Reading The Puritans -- By: Joel R. Beeke

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:2 (Jul 2014)
Article: Reading The Puritans
Author: Joel R. Beeke

Reading The Puritans

Joel R. Beeke

A dwarf must realize his place among giants.1 This is true of all human achievement. When we survey church history, we discover giants of the faith such as Aurelius Augustine (354-430), Martin Luther (1483-1546), John Calvin (1509-1564), John Owen (1616-1683), and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Amid those giants the Puritans also rise as giants of exegetical ability, intellectual achievement, and profound piety.

Upon this mountain our Reformed “city” is built. We are where we are because of our history, though we are dwarves on the shoulders of giants. Who would George Whitefield (1714-1770), Charles Hodge (1797-1878), Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), or D. Martyn Lloyd- Jones (1899-1981) have been if not for their predecessors? Despite this, Puritan studies were sorely neglected until the resurgence of Puritan literature in the late 1950s. In many evangelical circles today, Puritan theology is still marginalized. While the Puritans built palaces, we are comfortable building shacks; where they planted fields, we plant but a few flowers; while they turned over every stone in theological reflection, we content ourselves with pebbles; where they aimed for comprehensive depth, we aim for catchy sound bites.

The Latin phrase tolle lege, meaning “pick up and read,” offers a remedy for this apathy toward spiritual truth. Our ancestors have left

us a rich theological and cultural heritage. We can say of the Puritans what Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) said of his evening routine of reading the ancients: “I enter the ancient courts of rulers who have long since died. There I am warmly welcomed, and I feed on the only food I find nourishing.”2

Returning to Puritan writings will also reward a diligent reader. Whitefield said, “Though dead, by their writings they yet speak: a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour.”3 Whitefield predicted that Puritan writings would be read until the end of time due to their scriptural truth. Spurgeon agreed, saying, “In these [writings] they do live forever. Modern interpreters have not superseded them, nor will they altogether be superseded to the end of time.”4 Today we are witnessing a revival of sorts in reading the Puritans. Initiated largely by the Banner of Truth Trust, which has been systema...

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