Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
EmJ 1:1 (Win 91) p. 79
Kenneth Alan Daughters, Editor
A Quest For Godliness: A Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. By J. I. Packer. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990. 367 pp. $15.95.
James I. Packer, the well-known author of Knowing God and many other Christian books, has had a long-standing love of the Puritan writers of the seventeenth century. They have shaped his own Christian life and thinking. John Owen, Richard Baxter, Thomas Goodwin, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Brooks, John Bunyan, and Jonathan Edwards (a Puritan who came a century later) have important lessons to teach the Christian church at the end of the twentieth century. Of these, Bunyan with his popular Pilgrim’s Progress is the only one still widely known.
What did the Puritans have that we need today? Packer’s answer in one word is maturity. We are spiritual dwarfs. American Protestantism is man-centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent, and sentimental, 3000 miles wide and half an inch deep. The Puritans by contrast were spiritual giants. They served a great God and had a passion for godliness. Their Christian experience was natural and unselfconscious, while ours is too often artificial and boastful. They were committed to spiritual integrity and had a fear of hypocrisy.
Packer is a masterful writer and has given us a challenging book. He is a Puritan living in the twentieth century, and an evaluation of his book is an evaluation of the Puritans themselves. There are several things we especially need to learn from them. First, they were not only scripturally and doctrinally oriented, but they also brought doctrine down to the level of ordinary people and applied it very practically. The mind must be instructed before faith and obedience are possible. Baxter would say, “First light, then heat.” Religious feeling and pious emotion without knowledge is worse
EmJ 1:1 (Win 91) p. 80
than useless. We must admit that Christians today are not deep students of the Word. Our devotional reading tends to be light, cotton-candy material, and we demand that our sermons entertain rather than enlighten. We are bored by anything that is too heavy. The Puritans believed that all grace enters by the understanding. “God does not move men to action by mere physical violence, but addresses their minds by his word, and calls for the response of deliberate consent and intelligent obedience.” They believed that the Scriptures really do have life-giving power, and it is the job of the preacher to feed the sheep rather than amuse the goats. They would spend 12 to 24 hours in the preparation of each sermon. They would systematically expound the Scriptures by explaining each passage in its context, then by extracting f...
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