Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. This is the first episode of a new year. And while you are thinking about your New Year’s resolutions, maybe you’re still making a few. Here’s one for you: how about resolve to read more Puritans?
Remember back in the summer, we took the Puritans to the beach with us? I even believe we bumped into Dr. Sinclair Ferguson while we were there. Well, there’s plenty more that we can say about reading the Puritans and commending the Puritans to you. But I thought we would take a step back and say, “Who are these Puritans and what is Puritanism?” I frequently get that question, and I think about it a lot. I want to put a fine point on this for you.
Puritanism is simply this: rigorous theology graciously applied. When we think of the Puritans, we can expand on that a bit and say these were people of keen minds, of impassioned hearts, and of assiduous lives. Now, each of those mattered and they went together to form a connected whole. But let’s go back and look at each particular one.
The Puritans had keen minds. These were rational people who loved doctrine, and they always started with doctrine. This was doctrine that was rigorously thought through and constructed. Their sermons were a tour de force. Some of them could count as seminary lectures today; they were so rich and so deep in theology. They had keen minds. They believed that our minds were a gift from God and that we should use them for his honor and for his glory, and certainly to study him, the chief of all subjects. They had keen minds.
They also had impassioned hearts. They believed in the affections, as Jonathan Edwards would come to say. These aren’t simply emotions. That’s not what the word affections mean; it means that rudder that drives who we are, those passions that drive us. We all commit to those things that we love. We’re willing to make sacrifices for those things that we love. And these were the Puritans. They not only knew God, they, in the words of Jonathan Edwards, “relished God.” Calvin says that, “A true saving knowledge is a knowledge of the sweetness of God.” They read the Psalms. They knew that there was this desire to pursue God. They were impassioned hearts.
They were assiduous lives. What a great word, assiduous. You probably don’t use it that often. It means “constant in application or attention.” We might say the Puritans were diligent, dedicated, and devoted. Not only were they assiduous lives, they were active lives. They believed in not only knowing the faith, and loving the faith, and embracing the faith, but they also believed in obeying the faith, and living out the faith.
Well, to make all of this concrete for us and give us a tangible example, I have one stunning, stellar paragraph from the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs. If you want a place to start reading the Puritans, he Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is about the best you’re going to find. Burroughs writes,
“Be sure of your call to every business you go about. Though it is the least business, be sure of your call to it; then, whatever you meet with, you may quiet your heart with this: I know I am where God would have me. Nothing in the world will quiet the heart so much as this: when I meet with any cross, I know I am where God would have me, in my place and calling. I am about the work that God has set me.”
See what Burroughs is doing there? He’s helping us think about God; he’s helping us think about our calling, and he is applying it to the life we live. That’s the Puritans 101.
I’m Steve Nichols, and thanks for listening to 5 Minutes in Church History.