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The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics Paperback – November 22, 2004
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"This is a grand achievement. Kapic and Gleason have managed to present an impressive collection of essays that explore some of the more important Puritan texts. The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics expands on traditional conceptions and points out that Puritanism is a very difficult movement to define, especially with all the theological, ecclesiological and political diversity which attend that complex world, and yet the editors and their contributors also remind us that there was something that linked the idea across three centuries and several continents. I very much appreciate their approach to portray Puritanism as a kind of spirituality and general outlook on the Christian life. I commend the editors and the contributors for a job well done. As I always say to my students, good scholarship is not complete until it has been effectively communicated. Kapic, Gleason and their colleagues have succeeded superbly in capturing the complex dynamic of current scholarship while ensuring that it has been clearly communicated. This book will be welcomed and enjoyed in colleges, universities and seminaries alike. As Augustine might say, 'tolle lege' [take up and read]." (Frank A. James III, D.Phil., Ph.D., President and Professor of Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary/Orlando)
"Despite the Puritans' profound contributions to the doctrine and disciplines of the Christian life, we have few reliable introductions to their works. These insightful, accessible and critically appreciative essays enlarge our hearts and nurture us in living coram deo." (Stephen R. Spencer, Professor of Theology, Wheaton College)
"Just what we need--a user-friendly guide to the spiritual classics of seventeenth-century Puritanism which will bring long-forgotten works back to life and encourage a new generation to move on to the meat of evangelical spirituality. From the familiar John Bunyan to the virtually unknown John Howe, this collection takes in a range of writers who bear witness to the enormous riches of our Protestant heritage which continue to shape and sustain the modern church. This anthology will open people's eyes to behold wonders of which few have ever dreamed, and it is sure to become a standard reference work wherever the English Reformation heritage is held in honor." (Gerald Bray, Anglican Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University)
"It is an excellent idea to celebrate the theology of the Puritan movement by introducing its representative figures--from William Ames to Thomas Watson, from John Bunyan to Richard Sibbes-- through their classic writings. A first-rate team of evangelical scholars does the honors. Here is doctrinal exactness, faithfulness to Scripture and pastoral insight. Here also is learning and wit, allegory and poetry. Take up and read!" (Paul Helm, Regent College, Vancouver)
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Features & Benefits
* Written by notable scholars who introduce both the puritan figure and a key writing
* Contains a selection of twenty important, influential puritan writers
* Provides short yet substantial essays on a key work by each writer
* Written with the non-specialist in mind
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After a brief overview of their impact on societal England and neighboring countries like France and Holland etc, the esteemed contributors bring us to a healthy and respectful understanding of these great works, in their historical and post-biblical context, as their unique individual contributions inspire us afresh.
THE ART OF PROPHESYNG by William Perkins:
Paul R Schaeffer introduces this volume with the timeless classic on preaching and hermeneutics as the cornerstone of Puritan theology. Denying the modern rendition of prophecy as being a new word from God, he describes Perkins' definition thereof:
'Prophesying was the Elizabethan term for penetrating preaching' (p 39) which had fallen on hard times due to antagonism from the hierarchy of the Church of England, and the royal house of England. Nevertheless, God uses preaching, Perkins claimed, as the means 'instrumental in gathering the church' and 'driving away the wolves from the folds of the Lord.' Not only so, but 'prophesying...a solemn public utterance, relates to the worship of God and the salvation of our neighbors'. As such weighty importance attended this primary means of grace, Perkins believed that of all the gifts given to the church by the Spirit, 'prophesying stood as the most excellent'. p 41 The fourfold hermeneutical approach of the Scholastics, or, as Perkins called it, their 'stylized apocalyptic speculations', were too speculative for determining the intent of Scripture, 'for Satan raises old heresies from the dead in order to retard the restoration of the church which has begun in our time'. Such prophesying for Perkins was not receiving a new word from the Lord but rather correctly handling what God has given in the Scriptures. At the heart of this hermeneutical method stands Christ, and Perkins laid an immense burden on preparatory interpretation for preaching to be Christ-centered, as prescribed in Luke 24:44-47, 'Then Jesus said to them, "These are My words that I spoke to you...".
THE OBJECT AND ACTS OF JUSTIFYING FAITH by Thomas Goodwin:
Michael Scott Horton sees it necessary to recall to our view the position of faith and assurance that Goodwin defined in a time 'of the famous moralizing preachers of the day whom he identified as Arminian.' p 108 These leanings brought about exemplaristic preaching wherein 'these troubled souls were more concentrated upon 'searching into the gracious dispositions of their own hearts, so to bring down, or raise up...these people seemed more interested in graces within their own hearts than with the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and therefore rested in the former, rather than in the latter'. p 109
Horton brushes off such vain perfectionism with an imploring 'Every generation faces its own challenges with respect to preserving the clarity of the gospel, and Goodwin's approach exhibits the Puritans at their best.' p 109 Professor Horton creates an enduring appeal from Goodwin's labors in seeking not only justification, but sanctification as well, in a gospel centered in Christ alone - of no less importance to Goodwin's generation than our own.
Thomas Halliburton's despair was evident when he resignedly admitted: 'I doubted of myself, but not of the way.' His complaint was, in fact, one of lack of assurance, for a believer may experience the assurance of the authority of God's Word, the assurance of the way of salvation, but not the assurance that I personally am saved. Thomas Goodwin navigated through the coral mass with exceptional skill, 'There are two things in justification: I. The righteousness imputed; and that is Christ's, and to Him we go for it. II. The act of imputation, the accounting it mine or thine; and that is the act of God primarily...God pardons not the debt by halves, nor bestows Christ's righteousness by parcels, but entitles us to the whole in every of those moments of justification.' 8:134
Goodwin held that Christ's merits have their efficacy to justify us ex compacto, from a prior agreement between the Father and Son - the counsel of peace (Isa 53).
THE MARROW OF THEOLOGY by William Ames:
Ames saw 'the means through which the covenant of redemption between God and Christ comes to fruition is the covenant of grace, what the Scriptures call the "new covenant". In other words, the application of Christ is administered covenantally.' p 59
Perkins' successor promoted Puritan piety with considerable success once in Holland, in an effort to 'make Dutchmen into Puritans'. p 62 Dr Joel Beeke and Jan van Vliet interact to recall how Ames placed an emphasis on the will being indispensable to an active faith: 'Faith divorced from practice leads to 'cold orthodoxy', while an isolated emphasis on the will and on good works, leads to Arminianism.' p 63
These timeless words should exhort Christians to caution and make them wary of deception through the wrong use of settled Scripture, which seems to have become the staple diet of speculative TV preachers, the sensationalism of dispensationalism, and the moralism of Arminianism. All one needs to confirm this is to look at the apex of the past two centuries of theatrical church history. The sad conclusion is we no longer share the virtue of the historical church. No longer are we willing to seek counsel from the proven wisdom of the divines, saying that we need no other judgment than our own, thereby forfeiting the treasury of the trials that forged their piety.
In this volume dedicated to Puritan classic literature, Philip G Ryken looks at Human Nature In Its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston; his father, Leland Ryken looks at Paradise Lost by John Milton; senior Reformed theologian JI Packer studies the fruit of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress; Sinclair B Ferguson divulges the Mystery Of Providence by John Flavel; Ronald N Frost studies The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes; Paul Chang-la Lim tells of his love for Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor; and Ligon Duncan appraises Matthew Henry's A Method For Prayer - amongst many other historical essays. They offer an intellectual and worthy recollection of the theological heights attained by the Puritans, those worthy men and women whose lives revolved around their singular devotion to a defense of free grace, and who went on to found an America which would permit the proclamation of exactly such a freedom.
I say this because If i wanted someone to read the bible, I wouldnt hand them a Mathew Henry or J. Vernon Mcgee commentary and consider that an invitation to reading the bible. That is what this book is though. It is, basically, a commentary and review on some of the Puritan writings. I only recommend this book to people, contrary to the title of the book, who are very very familiar with the writings that the author(s) review on, otherwise it is very dull, dry and hard to understand. For instance, go read "The Reformed Pastor" by Baxter (and the other writings featured in this book) before purchasing this (text) book.