Who are the Puritans? Joel Beeke and Mark Jones summarize the Puritans in their work, A Puritan Theology, saying:
“In summary, the late sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century movement of Puritanism was a kind of vigorous Calvinism. Experientially, it was warm and contagious; evangelistically, it was aggressive, yet tender; ecclesiastically, it sought to practice the headship of Christ over the faith, worship, and order of His body, the church; politically, it was active, balanced, and bound by conscience before God, in the relations of king, Parliament, and subjects.”
Are they worth reading? Don Kistler (here) provides readers with a list of reasons:
1. They will elevate your concept of God
2. Puritans had a “love affair” with Christ, and they wrote much about the beauty of Christ.
3. Puritans had a “love affair” with Christ, and they wrote much about the beauty of Christ.
4. The Puritans help us see the sufficiency of Scripture for life and godliness.
5. The Puritans can teach us about the heinous nature of sin.
6. The Puritans will help us with practical living.
7. The Puritans will help with evangelism that is biblical.
8. Reading the Puritans will help us have right priorities.
9. The Puritans can help us clarify the issue of how a man is made right with God.
10. The Puritans held a high view of the authority of Scripture.
How should we understand them? Kelly M. Kapic provides readers with a helpful grid in understanding Puritan writers. Kapic, in his book A Devoted Life, provides eight basic observations regarding Puritanism. These eight are:
1. Puritanism may be best understood as a movement of spirituality
2. Puritanism, at its heart, lays stress on experiencing communion with God
3. Puritans were united in their dependence upon the Bible as their supreme source of spiritual sustenance and guide for the reformation of life.
4. He helpfully points out that Puritans included individuals with numerous theological eccesiological convictions, thus we should avoid gross characterization
5. The Puritans were predominantly Augustinian in their emphasis upon human sinfulness and divine grace.
6. The Puritans placed great emphasis upon the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life
7. The Puritans were deeply troubled with sacramental forms of Catholic spirituality fostered within the Anglican Church
8. Puritanism can also be understood as a revival movement
Though not all theses facets appear in every work, this grid will help readers understand the Puritans and who they were. The distinction of “Puritan” is not as clean and neat as one may think (titles and categories rarely are), but we can say that there was an era of exceptional pastors and theologians who sought to exemplify godliness and extol the sovereignty and grace of God in Christ. For a helpful list of where to begin your Puritan reading, click here.