Monday, February 18, 2008

Meet the Puritans Review

When I attended the Desiring God conference last fall I could not believe the amount of books that were in the conference bookstore. Thankfully, we arrived early enough to see the bookstore completely stocked and so we were able to walk around and take our time deciding how we wanted to liquidate our bank accounts.

After picking up all of the books that I wanted to purchase (they really need shopping carts at these conferences), I checked out and carried the 200 lbs of books I purchased to each session and then back to our hotel. The next day I went back to the bookstore to see if I had missed anything worth reading. At the end of one of the tables was a pile of large blue books. For those of us who love reading, a large book is almost always appetizing! This large book was Meet the Puritans.

I must commend Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson for the amount of effort and care that they put into this book. What a tremendous undertaking this must have been! At a mere 839 pages (plus an extensive glossary) this is a comprehensive beginner's guide for anyone interested in the lives of the Puritans. This is not a general overview of Puritan theology, piety, etc., but it is rather the individual biographies of various Puritans throughout Europe and North America. Each biography is relatively short but incredibly informative. You will not walk away with the feeling that you haven't learned anything, that's for sure! The biographies are in alphabetical order and are seperated into three sections: English Puritanism, Scottish Divines, and Dutch Further-Reformation Divines. Each biography also contains a list of modern reprints of that particular Puritan's works. This is simply a great resource. The works of the Puritans range from the purely theological to the utterly practical. You want a guide to parenting? It's in this book.

The English Puritanism portion is the bulk of the reading, while the Scottish and Dutch sections are written in as appendixes. Why they are appendixes I do not know, because for me the book didn't end until I had read every single biography as well as the final appendix containing a concluding paragraph written by none other than J.I. Packer.

As I mentioned before, the book also contains a well written glossary that, for those of us who are unfamiliar with terms such as antinomianism, neonomianism, etc., was very helpful indeed. I even found myself reading the glossary for fun, which definitely says something!

Most would recommend that a book of this size should NOT be read from front to back. I would disagree. The format is such that you really can meet a few puritans everyday and not get burned out. I started reading this book in November and finished it in February. Piece of cake. I must admit that during the Dutch section I started to feel that my Puritan high was running low, but that is to be expected with any book that contains close to 1,000 pages.

In summary, I loved this book. It was money well spent, and I would probably buy it again if something happened to my current copy. If your only view of the Puritans is your high school history class, please buy this book. The Puritans are often treated as strict, careless, hard-hearted, and anti-sex. Nothing could be further from the truth. These men loved their flock, loved the gospel, and loved their wives. Most of these guys had 8 kids! They loved Christ, and spent their lives teaching and preaching the glory of salvation. Their ability to connect theology with practice was incomparable, and it is something that many of us can learn from. These men knew God, and I am so thankful that we can reap the fruit of their devotion in books like these.

Buy This Book

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