Archive for the ‘Puritans’ Category

Cotton Mather on Christian Ministry

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 in Church History, Puritans

thPUBV7WPFCotton Mather was an American Puritan who authored nearly 400 works — books, pamphlets, published sermons, and scientific tracts. Magnalia Christi Americana was an extended ecclesiastical history of New England. The following is taken from his work for young men who were potential candidates for ministry:

The office of Christian ministry, rightly understood, is the most honourable, and important, that any man in the whole world can ever sustain; and it will be one of the wonders and employments of eternity to consider the reasons why the wisdom and goodness of God assigned this office to imperfect and guilty man! . . . The great design and intention of the office of a Christian preacher are to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men; to display in the most lively colours, and proclaim in the clearest language, the wonderful perfections, offices and grace of the Son of God; and to attract the souls of men and into a state of everlasting friendship with him . . . It is a work which an angel might wish for, as an honour to his character; yea, an office which every angel in heaven might covet to be employed in for a thousand years to come. It is such an honourable, important and useful office, that if a man be put into it by God, and made faithful and successful through life, he may look down with disdain upon a crown, and shed a tear of pity on the brightest monarch on earth. [Student and Preacherpp. iii-v, quoted by John Stott, Between Two Worldsp. 31]


Killing Sin

Posted: Thursday, January 4, 2018 in Pastoral, Puritans, Resolutions

The Puritan John Owen wrote, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Jonathan Edwards is known for his known for his resolutions. His Resolution 56: “Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.”

Yesterday I wrote concerning the resolve to know God’s Word – to be in the Word of God so that the Word of God might be in you. This is the first and necessary resolve in our battle against the devil, the world, and our own flesh… So that we might be actively engaged with the sword of the Spirit against sin, slaying our sin before it destroys us and others.

William Gurnall, another of the Puritans, had the following in his excellent work, The Christian in Complete Armour. This is taken from a devotional from that work dated January 4 titled “The Christian’s Call to Service”:


The soldier is summoned to a life of active duty, and so is the Christian. The very nature of the calling precludes a life of ease. If you thought to be a summer soldier, consider your commission carefully. Your spiritual orders are rigorous. Like the apostle, I would not have you be ignorant on this point and will, therefore, list a few of your directives.

Those sins which have lain interest nearest your heart must now be trampled under your feet. And what courage and resolution (italics mine) this requires! You think Abraham was tested to the limit when called upon to take Isaac, “thine only son… whom thou lovest” (Genesis 22:2), and offer him up with his own hands. Yet what was that to this: “Soul, take the lust which is the child dearest to your heart, your Isaac, the sin from which you intend to gain the greatest pleasure. Lay hands on it and offer it up; pour out its blood before Me; run the sacrificing knife into the very heart of it–and do it joyfully!”

This is more than the human spirit can bear to hear. Our lust will not lie so patiently on the altar as Isaac, nor as the Lamb brought dumb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). Our flesh will roar and shriek, rending the heart with its hideous cries. Indeed, who can express the conflict, the wrestlings, the convulsions of spirit we endure before we can out our heart into such a command? Or who can fully recount the cleverness with which such a lust will plead for itself?

When the Spirit convicts you of sin, Satan will try to convince you, “It is such a little one–spare it.” Or he will bribe the soul with a vow of secrecy: “You can keep me and your good reputation, too. I will not be seen in your company to shame you among your neighbors. You may shut me up in the attic of your heart, out of sight, if only you will let me now and then have the wild embraces of your thoughts and affections in secret.”

Be resolved to know the Word of God — and then go to battle with it! Remember Christ, who when tempted by Satan overpowered him with the Word (Matthew 4; Luke 4). “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

The Christian Armor (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 in Books, Puritans

If you keep up with me on Twitter or on Facebook you know I have been reading numerous works in preparing for Ephesians 6:10-20—The Christian Armor. I thought you might be interested in a few inexpensive items to ask for Christmas and wanted to pass along a few titles for you to consider. There are numerous books published on spiritual warfare that are not biblical so I wanted to steer you in a right direction.

515687The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (3-volumes, modern abridgment)

I am usually a stickler for the original but this one can be trusted (thank you Banner of Truth). Note the following endorsements from some fairly influential men:

John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” said, “If I might read only one book beside the Bible, I would choose The Christian in Complete Armour.” Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Gurnall’s work is peerless and priceless; every line is full of wisdom; every sentence is suggestive.” David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade, wrote, “The Christian in Complete Armour should be in the library of every man and woman of God.”

Daily Readings from The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall, ed. James Bell, Jr.

5143mb29zdl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks

‘Not only did the book help me in the area of dealing with Christians in my own soul – relating to doubt or assurance – it also helped me in application, in preaching. In fact, [Precious Remedies] may have helped me in application in preaching more than any other book I’ve ever read.’ – Ligon Duncan

Brooks treated the seductive influence and terrible power of Satan in a way greatly more full and suggestive than in the literature of the present day.

Brooks lists seven reasons for writing this book. The first reason is enough…Brooks says, Satan hath a greater influence upon men, and higher advantages over them than they think he hath, and the knowledge of his high advantage is the highway to disappoint him, and to render the soul strong in resisting, and happy in conquering.

51hvqz1g1gl-_ac_us218_The Christian Soldier by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This is vol. 8 in the 8-volume set of sermons that Lloyd-Jones preached at Westminster Chapel on Ephesians 6:10-20. The previous volume, The Christian Warfare, is a series of expositions on Ephesians 6:10-13. Combined, 52 sermons on the Christian armor!


Stand Firm by Peter Jeffery

This little gem is out of print but used copies are plentiful.



587830Stand: Putting on the Full Armor of God by Warren W. Wiersbe




That should get you through the holidays…

The Puritans on a Gospel-centered Life

Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in Puritans

I recently began a study on the Puritans and am reading again J.I. Packer’s classic A Quest for Godliness. The first of the things that Packer says we can learn from the Puritans is how they integrated the gospel into their daily lives. He writes:

As their Christianity was all-embracing, so their living was all of a piece. Nowadays we would call their lifestyle holistic: all awareness, activity, and enjoyment, all ‘use of the creatures’ and development of personal powers and creativity, was integrated in the single purpose of honouring God by appreciating all his gifts and making everything ‘holiness unto the Lord’. There was for them no disjunction between sacred and secular; all creation, so far as they were concerned, was sacred, an all activities, of whatever kind, must be sanctified, that is, done to the glory of God. So, in their heavenly-minded ardour, the Puritans became men and women of order, matter-of-fact and down-to-earth, prayerful, purposeful, practical. Seeing life whole, they integrated contemplation with action, worship with work, labour with rest, love of God with love of neighbour and of self, personal with social identity, and the wide spectrum of relational responsibilities with each other, in a thoroughly conscientious and thought-out way. In this thoroughness they were extreme, that is to say far more thorough than we are, but in their blending of the whole wide range of Christian duties set forth in Scripture they were eminently balanced. They lived by ‘method’ (we would say, by a rule of life), planning and proportioning their time with care, not so much to keep bad things out as to make sure that they got all good and important things in–necessary wisdom, then as now, for bust people! We today, who tend to live unplanned lives at random in a series of non-communicating compartments and who hence feel swamped and distracted most of the time, could learn much from the Puritans at this point. [pp. 23-24]

There are no wasted words in the above paragraph. May we be ever-examining our use of time and plan our days religiously – for the glory of God who gave us this day!

“It is well-known that Puritans were lovers of the Word of God. They were not content with the bare affirmation of the infallibility, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture. They read, searched, sang, and heard the Word with delight, always seeking for and relishing the applying power of the Holy Spirit accompanying the Word. They regarded the sixty-six books of Holy Scripture as the library of the Holy Spirit graciously given to them. For the Puritan, Scripture is God speaking to us, as a father speaks to his children. In Scripture God gives us His Word as both a word of truth and a word of power. As a word of truth, we can trust in and rest our all upon Scripture for time and eternity. As a word of power, we can look to Scripture as the source of transformation used by the Spirit of God to renew our minds.” – Joel Beeke

“The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.” – John Flavel

“Men sin not only when they neglect to read the Scriptures, but also “… in reading amisse: therefore the properties of reverent and faithfull reading are to bee set downe, which are these that follow”: (1) Diligence, (2) Wisdom, (3) Preparation, (4) Meditation, (5) Conference, (6) Faith, (7) Practice, (8) Prayer. Numbers one through three ought to precede reading; numbers four through seven ought to follow reading; number eight must precede, accompany, and follow reading.” – Richard Greenham

“We should set the Word of God alway before us like a rule, and believe nothing but that which it teacheth, love nothing but that which it prescribeth, hate nothing but that which it forbiddeth, do nothing but that which it commandeth.”-  Henry Smith

And this from Thomas Watson:

1) When you come to God’s house to hear His Word, do not forget to also prepare your soul
with prayer.

2) Come with a holy appetite for the Word (1 Peter 2:2). A good appetite promotes good digestion.

3) Come with a tender, teachable heart (2 Chron. 13:7), asking, “What shall I do, Lord? (Acts 22:10). It is foolish to expect a blessing if you come with a hardened, worldly minded heart.

4) Be attentive to the Word preached. In Luke 19:48, we are told that the people “were very attentive” to Christ. Literally translated, the text says, “they hung upon him, hearing.” Lydia evidenced a heart opened by the Lord when she “attended” or “turned her mind” to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14). Such attentiveness also involves banishing wandering thoughts, dullness of mind, and drowsiness (Matt. 13:25). Regard the sermon as it truly is—a matter of life and death (Deut. 32:47).

5) “Receive with meekness the engrafted word” (James 1:21). Meekness involves a
submissive frame of heart—“a willingness to hear the counsels and reproofs of the word.” Through meekness the Word gets “engrafted” into the soul and produces “the sweet fruit of righteousness.”

6) Mingle the preached Word with faith: “The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith” (Heb. 4:2). If the chief ingredient of a medicine is missing, the medicine will not be effective; so be sure not to leave out the chief ingredient, faith, as you listen to a sermon. Believe and apply the Word. Apply Christ when He is preached (Rom. 13:14); apply the promises as they are spoken.

7) Strive to retain and pray over what you have heard. Don’t let the sermon run through your mind like water through a sieve (Heb. 2:1). “Our memories should be like the chest of the ark, where the law was put.” As another well-known Puritan, Joseph Alleine, advised, “Come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the sermon to your knees.”

8) Practice what you have heard. “Live out” the sermons you hear. Hearing that does not reform your life will never save your soul. Doers of the Word are the best hearers. Of what value is a mind filled with knowledge when not matched with a fruitful life?

9) Beg of God to accompany His Word with the effectual blessing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44). Without the Spirit, the medicine of the Word may be swallowed, but it will not result in healing.

10) Familiarize yourself with what you have heard. When you come home, speak to your
loved ones about the sermon in an edifying manner: “My tongue shall speak of thy word” (Ps. 119:172). Remember each sermon as if it will be the last you ever hear, for that may well be the case.

Confession and Petition

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2013 in Puritans, Valley of Vision

From Valley of Vision:

Holy Lord,

I have sinned times without number,
and been guilty of pride and unbelief,
of failure to find thy mind in thy Word,
of neglect to seek thee in my daily life.
My transgressions and short-comings
present me with a list of accusations,
But I bless thee that they will not stand against me,
for all have been laid on Christ.
Go on to subdue my corruptions,
and grant me grace to live above them.
Let not the passions of the flesh nor lustings
of the mind bring my spirit into subjection,
but do thou rule over me in liberty and power.
I thank thee that many of my prayers
…..have been refused.
I have asked amiss and do not have,
I have prayed from lusts and been rejected,
I have longed for Egypt and been given a

Go on with thy patient work,
answering ‘no’ to my wrongful prayers,
and fitting me to accept it.
Purge me from every false desire,
every base aspiration,
everything contrary to thy rule.
I thank thee for thy wisdom and thy love,
for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject,
for sometimes putting me into the furnace
… refine my gold and remove my dross.

No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin.
If thou shouldst give me choice to live
in pleasure and keep my sins,
or to have them burnt away with trial,
give me sanctified affliction.
Deliver me from every evil habit,
every accretion of former sins,
everything that dims the brightness
…..of thy grace in me,
everything that prevents me taking delight
… thee.
Then I shall bless thee, God of Jeshurun,
for helping me to be upright.

Gospel Love

Posted: Saturday, September 14, 2013 in Puritans, Scripture

Tomorrow morning my text is John 13:31-38, the theme being the love that will flow from the heart of the true follower of Christ: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (v. 34). In his work titled “Gospel Charity” John Owen wrote the following:

owenThere is a carnal and natural love still in the world that is based on natural relations. We find this sort of love even among the most debased and brutish. There is also a type of love that arises from a common interest in particular sins and pleasures – from people who partake in the same behaviors or who seek to bind themselves together to advance some political end. All the love of the world may be understood as stemming from one or more of these motives and purposes. None of these are in any way the love that proceeds from the gospel. This is why genuine gospel love has the ability to amaze and attract unbelievers. They should be astonished by the new and different type of love that believers display toward one another. Indeed, one of the first sayings of heathens that observed Christians together was ‘See how they love one another’ For them to see people of different sorts – different races, different personalities, different classes, different financial brackets – all knit together in love was astonishing to them. It was astonishing because of its unique nature. [Gospel Charity]

There is a difference between the love defined by the world ant that as defined by Christ – a love so different that the world notices. And so does Christ!