Monday, January 13, 2014

Puritan Paperbacks

I'm not sure exactly how my view of the Puritans has been formulated over the years...actually, it's been more of a perception than a view.   They are revered in some segments of Christianity, yet often portrayed as harsh, moralistic, and arrogant by others.   I suspect that partial quotes and anecdotal evidence have influenced public opinion, but I also suspect their reputation might not be entirely unearned. I have not yet taken the time to study their lives and formulate an opinion.  There is much I don't know.

What I DO know, is that I have spent the last few years reading a series published by Banner of Truth titled, Puritan Paperbacks, which call into question my negative perceptions.  Obviously, words alone don't Make the Man, they do reveal SOMETHING about what's in the heart and mind.  These books are full...cover to cover...of the most extreme ENCOURAGEMENT for every possible circumstance.  Their emphasis is on the faithfulness of Christ to his sinful, stubborn, broken, weak, mortal followers.   I've never read anything more profoundly Scriptural or more thoroughly compassionate.  I no longer envision the lot of them as black-robed, dour-countenanced, severe judges who loaded their people with burdens too heavy to carry.  

I encourage you, whatever your opinion has been of the Puritans, to choose even one of these and find yourself built up - not in your ability to live up to their standard of holiness - but in the unmitigated devotion of Christ to his people, and in the beauty of grace.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our High Priest, by whose death we are set at liberty, and by whose life we are well preserved.  It is His office to succour poor tempted souls pursued by avengers of blood: and if a good man be faithful in his office, much more will Christ!   Whenever you are tempted and fear you shall miscarry under your temptation, then remember Christ and say, "Oh! but the Lord Jesus is in office.  He is bound to succour poor tempted souls.  HE is engaged by His own temptation; He is engaged by promise; He is engaged by His interest in me, and His name upon me; He is engaged by His own disposition; He is engaged by His office.  I am tempted, but I shall be delivered, for the Lord Jesus Christ is engaged for my deliverance!"

Are we under the guilt of sin?  There is a promise, "The Lord is merciful and gracious."  God is more willing to pardon than to punish.   Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us.

Are we under the defilement of sin?  There is a promise, "I will heal their backslidings."  God will not only bestow mercy, but grace.

Are we in great trouble?  There is a promise, "I will be with him in trouble."  God does not bring his people into troubles and leave them there.  He will stand by them; He will hold their heads and hearts when they are fainting.  He will be the strength of their hearts; He will join His forces with theirs.  Either He will make his hand lighter, or our faith stronger. 

Christ's sheep are weak sheep, and lacking in something or other; He therefore applies Himself to the necessities of every sheep.  He seeks that which was lost, and brings again that which was driven out of the way, and binds up that which was broken, and strengthens the weak.  His tenderest care is over the weakest.  He was most familiar and open to troubled souls.  

We, indeed, look at things by pieces, we look at one detail and do not consider the relation that one thing has to another, but God looks at all things at once, and sees the relation that one thing has to another. ...the workman sees the dependence of all, one upon another.  So it is in God's providence.  Now notice how this works to contentment: when a certain passage of providence befalls me, that is one wheel, and it may be that if this wheel were stopped, a thousand other things might come to be stopped by this.  In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel because they  are dependent upon one another.  So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing?  God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on the passage of providence that falls out this day or this week. 

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