The Puritans are rightly regarded as some of the greatest theologians the Church ever produced. With men like John Flavel, Thomas Boston, John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, Henry Scougal, John Owen and Stephen Charnock among others it would be hard to overstate the case that this was one of church history’s brightest periods of time. In his new book, Puritan Portraits leading evangelical theologian Dr. J.I. Packer writes to help introduce us to the Puritans rich theology and deep spirituality.
Dr. Packer opens up his book with a description of Puritan pastors at work. Here he sets forth his goal to help his readers “to think from the outset of the Puritans as writers of devotionals” (8). Packer ably demonstrates the importance of Puritans to contemporary Christianity much of which focuses on felt needs rather than being energized by the Gospel. The men Packer profiles were all men who were energized by a vision of the glory of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
In this book, Packer profiles Henry Scougal who wrote The Life of God in the Soul of Man which greatly impacted George Whitefield’s understanding of what it means to be born again. This book was one of the means God used to instruct Whitefield whom God used powerfully on both sides of the Atlantic during the Great Awakening. The second person is Stephen Charnock who wrote Christ Crucified. John Bunyan is well-known from Pilgrims Progress but he also wrote many other books like the one featured in this book The Heavenly Footman. Matthew Henry is well-known for his massive Bible commentary but was wrote several books including The Pleastness of a Religious Life.
Among the giants of this study are John Owen whose writings have made a deep impact on me. In this book Packer features one of Owen’s most penetrating books The Mortification of Sin. Packer also features John Flavel who wrote Keeping the Heart, Thomas Boston’s The Art of Man Fishing, the Crook in the Lot and Repentance. The book concludes with a profile of William Perkins and Richard Baxter.
Puritan Portraits is a very good introduction to Puritan theology and also features books that were recently republished with an introduction by J.I. Packer. My rule is whenever Dr. Packer writes a book, I know that I’m going to read it, and this tradition continues with this book (and the others that have republished). Whether you’re new to reading the Puritans or you’ve read them for a long time, I recommend you pick up Puritan Portraits and the remainder of the books listed in this book to learn how deeply rich theology can be combined with deep spirituality and trust in the grace of God.
Author: J.I. Packer
Publisher: Christian Focus (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Christian Focus book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”