This week the blog is being sponsored by Reformation Heritage Books. Joel Beeke authored this post on behalf of Reformation Heritage Books, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Media Gratiae, and Stephen McCaskell.
Right now, as you are reading this blog, a film crew is in the midst of what sounds like an exhausting itinerary through multiple European countries. This week, for example, they will be spending time on-site in England with Sinclair Ferguson, Ian Hamilton, Steve Lawson, and Geoff Thomas. Then they head north to Scotland, before next week flying to the Netherlands visiting key Puritan sites along the way. All this so that early in 2019 we can bring you, your family, and your church, the definitive Puritan resource. I am excited to announce that Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Reformation Heritage Books, Media Gratiae, and Stephen McCaskell are together creating PURITAN: All of Life to the Glory of God. This includes a feature documentary, up to thirty short lessons on Puritan people and Puritan themes, a workbook, and another book introducing the Puritans authored by Michael Reeves and me. Why would we do this, and why should you be interested?
The answer is that, in the providence of God, the Puritans are colossuses in church history. It is not an overstatement to assert that every Christian seeking to dig deeper into the riches of Scripture and the fulness of Christ would benefit by diligently and regularly soaking in their God-given wisdom. They were imperfect, largely seventeenth-century men seeking to live faithfully in and through very difficult circumstances.
By the Spirit’s grace, the Puritans will enrich your life as a Christian in many ways as they open the Scriptures and apply them practically, probing your conscience, indicting your sins, leading you to repentance, shaping your faith, augmenting your prayer life and meditation, guiding your conduct, comforting you in Christ and conforming you to Him, teaching you how to live through affliction to God’s glory, rebuking your pride, increasing your reliance on the Holy Spirit, and bringing you into a more robust assurance of salvation and a lifestyle of gratitude to the triune God for His great salvation. As George Whitefield says,
The Puritans were burning and shining lights…. Their works still praise them in the gates; and without pretending to a spirit of prophecy, we may venture to affirm that they will live and flourish, when more modern performances of a contrary cast, notwithstanding their gaudy and tinseled trappings, will languish and die in the esteem of those whose understandings are opened to discern what comes nearest to the scripture standard (Works, 4:306-307).
Whitefield was right. As he predicted, demand for “the good old puritanical writings” continued strong in the generations that followed him, until well into the nineteenth century. But then the Calvinism of the Puritans was discarded as an outmoded system of Christian thought, and the high view of Scripture that was the very heartbeat of Puritanism was displaced by a much different view. If not thrown into the trash, the works of the Puritans languished unread on library shelves or went unsold, even at bargain rates. During this time they began to receive a reputation or stereotype for being morose, legalistic, and fanatical, a caricature that lingers on in some circles still today.
However, under God, it was the ministry of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in London that helped to create a demand for Puritan books and their teaching in the mid-twentieth century, as he regularly quoted them from the pulpit. A new generation of Christians began looking more deeply into the truths of Scripture and came to relish the written legacy of the Puritans in their quest for guidance and understanding. As J. I. Packer writes: “In a time of failing vision and decaying values, [the Puritans are] a beacon of hope calling us to a radical commitment and action when both are desperately needed.”
I therefore strongly encourage you to pick up and read (tolle lege) the Puritans today, and when PURITAN: All of Life to the Glory of God releases in several months’ time, share it with your church, family, and friends. It will do your and their souls good.
If you pre-order early you can follow the film crew and receive a special deluxe package with additional extras. This is available at www.puritandocumentary.com