A Passion for Truth
Generally speaking, Puritanism can be described as an attempt to practically and pastorally apply the Biblical truths re-discovered by the Reformers to all areas of life.
In a sense, Puritanism was an inevitable result of the Reformation. Having re-established the Bible as the guide for faith and practice rather than the rituals and superstitions of medieval priesthood, the Puritans wanted to restore the church along Biblical lines. A recurring phrase in puritan literature when any dispute is raised is ‘To the law and to the testimony!’ from Isaiah 8:20.
The rediscovery the great truths of Justification by Faith alone in Christ alone, and the new reality of the Priesthood of all Believers had radical implications for how the church should look. Many felt that they themselves had ‘turned from idols to serve the true and living God.’ (1 Thess 1:9).
This resulted in a desire to rid themselves of corruption in both church and society generally, as well as a specifically individualistic approach to holiness, pastoral care and evangelism.
These influences inevitably had an impact on the established church in England. And, just as importantly, in terms of later global impact, this passion produced thriving independent churches as the Puritan pastors pressed for more conformity to the New Testament and less emphasis on tradition.
Martyn Lloyd Jones put it like this:
[Puritanism]..’is a concern about the nature of the church. It is a desire for full and complete reformation. It is something that started with objection to ceremonies and vestments but developed into a full doctrine of the church…The Puritan could no longer be satisfied with a partially reformed church but desired a fully Reformed church.’ (D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Puritans, Banner of Truth p.256)
A Passion for Godliness
Today, as we read the Puritan writings, it seems remarkable that such a movement was so popular. Their painstaking attention to detail is astonishing, especially in connection with personal inward holiness. They genuinely sought to live to the glory of God in all things. The Pastor became a physician of souls.
But even with the dangers of introspection and legalism, the Puritan leaders’ warmth of spirit and fervency in their pursuit of the presence of God in every area of life continued to prove that this was indeed a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit.
Next time we’ll have a brief look at Puritanism and revival and how the Holy Spirit began to enable some to bring the gospel with power to their generation.
© 2009 Lex Loizides