Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
RAR 5:2 (Spring 1996) p. 159
Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were, Leland Ryken. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House (1990). 281 pages, paperback, $17.99.
When reading this book, I had two reactions about the author’s dealing with the Puritans. First, I found his material extremely fascinating. I have been a lover of the Puritans and their writings from the earliest days of my conversion. I have especially appreciated the writings of Thomas Watson, John Flavel, John Owen, and Thomas Brooks. But Worldly Saints introduced a host of men to me that I was unaware of. Not only did I learn of new sources of Puritan writings that captured my interest, I also was introduced to a wide variety of topics, discussions, and subjects I was unfamiliar with. I found this book so readable and fascinating that I had a hard time putting it down.
Second, I found Ryken’s treatment of the Puritans to be very fair. He reveals their strengths and points out their positive influences on the history of the Christian church, but also reveals their weaknesses and shortcomings as well. This work is not an attempt to make the Puritans something other than what they were. Ryken deals fairly and candidly with his subject.
In the preface, Ryken sets forth his reasons for writing this book:
My purpose in writing this book has been threefold: (1) To correct an almost universal misunderstanding of what the Puritans really stood for; (2) to bring together into a convenient synthesis the best that the Puritans thought and said on selected topics; and (3) to recover the Christian wisdom of the Puritans for today. Evangelical Protestants
RAR 5:2 (Spring 1996) p. 160
are strangers to what is best in their own tradition; my hope is that this book will make a small contribution to remedying that situation (p.xvii).
This book is an excellent summary of Puritan thought and writing. The author begins with a chapter exploring the question, “What were the original Puritans like?” Ryken demolishes the contemporary myths that often surround the Puritans, such as they were against sex, they never laughed or had fun, they wore drab, unfashionable clothes, they opposed sports and recreation, they were hostile to the arts, etc.
The next nine chapters explore Puritan beliefs and teachings on such subjects as work, marriage and sex, money, family, Puritan preaching, church and worship, the Bible, education, and social action.
In chapter eleven, a very important section, Ryken discusses how we can learn from the negative example of “Puritan faults.” When reading the histories and writings of those who have gone before us in the Lord’s work, we...
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