Category Archives: The Puritan Study

Biography of Thomas Manton (1620-1677)

For the next several days this blog we will be devoted to exploring the life and work of the prolific Puritan Thomas Manton. I will be posting detailed photographs and a review of the Complete Works of Thomas Manton and we will be talking with a man who is preparing to begin work on what appears to be the very first PhD on Manton.

To celebrate this series, our friends at Reformation Heritage Books are offering this special offer: Purchase the Complete Works of Thomas Manton (which they sell for one of the most reasonable prices on-line—$320.00) and they will include a free copy of our 2006 book of the year, Meet the Puritans by Dr. Joel Beeke (minus the dusk jacket). Offer is good only while supplies last.

But before we jump into a review of the set, it’s appropriate for those not familiar with Manton to read the following biography taken directly from the pages of Meet the Puritans:

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Thomas Manton [1620-1677] was baptized on March 31, 1620 at Lydeard St. Lawrence, Somerset, where his father, Thomas Manton, was probably curate. The young Thomas was educated at the free school in Tiverton, Devon, then, at the age of sixteen, went to study at Wadham College, Oxford. He graduated from Oxford with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1639, a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1654, and a Doctorate of Divinity degree in 1660.

Manton was ordained in 1640 to the diaconate at age twenty by Joseph Hall, and served for three years as lecturer at the parish church of Sowton, near Exeter, Devonshire, where he married Mary Morgan of Sidbury, Devonshire, in 1643. Through the patronage of Colonel Popham, he obtained the living of St. Mary’s, Stoke Newington, London, where his pastorate became a model of consistent, rigorous Calvinism. He soon became a leading Presbyterian in London, and used his influence to encourage ministers to establish Presbyterian church government and to promote public tranquility in troubled times. He was appointed one of three clerks at the Westminster Assembly and preached many times before Parliament during the Commonwealth.

Once, after Manton chose a difficult text to preach before the Lord Mayor, a needy believer rebuked him, complaining that he came for spiritual food but had been disappointed. Manton replied, “Friend, if I did not give you a sermon, you have given me one; and by the grace of God, I will never play the fool to preach before my Lord Mayor in such a manner again” (Hulse, Who are the Puritans?, p. 93).

Manton provided spiritual counsel to Christopher Love prior to his execution for insurrection in 1652, and was with Love when he was beheaded. Despite threats of being shot by soldiers from the army who were present that evening, Manton preached a funeral message to a large midnight audience at Love’s parish of St. Lawrence Jewry.

Despite his strong disapproval of the king’s execution, Manton retained the favor of Cromwell and his Parliament. In the mid 1650s, he served several important commissions, including being a commissioner for the approbation of public preachers, or “triers.” He served with Edmund Calamy, Stephen Marshall, and other Presbyterians in holding talks of accommodation with Congregationalists such as Joseph Caryl and Sidrach Simpson. He served on a committee to help resolve the division in the Church of Scotland between the Resolutioners and the Remonstranters. Then, too, he served on a committee with Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, Henry Jessey, and Richard Baxter for composing articles on the “fundamentals of religion” essential for subscription to the protectorate church.

In 1656, Manton was chosen as lecturer at Westminster Abbey and became rector of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, London as Obadiah Sedgwick’s successor. Manton desired to establish Presbyterian discipline at St. Paul’s, but was prevented from doing so by his assistant, Abraham Pinchbecke, and his parishioners. He accepted this graciously, and was ever the gentleman, showing charity to all, including ministers of other persuasions.

When Oliver Cromwell was offered the crown by Parliament in 1657, Manton was chosen, together with John Owen, Joseph Caryl, Philip Nye, and George Gillespie, to pray with the Lord Protector for divine guidance. After Cromwell finally refused the crown, Manton delivered the public blessing at the inauguration of the second protectorate Parliament (Oxford DNB, 36:366).

After the failure of Richard Cromwell’s protectorate, Manton favored the Restoration of Charles II. He accompanied Charles at Breda and swore an oath of loyalty to the King. Manton was appointed one of twelve chaplains to King Charles II, though he never performed the duties or received the benefits of this office. All the while, Manton remained firmly Presbyterian in his convictions, and warned against the restoration of episcopacy and the Anglican liturgy.

After Manton was ejected from the Church of England pulpits for Nonconformity in 1662, he preached at his house in King Street, Covent Garden, and other private places. Attendance kept increasing until he was arrested in 1670 and imprisoned for six months. When the Declaration of Indulgence was granted in 1672, Manton was licensed as a Presbyterian at his home in Covent Gardne. He also became lecturer for London merchants in Pinner’s Hall and preacher at the revival of the Presbyterian morning exercises.

When the King’s indulgence was annulled in 1675, Manton’s congregation was torn apart. He continued to preach to his aristocratic followers at Covent Garden, however, until his death in 1677. William Bates preached at Manton’s funeral.

Manton was remembered at his funeral as “the king of preachers.” Bates said that he never heard him deliver a poor sermon and commended his ability to “represent the inseparable connection between Christian duties and privileges.” Archbishop James Ussher described Manton as “a voluminous preacher” and “one of the best in England.” That is certainly evident from Manton’s many writings, most of which are sermons. … Manton’s sermons fill twenty of his twenty-two volumes. They are the legacy of a preacher devoted to the systematic teaching and application of God’s Word. Manton presents us with the best that English Puritans had to offer in careful, solid, warmhearted exposition of the Scriptures.

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Taken from Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson (RHB, 2006), pp. 429-433. Posted by permission of the publisher, Reformation Heritage Books.

Electronic book searches for sermon preparation

tsslogo.jpgToday’s post is for communicators who know the clarity a John Owen quote brings to a complex biblical topic or the punch a C.H. Spurgeon quote adds to application points. My goal today is to encourage evangelists, authors, bloggers, preachers in their work of reaching lost souls and edifying redeemed souls.

I will address various related questions: Are electronic books and printed books friends or enemies? How can I find the best electronic books? How do I search those works effectively? How do I find quotes on my topic? How do I best handle the quote in hand?

I regularly express my appreciation for paper books AND electronic books when it comes to sermon preparation. A useful library balances both. Electronic books provide a technological enhancement to printed books. Sometimes I want to search the Works of John Owen in a jiff (electronic), and sometimes I want to chain off several weeks to ice pick my way through an entire volume (printed). The electronic text enhances the printed copies by making them easier to navigate, but reading the full text of Communion with God on a computer screen would surely lead to a hyper-extended retina.

Read the rest of this entry

The Puritan Study (picture)

 

Click on pictures for larger image.

Not pictured – Manton on CD, Bunyan 3 vol. works, Goodwin works, Reynolds works and volumes 3-12 of the Boston works. Each day the full sets are coming together.

UPDATED 10/3 … new pictures

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Works of Edward Reynolds

(Soli Deo Gloria)

Works of Thomas Goodwin

(Reformation Heritage Books)

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The Puritan Study (Part 11) Concluding Thoughts, part 2

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 …

Expositional Puritans

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.

Dutch ‘Puritans’

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.).

Personal change

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).

Conclusion

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!

The Puritan Study (Part 10) Concluding Thoughts, part 1

Part 10: Concluding Thoughts, part 1

Now on to some concluding thoughts.

… to the electronic publishers

I want to take a moment and say, ‘thank you,’ to the many individuals that are working together to produce electronic versions of the Puritan works. Throughout this study I have met several of you. What you are doing is a wonderful service!

From all of us who think “THml” is a new seminary degree — we don’t know exactly what you do or how you do it, but we are thankful you do it. Keep it up!

One of these techies, Thomas Black at stilltruth.com, sent us links to the works of John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. These files work with Logos/Libronix digital Library and are searchable (a Mac version is yet to be released). The Logos/Libronix system is a great and growing resource for searchable Puritan works and many of these resources (like Owen and Edwards) are free because of the generous work of Black and others.

For more information you can check out our friends at StillTruth. They have a large selection of other free resources, too.

For those who are interested in publishing the Puritans in this form, let me encourage you with a few content suggestions.

The most important Puritan works in print that await OCR conversion, editing and tagging into THml include the works of Thomas Boston, Thomas Manton, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Brooks, and Thomas Goodwin. You will serve the church well if your efforts are directed towards these much-needed authors.

… to the print publishers

To my friends who work diligently to republish the Puritans in print format: There are a number of excellent Puritan resources that I cannot recommend because they are unavailable. About half of the Puritan works I would recommend as ‘excellent’ are not even in print format. The church would greatly benefit from the complete works of Stephen Charnock (beyond Existence), William Ames, William Bates, Anthony Burgess, James Durham, William Perkins and Samuel Rutherford (beyond Letters). Maybe the programmers and publishers could work more closely together in re-typesetting these works and simultaneously release the print and THml versions of the works at the same time? At the very least, these Puritans also need to be converted into searchable text formats.

If Puritan publishers and scholars (who favor printed volumes) and the techies who are converting the Puritans into free electronic files would open up in communication, both sides would benefit greatly. Could the two sides meet in a forum to exchange ideas?

On another note, some of the Puritan complete works sets are now being published in paperback form. Is there a way to continue cutting the cost of production? I would love to have every Puritan published in clothbound covers but maybe some these other works (named above) could be more economically printed. Even printed on-demand, maybe? How can technology help publishers cut costs and print more?

… on Puritan PDFs

I want to make one other note about why I recommend people NOT buy Puritan CD-Roms and DVDs (except in rare cases). Most of these files (like the works of Thomas Manton) are simple picture files of the pages. They are usually not text-recognized or searchable and almost never tagged into THml format. These files are both inferior to printed books and inferior to text files. They are a sort of in-between compromise that are not easy to read nor easy to search. This is why they are fading in importance. Focus now on accumulating the print volumes and, in time, the electronic text files as they become more readily available.

… on the value of e-Puritans

In 2003 the World Wide Web contained 170 terabytes of information. That’s 170 million megabytes or more than 200,000 CD-Roms filled with information. In comparison, the entire Library of Congress print collection is only about 10 terabytes in size. To look at it another way, the complete works of Shakespeare comprise only 5 megabytes. So the entire content of the WWW in 2003 (not including text messaging, emails and P2P file sharing) was the size of the complete works of Shakespeare multiplied 34 million times!

The natural consequence of these vast numbers is the devaluing of information. We now look at words as cheap and common.

The danger here is that we begin looking at the men who most faithfully expounded the Word of God as likewise having words that are cheap and common. They are not.

Many of the words of Bunyan were written in a solitary prison cell separated from his family. The words of Spurgeon were forged in years of faithful prayer and amidst painful debates and trials. Men like Sibbes and Calvin ministered during political upheaval and turmoil. The most powerful preachers in Christian history were purified in the fires of struggle and pain. Their words (unlike dozens of terabytes available on the Internet) are precious gold.

Publishers who release the Puritans in beautiful clothbound covers should continue this practice. And pastors need to continue to support publishers that treat the Puritan works with such respect. Publishers like The Banner of Truth, Tentmaker and Soli Deo Gloria remind us of the value of Puritan words.

As the Internet continues to grow by the terabyte and the electronic texts of great Puritans become more plentiful, we must beware this cheapening of Puritan words. We must always remind ourselves that these words were slowly and carefully sculpted in pain, out of a fear of God, through an intense study of His Word, and from a love of His glory.

(to be continued…)

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Next time … Part 11: Concluding Thoughts, part 2
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The Puritan Study (Part 3) The People of a Puritan Library

Part 3: The People of a Puritan Library

So far we’ve talked vaguely about some group of people named ‘The Puritans.’ Today we name names.

Like I said, this list does not include Puritan commentaries. You should consider getting Matthew Henry’s commentary on the bible. It is very useful and mature in its biblical application. And of course (Reformer) John Calvin’s commentaries are likewise valuable. Both are available in print for a reasonable price and online for free.

The list

I have used the following 14 Puritans in a number of situations but mostly in expositions. These men are faithful and trustworthy friends. I have been pushed deeper into scripture as these men faithfully expound and apply the bible. Many of their sermon illustrations have been reworded for my hearers. I have shared hundreds of quaint and beautiful quotations from these men. And I have personally been fed and refreshed as each of these men exalt in the glory of Jesus Christ, teach me to conquer (mortify) sin, and steer my affections away from the temporary and towards the eternal.

The Shepherd’s Scrapbook is proud to offer this list of Puritans (ordered by each author’s usefulness and availability. See pictures of these sets). …

1. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (63 sermon vols.; CD-Rom). Not a Puritan (obviously) but he is the great synthesizer of the best of the Puritan literature (see the Treasury of David for example).
2. Jonathan Edwards (2 vol. works; printed)
3. John Bunyan (3 vol. works; printed)
4. Thomas Boston (12 vol. works; printed)
5. Thomas Manton (22 vol. works; printed)
6. John Owen (16 vol. works; but especially vols. 1,2 and 6; printed)
7. John Flavel (6 vol. works; printed)
8. Richard Sibbes (7 vol. works; printed)
9. Jeremiah Burroughs (misc. books; printed)
10. Thomas Brooks (6 vol. works; printed)
11. Thomas Goodwin (12 vol. works; printed)
12. John Newton (6 vol. works; printed)
13. David Clarkson (3 vol. works; printed)
14. Edward Reynolds (vols. 1,4,5,6 of 6 vol. works; printed)

(Note: Spurgeon’s sermons work better in electronic format because of their sheer size and cost in print format.)

At the close of this series on building a Puritan Library, I will be reviewing each set in order to highlight the strengths. Plus, I will share a few tricks necessary to exhaust each of these incredible resources.

Honorable mention

The following Puritans are very helpful. However, these men are either poorly indexed or hard to find (or both). These include the works of William Ames, William Bates, Stephen Charnock, William Perkins, Samuel Rutherford and Thomas Watson.

The bottom line

The bottom line is this: God’s grace is magnificent. He alone allows the funding for these Puritans to be reprinted. He gives publishers the burden to print them today (although these efforts bring very little, if any, profit). He gives men like Robert Martin the generosity to share his Puritan index so we can all benefit from his work.

Before we consider the costs of such a library and the tricks to using one effectively, we should take time this weekend to thank God. His Spirit makes these ancient resources available so the Word can go out into the world today with the earnestness worthy of the Gospel.

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Next time … Part 4: Why our effective use of the Puritans begins in the bible
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The Puritan Study (Part 2) The Rules of a Puritan Library

Part 2: The Rules of a Puritan Library

In the remaining weeks we will be spending a lot of time discussing how to efficiently use the Puritans. In this and the next post, I want to take some time to define what a solid Puritan library looks like. Today we lay the ground rules for what follows.

It is my view that the most useful Puritan Study (or Library) will be well-indexed and use both printed volumes and electronic files.

E-books vs. Print books

Open this question, and memories of Ali vs. Frazier or Tyson vs. Holyfield come to mind. Debate whether the Puritans will endure in e-books or print books, and the two sides strap on the gloves and enter the ring for a showdown.

Let’s step back from the debate and make some clarifications.

No question, the computer has changed the way we pass words around. More and more Puritan books are being scanned into .pdf format for use on a computer, and many of these are being converted into text files for easy searching.

Here’s a little more info about the two types of electronic Puritan books commonly available today.

PDF picture files. Some electronic publishers take the Puritan texts and scan them into a computer as a picture file. The pictures can be seen on your computer and are an identical copy of the book page. Usually these are not text-recognized so you cannot conduct a text search or copy and paste. These files are very common with the Puritans but they also make for large and cumbersome files. (My powerful Apple PowerBook G4 can hardly keep up with a 100 MB file off the hard drive.) So unless you have the most powerful computer on the market, it is hard to efficiently use these large .pdf files.

Text files. These are more rare because they demand careful editing of the raw text. The raw text is generated by a computer deciphering words from the printed page through a scan of the page. Because many Puritan books are old editions, the computer doesn’t perfectly transcribe the words and so time-consuming editing is critical. This text file makes for much smaller and convenient file. But even better, they are searchable. There is a growing collection of these files freely available at www.CCEL.org . The Puritans are in the public domain so anyone can scan and distribute the texts freely. More about that later.

Back to the ring. Who is going to win the fight? The old dusty volume or the energetic young e-book? If we look at e-books and print books honestly, we see that they are more compatible than at first glance. In fact, I would argue that e-books and print books make a better matrimonial match than a boxing match.

For example, print books travel easily. A volume travels in the airport and across the country, without plugs or electricity. You can underline in it and write marginal notes. On the other side, the e-book text can be searched in seconds. But who spends hours at their computer reading through a Puritan e-book? (Ouch, my eyes water at the thought.) Print books are much easier to read. Print books usually include very helpful indexes at the end and since e-books are often repaginated, those indexes become worthless in text files. With e-books, I can keep hundreds of volumes on my laptop when I’m out of town.

My point: We need both e-books and printed books. Let them live in peace.

One example

Probably the best example I can give you is my use of the 2-volume Works of Jonathan Edwards. (No preacher should be without them, Martyn Lloyd-Jones said.) And no preacher should be without the free text files either.

The two work beautifully together. The text file is easy to search and the print volume is nice to read.

Let’s say we are preaching through Ephesians chapter 2, and we want to see what Edwards had to say. We open the text file to the first volume. And since the text file uses Roman numerals we do a quick search on “Eph. ii.”. We see there are 35 references to Ephesians 2 in the first volume of Edwards’ Works in about 3 seconds.

The reference you see on the screen shot looks like an interesting one. Notice this text file (from the CCEL) includes the printed page number in the left column. I open the Banner of Truth volumes in my library to page 628. Where was this reference by Edwards? A sermon? A book? What was Edward’s main point in using Ephesians 2 here? These questions are more easily answered by reading the printed book.

Wasn’t that easy?

Now here is the shocker: I personally believe e-books actually make the printed books MORE valuable! They certainly make the printed volumes more useful. [One idea: Puritan publishers should consider bundling their printed volumes with a free CD of electronic volumes.]

Remember Thomas Edison who invented the phonograph (‘sound’ + ‘writing’) in 1876? Well Edison proudly predicted that by the year 2000 audio books would eliminate the need for printed books. He was wrong. Printed books, like diamonds, are forever.

Q: Should I pay for Puritan CD-Roms?

Generally speaking I say “No,” don’t buy Puritan CD-Roms. As you will see there are exceptions to this rule but most Puritans are going online at an amazing rate. Just look at the files available on Puritan John Owen from CCEL (here). And all these are free.

Because almost all of the Puritans (including Spurgeon) are public domain, nobody has the rights to the text itself. Anyone can take the text and publish them as they wish. And that is what people are doing online.

Wait patiently. Pretty much all the important Puritan files you see on these expensive CD-Roms sets will be available for free (and in searchable text form) in the coming years. So if you own the CD-Roms already consider unloading them on Ebay while they still have value. Invest your money in printed books.

Indexes

Indexes are the key to the Puritan Study I am laying out before you. I don’t have the time to sift through 100,000 pages of Puritan literature to create my own index (and I’m certain you don’t either). So the best Puritan Study will be built from the indexes currently available.

The following two indexes are especially valuable. (Ironically, one is electronic and one printed.)

1. A free online index. This index lists the Puritan sermons by sermon text. It’s especially valuable because it includes an index to the sermons of Charles Spurgeon. There is no topical index. Later in the series I’ll show you how to get around this hitch.

2. A Guide to the Puritans by Robert P. Martin (Banner of Truth, 0851517137). This volume comprises two indexes (by text and by topic). Like the free resource above, this book is a handy textual reference to the Puritan sermons (minus Spurgeon). But what makes this especially valuable is the topical index of the sermons. You can look up any topic – like ‘Christ > Pre-incarnation existence of’ – and see that both Flavel and Manton preached sermons on the subject. No true Puritan researcher should be without this volume.

So these are the ground rules for my Puritan Study. I value both the e-books and printed volumes. And a good index is critical.

Tomorrow we will look specifically at the most useful (and best indexed) of the Puritans.

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Next time … Part 3: The People of a Puritan Library

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The Puritan Study (Part 1) The Delights and Pains of a Puritan Study

Part 1: The Delights and Pains of Puritan study

Here begins a several part study on building (and using) a Puritan library of your own. Of all the areas of my library, the Puritan section is the most useful.

The “Puritans” are a group of people I (very) loosely define as faithful Christians of the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as those who carried on the Puritan tradition into the 18th and 19th centuries. My definition includes John Bunyan and John Owen (true Puritans), Jonathan Edwards (post-Puritan), and Charles Spurgeon (who carried the Puritan tradition). Other names you may not be familiar with include Brooks, Boston, Burgess, Sibbes, Flavel, Reynolds, Ames, Manton, Rutherford, Newton and Clarkson. You will become more familiar with the names as we continue on.

This series is based upon two fundamental convictions.

First, the church today benefits most from leaders and preachers who are burdened to present expositional messages – sermons drawn from principles clearly demonstrated in scripture. The preacher is to “preach the Word” by taking every precaution in the name of accuracy and then exhorting and encouraging by earnest application.

Secondly, an efficient and workable library of the best Puritan literature is a great way to faithfully preach and apply scripture to the hearts of your hearers. The Puritans are no substitute for careful exegesis and use of contemporary commentaries. But once the foundational research is complete, the Puritans will open up new threads of understanding and application on your text. Pastors and congregations today truly need the Puritans.

J.I. Packer once wrote, “the great Puritan pastor-theologians – Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, Howe, Perkins, Sibbes, Brooks, Watson, Gurnall, Flavel, Bunyan, Manton, and others like them – were men of outstanding intellectual power, as well as spiritual insight. In them mental habits fostered by sober scholarship were linked with a flaming zeal for God and a minute acquaintance with the human heart. All their work displays this unique fusion of gifts and graces. In thought and outlook they were radically God-centered. Their appreciation of God’s sovereign majesty was profound, and their reverence in handling his written word was deep and constant. They were patient, thorough, and methodical in searching the Scriptures, and their grasp of the various threads and linkages in the web of revealed truth was firm and clear. They understood most richly the ways of God with men, the glory of Christ the Mediator, and the work of the Spirit in the believer and the church. And their knowledge was no mere theoretical orthodoxy…”

The delights of Puritans

I would not be writing this series if I were not personally acquainted with the great fruitfulness of Puritan study. The Puritans have matured my understanding of God, the Christian life, the idols of my heart, marriage and parenting. I have a deeper appreciation for the Cross, grace and the resurrection because of their words.

And here are a few other delightful benefits from the Puritans…

1. Cohesive biblical wisdom. As you can already see, the Puritans are an incredible source of biblical insight and application. They were skilled at seeing the big picture of the Christian life and then breaking that picture down into its various facets and details. Each sermon and every detail was presented in light of the big biblical themes and tied back to God Himself. What you will see in the coming weeks is that (as Packer would say) we “need” the Puritans. Even to this day there are no substitutes for their wisdom and perception in drawing us back to the big picture of God.

2. Well outlined sermons. Typical Puritan sermons provide the greatest help in my expositional research. These sermons are well outlined and very easy to navigate. Typically the whole purpose of the sermon is summarized in one nifty sentence towards the beginning of the sermon. And because these sermons are so well-organized, you can sift through them fairly quickly.

The pains of the Puritans

I won’t mislead you, there are a few pains involved in Puritan research.

1. Old words and Roman numerals. Four hundred year old literature comes with difficulties. There are words that are no longer in use today. And don’t think you can get along without memorizing Roman numerals. These are critical when you are researching Psalm lxxiii and verse 25. Be prepared to read a few sentences two or three times. Patience is important.

2. Puritan sermon style. There are some great Puritan commentaries. But for me, the most useful Puritan literature are the printed sermons (this series will focus specifically on these sermons). A typical Puritan sermon covers just one verse and rarely in the context of a broader book study. So here is the rub: The contemporary researcher (preaching through an entire book like Ephesians, for example) will need to collect and have a proper index to find Puritan literature on a given verse or topic. This is no small challenge and thankfully there are researchers who have given us great resources here (and some for free!). But if you can master this problem, and I will show you how, a library of Puritan sermons will come alive.

3. Errors. We must be on guard against the error of thinking that the Puritans were infallible. The Puritans had their errors. But this is the glory of old books. As C.S. Lewis once said, the errors in old books are easier to see than the errors in new books. Old errors are less deceptive, just as hindsight is 20/20.

For the delights and the pains, there are no substitutes for the Puritans. For every sermon I consult my trusted Puritan friends and grow from their wealth of wisdom and unparalleled seriousness with the bible. They will stretch you, challenge you and keep you accountable. But most importantly, they will cast a stern eye when you feel the pressure to compromise the biblical message.

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Next time… Part 2: The Rules of a Puritan Library

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Click here to access all posts in the The Puritan Study series.

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