Wealth, Comfort and the Gospel – A Puritan Perspective

Wisdom from Old Times – Prosperity and Adversity from a Puritan Perspective

How focused should we be on material success and wealth? How focused should we be on eternity? Should the fluctuation of our material comforts have a significant influence on our experience of peace, or should we be able to set our hearts on the future grace to be revealed at Christ’s coming?

These are questions addressed in one of the most beautifully named Puritan books, ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’.

Jeremiah Burroughs

Jeremiah Burroughs

This short work was first published in 1648 by Jeremiah Burroughs. Burroughs was yet another mighty Puritan teacher/preacher educated at Emmanuel College at Cambridge University, England. After graduating, Burroughs served in churches in East Anglia, England and then in Rotterdam, Holland.

Some of his insights and comments are challenging. I don’t like some of them! But maybe it’s the ones I don’t like that should instruct me the most!

If you are facing difficult times at the moment then it may be that you will find strength and help in some of the wisdom from the 17th Century.

On God as the Source of true Peace
‘The good of my life and comforts and my happiness and my glory and my riches are more in God than in myself.’ (p.54)

‘If the children of God have their little taken from them, they can make up all their wants in God himself.’ (p.65)

‘Every comfort you have is a forerunner of those eternal mercies you shall have with God in Heaven.’ (p.59)

‘If you will only have contentment when God’s ways suit with your own ends, you can have it only now and then, but a self-denying man denies his own ends, and only looks at the ends of God and therein he is contented…The lesson of self-denial is the first lesson that Jesus Christ teaches men who are seeking contentment.’ (p.90-91)

On the Unchanging Nature of Human Desire
‘The world is infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have.’ (p.45-46)

‘So if we come to understanding in the school of Christ we will not cry, ‘Why have I not got such wealth as others have?’, but, ‘The Lord sees that I am not able to manage it and I see it myself by knowing my own heart.’’ (p.102)

On how Affliction may Help and Prosperity may Hurt
‘You do not find one godly man who came out of an affliction worse than when he went into it; though for a while he was shaken, yet at last he was better for an affliction.
But a great many godly men, you find, have been worse for their prosperity.’ (p.50)

On Trusting God in Troubled Times
‘We must not have hearts hurrying up and down in trouble, discontent and vexing, but still and quiet hearts, if we [want to] receive mercy from the Lord. If a child throws and kicks up and down for a thing, you [will] not give it him when he cries so…

Even though, perhaps, you intend him to have what he cries for, you will not give it him till he is quiet, and comes, and stands still before you, and is contented without it, and then you will give it him. And truly so does the Lord deal with us.’ (p.124)

‘God is doing you good if you could see it, and if he is pleased to sanctify your affliction to break that hard heart of yours, and humble that proud spirit of yours, it would be the greatest mercy that you ever had in all your life.’ (p.181-2)

‘By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to him.’ (p.119)

On the Bible as a Source of Comfort
‘There is no condition that a godly man or woman can be in, but there is some promise or other in the Scripture to help him in that condition.’ (p.69)

God has provided for us in His word and in Himself. In all the various trials we face we need to exercise faith in Him, either to be content in our need or to see the necessary breakthrough come.  As Burroughs says, there’s no circumstance in life that we face but that some passage of Scripture can speak to us and help us through.

Read the next post on ‘Worry, Trust and Wisdom from the Past to Help you Today’

All quotations are taken from ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’, Banner of Truth edition, which you can purchase here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Puritans and Sin

Ralph Venning

Ralph Venning

The Main Problem of the Human Condition
Generally speaking, the puritans have been collectively dismissed as harsh and even obsessive in their views on personal morality! The very word ‘puritanical’ gives you the idea! But let’s not be too quick to write these guys off.

The puritans had a passion for the Bible, a passion for the Church and a passion for seeing the gospel impact every area of life.

They also had a frank view of the primary problem confronting mankind which they unashamedly declared to be sin.  To a puritan who was committed to Biblical thinking this was a clear as day.

Mankind’s primary internal problem was sin, their primary enemy was sin, and their most significant hindrance in his relationship to God was sin.

The solution to this problem was not to be found in a strict morality but in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He died for sin, taking the weight of the just penalty of sin upon Himself, for our benefit. He did this so that, by repentance and faith, we might be forgiven and reconciled to God.

The hostility between God and Man would end, and sin could be defeated at last. And because He overcame both sin and death, we too might live a life pleasing to God.

The Plague of Plagues
It’s not altogether surprising then, to find amongst a bookshelf of puritan writings a volume entitled ‘The Plague of Plagues’ (1669), a startling assault against sin and its damaging effects on mankind.

Indeed, Ralph Venning, its author states that he was writing against sin because sin ‘is against man’s good and happiness.’

Venning, like Brooks, was educated at Cambridge University and pastored in London. He, like Brooks and others, was fired from his position in the Church of England, and became a minister of an Independent Church in London.

Here are some edifying examples of Venning’s clarity on the subtle dangers of sin. In urging his hearers to decide for Christ and holiness, he also restores clarity to the essential nature of mankind’s struggle against God’s goodness.

‘It cannot but be extremely useful to let men see what sin is: how prodigiously vile, how deadly mischievous and therefore how monstrously ugly and odious a thing sin is.’ (p.18)

‘It [sin] gives out false reports of God and goodness.’ (p.35)

‘Shall I not plead for God and your soul, and entreat you to be on God’s side, and to depart from the tents of wickedness? Poor soul! Can you find it in your heart to hug and embrace such a monster as this? Will you love that which hates God, and which God hates? God forbid!’ (p.36)

‘Oh, look to yourself, for sin, notwithstanding all its flattering pretences, is against you, and seeks nothing less than your ruin and damnation.’ (p.37)

‘Sin in the Christian is ‘a self civil war.’ (p.43)

‘Sin is the burden of every good man’s soul.’ (p.126)

All quotes are taken from Ralph Venning, The Plague of Plagues, now published as ‘The Sinfulness of Sin’ (Banner of Truth).

Read the next post on, ‘The Puritans on Hell and How to Avoid it’

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Puritan Call to Holiness

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680)

The 1666 Great Fire of London
The 1666 Great Fire of London

We continue the edifying journey into the thinking and theology of some of the great Puritan writers.

Thomas Brooks was educated at Cambridge, and pastored a London church. The church facility was the first church building to burn down in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

However, by that time Brooks had moved on. Like so many of his contemporary evangelicals he was removed for leadership by the Government in 1662 as a result of the Act of Uniformity. The Act was an attempt by Parliament to reverse Puritan influence and control leadership in the Church of England.

And so, with some 2000 other Puritan Pastors, the law of the land propelled him into ‘non-conformity’. Unlike Joseph Alleine, he was not imprisoned.

His first wife died in 1676 and he later remarried. An observer notes: ‘she spring-young, he winter-old’ (Alexander Grosart, Works of Brooks, Vol 1, p. 35, cited in ‘Meet The Puritans, by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson).

He died in 1680 and was buried in a non-conformist cemetery.

On resisting sin

‘The pleasure and sweetness that follows victory over sin is a thousand times beyond that seeming sweetness that is in the gratifying of sin.’ (p.120)

On not grieving the Holy Spirit

‘You will not grieve you guests, your friends, but courteously and friendly entertain them; why then do you make so little conscience of grieving the Holy Spirit who alone can stamp the image of the Father upon you, and seal you up to life and glory?’  (p.153)

On continuing to be faithful to God

‘God is the same, and the commands of the gospel are the same, and therefore thy work is the same, whether it be night or day with thy soul, whether thou are under frowns or smiles, in the arms or at the feet of God.’ (p.81)

On wealth

‘As the bird hops from twig to twig, so do riches hop from man to man.’ (p.115)

On Faith
‘Faith brings an invisible God, and sets Him before the soul.’ (p.201)


All quotations and page references are taken from Heaven on Earth, Banner of Truth.

Read the next post, ‘The Tender Care of the Puritan Pastor’

You can purchase ‘Heaven on Earth’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Amazing Power of a Testimony – Bilney and Latimer

Thomas Bilney

Thomas Bilney

Hugh Latimer was one of the shining lights at Cambridge University in the early 1500’s. He was intelligent, articulate, influential – a born leader.

But he was both alarmed and repulsed by the new Lutheran teachings that were slowly pervading the intellectual discussions of the University.

Speaking against the Reformation

When he graduated as Bachelor of Divinity in 1524 he was required to speak at a public lecture on a theological theme.

Biographer Robert Demaus wrote that, ‘With the characteristic zeal of an ardent lover of the Church, indignant at the success of the heresy which was everywhere finding disciples, he directed his whole oration against Philip Melancthon, the eminent German Reformer, who had recently impugned the authority of the school-doctors, and had maintained that they must all be tested by the supreme standard of Holy Scripture.’ (Robert Demaus, Hugh Latimer, A Biography, Religious Tract Society, London 1904, p.45)

Latimer even said that the reading of Scripture was dangerous! But there was someone in the crowd that day whose heart and mind had already been transformed by the ‘heresy’ of an open Bible. His name was Thomas Bilney.

Bilney was very clear that Luther had been correct, and that Scripture was our only true guide. Our justification before God was not on the basis of our good works, or of obedience to church ritual, but rather through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But how was he to convince such an important and formidable opponent as Latimer?

He who is wise wins souls!

Being a wise soul winner, Bilney sought to speak to Latimer directly. Latimer had already been ordained and was therefore able to hear confessions. Bilney considered that he had a particular confession that he wanted Latimer to hear.

And so, Latimer, no doubt expecting that his stinging sermon had turned Bilney back to the old ways, agreed to a private meeting where he would hear Bilney’s confession.

For something like two hours, Thomas Bilney, on his knees, faithfully told the story of his desperate attempts to please God and how, through faith in Jesus, he had experienced a breakthrough at last. He emphasised the vital role the Bible had played in his relationship with God as opposed to the scholars of his day.

Latimer said, ‘To say the truth, by his confession I learned more than before in many years.’ (Demaus p.45)

As JH Merle d’Aubigne writes, ‘It was not the penitent but the confessor who received absolution. Latimer viewed with horror the obstinate war he had waged against God; he wept bitterly; but Bilney consoled him.

‘Brother, said he, ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.’
These two young men, then locked in a solitary chamber at Cambridge, were one day to mount the scaffold…’ (The Reformation in England, Banner of Truth, Vol 1 p.204)

Latimer and Ridley, standing together to the very end

Latimer and Ridley, standing together to the very end

They did indeed, both giving up their lives as martyrs in Oxford, being burned at the stake. You can see the place today, marked by a small cross in stone on the ground. In the end, Latimer gave everything he had for Jesus Christ.

The testimony of a changed life is powerful.

From the day a man said, ‘One thing I know, I was blind but now I can see!’ (Jn 9:25) to Bilney reaching the hard heart of Latimer, to you in your situation.

Be encouraged! What God has done for you, by forgiving your sins through Christ, is powerful – even before those with greater influence or learning or who seem resistant.

Don’t be silent. Find a way to graciously and appropriately share the good news of God’s amazing love with someone.

Latimer went on to be one of the English Reformation’s great heroes, preaching before the king and in many circles of influence. Who knows what God might do through you, and those you speak to?

You can purchase JH Merle d’Aubigne’s ‘The Reformation in England’ in two volumes here

© 2009 Lex Loizides