Recommended Reading on the Puritans

All Christians should know something about the Puritans:

Those who are familiar with this site will know that I am a great fan of the Puritans. I read them often, refer to them often, and quote from them often. All Christians can learn so much from the Puritans and can greatly benefit from them. Their significance cannot be overstated.

Needless to say, I have written various pieces about the importance of the Puritans over the years, including these:

billmuehlenberg.com/2013/01/25/the-puritans/

billmuehlenberg.com/2018/08/09/in-praise-of-the-puritans/

billmuehlenberg.com/2018/08/29/packer-preaching-and-the-puritans/

In that first piece I said this about the Puritans:

Many famous names easily enough roll off the lips here: John Owen, Matthew Henry, Richard Baxter, John Flavel, William Perkins, Thomas Hooker, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan, Thomas Manton, Cotton Mather, Thomas Goodwin, William Gurnall, Samuel Rutherford, Thomas Watson, and so on. But who were they and why are they so important?

 

Erroll Hulse says that the original Puritans of the Elizabethan period (1558-1603) were a “distinct brotherhood of pastors who emphasized the great central truths of Christianity: faithfulness to Scripture, expository preaching, pastoral care, personal holiness and practical godliness applied to every area of life.”

 

Beeke and Jones offer this short summary: “The distinctive character of Puritanism was its quest for a life reformed by the Word of God. The Puritans were committed to search the Scriptures, organize and analyse their findings, and then apply them to all areas of life. They had a confessional, theological, and trinitarian approach that urged conversion and communion with God in personal, family, church, and national life.”

There would be thousands of books by and about the Puritans. This is a very brief bibliography indeed. But some of the better books about them can be found among the following 40 titles:

Adair, John, Founding Fathers: The Puritans in England and America. Baker, 1982, 1986.
Allen, Lewis and Tim Chester, The Glory of Grace: An Introduction to the Puritans in Their Own Words. Banner of Truth, 2018.
Barker, William, Puritan Profiles. Mentor, 1996.
Beeke, Joel, Puritan Evangelism: A Biblical Approach. Reformation Heritage Books, 2012.
Beeke, Joel, Puritan Reformed Spirituality: A Practical Biblical Study from Reformed and Puritan Heritage. Evangelical Press, 2006.
Beeke, Joel, Puritan Reformed Theology. RHB, 2020.
Beeke, Joel and Brian Hedges, Thriving in Grace: Twelve Ways the Puritans Fuel Spiritual Growth. Reformation Heritage Books, 2020.
Beeke, Joel and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology. Reformation Heritage Books, 2013.
Beeke, Joel and Randall Pederson, Meet the Puritans. RHB, 2006.
Beeke, Joel and Brian Najapfour, eds., Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer. RHB, 2011.
Beeke, Joel and Paul Smalley, Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Way of Leading Sinners to Christ. Reformation Heritage Books, 2013.
Benge, Dustin and Nate Pickowicz, The American Puritans. RHB, 2020.
Bremer, Francis, Puritanism. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Cosby, Brian, Suffering & Sovereignty: John Flavel and the Puritans on Afflictive Providence. RHB, 2012.
Haykin, Michael and Paul Smalley, eds., Puritan Piety. Mentor, 2018.
Hulse, Errol, Who Are the Puritans? Evangelical Press, 2000.
Kevan, Earnest, The Grace of Law: A Study in Puritan Theology. RHB, 1964, 2011.
Lewis, Peter, The Genius of Puritanism. Carey, 1977.
Loane, Marcus, Makers of Puritan History. Banner of Truth, 2009.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors. Banner of Truth, 1987, 2002.
McKenzie, Robert Tracy, The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History. IVP, 2013.
Miller, Perry, The New England Mind. Belknap Press, 1939, 1982.
Morgan, Edmund, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea. Cornell University Press, 1965.
Murray, Iain, The Puritan Hope. Banner of Truth, 1971.
Packer, J. I., Puritan Portraits. Christian Focus, 2012.
Packer, J. I., A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. Crossway, 1990.
Reeves, Michael, The English Reformation and the Puritans. Reformation Trust, 2017.
Rushing, Richard, Voices From the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings. Banner of Truth, 2009.
Ryken, Leland, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were. Zondervan, 1986.
Smith, Dale, ed., Ore from the Puritans’ Mine. Reformation Heritage Books, 2020.
Tomkins, Stephen, The Journey to the Mayflower. Hodder & Stoughton, 2020.

Of course to get the full background to the Puritans one needs to know something about the English Reformation. Here then are just a few titles worth pursuing on this broader topic:

D’Aubigne, J. H. Merle, The Reformation in England, 2 vols. Banner of truth, 1868, 1962.
Dickens, A. G., The English Reformation. Schocken, 1964.
Edwards, David, Christian England, vol. 2: From the Reformation to the 18th Century. Fount, 1983, 1984.
Greaves, Richard, Theology and Revolution in the Scottish Reformation. Christian University Press, 1980.
Loane, Marcus, Masters of the English Reformation. Banner of Truth, 2005.
Marshall, Peter, Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation. Yale, 2017.
Renwick, A. M., The Story of the Scottish Reformation. Christian Heritage, 1960, 2010.
Ryle, J. C., Five English Reformers. Banner of Truth, 1890, 1991.
Ryrie, Alec, The English Reformation: A Very Brief History. SPCK, 2020.

Joel Beeke and the Puritans

Anyone who is interested in Puritan and Reformed belief, practice and history will know the name Joel Beeke. He is one of America’s leading experts in the field, and his numerous books are essential reading for those wanting to further pursue these areas.

Indeed, it is rather incredible just how many volumes Joel Beeke has penned. I must confess, I only have 16 of his works, but he has actually written and edited hundreds. And so many of these works are quite massive, ranging in length from 500 to over 1300 pages. Let me look a bit at his life. And the best way to do that is to look at his own website which offers this information about him:

Image of Puritan Reformed Theology: Historical, Experiential, and Practical Studies for the Whole of Life
Puritan Reformed Theology: Historical, Experiential, and Practical Studies for the Whole of Life by Joel R. Beeke (Author) Amazon logo

Dr. Joel R. Beeke was converted at the age of 14, and has pastored for more than forty years in three churches.

 

Currently, he is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (since 1994), a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan (since 1986), editor of Puritan Reformed Journal and Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books, president of Inheritance Publishers, and vice-president of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society.

 

He has written and co-authored one hundred books (most recently, Reformed Systematic Theology, Reformed Preaching: Preaching God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life; Knowing and Growing in Assurance; and Debated Issues in Sovereign Predestination), edited another one hundred books, and contributed 2,500 articles to Reformed books, journals, periodicals, and encyclopedias. He is presently working on writing a systematic theology and a book on preaching from the preacher’s heart to the listener’s heart.

 

His PhD is in Reformation and Post-Reformation theology from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) on assurance of faith. He is frequently called upon to lecture at seminaries and to speak at Reformed conferences around the world in dozens of countries. He and his wife Mary have been blessed with three children and four grandchildren. www.joelbeeke.org/about-2/

Wow, that is one very busy and prolific guy! Given that he is just 7 weeks older than I am (we are both 68), he has had an incredibly productive life in Christian scholarship, writing, teaching and ministry. It is hard to keep up with him. He has performed an invaluable service, especially in keeping the thoughts and writings of the Puritans alive. If you want a very helpful guide to the Puritans, in addition to those titles I list above, please consult the many helpful volumes by Beeke as well.

Let me close with one quote from Packer on the Puritans that I have run with before: “The Puritans grasped the New Testament notion of spiritual health – Christ-centred faith, hope and love expressed in good works; assurance, peace, and joy; a heart and mind constantly engaged in praise and thanksgiving; and zeal for God’s kingdom and glory, leading to purposeful and energetic action.”

Happy reading.

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23 Replies to “Recommended Reading on the Puritans”

  1. I will, God willing, finally have my own personal library in a couple of months – shelves still to be ordered and assembled, dust blown off boxes of (mostly fiction?) books in storage etc. The ‘downside’ is that I’m going to have a lot of space to fill. Lists such as this might prove a very useful pointer. Hmm … Oh Koorong 😀

  2. Thank you, so very much for this valuable post. We appreciate you tremendously.

  3. I’m reading an excellent book right now that makes much use of Puritan writers such as Goodwin, Sibbes, Bunyan and Owen. It is “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund. It’s a book that if one would underline the “good” parts, the whole thing would be. I was pointed to it by Alistair Begg so I feel confident in it’s theology.

  4. Another excellent commentary. Could you offer the source for the final quote by Packer? I would very much like to cite that in a project I am working on regarding the Pilgrim Fathers. Your work inspires me. Thank you!

  5. Hi Bill,
    Have been absent for a time.
    Haven’t kept up with what’s been happening.
    Wonder what the Puritan would say about the world being innoculated by experimental agents that have the tant of abortion?
    Regards.

  6. Problem is that puritan has come to mean pure. Because people feel they were killjoys who thought joy and fun were of the devil. They believed in fun but not immoral fun like sex BEFORE or OUTSIDE OF marriage or cursing a blue streak. and the the only acceptable disposition for Christians was malaise. And that all they wore was black. Actually they had fun and joy and wore colorful outfits NOT just black. May we recapture the puritan spirit of both Christianity, fun and joy.

  7. I have 11 puritan books including 2 of Beeke’s books. You recommend such good books I would need to add a new room to store everyone.

  8. Another Puritan of note was William Greenhill, who once addressed the British Parliament on a Fasting Friday on the text, “The Axe is laid to the root of the trees” – Matthew 3:10. One wonders what he might have to say were he to return to the present Westminster Houses of Parliament for a live address to the Lords and Commons today…. William Greenhill is also the author of a massive commentary on the book of the Prophet Ezekiel – the original edition was published in 5 quarto volumes! Greenhill was also at one time chaplain to the children of the ill-fated Charles I.

  9. that is suppose to read “puritan has come to mean prude.” sorry I am having troubles with my eye and sometimes my fingers.

  10. A few years ago, I was given a wonderfully organized book of Puritan prayers – The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett – ©1975 – reprinted in 2011 by Banner of Truth Trust.

    I really couldn’t do without this little book.

  11. Hi Georgia and Bill I have Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans by Robert Elmer

  12. A review of Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund – is one that some Puritan admirers might enjoy.

    Quote: “When I would walk into his office, I was less interested in what was on his bookshelves than what was on his desk. It was always an ESV Bible, a Greek New Testament, a Hebrew Old Testament, and an unabridged work by an old dead Puritan like Thomas Goodwin or John Owen or John Bunyan, replete with his enthusiastic pencil underlinings and marginal notations.”

    https://www.thegospelcoalition(dot) org/blogs/justin-taylor/dane-ortlund-showing-honor-to-whom-honor-is-due/

    Dane Ortland also co-wrote a hefty number of Bible studies with J I Packer.

    Gentle and Lowly is the next book I hope to buy.

  13. Hi Sir Bill. Thank you so much for this article about the Puritans. I am reading some of their books. I also listens to the preachings of Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones.

    “The Puritans really knew how to teach and apply God’s Word in the Spirit’s power”. (from the book Voices from the Past Vol. 1)

  14. Dear Bill,
    I wonder if you could do an article on worthwhile books for children aged 10-15 or thereabouts?
    Thank you so much for your faithful watching on our behalf. I am the grandmother of six, soon to be seven, and I don’t like what I am seeing of the world out there for their future.
    Yours sincerely, Helen Phillips

  15. for a minute I thought you had been knighted Bill!

    Sir Bill, has a nice ring to it.

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