The mind conjures up all sorts of things when we read the word ‘Puritan’. I would imagine many memories and thoughts of the Puritans would encompass the first Thanksgiving, Plymouth Rock, black and white outfits and a blunderbuss thrown over the shoulder. Some will blame the Puritans for the hyper-conservative, ultra-fundamental restraints that are ingrained in our churches, families, and, to some extent, our society. In fact, H. L. Mencken once said, “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
Yet, we owe the Puritans much. They were a group of bold, courageous believers who stood strong in the face of religious establishment, and paid dearly for it, sometimes with their lives. They sought to live out their faith with Scripture as their only guide, and they sought to live the totality of their lives seeking the kind of holiness that the Bible taught. The Puritans had a true Christian worldview.
J.I. Packer, who has earned the nickname, “The Last Puritan”, said this about the Puritans:
Their dream was holiness in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. The Puritans didn’t talk about the “state”; they simply talked about conducting all of life in a way that honored God and respected other people. That was their idea of community. The perfect church was a church containing families that practiced holiness and worshipped with a purged liturgy under the leadership of a minister who was a powerful preacher of the Bible.
He goes on to summarize the Puritan goal:
As a Christian, you must believe that you are accepted through Christ, you are adopted into God’s family, you are an heir of glory, and you are now a pilgrim on the way to heaven. Every day of your life must be reshaped. That’s discipleship. The Puritans made good use of the category of “duty,” meaning simply what is due to God from us who by his grace have been saved from sin. The Puritans were very strong on moral teaching, but they weren’t legalists: Duty is done out of gratitude to the God who has saved you. This is sanctification, and it required that you put not only your personal life but your family life in order. The Puritans had a clear idea of God-fearing family life and a very strong and humane doctrine of marriage as a partnership in the Lord.
To know as much about the Puritans as we can, click the links below.
J.I. Packer writes of the influence of Puritan John Owen in John Owen Put Me Straight.
A brief biography of Puritan pastor Richard Baxter in “A Pen in God’s Hand”.