The Genius of Puritanism
One of our favorite books ever, and one of the most important books one can read about the Puritans. This introduction to the Puritans focuses on the thinking which drove their preaching, writing and counseling (pastoral work). The section on spiritual depression is immensely helpful and the bibliography in the back is worth the price of the book alone.
Make no mistake about it, Lewis gets right to his point – and his point is clear: 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 boasts 351 direct quotes/references from Puritan writings.
There are 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.
The Puritans – an Ingenious and Misunderstood People
- 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!
Puritanism is a term which belongs to the past. Can it be a vital possession of the present? There is a revival of interest in the Puritans today. Why? Because they were strongest where the Church today is weakest. They concentrated on right priorities: the Church, the preaching of the Word, and nurturing one’s spiritual life. They were indeed “physicians of souls.”
Lewis observes that the Puritans focused themselves on “the great business of godliness”, so as to bring a God-exalting and gospel-saturated approach to all things.
“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, is brilliant.” — Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“This is an excellent introduction to the Puritans, their writings, and their pastoral work. It examines their role as pastors, counselors, and theologians, as well as private people. The detailed section on spiritual depression is especially helpful.” — Joel R. Beeke, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan