66 Top Books on the Puritans
What to read on the Puritans and Pilgrims:
Why feature a recommended reading list on the Puritans when you already did so just five months ago? Good question, and here are four more-or-less good answers. One, my previous short bibliography on the Puritans contained 40 titles. But I have been regularly updating it since then.
Two, my interest in all things Puritan continues to grow. I recently added a new section to this website on them. This will be my 21st article for it, with many more to come in days ahead. Three, I think I have pretty good book sense, and I have penned hundreds of bibliographies and recommended reading lists, many of which are found here.
Four, I just returned from a bookstore with some new books, most on the English Reformation, the Puritans, and the Pilgrims, and I am keen to start reading them. Thus it is easier and quicker to take an existing biblio and turn it into a new article than to start one from scratch on another topic!
As to a quick word of introduction about the Puritans, so much can be said. But just one brief way to get a grasp of their emphases would be in the form of the five major concerns of theirs as listed by Beeke and Pederson:
• The Puritans sought to search the Scriptures, collate their findings and apply them to all areas of life. In so doing, the Puritans also aimed to be confessional and theological, and drew heavily on the labors of dedicated Christian scholarship.
• The Puritans were passionately committed to focusing on the Trinitarian character of theology. They never tired of proclaiming the electing grace of God, the dying love of Jesus Christ, and the applicatory work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of sinners. Their fascination with Christian experience was not so much motivated by an interest in their experience per se as it was in their desire to trace out the divine work within them so that they could render all glory to their Triune Lord.
• In common with the Reformers, the Puritans believed in the significance of the church in the purposes of Christ. They believed therefore that the worship of the church should be the careful outworking and faithful embodiment of her biblical faith, and so Puritanism was a movement that focused on plain and earnest preaching, liturgical reform, and spiritual brotherhood. Likewise, the Puritans believed that there was an order or polity for the government of the church revealed in Scripture, and the well-being of the church depended on bringing her into conformity to that order.
• In the great questions of national life presented by the crises of their day, the Puritans looked to Scripture for light on the duties, power, and rights of king, Parliament, and citizen-subjects.
• In regard to the individual, the Puritans focused on personal, comprehensive conversion. They believed with Christ that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:3). So they excelled at preaching the gospel, probing the conscience, awakening the sinner, calling him to repentance and faith, leading him to Christ, and schooling him in the way of Christ. Likewise, the Puritans believed with James that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone” (James 2:17). So they developed from Scripture a careful description of what a Christian ought to be in his inward life before God, and in all his actions and relationships in this life, at home, in the church, at work, and in society.
With that in mind, here then are my 66 top recommendations, divided into three sections: 47 general works, 12 on the English Reformation, and 7 on the Mayflower and the Pilgrims. Of course there are many hundreds of important works on the Puritans, and I have likely left off a number of them that you would be eager to recommend. So I guess I will just keep on updating this.
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. RHB, 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. RHB, 2020.
Beeke, Joel and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology. RHB, 2013.
Beeke, Joel and Randall Pederson, Meet the Puritans. RHB, 2006, 2010.
Beeke, Joel and Michael Reeves, Following God Fully: An Introduction to the Puritans. RHB, 2019, 2022.
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. RHB, 2013.
Benge, Dustin and Nate Pickowicz, The American Puritans. RHB, 2020.
Bennett, Arthur, ed., Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Banner of Truth, 1975, 2019.
Bremer, Francis, First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World. University of New Hampshire Press, 2012.
Bremer, Francis, One Small Candle: The Story of the Plymouth Puritans and the Beginning of English New England. Oxford University Press, 2020.
Bremer, Francis, Puritanism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Cosby, Brian, Suffering & Sovereignty: John Flavel and the Puritans on Afflictive Providence. RHB, 2012.
Crampton, W. Gary, What the Puritans Taught. Soli Deo Gloria, 2003.
Di Gangi, Mariano, A Golden Treasury of Puritan Devotion. P&R, 1999.
Elmer, Robert, Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans. Lexham Press, 2019.
Hall, David, The Puritans: A Transatlantic History. Princeton University Press, 2019.
Hall, David, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England. Knopf, 2011.
Haykin, Michael and Paul Smalley, eds., Puritan Piety. Mentor, 2018.
Horn, H. J., The Puritans Day by Day. Banner of Truth, 2016.
Hulse, Errol, Who Are the Puritans? Evangelical Press, 2000.
Kapic, Kelly and Randall Gleason, eds., The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics. IVP, 2004.
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.
McKim, Donald, Everyday Prayer With the Puritans. P&R, 2021.
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.
Pederson Randall, ed., Day By Day With the English Puritans. Hendrickson Pub., 2004, 2015.
Reeves, Michael, The English Reformation and the Puritans. Reformation Trust, 2017.
Roberts, Mostyn, The Subversive Puritan: Roger Williams and Freedom of Conscience. Evangelical Press, 2019.
Rushing, Richard, Voices From the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings, vol. 1. Banner of Truth, 2009.
Rushing, Richard, Voices From the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings, vol. 2. Banner of Truth, 2016.
Ryken, Leland, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were. Zondervan, 1986.
Saxton, David, God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation. RHB, 2015.
Smith, Dale, ed., Ore from Puritans’ Mine. RHB, 2020.
Thomas, I. D. E., A Puritan Golden Treasury. Banner of Truth, 1977.
Winship, Michael, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill. Harvard University Press, 2012.
To get the full background to the Puritans one needs to know something about the English Reformation. Here are just a few titles worth pursuing on this:
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.
Feldmeth, Nathan, et. al., Reformed and Evangelical: The Presbyterian Story in America. Eerdmans, 2022.
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, 2010.
Ryle, J. C., Five English Reformers. Banner of Truth, 1890, 1991.
Ryrie, Alec, The English Reformation: A Very Brief History. SPCK, 2020.
Wilson, Derek, A Brief History of the English Reformation. Robinson, 2006.
Wilson, Derek, The Queen and the Heretic. Lion, 2018.
The story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower are recounted here:
McKenzie, Robert Tracy, The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History. IVP, 2013.
Milbrandt, Jay, They Came For Freedom: The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims. Nelson, 2017.
Poxon, Stephen, ed., Through the Year with the Pilgrim Fathers. Monarch, 2020.
Tomkins, Stephen, The Journey to the Mayflower. Hodder & Stoughton, 2020.
Turner, John, They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty. Yale University Press, 2020.
Wilson, Derek, The Mayflower Pilgrims. SPCK, 2019, 2020.
Whittock, Martyn, When God Was King: Rebels & Radicals of the Civil War & Mayflower Generation. Lion, 2018.
Here I offer 15 volumes on Puritan devotional writings: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/06/28/inspiring-puritan-devotional-writings/
And here is the earlier biblio of 40 titles: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/03/22/recommended-reading-on-the-puritans/
Many might ask which are my favourite titles. That is hard to answer for many reasons. Perhaps I can just mention a few authors that would be a good place to start: Beeke, Bremer, Hall, Packer, and Wilson. For more on Beeke, see this piece: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/10/21/joel-beeke-on-puritan-and-reformed-thought/
One Reply to “66 Top Books on the Puritans”
Sad thing is in modern society the words puritan and puritanical have both gotten a bad rap EVEN in the church. They are said to have been funless killjoys who would be more akin to today’s cults than to true Christianity. Yet this point shows how TRUE they were “In regard to the individual, the Puritans focused on personal, comprehensive conversion. They believed with Christ that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:3). So they excelled at preaching the gospel, probing the conscience, awakening the sinner, calling him to repentance and faith, leading him to Christ, and schooling him in the way of Christ. Likewise, the Puritans believed with James that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone” (James 2:17). So they developed from Scripture a careful description of what a Christian ought to be in his inward life before God, and in all his actions and relationships in this life, at home, in the church, at work, and in society.”
In SOOOOO many churches today simply saying I believe makes you a bona fide Christian and no-one can question you or hold your feet to the fire because that would be wrong. These squishes would NEVER have made it in puritan churches. Probably wouldn’t have done well in those times. Same type of thing happens when kids (8 years old or below) come to Christ today we accept it and don’t question and don’t do any heavy work on them because they’re already Christian so no need to waste resources on them. And then we scratch our heads, and bums, when they LEAVE the church as teens or in their early twenties.
As for killjoys and funless well true they didn’t going whoring around, those few that did were treated not as heroes but as shameful people, they didn’t believe that God is hiding the fun stuff from us so we have to abandon his ways and go beyond his boundaries they believed that God knows the evil out there is seductive and can deceive with it’s looks so he puts boundaries to protect. Fun without regret falls within his boundaries and ways.
Like a town that has a wall to protect it citizens from wandering out into a toxic waste dump surrounding it God’s boundaries protect us. But often the danger isn’t so easy to see: what if over that dump after burying everything real deep was built a park with an amusement park and water parks and other fun and beautiful looking things and you peek over the wall and see this and think how wonderful it is and that this wall obviously is meant to keep this beauty and fun from the people of the city. But you don’t know about the buried dump, the deadly colorless and odorless gas seeping into the air and the danger of going out there and being exposed to that. But the rulers of the city knew that’s why they built the boundary wall not to KEEP you from something good but to PROTECT you from something bad!