Book Review -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 05:3 (Summer 1996)
Article: Book Review
Author: Anonymous


Book Review

A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, James I. Packer. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1990. 367 pages, cloth, $17.95.

During the 1950s and 60s, the Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, held annually in Westminster Chapel, London, did much to plant, nurture and bring to maturity a robust evangelical Calvinism, which has been, and is being, greatly used of God around the world. Undoubtedly the two central figures in this annual event were the late D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J. I. Packer. The masterly papers given by Lloyd-Jones at the annual meetings of this Conference and those of its successor, the Westminster Conference for Theological and Historical Study (with special reference to the Puritans), have appeared as The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors: Addresses Delivered at the Puritan and Westminster Conferences 1959–1978, published by the Banner of Truth in 1987.

Many of the equally invaluable papers which Packer gave at the Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference are available in A Quest for Godliness. All but three of the twenty chapters of the book (the Introduction, that on “Marriage and Family in Puritan Thought” and the Afterword) have actually appeared in print before. Nine chapters were papers originally given at the Puritan Conference, four started out as introductions to various volumes, while the rest were either lectures or printed as articles in various journals.

In the Introduction, Packer confesses that the center of his interest in the Puritans for the past forty years has lain in Puritanism as a renewal movement and Puritan spirituality. This interest is certainly reflected in the chapters of the book,

which bear such titles as “Puritanism As a Movement of Revival,” “The Puritan Conscience,” “The Witness of the Spirit in Puritan Thought,” and “The Spirituality of John Owen.” For Packer, “Puritanism was at heart a spiritual movement, passionately concerned with God and godliness”(p. 28). It is primarily for this reason that much in their writings is of great value for today’s church. While all of the chapters are well-crafted, incisive and marrowy, the following are particularly excellent: the one on particular redemption (originally an introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, a classic defense of this doctrine), that on “The Spirituality of John Owen,” and the one dealing with Jonathan Edwards’s perspective on revival.

Owen (1616–83) figures largely in many of the chapters; Packer admits that Owen “comes closer than anyone else to being the hero” of the book (p. 191). One of the great...

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