In Defence of the Puritans by Martin Brow

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Iconoclast, Jul 19, 2016.

  1. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728
    There were some interesting points of discussion here in this short article.

    You might have considered these.

    Many see no value in reading the teaching of saints who have lived before us.

    I will divide up this article into parts that can be discussed by serious minded persons.

    http://www.puritansermons.com/banner/brown1.htm
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728

    1]First of all, then, let us ask if reading the Puritans is a waste of time due to their antiquity. I concede without demur that both the language and style of the Puritan writers make it a formidable task to read them. But let it be added that theologians even of our own day are liable to the accusation that their language and style make them unreadable.

    2]Occasionally the linguistic style of the Puritans renders them difficult reading. But I do not accept the charge that this makes studying them a waste of time. Were it so, then we could likewise dispense with theological literature altogether, contemporary authors included. If we desire gold, then we must be prepared to dig for it. It is not found lying on the ground for all and sundry to collect without any effort or labour. The occasional stiffness and antiquity in Puritan literature does not call for our rejection of it, but rather for diligence and application in reading it. Of course, this is contrary to that spirit of our age which looks always for the instant and automatic. But Christians (and especially those engaged in theological study) ought to be prepared to use that reason and intellect with which God has endowed them!

    3]But I cannot leave this point without paying a little attention to the theological content of Puritan literature. Some have said that the Puritans taught a theology for their own day, which is now irrelevant. We have moved on, it is said, and require a theology for our day. Now there is an element of truth in this observation that is worth noting. But the great themes which occupied the Puritan writers are themes which are crying out to be preached and taught today.

    4]I doubt whether the Mystical and Eastern sects, so common today, would have enjoyed even half the success among young people that they have, had the Christian Church been preaching that living, experimental and devotional Calvinism found in the Puritans. Today's Evangelicalism is so often purely cerebral. We lack a deep and solid spirituality. The Puritans, by and large, knew no such lack
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728
    5] Or again, when was the last time you read an evangelistic book of the calibre of William Guthrie's The Christians's Great Interest? Granted that these works clearly breathe 17th-century air, but their message could not be more relevant! It is a great injustice that is abroad in our day, that says the Puritans taught no more than a cold and lifeless Calvinism. It is precisely the reverse that is true. Their spirituality and warmth put many of today's authors to open shame.

    Hard work they may be, but the Puritans cannot be called a waste of time. Their message, in the main, is relevant; any who wish to enjoy it. however, must be prepared to sweat for it.

    6]We turn secondly to face the charge that the Puritans are not merely irrelevant but also dangerous. I agree! Of course they are dangerous. But that does not mean to say that we do not or must not read them. After all, modem theologians are also dangerous, and perhaps it is not unfair to say that their lack of a strict biblical basis makes them even more so than the Puritans. Danger should result in a care not to abuse, rather than a rejection of that which is dangerous. Drugs are dangerous, and so we use them only under proper medical supervision. But what are the dangers, and how can they be overcome? I turn now to a consideration of those which I consider to be chief.

    7]Perhaps at the bottom of all the dangers lies this one foundational error of coming to the Puritans with a lack of a proper critical approach. Because the Puritans are often recommended for their soundness in the faith, the undiscerning reader can begin to read them without allowing for the fact that he is reading the works of men. The Puritans like ourselves were prone to error. So it is important that we come to the Puritans with our critical faculties sharpened, and our minds prepared to test what we read by Scripture.
     
  4. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728
    What, then, are the benefits of reading the Puritan writings? Perhaps 'benefits' is not the best word to use. Perhaps it is better to ask: What positive contributions have the Puritans to make in the contemporary Christian and theological world?

    First and foremost is the way in which the Puritans sought to build on the Word of God. They sought to maintain a strict biblical basis for all they said. Their whole attitude to Holy Scripture was reverent. They sought to submit themselves to it. To them, what Holy Scripture said, God said. It is perhaps the saddest feature of contemporary theology, that today's theologians often belittle Holy Scripture. It is true that this is a generalization. But this sort of approach seems to be becoming more and more a part of so-called Conservative Evangelicalism. For in that camp too we find an increasing atmosphere of criticism in approaching the Bible. I recall the way in which an Evangelical missionary recently stated in public that she felt the Bible to be of secondary importance to her, in comparison to the immediate revelation of Christ to her by the Holy Spirit. The facts are that modem Evangelicalism has imbibed a great deal more liberalism than it often realizes, and that a renewed emphasis on the supremacy and inerrancy of Holy Scripture would not be out of place today. This the Puritans can offer us.
     
  5. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728
    Another great contribution of the Puritans stems from the intense pastoral focus of their writings. The aim was to edify the flock of God. Today, we have driven far too great a wedge between pastoral theology and pastoral ministry. The two need each other to be sound and meaningful, and this is a fact that the Puritans seemed to have grasped firmly. They were not concerned with mere intellectual knowledge. They pursued wisdom, that heart-felt knowledge of divinely revealed truths which tends to holiness and deep acquaintance with Christ. Today's theology by contrast is so often purely intellectual. Even as Bible-based evangelicals we often fall to apply the Word of God, and our sermons and books can tend to be no more than academic and of little practical use to the people of God.

    I have found that some of the most helpful experiences of my Christian life have come through reading a Puritan writer who had a real grasp of the spiritual needs of the Christian soul, and who also had a very clear understanding of the nature and workings of the human heart. Further, he has applied the Word of God to that need, and brought me face to face with the living Christ and also with myself. This, surely is what the teaching ministry is all about. It is not simply the passing on of facts about the Bible, or about Christian doctrine. It is bringing people to a living acquaintance with God in Christ. It is leading them on in their Christian life by alerting them to the spiritual dangers and pitfalls that confront them.
     
  6. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728
    http://www.brianghedges.com/2007/05/why-read-puritans.html

    Conclusion
    The Puritans saw God, loved Christ, feared sin, were transformed by grace, were practical in counsel, endured suffering, and lived for eternity. When I read them, I almost always find the palate of my soul cleansed and my ability to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) enhanced. Dear brothers and sisters, read the Puritans! Your heart will be helped.

    In my own sampling of Puritan writings, I have found much help for my heart and stimulation for my soul. Here are several reasons why I would suggest that pastors give renewed attention to the writings of the Puritans.
    1. They lift our gaze to the greatness and gladness of God.

    2. They open our eyes to the beauty and loveliness of Christ.

    3. They convict our consciences with the subtlety and sinfulness of sin.

    4. They ravish and relish the soul with the power and glory of grace.

    5. They plumb the depths of the soul with profound biblical, practical and psychological insight.

    6. They sustain and strengthen the soul through suffering with the sovereignty of God.

    7. They set our sights and focus our affections on eternal realities.

    One of the most practical of all the Puritan’s writings is Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory[​IMG]. Tim Keller has called it “the greatest manual on biblical counseling ever produced.”[8] This 900 page tome of fine print is divided into four sections: I. Christian Ethics, II. Christian Economics, III. Christian Ecclesiastics, and IV. Christian Politics. In layman’s terms, these four sections deal with the Christian’s personal spiritual life, home life, church life, and life in world.
    Here are some examples of the kind of practical matters Baxter addresses and the pastoral advice he gives. Under “Christian Ethics,” are found 20 directions “to weak Christians for their establishment and growth;” 5 directions for “redeeming as well as improving time” (including #4: “thieves or time wasters to be watched against,” of which Baxter lists 12); 10 “directions for the government of the passions”; 10 pages on “directions against gluttony,” in which Baxter defines gluttony, lists 10 causes of gluttony, 20 reasons why it is such a great sin, and gives 14 practical “directions” against it; 16 directions against lust; 13 directions against excess of sleep, and so on! In section two, on “Christian Economics” are given similar directions for husbands, wives, parents, and children, in their specific duties towards one another. I surveyed a list of 10 directions for helping husbands and wives “live in quietness and peace, and avoid all occasions of wrath and discord” with one another, and have never seen anything more practical in a contemporary book on marriage.
     
  7. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Messages:
    2,496
    Likes Received:
    454
    Id do agree with all your posts here, Iconoclast. :)
    I think everyone will benefit from reading Puritan literature. The Puritan Paperbacks published by banner of Truth are excellent and usually quite inexpensive, since the authors no longer require royalties.

    Some Puritan books are very practical, such as Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices by Thomas Brooks. Others offer real comfort in distress, like A Token for Mourners by John Flavel, The Saint's Knowledge of Christ's Love by John Bunyan or A divine Cordial by Richard Sibbes.

    Others offer excellent teaching that can't always be found IMO in many modern books: A Body of Divinity, The Ten Commandments and The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson, The Excellency of the Gospel above the Law by Richard Sibbes (published by BoT as Glorious Freedom) and The Marrow of True Justification by Benjamin Keach.

    God's Terrible Voice in the City (published by SDG) by Thomas Vincent is an account of the Great Plague of London which occurred in 1665 and the Great Fire of the year after. It is a very sobering read, as is The Life and death of Mr Badman by John Bunyan (published as Journey to Hell by BoT).

    The Puritans do require a bit more concentration than modern books because of the style of writing, though many of them have been put into updated English. I do believe that the extra study will be well rewarded.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Van

    Van
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2011
    Messages:
    9,515
    Likes Received:
    49
    Rather than study and discuss scripture based on modern translations, should we balance our diet with nameless doctrine screed? How about this bit of edification, "shallow decisionism based on the old man-centred tenets of Arminianism." Do we really need to read the obviously mistaken views in support of obviously mistaken doctrine? If being saved by grace alone through faith alone is "shallow decisionism" then the nameless doctrine denies some rather basic fundamentals of the reformation.
     
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
    • Funny Funny x 1
  9. JonC

    JonC
    Expand Collapse
    Lifelong Disciple
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2001
    Messages:
    6,920
    Likes Received:
    366
    Your third point is the more relevant in my view. Historical theology is concerned with the circumstances within which theologies are developed as well as the formation of theological ideas, often examining how these issues were handled in the past. The value is that we needn’t start from scratch when we seek to address such issues (although we also shouldn’t merely accept what has been handed down without careful review and evaluation).

    While a purely Puritan theological system will fall short of addressing today’s Church (we do live in a different culture, hold different ideologies, and see through a different worldview) and will indeed fall into irrelevancy, many of the truths that those who have gone before have addressed are applicable today. A theology comprised primarily of Puritan theology cannot help but fade into the background, but those truths developed and expounded upon through their theology can and should be adopted and adapted to the Church today.

    I would argue that the Puritan’s had a firmer grasp (as a whole) on God’s Word than most evangelical churches today (collectively). There is a sense that studying the writings and theology of those who have gone before cuts through the distraction of modern life and strikes at what really matters (I believe that truths are timeless and therefore will transcend the differences that separate the contemporary Church from her predecessor).

    While some of the Puritan authors are among my favorites, there are also excellent sources today that teach those timeless truths without becoming encumbered in archaic language and bygone tradition (Joel Beeke, for example). My only caution in reaching back to the Puritans, or the Reformers, or the ECF’s, etc., is that if they become our primary base of discussion, or the foundation of our theology, then I believe we will lose our voice in the world in which we live. The truths may be there, but if they remain within a 16th or 17th century context then they are irrelevant. We should learn from those saints and looking forward rather than backwards run our section of the race as we prepare to pass it off to the next generation. I don’t see this always happening.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728
    JonC

    As a well read person you offer a solid series of thoughts concerning this topic.

    yes ...while everyone can agree that the scriptures are primary in all things, it helps to have trusted guides who have done much of the heavy lifting already.
    They also had the bible and Spirit in their day and time and worked through and framed out many issues for us.....but as with any trusted guide, or ministry tool we need to be critical to a point.

    I have an idea what you are expressing here, but if you have time...could you clarify what you mean by this;
    "a purely theological system"....expand on this thought if time permits

    and in what way would it "fall short of addressing todays church?

    What definition you have in mind, helps determine the extent of the validity of your comments, and I think this would be worthwhile to pursue for those of us who read from these men from time to time...as a healthy caution and also to provoke other like minded persons to comment on how they see this.

    Again this is crucial here, as we do not want to be found drifting into being found irrelevant as concerning the gospel.

    and here is the value if we or others who seek truth can communicate to those we have contact with the truth of god wherever we find it!

     
  11. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728
    "Van,

    And then again on the other hand we have this kind of post????
    The poster seems to reject historical thought and bible study wholesale?


    Thank you for that edifying warning of the false teaching of Arminian man centered persons and theology! In our day they are like a plague on the land:Thumbsup

    These kind of persons are tossed around by every wind of doctrine, and become so unstable that they entertain the heretical open theism ideas and novelties, to a point where they cannot welcome true doctrine:eek:
    they have no appetite for them:Sick
    Thanks for this solid warning of these false teaching persons:Unsure;)

    man centered theology should be rejected at once:Cautious A person with a healthy theological view that agrees with the historic confessions of the church has little problem spotting the foul postings, and misuses of verses and parables over and over:Sick:Sick:Sick

    thankfully no one i know familiar with the reformation, and the teachings would make such a basic error:Cautious

    On the other hand...man centered persons speak of God giving credit to sinful man for anything......the only thing God see's in natural men is their sin and rebellion:Thumbsup:Thumbsup:Thumbsup:Thumbsup
     
  12. Van

    Van
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2011
    Messages:
    9,515
    Likes Received:
    49
    Yet another off topic post (#11)

    Should we balance our diet of spiritual food with the bogus views of men? Nope

    Those that deny salvation is by grace alone through faith alone have missed the mark.

    Is the work of Christ the center of Arminianism? Yes

    Is the only alternate to the nameless doctrine Arminianism? Nope

    We should study God's Word, and not waste time reading arguments that have been refuted again and again.
     
    #12 Van, Jul 29, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
    • Funny Funny x 1
  13. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Messages:
    2,496
    Likes Received:
    454
    This is true. Joel Beeke and his Reformation Heritage Books provide some really excellent introductions to Puritan thought. He has also published some books by modern authors, including Baptists like Paul Washer. I shall have the pleasure of hearing Beeke in just over a week at the Aberystwyth Conference in Wales. https://www.emw.org.uk/events/aberystwyth-conference/
    I can agree that a diet of nothing but Puritan literature would be somewhat lop-sided, but in my opinion, people haven't changed so very much down the centuries. People in the 'First World' today may be less likely to die from the Black Death or Smallpox, but they committed the same sins then as they do now- covetousness, pride, adultery and so on. Even slavery and people-trafficking, alas, have not yet passed away in the 21st Century.

    Great preachers like Spurgeon in the 19th Century and Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the 20th were steeped in Puritan literature. The republication of so much Puritan literature in the last 40 years or so has been a major factor in preserving Biblical theology. IMO, if more people read them today, it would be nothing but a blessing.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  14. JonC

    JonC
    Expand Collapse
    Lifelong Disciple
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2001
    Messages:
    6,920
    Likes Received:
    366
    Sure, Iconoclast. I’ll try. I was thinking about Puritan theology in a historical context (Puritan theology in general as expressed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries). The Puritans neither invented nor truly discovered biblical truths (they were, essentially, the Reformers of the Church of England). But they applied God’s Word to their lives in a manner that is, I believe, foreign to most Christians today. On some accounts this was problematic (in terms of persecuting Quakers and perhaps to a lesser extent Baptists, it was plain wrong). So sometimes the truths that are brought out can be applied wrongly, and sometimes truths that are brought out can be applied to an overall theology disproportionately when compared to how it is applied in Scripture. Other times these truths were applied to address specific issues of their day (the idea of Puritan Theocracy, for example).

    Our climate has changed. What I was think of in terms of Puritan theology (historical Puritan theology…not the theology of people like Joel Beeke) falling short of addressing contemporary issues are things such as ethical boundaries (stem cell research, and perhaps even abortion), probably social issues (such as SSM, women’s rights, etc.), and how these issues affect the contemporary Church. Puritan theology did not exist apart from a Puritan worldview. That worldview no longer exists (a Baptist can now, for example, describe his theological leanings as Puritan without that being a contradiction).

    I believe the value in their writings is the truths that they bring out. We in turn apply these truths. So what differs is more application than the truths. John Owen, a non-conformist Puritan, is probably my favorite author when it comes to dealing with sin. His “Mortification of Sin” is, IMHO, a must read for all believers. But others can take what Owen brings out and put them in a context that addresses contemporary Christianity in a way that Owen could not. Owen simply cannot be reactive as he is dead. Men like John Piper, Tim Keller, and D.A. Carson (just for example) are in a position of relevance whereas John Owen is not. The baton must be passed and the truths carried in such a way as to not only be meaningful to the contemporary church but also to affect the people which comprise the Body of Christ.

    I hope that helps clarify my thoughts (they often need clarification on any account).
     
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Rippon

    Rippon
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    17,404
    Likes Received:
    328
    Don't forget A. W. Pink. I have always insisted that he was the 20th century link from C.H.S. He was steeped in Puritan literature and he was a great preacher from the 19 teens to the mid 1920s.
    It has been 60 years now.
    Ditto.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Messages:
    2,496
    Likes Received:
    454
    I have always thought of Pink more as a writer than a preacher (I'm not aware of any surviving sermons), but you are quite right that he was a great lover of the Puritans and his books are all the better for that, and highly recommended.
     
    • Useful Useful x 1
  17. Rippon

    Rippon
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    17,404
    Likes Received:
    328
    Of course, that's where God providentially placed him. For one thing he simply could not have kept up the pace doing his arduous labor with Studies In The Scriptures as well as preaching. So his large scale meetings ended 87 years ago at the end of July in 1928. He was 42 then. AWP finally acknowledged in 1936 (when he was 50)that the Lord didn't want him to preach any longer but to devote himself entirely to his written ministry.
    See Murray and Belcher for examples.
    Indeed.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    13,377
    Likes Received:
    728
    Maybe you could hear Geoff Thomas open the scriptures on the Lords day also!
     
  19. JonC

    JonC
    Expand Collapse
    Lifelong Disciple
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2001
    Messages:
    6,920
    Likes Received:
    366
    Speaking of Arminianism, perhaps it is also important to point out the influence that Puritan authors had on John Wesley (many of the authors that Wesley lists as having influenced his theology were Puritans). I believe Wesley was wrong on some points, but everything is not centered upon what would divide Arminianism and Calvinism (sorry, I find it childish to refer to it as the "nameless doctrine" as we can name it without this becoming a Cal/non-cal issue and without hijacking the thread as the topic was the Puritan theology and this encompasses more than a soteriological view).
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  20. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Messages:
    2,496
    Likes Received:
    454
    Geoff Thomas has just recently stepped down after 50 years (!) as minister of the Alfred St. Baptist Church in Aberystwyth. A fine preacher and a godly man.
     
    • Winner Winner x 1

Share This Page

Loading...