Category Archives: The Puritan Study
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:
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.
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.
Today’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.
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
Works of Edward Reynolds
(Soli Deo Gloria)
Works of Thomas Goodwin
(Reformation Heritage Books)
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!
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…)
Next time … Part 11: Concluding Thoughts, part 2
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.
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.
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.
Next time … Part 4: Why our effective use of the Puritans begins in the bible