Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Parish Magazine Item for February

From The Rectory

With the deadline for the parish magazine on the 7th of the preceding month, it’s difficult to be too topical here. This month I thought I might say something about that most topical of issues from the 17th Century: Puritanism.

This is prompted by the topical appearance of a well-loved set of Puritan devotional prayers available free online at:

I heartily recommend them. Also on the same website you can find a link to a Puritan prayer for each day and, if you’re technologically whizzy, no doubt you could read it on your mobile or tablet on the move. For those who prefer the type of technology the Puritans would have recognised, the prayers are available in a book entitled The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, either in a luxury leather-bound edition or in paperback from as little as £2.49 + p&p.

One scholar has commented that: “Interest in Puritan books has seldom been more intense. In the last fifty years, 150 Puritan authors and nearly 700 Puritan titles have been brought back into print.”

“But why should we be at all interested in the Puritans?” I fear I hear you yawn!
There’s no doubt the Puritans have a bad press. Like “Fundamentalist”, the term “Puritan” is often used as a term of abuse. Who wants to be thought Puritanical? Certainly not the Rector! I almost feel like popping down the pub for a pint of ale right now to shake off the impression. You may recall a particularly amusing episode of Blackadder II where Edmund’s Puritan aunt and uncle come to visit. It’s very funny, but very unfair. Despite Auntie’s ire, the Puritans did not regard chairs as an extravagant indulgence invented of the devil!

The Puritans loved their Bibles and they were serious about living for God and for his glory, but they were also much more fun-loving and life-affirming than we might suppose. Perhaps we imagine them to be hung up about sex, but in fact the Puritans were very positive about marriage and family, with all that entails! In part, Puritanism can be seen as a movement which seeks to live wholeheartedly for Jesus in the “world” and not just in the monastery. Far from being anti-intellectual, the Puritans were also serious about loving God with their minds. They wanted to understand the Scriptures with depth and think through all the implications of God’s Word. Even if we might not stomach them, there’s something to be said for hour-long 27 point sermons! But the Puritans’ interests were never merely academic. Their study was always oriented towards “use” or application. They wanted their learning to make a practical difference to their living, and that’s surely right.

For an introduction to the Puritans, you might try:
D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, or, J. I. Packer,  A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life.
If you want to try reading some of the Puritans themselves, the Banner of Truth paperbacks are a good place to start, maybe something by John Bunyan, John Flavel, Thomas Watson, or John Owen.
The Revd Marc Lloyd

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