Dr. Joel Beeke explains what we stand to profit when we study the Puritans.
“The Puritans show us how to marry doctrine and practice in our lives by addressing the mind, confronting the conscience, and wooing the heart.
Puritan literature addresses the mind. The Puritans loved and worshipped God with their minds. They refused to set mind and heart against each other, but taught that knowledge was the soil in which the Spirit planted the seed of regeneration. They viewed the mind as the palace of faith.
The Puritans teach us to think in order to be holy. They understood that a mindless Christianity fosters a spineless Christianity. An anti-intellectual gospel will spawn an irrelevant gospel that doesn’t get beyond ‘felt needs.’ That’s what is happening in our churches today. We have lost our intellect, and for the most part we don’t see the necessity of recovering it. We do not understand that if there is little difference between the Christian and unbelievers in what we believe, there will soon be little difference in how we live.
Puritan literature confronts the conscience. The Puritans were masters at naming specific sins, then asking questions to press home the guilt of those sins. As one Puritan wrote, ‘We must go with the stick of divine truth and beat every bush behind which a sinner hides, until like Adam who hid, he stands before God in his nakedness.’
Devotional reading should be confrontational as well as comforting. We grow little if our consciences are not pricked daily and directed to Christ. Since we are prone instead to run away, we need help in our daily devotions to be brought before the living God, naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13).
Puritan literature woos the heart. It is unusual today to find books that both feed the mind with solid biblical substance and move the heart with affectionate warmth, but the Puritans do this. They reason with the mind, confront the conscience, and appeal to the heart. They write out of love for God’s Word, love for the glory of God, and love for the souls of readers. They set forth Christ in his loveliness, moving the reader to yearn to know him better and live wholly for him.”
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