We ought to pay attention to the opinions of a man who, according to many Church historians, was possibly one of the greatest evangelists of all times: George Whitefield. On the Puritans he said:
The Puritans of the last century, burning and shining lights, wrote and preached after they were cast out of the church, as men having authority; a peculiar unction attends their writings to this day; and for these thirty years I have remarked that the more true and vital religion that revived at home and abroad, the more the good old puritanical writings have been called for.”
It is probable that history cannot afford in any age or country a body of clergymen equal in virtue, talent, and aptness to teach, with that ejected from the Church of England by the act of uniformity passed by Charles in 1662 (Choules)
The Puritans are unquestionably the safest of all uninspired guides. The masculine sense, the profound learning, the rich and unequalled unction of the fathers of the modern church, exert a powerful influence on the mind, and greatly contribute to form and mature the characters of men (Robert Hall)
And a more lengthy quote from J.I. Packer:
The answer, in one word, is maturity. Maturity is a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity. The Puritans exemplified maturity; we don’t. We are spiritual dwarfs. A much-traveled leader, a native American (be it said), has declared that he finds North American Protestantism, man-centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent and sentimental, as it blatantly is, to be 3,000 miles wide and half an inch deep. The Puritans, by contrast, as a body were giants. They were great souls serving a great God. In them clear-headed passion and warm-hearted compassion combined. Visionary and practical, idealistic and realistic too, goal-oriented and methodical, they were great believers, great hopers, great doers, and great sufferers. But their sufferings, both sides of the ocean (in old England from the authorities and in New England from the elements), seasoned and ripened them till they gained a stature that was nothing short of heroic. Ease and luxury, such as our affluence brings us today, do not make for maturity; hardship and struggle however do, and the Puritans’ battles against the spiritual and climatic wildernesses in which God set them produced a virility of character, undaunted and unsinkable, rising above discouragement and fears, for which the true precedents and models are men like Moses, and Nehemiah, and Peter after Pentecost, and the apostle Paul.
My own personal life has been enriched by the reading of Watson and Goodwin. Goodwin’s work on assurance has influenced my preaching. John Owen (who by purists is not considered a Puritan) has written what is perhaps the best works ever on personal holiness in Mortification and Temptation. I read portions of him at least once a week (I even have a coffee mug memento of Owen!). Next to the Holy Word of God, I do not know of any other work that has helped me in my persistent and never-ending struggle against indwelling sin. Brothers and sisters, please become familiar with these works.
My personal opinion is that your introduction to Owen should be the two works that I mentioned. I am still not decided which should be read first: “Temptation” or “Mortification.” Ask the Lord for guidance. You know your own soul better than anyone else. It is remarkable to me that Jerry Bridges who has written so much on personal holiness had this to say about Owen:
John Owen’s treatises on Indwelling Sin in Believers and The Mortification of Sin are, in my opinion, the most helpful writings on personal holiness ever written.
I think God is doing a wonderful work in His Church through the revival of the “puritanical writings.’ I concur with George Whitefield. A peculiar unction attends their writings to this day. Reading the Puritans is a good thing. Even for dispensational fundamentalists.
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