Puritans Part 1: The Puritan Spirit

Acts 5:29: Exodus 20:8-10
      We ought to obey God rather than men.
      Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God…

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The peculiar characteristic of the Puritan is that he asserts the supreme authority of the Word of God.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): It is the Word of God, and not the word of man, and has as real authority to call for obedience, as if God spoke it immediately from heaven.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): When Puritanism seemed to be trodden under foot, in the reign of James I, and the king issued the Book of Sports, and gave commandment that every clergyman was to read from the pulpit on Sunday, that it was the royal will and pleasure that the young people should play at football, cricket, and other games and pastimes on the Lord’s day afternoon, godly ministers, who really loved the Lord, did not know what to do. One of them thought, perhaps, it would be well to do as the king ordered, and to say something beside, so, when the Sunday came for reading the Book of Sports to the people, he said, “I am commanded by the king and the authorities to read to you the following document; but it grieves my heart and conscience to have to read it. I know it is wicked, and wrong, and shameful, and abominable to desecrate the Sabbath as you are invited to do, and I wonder what will become of my country when even from the church itself Sabbath-breaking is recommended.” So, the good man spoke, to the relief of his own conscience, and in hope of arousing the consciences of others.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): If we employ the Lord’s Day to make good cheer, to sport ourselves, to go to the games and pastimes, shall God in this be honoured? Is this not a mockery? Is this not an unhallowing of His name?

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): You show me a nation which has given up the Sabbath and I will show you a nation that has got the seed of decay.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Take away a man’s Sabbath, and his religion soon comes to nothing. As a general rule, there is a regular flight of steps from ‘no Sabbath’ to ‘no God.’

THOMAS BOSTON (1676-1732): The public ordinances on the Lord’s Day, whatever else they do, they keep up a standard for Christ in the world; and to slight them is the way to fill the world with atheism and profaneness…The Sabbath is profaned by carnal recreations, in no way necessary nor suitable to the work of the Sabbath, such as all carnal pleasures, sports, plays and pastimes―Isaiah 58:13,14. [And it is also profaned] by following worldly employments on that day, working or going about ordinary business, except in cases of necessity and mercy―Matthew 12:1-13.

WILLIAM TYNDALE (1490-1536): As thou readest, think that every syllable pertaineth to thine own self, and suck out the pith of Scripture.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: If you wish to know what Puritanism really is, don’t read large volumes on the subject by men who may be scholars but never were Puritans, but rather read the life-stories of Puritans….
       Puritanism…is an attitude, it is a spirit, and it is clear that two of the great characteristics of Puritanism began to show themselves in William Tyndale. He had a burning desire that the common people should be able to read the Scriptures. But there were great obstacles in his way; and it is the way in which he met and overcame the obstacles that show that Tyndale was a Puritan. He issued a translation of the Bible without the endorsement and sanction of the bishops. That was the first shot fired by Puritanism. It was unthinkable that such a thing should be done without the consent and endorsement of the bishops. But Tyndale did so. Another action on his part was that he left this country without the royal assent. That again was a most unusual act and highly reprehensible in the eyes of the authorities…Those two actions were typical of what continued to be the Puritan attitude towards authority. It means the putting of truth before questions of tradition and authority, and an insistence upon liberty to serve God in the way which you believe is the true way.

C. H. SPURGEON: [Today] doctrines which produced the godliest generation that ever lived on the face of the earth are scouted as sheer folly. Nothing is so obnoxious…as that which has the smell of Puritanism upon it. Every little man’s nose goes up celestially at the very sound of the word “Puritan;” though if the Puritans were here again, they would not dare to treat them thus cavalierly; for if the Puritans did fight, they were soon known as Ironsides, and their leader could hardly be called a fool, even by those who stigmatized him as a “tyrant.” Cromwell, and all that were with him, were not all weak-minded persons—surely?

 HORATIUS BONAR (1808-1889): They were men whose doctrines were of the most decided kind, both as respects law and gospel. There is a breadth and power about their preaching—a glow and energy about their words and thoughts, that makes us feel that they were men of might. Their trumpet gave no feeble nor uncertain sound, either to saint or sinner, either to the church or the world. They lifted up their voices, and spared not. There was no flinching, no flattering, or prophesying of smooth things. Their preaching seems to have been of the most masculine and fearless kind, falling on the audience with tremendous power. It was not vehement, it was not fierce, it was not noisy; it was far too solemn to be such; it was massive, weighty, cutting, piercing, sharper than a two-edged sword. The weapons wielded by them were well tempered, well furbished, sharp and keen. Nor were they wielded by a feeble or unpracticed arm. These warriors did not fight with the scabbard instead of the blade.

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661): I assure you, howbeit we be nicknamed Puritans, all the powers of the world shall not prevail against us.

C. H. SPURGEON: Our Puritan forefathers were strong men, because they lived on the Scriptures. None stood against them in their day, for they fed on good meat, whereas their degenerate children are too fond of unwholesome food. The chaff of fiction, and the bran of the [magazines] are poor substitutes for the old corn of the Scriptures, the fine flour of spiritual truth.

JOHN KNOX (1514-1572): Of one thing I must put you in mind, and I pray God that you may fruitfully remember it: That the Word of God preached by the mouth of man, is not a vain sound, and words spoken without a purpose; but is the summoning of God Himself, forewarning men before the judgment come.

G. S. BOWES (182?-188?): [Once a man] was introduced by a gentleman to a minister with a remark, “He never attends public worship.” “Ah!” said the minister, “I hope you are mistaken.” “By no means,” said the stranger, “I always spend Sunday in settling my accounts.” “Then, alas!” was the calm, but solemn reply, “you will find, sir, that the day of judgment will be spent in the same manner.”

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Is it surprising that, to the Puritan, life is a serious matter, demanding the whole of his time and attention?―The only people who have a right to say anything about Christianity are those who have felt its force in their own lives…I do claim, therefore, with modesty and humility, that I have known something, I believe, of the spirit which animated the old Puritan—the spirit which all Puritans have felt at some time or other. I cannot claim, unfortunately, to be a real Puritan, because an analysis of my life finds me serious wanting, but there have been moments, unhappily infrequent, when I have felt that I could move mountains.


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