Word And Space, Time And Act: The Shaping Of English Puritan Piety -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 14:4 (Winter 2010)
Article: Word And Space, Time And Act: The Shaping Of English Puritan Piety
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin


Word And Space, Time And Act: The Shaping Of English Puritan Piety

Michael A. G. Haykin

Spirituality lies at the very core of English Puritanism, that late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century movement that sought to reform the Church of England and, failing to do so, splintered into a variety of denominations, such as English Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Particular (i.e., Calvinistic) and General (i.e., Arminian) Baptist.1 Whatever else the Puritans may have been—social, political, and eccelsiastical Reformers—they were primarily men and women intensely passionate about piety and Christian experience. By and large united in their Calvinism, the Puritans believed that every aspect of their spiritual lives came from the work of the Holy Spirit. They had, in fact, inherited from the continental Reformers of the sixteenth century, and from John Calvin (1506-64) in particular, “a constant and even distinctive concern” with the person and work of the Holy Spirit.2 Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921), the distinguished American Presbyterian theologian, can actually speak of Calvin as “preeminently the theologian of the Holy Spirit.”3 Of his Puritan heirs and their interest in the Spirit, Warfield has this to say:

The formulation of the doctrine of the work of the Spirit waited for the Reformation and for Calvin, and … the further working out of the details of this doctrine and its enrichment by the profound study of Christian minds and meditation of Christian hearts has come down from Calvin only to the Puritans.… [I]t is only the truth to say that Puritan thought was almost entirely occupied with loving study of the work of the Holy Spirit, and found its highest expression in dogmatico-practical expositions of the several aspects of it.4

Now, this Puritan interest in the work of the

Spirit and spirituality can be examined along two central axes: first, the Puritan focus on the Word, in keeping with the Reformation assertion of sola scriptura, which led to an elevation of preaching as the primary means of grace and a distinct spirituality of space; and, second, a distinct spirituality of time that was oriented around the Sabbath and that provided a context for worship and prayer, meditation and good deeds.

A Spirituality Of The Word

In 1994 the British Library paid the equivalent of well over two million dollars for a book that the library administration at the time deemed to be the most important acqui...

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