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The Genius of Puritanism
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What can account for the revival of interest in the Puritans today? Perhaps it is that they were strongest where the church today is weakest. As Lewis observes, the Puritans employed themselves in the “great business of godliness,” so as to bring a God- exalting and gospel-saturated approach to all things. They were indeed “physicians of the soul” who were strongly characterized by personal piety, sound doctrine, and the pursuit of a well–ordered church life.
customer reviews
4 Stars
My first inclination to pick up this book came from an endorsement by the great preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones that caught my eye. Lloyd-Jones’ endorsement read: “Lewis provides an excellent foretaste of the rich meal that readers of the works of the Puritans can enjoy. His arrangement of the matter—the brief biographical touches, the judicious selections threaded into a continuing theme, etc.—is brilliant.” To this endorsement I must give my hearty agreement. Make no mistake about it, Lewis gets right to his point –and he stays on his point until the very end. His point is simple: to give a taste of Puritan theology and writings by letting the puritans speak for themselves. Though the book is a mere 136 pages, it boats 351 direct quotes/references from Puritan writings. The outline is fairly simple. Lewis breaks things down into 3 parts: The Puritan in the Pulpit, the Puritan in the Pew, and The Puritan in Private. From this standpoint he surveys the distinctives of Puritan theology in each of these areas, often with an eye to correcting common misconceptions about them. * Are you one who has the perception that the Puritans were high-tower theologians, long-winded, overly cognitive, and dry? The section on Puritan theology surrounding the pulpit will disprove that caricature. * Did the Puritans see the church service as mere formalism where one goes to hear great oratory and ‘high’ church? The Puritan in the Pew lets gives us a glimpse into what a Puritan service was like and the attitude of the common layperson. * But what about legalism and impossible standards of living for the saved? Did the Puritans raise the bar too high, quench the smoldering flax of weak believers, and form their own community of self-righteousness? Such hideous lies are exposed in The Puritan in Private, the largest section of the book which deals primarily with spiritual depression, doubting of salvation, etc. No doubt there will be some who will be very surprised at how warm, pastoral, and patient the Puritans were towards those who struggled with besetting sin, depression, and doubts about salvation! But all things considered, I do have one complaint about this book, and it is but a small one: the last section, the Puritan in Private, is close to three-fourths of the entire book, and I must say that it was tough to follow. The material was great, don’t be mistaken, but with 259 references in this section alone, the material was overwhelming. Simply too much crammed into too little of space, and I was left a little disillusioned. Half the length and half the references would have made it just perfect, and would have eased things up for the reader unfamiliar with the Puritan style of writing. Overall, I highly recommend the book as instrumental in getting a proper view of Puritan theology, and of the monumental contribution they have made to the church. For the serious student, and the one seeking, like David Brainerd, ‘Oh Lord, for more holiness!’, this is an introduction that will open up a world of writings to you that will certainly change your life and deepen your affection for Jesus Christ. Out of 5 stars, I give this one a strong 4. Put it in the top 10% of your ‘must-have’ book list.- Nathan White