Grace to you! I have really enjoyed your website and I still have much of it to study. I was hoping to ask your advice. I am not a pastor, however I really enjoy reading or trying to read the Puritans. I am particularly interested in them as they seem to know “heart religion” and treasuring Christ above all else.
If you were to start off with one of Banner of Truth’s multi-volume works which one would you start off with? I am considering Thomas Brooks (I really have like Precious Remedies and Heaven on Earth). Also, there is John Bunyan who seems to have lived on the edge of eternity as John Piper pointed out in his great biographical address. John Flavel is one I am really interested in as well. I know he was a favorite of Robert M’Cheyne and, I believe Whitefield, and that about cinches him as my choice.
Your review of Flavel was also noteworthy, but I wanted to put these other two to you as well. Others seem to be a bit more involved or just too long for me at this time. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. Lord bless you!
Excellent question. I would not start with Edwards, Owen or Goodwin. Flavel and Brooks are excellent but they can wait. If I were starting over I would begin with John Bunyan. His three volume works are a real treasure, easy to read, very well edited, and with an excellent topical index! Probably what makes them most useful is Bunyan’s wide range of topics (making them useful on any number of issues) and the wide variety of literary formats (allegory, autobiography, sermon, poem, etc.). When you start thinking about the towering figures of the Puritans — Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Thomas Goodwin — surprisingly it’s a tinker I would select as the most important to start with.
I love John Owen’s testimony about Bunyan. Piper writes, “The greatest Puritan theologian and contemporary of Bunyan, John Owen, when asked by King Charles why he, a great scholar, went to hear an uneducated tinker preach said, ‘I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.'” Wow — to think those words were delivered to a king!