughly enjoyed this 3 part series on John Owen.
Here is a novel way to increase your Puritan intake. Take Richard Sibbs, mix in Mark Dever, and your have the “Reading Sibbs Aloud Project.”
The Reading Sibbes Aloud Project provides a growing collection of sermons of the Puritan Richard Sibbes. The great value of Puritan writing continues to be its depth of scriptural insight and timeless application. Please join Mark Dever as he reads through the works of the “Prince of the Puritans” Richard Sibbes.
Joel Beeke’s book “Meet the Puritans” is a tremendous resource if you are a reader of the Puritans. It’s a catalog and description of Puritan works organized by author, and gives information on latest printings of these works so that you can find them. It also includes historical tidbits and a number of good bio’s on various Puritans.
Beeke has been reading the Puritans since he was 14, and he now operates Reformation Heritage Publishers which reprints a vast catalog of Puritan writings that you will not find anywhere else.
The team at Christ the Center discusses “Meet the Puritans” with Joel Beeke.
Sinclair Ferguson delivered this lecture at the dedication to the opening of the Puritan Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Ferguson has spent his life drinking from Puritan writings, and this message overflows with valuable observations that help us today.
The difference between a Puritan church and an evangelical, is that if you would ask the average evangelical how they would characterize their church they would say that we preach the Word of God from the pulpit. But for the Puritan, that doesn’t go far enough. The Puritan would demand that preaching would give a platform for the Word of God to go into the hearts and lives of the people. “There is a crying need for clear, discriminating, fundamental, simple yet profound, heart-searching, heart-warming, heart-illuminating preaching. What we don’t need today are more famous preachers. What we need today are more godly, educated, resident preachers.”
Further, Ferguson observes that what drove the Puritans was the glory of a triune God, and they work that out in the life of the believer. He also says that we can be so absorbed in our own experience, pursuing our own godliness so that we are frustrated in that pursuit because we have ignored the One who gives us godliness.
James O’Brien is pastor of Reedy River Presbyterian Church and an avid reader of the Puritans. He joins the Christ The Center team to talk about the Puritans and how we should read them. This is another one of those discussions where you will want pen and paper in hand to write down authors (many I’ve never heard of before), titles, websites and addresses. The Puritans were certainly a unique movement in the history of the church, and they have left an overwhelming wealth of material that we can benefit from. Discussions like this help one to navigate the Puritan sea.
Some of the discussion tackles the difficult aspect of some Puritan writing which often leaves true Christians in doubt of their salvation. O’Brien argues that much of this must be read with the audience in view, which was culturally religious and culturally pious, lacking true conversion.
Google Books and Archive.com carry a wealth of these Puritan books in digitized form, and they have both been added to the links on the Faith By Hearing site if you wish to check them out.
The Sony e-Reader would be a great tool for Puritan lovers as Google Books has recently made a deal with Sony to open up their archives of 600,000 books to the Sony e-Reader, and Google will soon have 1.5 million titles available. Kindle currently has under 300,000 titles. The difference is that Kindle carries newer books. Google’s titles are all old, public domain works, which is perfect for Church History and theology lovers. With Google Books you could have hundreds of Puritan books for your e-Reader, which has created the same easy-on-the-eyes screen that Amazon Kindle has. And the new Sony PRS-700 has touchscreen technology.
Iain Murray recently gave an address which overviewed the Puritans and the place they hold in history. If you’re not interested in Puritan history this is probably not going to be an enjoyable listen. Murray assumes the listener will have some general understanding of the Puritans, of who they are and what books they wrote. If you don’t, the names and book titles will begin to sound like meaningless noise.
One interesting note — Murray relates how the Puritan’s came to be known as the Puritans. They set out to reform, or purify, the Church of England. No news there. Their motivation for church reform was due to the prevalent idea in those days that a strong country was made strong by a strong, unified church. So under-riding their motivation to remain in the church of England was a desire to see a strong, unified national church.
The folks at Christ the Center invited Phil Ryken to discuss his doctoral dissertation on Thomas Boston and Boston’s teaching of the fourfold state. This was a lively discussion about a very popular Puritan era preacher who wrote many books for the common Christian while avoiding the purely scholarly level of writing. But with a book titled “Human Nature in its Fourfold State” one would be tempted to think this was a scholarly work. However, this was a popular work, testified by the fact that it was the widest selling English book in the 17th century.
The ‘Fourfold State’ is simply a way to work out the different states of man as taught by Scripture: The state of innocence enjoyed by Adam and Eve, the state of sin after the fall, the state of grace as a man under the grace of salvation, and the state of glorification after we shed our human bodies and go to heaven.
The discussion about the fourfold state takes relatively little time. The great value of this discussion is what we learn about the life and character of Thomas Boston, as a faithful pastor, as viewed by a faithful pastor — Phil Ryken.
For the past few weeks I’ve been making my way through J. I. Packers lectures on the English Puritans, and I have to tell you, it’s been a real treat. This is one of those series you will want to go through a second time and take notes. I can’t begin to scratch the surface of all the good material. Much here on ministry philosophy, worship, pastoral concerns. Some very fascinating biographical material on lesser known Puritans. A great deal on Baxter and Owen.
Some highlights from one of the first messages that looked at many more contemporary giants who were greatly affected by the Puritans. Packer looks at sermonic structures of the Puritans and more recent contemporaies such as Lloyd-Jones. How soon in a sermon do you begin application? In the cases of Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones, they started right away. Where did the 3 point sermon originate? He also talks about the contemporary loss of rhetorical prayer, where pastoral prayers were presenting arguments before God.
This series of lectures has been generously provided by Reformed Theological Seminary, which has conveniently supplied their audio through iTunes.