Recently I have been intrigued by the works and the lives of the Puritans. I was introduced to Puritan writing in high school when I read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards. Honestly, I did not think much about it then. I was reintroduced to Puritan writing during my studies at Union University. I have noticed that there is a great amount of interest in the Puritans by many notable pastors and scholars such as J.I. Packer, Mark Dever, John Piper, and many more. The way they describe the Puritans and their writing has sparked my own interest in this group of people. What is unique, if anything, about the Puritans? What are the important contributions that they make to historical Christianity? Why are they seemingly so pious? Why does the unbelieving world seem to view them so differently?
I have one chapter remaining in a book edited by J.I. Packer called A Grief Sanctified. The book is a story of the life and marriage of the Puritan couple Richard and Margaret Baxter. Richard’s memoir details the circumstances and struggles of their union. His memoir is written as a reflection on her life and faith immediately following her death. As Packer puts it, “Baxter sought consolation and relief the only true way he knew–in Scripture with his discipline of writing. Within days he produced a lover’s tribute to his mate and a pastor’s celebration of God’s grace.” Of greatest interest to me is the letters written between Richard and Margaret prior to their marriage. The letters reveal the honest struggle Margaret encounters in her faith. In one letter Margaret responds to Richard’s outline of 10 marks of a believer. She lists 10 judgments upon herself that she believes qualify her as a “graceless person.” What we see here is a struggle for authentic life change and holiness on the part of Margaret. She has deep convictions concerning her faith in Christ. She does not take faith in Christ nor her own convictions lightly. Along with Richard, she desires holiness in her life and continually realizes that she is lacking apart from Christ. I really began to connect with the Puritans through Richard’s memoir. His reflection on the life and ministry of his wife was humbling, gripping, and honoring to both his wife and the Lord. There is something authentic about the Baxters pursuit of God. They truly desire to make him Lord of every aspect of their lives. I really relate to the struggle they encounter along the way, particularly Margaret at times. My reason for reading the Puritans comes out of the connection I feel to the struggle for true, experiential faith which seems to be characteristic within these individuals. Our faith must be more than words. If faith stops at words, it is not faith at all. True faith, as James 2:14-26 proclaims, is reflected in the life and works of the faithful. May God transform every part of our being so that we may truly be a new creation, still in the world but distinctly different from it. May we no longer walk the line between Christian faith and worldliness. May we be shaken from our apathetic slumber. Awaken our hearts Lord, that we may truly be a light unto the world.