Why Read the Puritans?

Josh Buice


As a pastor I am often asked for recommendations on books and specific authors to read. Often, I point people to the Puritans. In fact, I lead a men’s group in our church and we meet for bagels and coffee on Tuesday mornings, and the book we’re currently reading is The Works of George Swinnock Vo. 1. Sometimes people will respond to me by stating that the Puritans are a bit of a challenge to read with their long sentence structures or choice of vocabulary. Reading the Puritans is a spiritual investment into your soul that you will learn to love and cherish the more you read and spend time in the library of the Puritans.

The Puritan View of Scripture

When you read the writings of the Puritans, in the majority of the works, you are reading transcripts or essays taken from sermons that were preached to their churches. They were consistently in the Scripture as they were known to be constantly preaching the Word. It was Charles Spurgeon who said the following about John Bunyan:

Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved. [1]

If you want a prime example of what it means to embrace the full sufficiency of Scripture for all of life and godliness—examine the life and worship of the Puritans. They held to a firm grasp of the Bible’s inerrancy while consistently reading and saturating their minds with the Scriptures for both devotional and ministry. We would do well to emulate their view of Scripture.

The Puritan Pursuit of Holiness

The Puritans grew out of a time period of great trials and church life that emphasized ecclesiastical hierarchy that often promoted Phariseeism—the heart of hypocrisy. The Puritans despised such an approach to religion, which they felt should be experiential (or experimental). The warm devotional life of the Puritans led to a genuine submission to God, through his Word, which promoted a life of holiness rather than hypocrisy.

The Puritan approach to preaching confronted the consciences of people, warning them of sin, and pointing them to the cross of Jesus. As one Puritan wrote, “We must go with the stick of divine truth and beat every bush behind which a sinner hides, until like Adam who hid, he stands before God in his nakedness.” Thomas Boston once wrote:

In vain will ye fast, and pretend to be humbled for our sins, and make confession of them if our love of sin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to resist the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreakings thereof in our life; and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again. [2]

The Puritans and Perseverance

Who are the Puritans? Joel Beeke writes, “They were not only the two thousand ministers who were ejected from the Church of England by the Act of Uniformity in 1662, but also those ministers in England and North America, from the sixteenth century through the early eighteenth century, who worked to reform and purify the church and to lead people toward godly living consistent with the Reformed doctrines of grace.” [3]

Needless to say, they understood trials and how to walk through the fire in order to live for the glory of God. Thomas Boston wrote, “Affliction doth not rise out of the dust or come to men by chance; but it is the Lord that sends it, and we should own and reverence His hand in it.” [4] George Whitefield once said the following of the Puritans:

The Puritans [were] burning and shining lights. When cast out by the black Bartholomew Act, and driven from their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in a special manner wrote and preached as men having authority. Though dead, by their writings they yet speak: a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour (Works, 4:306-307).

As we consider the Puritans’ boldness in their reform attempts of the Church of England and their unwillingness to compromise in their worship of God—such a boldness requires faithfulness under trial. John Flavel once said, “The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.”

I would encourage you to make it a point to read the Puritans. You will find that their use of poetry and imagery elevates the beauty of Christ. As you read the Puritans, at times you will smell the jail and at other times you will smell the fragrance of grace and see the light of the gospel. They were aquainted with grief and yet pointed faithfully to Christ.

I would like to recommend a couple of resources for you if you’re new to the Puritans:

  1. Mr. Spurgeon as a Literary Man,” in The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Compiled from His Letters, Diaries, and Records by His Wife and Private Secretary, vol. 4, 1878-1892 (Curtis & Jennings, 1900), p. 268.
  2. The Works of Thomas Boston, reprint Richard Owen Roberts, 1980, v. 11, p. 347.
  3. Joel Beeke, “Why You Should Read the Puritans” [accessed 3/3/20]
  4. Thomas Boston, “Of the Decrees of God,” Commentary on the Shorter Catechism.
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Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.