Category Archives: BR > Soli Deo Gloria Pub.
Happy Friday morning TSS readers. I’m headed out the door for the 2008 Collegiate Conference “Missio Dei” at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Dr. Daniel Akin). I’ll send some updates as time allows.
But before I step out the door I want to pass along some important breaking news concerning Reformation Heritage Books (Dr. Joel Beeke) and Ligonier Ministries on the status of Soli Deo Gloria publishing. As you know, Soli Deo Gloria has published many quality Puritan titles and it appears will continue releasing new titles now under the RHB imprint. What follows is the official news release.
SOLI DEO GLORIA BOOKS AND FUTURE PURITAN TITLES
We are delighted to announce that Soli Deo Gloria Publications, which has put numerous Puritan books back into print, has been acquired by Reformation Heritage Books in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For the past few years, Soli Deo Gloria books have been produced by Ligonier Ministries in Orlando, Florida. In 2007, Ligonier asked Reformation Heritage Books for guidance on managing Soli Deo Gloria Publications and later invited Reformation Heritage Books to publish and distribute the Soli Deo Gloria titles.
Reformation Heritage Books has received nearly 50,000 Soli Deo Gloria books that are currently in print, and we are ready to distribute them to individuals. Wholesale orders will be ready to process on February 15, 2008. Plans are under way to publish numerous additional Puritan titles. Reformation Heritage Books has agreed to continue publishing a select number of titles under the Soli Deo Gloria imprint, which Ligonier will continue to advertise in its catalogs; meanwhile, most Soli Deo Gloria titles will now be reprinted with the Reformation Heritage Books imprint. Reformation Heritage Books and Ligonier Ministries look forward to collaborating in order to promote Puritan literature around the world.
To be placed on the mailing list for catalogs that include all the Soli Deo Gloria titles (as well as 3,000 titles from other publishers) currently available at discounted prices, contact Reformation Heritage Books, 2965 Leonard N.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan 49525; 616-977-0599; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.heritagebooks.org. For further information, contact John M. Duncan, Vice President of Ministry Outreach, Ligonier Ministries …
A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness
by Jeremiah Burroughs
Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) is one of my favorite Puritan authors and (I dare say) one of the most overlooked.
In his extensive writings, Burroughs authored a very helpful book on discerning worldliness in a book now titled A Treatise on Earthly -Mindedness. It was retypeset and edited by Don Kistler and published in 1991 by Soli Deo Gloria.
Burroughs builds his argument from Paul’s sobering ‘enemies of the Cross’ statement — “their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:19-20).
Burroughs first discerns the seriousness and dangers of worldly thinking (pp. 3-92). His goal in this first section is to call this earthly-mindedness what it really is – adultery, idolatry and enmity. This earthly-mindedness suffocates the work of grace, opens the soul to further temptations (1 Tim. 6:9), stifles the hearing of preaching, breeds foolish lusts in the soul, spreads roots for future apostasy, deadens the heart for prayer, dishonors God, hinders our preparations for death, and ultimately drowns the soul into perdition.
The second section covers the implications of our citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and is filled with helpful practical advice on to living as foreigners in our sojourning through life on earth (pp. 93-178). This theme continues in the final section which helps discern what walking with God looks like in everyday life (pp. 179-259). The final chapter contains very useful wisdom on walking with God when His presence seems distant (pp. 254-259).
Throughout his works, Burroughs avoided a common Puritan pitfall. The Puritans frequently narrowed in so tightly on a particular topic that surrounding contexts and connections were forgotten. It’s not uncommon to read a Puritan on the topic of sin continue on and on without any mention of the Cross, God’s grace, and living in freedom and victory over sin. Even some of the great Puritan classics (such as the works of Richard Baxter and The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal) woefully assume the Cross.
Burroughs is quite the opposite. He’s hardly begun a lengthy diagnosis of worldliness in the heart before breaking into a short digression on the glorious work of grace in conversion (pp. 29-30)! This work of God transforms enemies of the Cross into those who now have quickened souls. Those once veiled by sin and blinded by the world now see the light of God’s glory! We are new creatures, creatures no longer content with worldliness but now transcending the circumstances of the world and clinging to eternal hope. This new life enlarges our heart and our spiritual appetite becomes so large that no earthly means could fill it. This grace severs our grip on the world, and we begin to experience God’s sanctifying grace in our souls. For Burroughs, even when discovering the depth and darkness of sinfulness in the heart, God’s grace is ever in view.
With careful pastoral balance, Burroughs encourages us to pursue excellence in our earthly calling, while exhorting us to carefully avoid the snares of worldly-mindedness.
“Considering what has been delivered, I beseech you, lay it seriously upon your heart, especially you who are young beginners in the way of religion, lest it proves to be with you as it has with many who are digging veins of gold and silver underground. While they are digging in those mines for riches, the earth, many times, falls upon them and buries them, so that they never come up out of the mine again. … Keep wide open some place to heaven, or otherwise, if you dig too deep, noxious gas vapors will come up from the earth, if it doesn’t fall on you first. There will be noxious gas vapors to choke you if there is not a wide hole to let in the air that comes from heaven to you. Those who are digging in mines are very careful to leave a place open for fresh air to come in. And so, though you may follow your calling and do the work God sets you here for as others do, be as diligent in your calling as any. But still keep a passage open to heaven so that there may be fresh gales of grace come into your soul” (p. 85).
Fitting of Burrough’s classic, Soli Deo Gloria published A Treatise on Earthly -Mindedness with an attractive dust-jacketed, durable cloth cover and Smyth-sewn binding. It’s an excellent work for those of us who sometimes find ourselves surrounded by the cares of this world, asphyxiating on temporal toxins rather than breathing fresh grace.
Title: A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness
Author: Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646)
Editor: Don Kistler
Reading level: 2.0/5.0 > easy thanks to excellent editing (includes nice section and subpoint headings)
Boards: hardcover, embossed
Dust jacket: yes
Binding: Smyth sewn
Paper: white and clean
Topical index: no (would have been very useful)
Scriptural index: no (would have been very useful)
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Ligonier; Soli Deo Gloria
Year: original ed., 1649; edited ed., 1991
Price USD: $18.00 from Ligonier
Could Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God be preached today? This is the question posed to Edwardian scholars Harry S. Stout and Kenneth P. Minkema.
Notice how the discussion in the video veers off into a broader question: Can any graphic sermons on hell be preached today? That seems to be another question altogether. … This has me thinking: How does the rise in horror films and the graphic portrayal of evil on major films influenced the preaching of God’s eternal judgment in our culture? Are the horrors of hell now less real or more real?
Should ‘Sinners’ be preached today? One contemporary of Edwards was the famous hymn writer Isaac Watts (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed”). After reading the text of ‘Sinners’ he wrote: “A most terrible [terrifying] sermon, which should have had a word of Gospel at the end of it, though I think ‘tis all true.” I agree with Watts. Strictly speaking I would not preach ‘Sinners.’ When it comes to explaining the beauty of the Cross, (perhaps) Edwards had the luxury of assuming this reality in his setting. But that is an assumption we cannot make today. Maybe no sermon better sets the groundwork to understand the love of Christ in His willingness to endure my eternal wrath as my substitute who drank the full cup of God’s eternal wrath I deserved. How can it be that thou my God shouldst die for me? But the sermon needs a ‘word of Gospel’ at the end.
‘Sinners’ in the hands of Mark Dever. In October of 2003 Mark Dever preached this sermon to his congregation (Capitol Hill Baptist Church; Washington, D.C.). His introduction is excellent and (from what I am told) the sermon was successful.
‘Sinners’ in the hands of Billy Graham. In 1949 Graham preached ‘Sinners’ and you can listen to some very loud excerpts over at the new online exhibit at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. Here is one …
Debatable. Since we are talking of the famous sermon, I am surprised how frequently writers suggest Edwards is remembered as a preacher of God’s wrath by an over-emphasis on this one sermon — Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God — over his greater corpus of sermons. I recently came across another reference by a very popular contemporary historian of the same opinion. However, apart from this famous sermon, entire books of manuscripts have been assembled with Edwards’ sermons on God’s judgment. One example is Unless You Repent: Fifteen previously unpublished sermons on the fate awaiting the impenitent (Soli Deo Gloria: 2005). Read our review here. Edwards frequently invited sinners to delight in God’s love but also warned them of God’s wrath — a balance modeled by Christ Himself. ‘Sinners’ is just one of many similar sermons.
The sermon itself. I would encourage you to read ‘Sinners’ if you never have (text here). On Wednesday July 8th, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut the scene unfolded like this: “Edwards, who had been building the intensity of the sermon, had to stop and ask for silence so that he could be heard. The tumult only increased as the ‘shrieks and cries were piercing and amazing.’ As Edwards waited, the wails continued, so there was no way that he might be heard. He never finished the sermon. Wheelock offered a closing prayer, and the clergy went down among the people to minister among them individually. ‘Several souls were hopefully wrought upon that night,’ Stephen Williams recorded, ‘and oh the cheerfulness and pleasantness of their countenances.’ Finally the congregation was enough under control to sing an affecting hymn, hear a prayer, and be dispersed” (pp. 220-221). Read more on this sermon in George Marsden’s excellent biography, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale: 2003) pp. 220-224.
Disputations on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker 
After rebuking the false Roman Catholic notion that Scripture cannot be understood by the common man and reinforcing the Reformers insistence that every truth sinners must know to be saved can be gleaned by the simple from reading Scripture, William Whitaker next continued to explain that there are difficult passages in God’s Word. Why? This is his answer …
First, God would have us to be constant in prayer, and hath scattered many obscurities up and down through the scriptures, in order that we should seek his help in interpreting them and discovering their true meaning.
Secondly, he wished thereby to excite our diligence in reading, meditating upon, searching and comparing the scriptures; for, if every thing had been plain, we should have been entirely slothful and negligent.
Thirdly, he designed to prevent our losing interest in them; for we are ready to grow weary of easy things: God, therefore, would have our interest kept up by difficulties.
Fourthly, God willed to have that truth, so sublime, so heavenly, sought and found with so much labor, the more esteemed by us on that account. For we generally despise and contemn [scorn] whatever is easily acquired, near at hand, and costs small or no labor. But these things which we find with great toil and much exertion, those, when once we have found them out, we esteem highly and consider their value proportionally greater.
Fifthly, God wished by this means to subdue our pride and arrogance, and to expose to us our ignorance. We are apt to think too honorably of ourselves, and to rate our genius and acuteness more highly than is fitting, and to promise ourselves too much from our science and knowledge.
Sixthly, God willed that the sacred mysteries of his word should be opened freely to pure and holy minds, not exposed to dogs and swine. Hence those things which are easy to holy persons, appear so many parables to the profane. For the mysteries of scripture are like gems, which only he that knows them values; while the rest, like the cock in Æsop, despise them, and prefer the most worthless objects to what is most beautiful and excellent.
Seventhly, God designed to call off our minds from the pursuit of external things and our daily occupations, and transfer them to the study of the scriptures. Hence it is now necessary to give time to their perusal and study; which we certainly should not bestow upon them, if we found every thing plain and open.
Eighthly, God desired thus to accustom us to a certain internal purity and sanctity of thought and feeling. For they who bring with them profane minds to the reading of scripture, lose their trouble and oil: those only read with advantage, who bring with them pure and holy minds.
Ninthly, God willed that in his church some should be teachers, and some disciples; some more learned, to give instruction; others less skillful, to receive it; so as that the honor of the sacred scriptures and the divinely instituted ministry might, in this manner, be maintained.”
-Disputations on Holy Scripture [1588/1849], by William Whitaker [1547-1595], pp. 365-366. Reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria, 2005.
The Gospel Life Series by Jeremiah Burroughs
As we have already discovered, Jeremiah Burroughs [1599-1646] was a first-rate bible expositor. His massive commentary on the book of Hosea is wonderful proof of this (we reviewed this commentary earlier this Summer).
However, unlike most of the Puritans recommended in our Puritan Study Series, Burroughs’ collected works do not exist. His works are largely scattered around, and for the purposes of the Puritan study, we will have to piece his works together.
But one of the easiest ways to collect six of his books comes in a series published by Soli Deo Gloria titled, The Gospel Life Series.
These six volumes were not intended by Burroughs to be a set, though because the word “Gospel” occurs in all six, editor Don Kistler saw that they were all linked together in a common theme. Kistler re-typeset the volumes, updated the spelling, and edited for length. “I do not believe that any of Burroughs’ thoughts have been altered. I have tried to remain faithful to his words as well as to his intent throughout this edition” (3:v ).
The result is a series that covers the various facets of the Christian life, is easy to read, and will appeal to a larger community of readers than just Puritan nerds like me. This year, the sixth and final volume of the series was released.
Vol. 1: Gospel Worship (1648/1990). In 14 sermons on Leviticus 10:3 (“Among those who are near me I will be sanctified”) Burroughs shows that we honor God when we draw near to Him in worship, in preparing for worship, in hearing the Word preached, in receiving the sacraments, and in prayer.
Vol. 2: Gospel Fear (1647/1991). In 7 sermons on Isaiah 66:2 (“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word”) and 2 Kings 22:19, Burroughs encourages us to cultivate a tender heart by cultivating a healthy fear of God.
Vol. 3: Gospel Conversation (1648/1995). Not conversation as in speech only, but the Puritan concept of conversation – of work, family, fellowship and all-around general conduct. Here are ten sermons to help us live the Cross-centered life. Most of the sermons are based upon Philippians 1:27 (“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”) and focus believers to be diligent in their walk. The Gospel must be the center of the Christian life, he argues.
Vol. 4: Gospel Revelation (1660/2006). In about 18 sermons, Burroughs explains the excellency of the eternal. God is excellent, Christ is excellent, and the nature of an eternal soul is excellent as well. It was here in the excellency of Jesus Christ (pages 51-182) that I came to a deep respect of Burroughs’ love for Christ. Truly, His name is called “Wonderful” (Isaiah 9:6). See “Example” below.
Vol. 5: Gospel Remission (1668 and 1674/1995). In 20 sermons Burroughs shows that the true blessedness of the human heart stems from the knowledge that God has perfectly pardoned my sin! The entire volume is built from Psalm 32:1 (“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven / whose sin is covered”). “There is nothing in all the world that so much concerns us as to know how things stand with us in relation to God and our souls, whether we are pardoned or not. A mistake in this is a wonderful mistake, and yet how many thousands are there who venture the weight of this great business upon poor, weak, and slight grounds, yea, rather, on mere suggestions of their own heart” (p. 175).
Vol. 6: Gospel Reconciliation (1657/1997). Here are 18 sermons on 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 covering the who, what, when, where and why of reconciliation of sinners to God. This volume is filled with excellent encouragement for pastors to remain earnest in their preaching of the Cross.
Each of these volumes shows Burroughs to be a man deeply concerned that Christians live diligent Cross-centered lives. But, as with the great experiential preachers, there is a parallel theme of evangelism as well.
The litmus test of all preachers and writers is this: Are they passionate about the beauty of Jesus Christ? Are they overwhelmed with His preciousness? Are they distracted with duties or are they first centered around a Man?
Burroughs argues that Jesus Christ is beautiful for 13 reasons (!): He is beautiful in His natures, Person, incarnation, His earthly works, His offices, endowments, miracles, as the revelation of God’s glory, in His humiliation, His conquest, exaltation, in the wonder of the saints towards Him, and in His eternal glory (4:59). Yes, Burroughs passes the test.
But he is not content that readers just admit they understand Christ’s greatness, but that they feel Christ’s greatness. He writes,
“When you ask your children what Christ was, you teach them that He was both God and man. Aye, but I appeal to you, when were your hearts taken with this as the greatest wonder in the world…” (4:61)?
It would be inconsistent to believe and not feel the power of the incarnation. After an exposition of Ephesians 1:17-18 and 3:14-20 he writes,
“Oh, what a shame it is that those who profess themselves to be Christian should understand so little of Jesus Christ! God expects that we should study the gospel, search into the gospel, so that we may see more of Christ. And the more we see, the more still we shall wonder; for Christ is an infinite depth, and the more we search into Him, the more we shall see cause to wonder … What I would especially observe is that Christians should not content themselves with a little knowledge of Christ, but they should labor to comprehend what is the length, breadth, depth, and height; they should labor to dive into the mysteries of the gospel” (4:171,173).
It is diving into the mysteries of the Gospel that sanctifies the heart. In other words, the Gospel is central to the Christian’s life!
“We should study Christ, and praise and bless God, and have our hearts enlarged for Jesus Christ. This is the duty of believers to whom God has revealed Christ as wonderful, that in their conversations they should hold out the wonderful glory of Jesus Christ. You should so walk before men as to manifest to all the world that your Savior is a wonderful Savior” (4:177).
All of these volumes contain such God-glorifying and Cross-centered experiential exhortations for the Christian.
On the down side, there are no indexes in this series and they are not well-indexed in Martin either. So to use these volumes effectively will require some time. Soli Deo Gloria (and any Puritan publisher that does not include indexes) should consider releasing an electronic version of this set for those who purchase the printed set. This would prove very useful to exegetes like myself who need to sift through the volumes quickly.
For now, preachers who want to use Burroughs in sermon preparations will need to become familiar with the contents of each volume. The detailed contents pages in each volume will help much here.
The bottom line is this: The Gospel Life series is an exceptionally good resource of Puritan exposition. After 350 years, Burroughs still speaks powerfully through these volumes.
The publisher boasts that this book has a shelf life of 200-300 years. But even more important, Dr. Kistler’s editing of the text will make Burroughs accessible to readers for at least another 350. An excellent Puritan resource!
Boards: clothbound, hardcover (grey, gilded)
Dust jackets: yes (once again, beautiful covers from SDG)
Binding: Smyth sewn
Paper: acid-free; normal
Text: edited, updated, perfect type
Topical Index: no (electronic file is much needed)
Textual index: no (electronic file is much needed)
Biography: yes (very short; end of Gospel Remission)
Publisher: Soli Deo Gloria
Price USD: $140.00 / $91.00 from publisher
ISBNs: 187761131x, 1877611913, 1573580147, 1877611123, 1567690696, 1573580422
Unless You Repent by Jonathan Edwards
The faithful preaching of God’s judgment upon sinners sparks revival. America’s most spiritually traumatic era — the Great Awakening between the 1730s and 1740s — reminds us that when hell is prominent in the pulpit, souls are sobered, awakened and converted.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758 ) was both one of the most prominent preachers of the Great Awakening and the author of one of the most powerful sermons on God’s judgment. Sinners in the Hands of and Angry God was his.
For Edwards, a firm understanding of hell was central to the message of the Cross, and central to preserving the justice and glory and perfections of God. In one way or another, every eternal truth is tied to God’s judgment in some way. And so God’s judgment retained a central place in the pulpit for Edwards.
Many of you may have already read Edwards’ most famous sermon on hell. But there are several other sermons that develop this same theme from different texts. Most of these have never been published! Recently, Soli Deo Gloria published a volume titled, Unless You Repent: Fifteen previously unpublished sermons on the fate awaiting the impenitent. The sermons were compiled and edited by Dr. Don Kistler.
I have seen a number of collections of previously unpublished Edwards sermons, and this volume stands as one of the best compiled and most helpful for the preacher.
Here are a few excerpts that stand out.
Speaking to a superficial, appearance-saturated climate similar to ours, Edwards pierced hearts by presenting the horrors of hell clearly.
“Just as bodies of the saints shall be made beautiful and glorious, like Christ’s most glorious body, so we may conclude that, on the contrary, the bodies of the wicked will be of a most hideous, ghastly appearance. In the world, sometimes a filthy, loathsome soul dwells in a beautiful body; but then they will appear externally as they are internally: as their souls are most deformed, so their bodies will be of a most odious form. They will appear frightful, like devils; there will be that in their aspect that will show the sinfulness and hatefulness of their disposition” (p. 108).
As you can see from this one example, these sermons are extraordinary in their description of hell. Specifically, this volume showcases Edwards’ unparalleled ability to illustrate the biblical terms of God’s eternal judgment (like winepress, furnace, etc). Here, Edward’s explains the worm that does not die:
“The expression of the worm’s not dying in the carcasses of these men [Mark 9:44; Isa. 66:24] alludes to this: when a dead carcass lies upon the face of the earth till it begins to putrefy, it will presently be overrun with worms; the carcass will be filled within and without with worms gnawing upon it. And the expression of their fires not being quenched alludes to the custom of the heathens when any of them died to burn them in a fire and so entomb their ashes. Now the prophet says that their worm shall not die. When a dead carcass lies putrefying upon the earth, after a while the carcass will be consumed and the worms will die; but the worms that shall gnaw upon the carcasses of these men shall not die, that is, their souls shall always be tormented. The similitude holds forth exceeding misery. How miserable must a man be to be alive and yet have his flesh, his bowels, and his vital parts all filled with worms, continually gnawing upon the body as they to upon a dead carcass” (pp. 128-129).
Such powerful imagery is fitting for the horrors of God’s eternal judgment and Edwards is competent to paint these images for his hearers.
Edwards sermons are clearly driven by the biblical language of hell. For Edwards, God’s judgment is fair and justified by the offenses of the sinner towards God. His judgments are self-glorifying and eternal in duration (Rev. 19:1). It is a judgment reserved for the next world and so it’s ignored by the foolish in this world. It is a judgment that rests upon each man, woman and child for each sin, even something so minor as calling your brother a ‘fool.’ It is a judgment necessary from a sovereign authority towards rebellion. It’s consistent with basic reasoning. His judgment is sworn, authenticated and confirmed by an oath. It is the due judgment upon sinners that rob God of His glory. Hell is misery to the soul, without pity or mercy from God. It is the unmixed winepress of wrath, where the vessels of wrath are filled to the brim with wrath. It is no mere candle flame but a stoked furnace of raging destruction. Hell is to be banished from everything that is good and perfect and pleasurable. It is a wrath of pure darkness, pure fire, intolerable and immediate. It is a judgment growing hotter each day upon sinner, a pain for both soul and body from head to toe. It is a judgment un-exaggerated by strong biblical language.
To continue unmoved by the doctrine of hell, is to continue upon a path towards it. It is a wakeup call to all sinners and it reminds us of the wrath poured out on God’s own Son for us. Hell exults the grace and mercy of God. Hell is central to God, central to Christ and central to the gospel.
As Edwards warns, “Unless you frequently think of it [hell], you will never take any considerable care or pains to escape it” (p. 115).
Unless You Repent, contains fifteen total sermons. All are re-typeset. One sermon is a fragment (sermon #6) and one has already been printed (sermon #10 appears in volume 14 of the Yale edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards).
An incredibly powerful book, filled with well-developed thoughts and expositions that you would expect from Edwards. And the cover? Let’s just say this is one of the few Edwards titles you can judge by its cover.
Edwards is not content with damnation, but turns the focus to Christ who takes all the ugliness of our sin upon Himself and opens the door of eternal joy. Unless You Repent is an excellent source of meditation upon the doctrine of God’s judgment. But it will also prove useful to reach the lost, especially church-goers who are awakened to their sin but have not ‘closed with Christ’ (to use a Puritan phrase).
If history is repeated, the fires of awakening in America will not flame again until the church allows God’s justice and the horrors of hell to once again become central in the pulpit. As one contemporary preacher says, our pulpits must be dipped in the blood of the Lamb and singed by the fire of hell. Throughout church history, Edwards here remains our most excellent pattern.
Title: Unless You Repent
Author: Jonathan Edwards
Binding: hardcover/cloth (light olive, gold gilding)
Dust jacket: yes (best Edwards cover ever?)
Topical Index: no (unnecessary; one-topic book)
Textual index: no (helpful, but unnecessary)
Publisher: Soli Deo Gloria, Ligonier Ministries
Part 11: Concluding Thoughts, part 2
Finally, the conclusion of the Puritan Study comes today. I wish I could continue on in this study but I must move on. Thank you for all the very kind emails and helpful suggestions throughout this series. Seeing others come to a deeper appreciation of the Puritan literature has been an incredible encouragement to me.
Here is a collection of final thoughts …
I think it’s worth noting again that in this series of blog posts I have emphasized the most important Puritan resources for expositional research. Other Puritans are useful on a number of issues.
I like Baxter, Burgess, Watson and other Puritans. But these and other Puritans simply have not helped me when I’m under pressure to preach and write expositionally on a certain text. Spurgeon, Bunyan, Owen, Boston, Manton and the men I have promoted, however, have proven faithful in these situations.
If you are more interested in systematic theology, or apologetics, or church history, you will find other Puritans to be of great help. Here, we were concerned with the most effective Puritans for expositional sermon preparation and ranked these authors in order of availability and usefulness.
I was hoping to use this series to begin introducing you to the Dutch ‘Puritans’ (they are not really called ‘Puritans,’ but ‘the Dutch Second Reformation Divines’). These authors ministered during the same period of time as the English Puritans we know well, but their works were originally published in Dutch. Thanks to the recent work of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society, these works are now being made available in updated English. After some time reading these Dutch works, it’s clear these authors were as mature and experiential as their English counterparts.
Among others, the Dutch ‘Puritans’ include Wilhelmus à Brakel, Willem Teellinck and Herman Witsius (whose works have been in English for a few years now). Teellinck’s book on living a holy life (The Path of True Godliness) is very valuable and will be the subject of an upcoming book review.
These Dutch authors are very powerful and, although many of them will not be indexed and easily accessed, an introduction to their works was warranted at the end of this Puritan study. More information this winter …
Tough and Tender
John Piper once said, “one of my great desires is to see Christian pastors be as strong and durable as redwood trees, and as tender and fragrant as a field of clover.” This ideal finds its origin in the words and works of Jesus Himself. He knew when to be tough and when to be tender. He was strong and resolute but loving, kind, and compassionate, too. Many Puritans remind me of men who were uncompromising and stable in their convictions. They were a forest of redwood trees. But these preachers often displayed a compassionate tenderness like a fragrant field of clovers, too. An excellent pattern for preachers today.
The Presence of God
Many things draw me to the Puritans, but one of the most important is their pursuit of God. They see the Psalms as a blueprint for the Christian life – striving and praying for the presence of God to draw near (see Pss. 16, 42, 73). You can spot authors who read much of the Puritans because they, too, have a healthy and well-developed desire to pursue the presence of God (see A.W. Tozer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Piper, etc.).
I did not realize what was happening, but for several years as I have used the Puritan literature, I thought I was just borrowing a few quotes and thoughts along the way. Now it is obvious that over those years I was being changed.
What I love most about the Puritans is how they have been used in changing me. I treat the Word with more sobriety and seriousness now. My application of the text is much more mature. I am more articulate in pointing my hearer’s affections towards the things God sees as precious (like His Son, His holiness, His justice, love and grace).
Specifically, three areas of my life have been changed due to my Puritan Study …
(i) In catching the Puritan hermeneutic. The Puritans interpret every passage in light of the big picture of God’s glory in the Cross of Christ. Everything comes back to this. As expositors we are apt to get wrapped up in our four verses and lazily forget this big picture. The Puritans, especially in their application, make it clear that every text must be brought back to this big picture. Sadly, very few expositors today do this consistently (Piper and a few others, however, excel here). I pray that we would all catch this Puritan hermeneutic. Spurgeon reminded preachers that every sermon must find a way back to the Cross. This was the Apostle Paul’s point exactly (Gal. 6:14, 1 Cor. 1:22-25; 2:2; Phil. 3:8).
(ii) In catching the Puritan experiential style. When publishers want a good definition of ‘experiential preaching’ they turn to Puritan scholars. In the book, Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching (Soli Deo Gloria, 1573581445), Dr. Joel Beeke writes: “Experiential or experimental preaching addresses the vital matter of how a Christian experiences the truth of Christian doctrine in his life … Experimental preaching seeks to explain in terms of biblical truth how matters ought to go, how they do go, and what is the goal of the Christian life … Experimental preaching is discriminatory preaching. It clearly defines the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, opening the kingdom of heaven to one and shutting it against the other” (pp. 95-96). The Puritans understood that a sermon lacking powerful application is an incomplete sermon. The Puritans are unparalleled here.
(iii) In catching the Puritan earnestness. The Christian life is a struggle of balance. The same is true in the pulpit. It is easy to focus on strengthening marriages, helping others raise children, and overall improvements in godliness while lacking earnestness. We can get the idea that the purpose of the pulpit is only for long-term sanctified changes. We need the Puritan earnestness to remind those who have never experienced the grace of God in their own hearts (the ‘almost Christian’ sitting in the pew), that they teeter on the brink of God’s judgment. There may not be a tomorrow. Each of us will be in heaven or hell very shortly. Nothing guarantees the sinner one more day to repent. Now is the time. Today is the day of salvation. Plead with sinners. The Puritans balanced these two sides of preaching and teach us to use the same sermon to both strengthen Christian marriages (long term) and to plead with sinners earnestly (now).
In the end, the ultimate benefit of a (well-used) Puritan library is how it changes you. Because of the Puritans, I view the bible differently, more seriously. They have taught me deep thoughts so I am not easily distracted with the empty and hollow ‘Christian’ thoughts today. They have taught me to treasure Christ. They have pointed out the sin in my heart. They have encouraged me in the task of preaching. And they have been faithful friends pointing me back to the scriptures when I begin to wander around. ‘Be serious because God’s thoughts are weighty,’ is the Puritan message I hear every time I use their works.
So keep at it. Work hard. Study diligently. Learn new terms. Don’t be intimidated by 200-word sentences. Grasp the concepts. Learn from the Puritan big-picture. And one day you will realize that God’s Spirit has taken the Puritan Study from your shelves and into your heart and changed you forever. All for His eternal glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!