Points of Entry for Reading the Puritans

Photo credit: Jean BeaufortFor beginners looking to ease into Puritan literature, here are some simpler works by Puritan authors that are accessible and provide a good starting point:

  1. “The Bruised Reed” by Richard Sibbes – A gentle and encouraging treatise on finding comfort and hope in Christ.
  2. “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs – Offers practical guidance on cultivating contentment in all circumstances.
  3. “A Lifting Up for the Downcast” by William Bridge – Addresses the spiritual struggles of a discouraged soul and offers biblical remedies.
  4. “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan – While longer, its allegorical style makes it relatively approachable, and it remains one of the most well-known and loved works.
  5. “All Things for Good” (original title: A Divine Cordial) by Thomas Watson – Explores the doctrine of God’s providence and how even trials can work for the good of believers.
  6. “The Godly Man’s Picture” by Thomas Watson – Describes the characteristics of a truly godly person, providing insights into Christian character.
  7. “The Art of Divine Contentment” by Thomas Watson – Similar to “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” this work delves into finding contentment in God.
  8. “The Mystery of Providence” by John Flavel – Examines the ways in which God’s providence is at work in the lives of believers.
  9. “A Sure Guide to Heaven” (original title: An Alarm to the Unconverted) by Joseph Alleine – A call to genuine conversion and seeking God, with clear guidance for those seeking salvation.
  10. “The Mortification of Sin” by John Owen – focusing on the practical aspects of overcoming sin.

These works provide a solid foundation for exploring Puritan thought and spirituality without overwhelming newcomers with complex theological discussions. As you become more comfortable with their style and content, you can gradually delve into more comprehensive writings by Puritan authors.

For those of us who have been reading the Puritans for years, what works do you suggest to those expressing an interest in drawing from abundant treasury?

The Great Concern – Now Available!

Edward Pearse (c.1633–1674) was a Puritan pastor in London during a period of immense political and social upheaval in England. He died at forty of tuberculosis, but during his final months, he wrote this book as a guide to his congregation, in order to direct them to life’s one ‘great concern,’ namely, “to have all things set right, well-ordered, and composed in the matters of the soul before leaving this world.” With wonderful clarity, the author shows how putting the spiritual concerns of the soul into the best posture possible for the hour of death is in actuality the key to living an abundant, God-honoring life. Or as Pearse explains:

“It is to fill up our time with duty, and our duties with grace; to use the time which is given to us in the pursuit of these ends—not to eat, drink, and please ourselves with creature comforts—but to serve and honor the Creator, to work out our salvation, to become acquainted with God and Christ, and to ensure ourselves of heaven and a blessed eternity.”

This edition includes a biographical preface and review questions designed to facilitate group discussion or personal reflection.

Paperback (Amazon) $14.99
eBook (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AppleGoogle Play, Kobo, Lulu) $4.99

Website Improvements

In addition to editing, over the past few months I have been busy at work each day, nibbling away at a number of improvements to the website that I hope will make it more useful to you.  For example:

  1. I am going through each of the PDF files and trimming out blank and worthless pages, making sure that background OCR has been performed on each file (so you can search for text phrases), and creating bookmarks and hyperlinks where feasible, to make navigating these files a little easier.
  2. Each of the larger “Works” volumes is being broken down into component parts, so you don’t have to download the whole volume to get just the one sermon you want.
  3. Works that are keyed to a specific text of Scripture are being cataloged in the Scripture Index (see the navigation bar above).  Try this out—it is very useful, and already stocked with thousands of texts!
  4. A Topical Index, which is on hold right now, presently containing only a very small fraction of the works included on this website.
  5. I am in the process of enabling comments for each page, so that we may dialogue on specific aspects of each Puritan author’s life and/or works.
  6. I am experimenting with adding “Like” buttons to each work on the site, so that you can quickly see which works are most popular when trying to decide what to read from an author you might not be familiar with. My sandbox for this is the John Flavel page. I anticipate that several fun things can be done with the data mined from this…
  7. I have been downloading and scrubbing texts from EEBO’s web page, where appropriate.  See my prior post on text scrubbing (a computerized process of cleaning up the texts so they are a little more readable).
  8. I have been trying to incorporate texts from J.I. Packer’s online texts, where appropriate.

It will probably take a few years to get all of these things completely done, but check back frequently—the site should become better and better with each visit.  If you have any suggestions, or see any broken links or errors, please let me know!

J.I. Packer’s Puritan Collection–Now Available Online!

PackerIn this link, Justin Taylor reports on an excellent gift that has been given to us: many previously unavailable Puritan works which have been digitized from the library of J.I. Packer and posted to the web through the The John Richard Allison Library in Vancouver (Regent College, Carey Theological College). Eighty authors in all. Though for now the texts can only be read online, the reader is a pleasure to use. In time we will integrate these texts into our catalog and indices. (The link directly to the texts is here.)