“The Puritans [were] burning and shining lights.”
Though the Puritans (c. 1550-1750) have been dead for centuries, their influence is lasting and deep for those who read them. The Holy Spirit has long used, and still uses, the writings of the Puritans in a way that enlightens the mind, stirs the affections, and focuses faith in the one true God of the sacred Scriptures.
“When cast out by the black Bartholomew Act, and driven from their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in a special manner wrote and preached as men having authority. Though dead, by their writings they yet speak… 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 open to discern what comes nearest to the Scripture standard.” – George Whitfield, Works, 4:306-307
And yet, some of their writings can be challenging for us modern readers. We just are not used to their rich language, deep theology, and carefully worded and complicated arguments. So, where do we begin?
Here are some personal suggestions:
- John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (either in the old or modern English)
- John Bunyan’s The Intercession of Christ
- The Valley of Vision (a collection of Puritan prayers) — Or another collection of prayers entitled Piercing Heaven, by Elmer
- Samuel Rutherford’s The Loveliness of Christ
- Thomas Watson’s All Things for Good
- John Flavel’s Keeping the Heart
- Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies of Satan’s Devices
- Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
- Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot
- Richard Baxter’s Dying Thoughts
(Most all of the Puritan Paperbacks and the Pocket Puritans books are small, focused and helpful.)
For good introductions about the Puritans:
- Meet the Puritans, by Beeke & Pederson — Or, for shorter introductions that this book recommends, see below.
- Worldly Saints, by Ryken
- The Genius of Puritanism, by Lewis
- A Quest for Godliness, by Packer