The Puritans have influenced me in huge ways throughout my life. I was nine years old when I first came under conviction of sin. I felt my sinfulness, went to my dad’s bookcase, and I scanned all of his Puritan books. I saw The Life and Death of Mr. Badman by John Bunyan. I thought, Well, I’m a bad boy, so I better read that book. So, I made my way through it.
I find that the Puritans do most for my own growth, holiness, and conviction of the need to stay close to the Lord.
Between the years of ten and thirteen, my impressions faded away, but when I was fourteen, God brought me under very severe conviction of sin. I went back to my dad’s bookcase and that’s when the Puritans really spoke to me.
I read his entire bookcase. He gave me permission to write in his books as I read them. I wrote notes and questions. I read them every night for about eighteen months from about 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. I’d read through the Bible and read the Puritans. It was my steady diet.
It was actually reading the Puritans that brought me to spiritual liberty in Christ the following year when I was fifteen. That was half of a century ago. Ever since then, I’m always reading at least one Puritan book. I read a lot of other things, but I find that the Puritans do most for my own growth, holiness, and conviction of the need to stay close to the Lord.
Model a Hunger for Holiness
The Puritans have influenced me more than any other spiritual discipline has. I tell preachers all the time that if they really want to see the level of holiness grow in their congregations, they should read the Puritans for themselves, become more holy, and then encourage their people to read the Puritans. If you emphasize holiness in your preaching and they’re reading those books, a congregation’s holiness will grown normatively as the Spirit gives it.
As Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “Seldom will a congregation’s holiness rise about the level of the holiness of their pastor.” That’s what the Puritans are all about: not just getting saved, but really forming holy men, women, and teenagers for the living God.
I struggle with sin every day, of course, but if I hadn’t read the Puritans, my spiritual convictions wouldn’t be half of what they are. They are the biggest influence in my entire life.
This is a guest article by Joel Beeke, author of Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People. This post originally appeared on crossway.org; used with permission.