The Puritan Study (Part 9) The Strategy of Building a Puritan Study

Part 9: The Strategy of Building a Puritan Library

I assume many of you are like me, lacking access to a solid library of Puritan literature. Here in my hometown we have no seminary and it is rare to find a fellow believer who has even heard of Spurgeon, not to mention Boston, Manton and Goodwin.

So building a Puritan library was my responsibility. I just started buying Puritans that I had indexes for and especially the Puritans published by The Banner of Truth. I learned from both my successes and mistakes.

The Strategy

First, I assume you already spend a fair amount of money on books right now. If you are like me, you probably look around your library with regret at some of the volumes that serve no purpose in your expositional research. For years, my library suffered from a clear game plan.

A poorly planned library will lack important reference books like commentaries and Puritan sermons. It will be heavy on contemporary controversies and issues books. Read blogs if you want to be up-to-date on the current trends in the church. Buy commentaries and Puritans if you want a solid expositional library.

A solid library that helps support the preacher or writer in their expositional work is no accident.

This post will help you define your own personal game plan.

Bottom line

The Puritan Study I have described in this series comes to a grand total of $1,500.00. That sounds like a lot but it figures out to $1.40 a day for 3 years (which is about what I spend at Starbucks). And to have this entire library in three years is pretty fast!

I’ve broken down my list of Puritans into $500 segments. Again, this list is ordered by availability and usefulness of each author. Your first $500 will be the best-spent money. The second and third $500 increments are important but not immediate.

(Note: What follows is a simple strategy for building a Puritan library. Specific reviews of each author and set will follow the Puritan Study series. Pictures of each set can be seen here. Updated (3/17/07): Note that most of these resources can be found at a more reasonable price through Monergism Books. Please check them before making any purchases.)

Here is my strategy, broken into three phases…

// THE FIRST $500

1. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (63 sermon vols.; CD-Rom)

I cannot begin with any more important preacher than Charles (C.H.) Spurgeon. The Puritans thoroughly impact everything Spurgeon preached or wrote. Look at his commentary on the Psalms (The Treasury of David) and you will see why Spurgeon is a priceless Puritan resource. He is the great Puritan synthesizer. Spurgeon’s complete works total about 150 volumes and you can download them all for $15.00 or buy the CD-Rom for $20.00 from Ages software. (If you have extra money, I would recommend buying some printed volumes from Pilgrim Publications but especially his autobiography and the classic book on pastoral ministry, Lectures to My Students.) [Read Piper’s biography of Spurgeon here]

2. Jonathan Edwards (2 vol. works; printed)

An extraordinarily rich resource! These two volumes of works by Jonathan Edwards are gems to the Puritan researcher. I would recommend the Banner of Truth volumes for their sturdy binding. You can buy volumes one and two here in the Banner of Truth editions or a cheaper version. The complementary text files can be found online for free. [Read Piper’s biography of Edwards here]

3. John Bunyan (3 vol. works; printed)

John Bunyan is most famous for his novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress. But he was also an incredibly gifted (and imaginative) preacher. These three clothbound volumes from the Banner of Truth are well built and come with an excellent topical index. You can find them for about $89.00. All of the associated text files can be found online for free. [Read Piper’s biography of Bunyan here]

4. Thomas Boston (12 vol. works; printed)

Jonathan Edwards considered Thomas Boston, “a truly great divine.” Boston is one of my personal favorites. These precious volumes have provided me many years of sermon quotes and exegetical thoughts on God’s Word. The entire 12-volume set has been recently published by Tentmaker in a beautiful cloth binding and is available in the United States for $325.00 here or $250.00 here. Worth every penny! You can buy the incredible Memoirs alone. [Read our full review of this set here]

5. Thomas Manton (22 vol. works; CD-Rom)

A set that is simply too large to make affordable in print format. The CD-Rom of Manton’s complete 22-volume set can be purchased for only $10.00. A great price for a must-have set of works! The first three volumes are avaliable in print.

// THE SECOND $500

6. John Owen (16 vol. but especially vols. 1,2 and 6; printed)

All of John Owen’s 16-volumes works are excellent. I especially have found volumes one, two, six and seven of great use. You can add other volumes in the future but these three are essential. The volumes are clothbound (as you would expect from the Banner of Truth) and run about $25.00 each or $75.00 total. The text files are available online for free but you will want to read these volumes cover-to-cover, making the printed works a must. [Read Piper’s biography of Owen here]

7. John Flavel (6 vol. works; printed)

Another excellent Puritan I have used on several occasions. Your meditations and sermons will be greatly blessed by Flavel. The Banner of Truth volumes are clothbound and beautiful. They sell for $150.00.

8. Richard Sibbes (7 vol. works; printed)

The “sweet dropper,” Sibbes was an incredible Puritan preacher. The Banner of Truth volumes are clothbound and run $126.00.

9. Jeremiah Burroughs (misc. books; printed)

Burroughs is the most difficult author on the list because his works are not collected and published by various companies. Several of his works comprise the Gospel Life series ($91.00). The six titles include Gospel Worship, Gospel Fear, Gospel Conversation, Gospel Revelation, Gospel Remission, and Gospel Reconciliation. Beyond this there are other Burroughs titles in print including The Sinfulness of Sin or The Evil of Evil ($17.00), The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit, Hope ($15.00), Irenicum to the Lovers of Truth and Peace ($22.00), The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment ($6.25), The Saints’ Happiness, The Saints’ Treasury and A Treatise of Earthly-Mindedness. All told, it would be easy to spend $180.00 on Burroughs alone. Still, his works are indexed and very valuable.

10. Thomas Brooks (6 vol. works; printed)

The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks in six volumes is available in cloth binding from Banner of Truth for $140.00. One Puritan scholar says of Brooks, “He had a body of divinity in his head and the power of it in his heart.” Incredible material!

// THE THIRD $500

11. Thomas Goodwin (12 vol. works; printed)

Reformation Heritage Books has recently reprinted the paperback version of Goodwin’s 12 volume works. This is a great service to the Puritan community and can be purchased for $240.00. I have yet to read a Puritan that glorifies the person and works of Christ more than Goodwin. [read our full review here]

12. John Newton (6 vol. works; printed)

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” are the words of John Newton. An excellent preacher, his complete works are available in cloth binding for $144.00. [Read Piper’s biography of Newton here]

13. David Clarkson (3 vol. works; printed)

Not as experiential as the authors above, but well indexed and valuable. The works of David Clarkson are available for $62.00.

14. Edward Reynolds (vols. 1,4,5,6 of 6 vol. works; printed)

Like Burroughs, the complete works of Reynolds are not available. Today there are five volumes in print: Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Meditations on the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Last Supper, Preaching Christ, Sinfulness Of Sin and Treatise on the Passions and Faculties of the Soul. All these valuable volumes can be purchased for about $115.00. Spurgeon wrote, “Reynolds was a man of vast learning and thoroughly evangelical spirit.” The digital files are beginning to appear on Google books for free download.


By this point you may feel totally overwhelmed (and broke). Remember, this is a long-term goal.

I don’t even think it would be beneficial to buy all these works at once! Slowly add works as you grow comfortable with the ones you already have.

If you follow this plan you will spend your money wisely and have a storehouse of expositional material at arm’s-reach. This is my promise to you: Even if the Lord blesses you with 30 more years of expositional ministry, you will never exhaust the Puritan Study you built in three years.

Next time … Part 10: Concluding Thoughts, part 1

Book review: An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea by Jeremiah Burroughs (1892777940)


Hosea was a prophet called to speak to the Northern Kingdom, and although the book is fairly short (14 chapters), Hosea’s ministry was not (more than 70 years). Israel’s Northern kingdom had grown both prosperous and idolatrous, and Hosea was called in to remind them of their unfaithfulness.

The prophecies of Hosea continue in relevance and importance today. Simultaneously, as a culture grows prosperous, the heart grows idolatrous – and quickly forgets about God and the eternal things to come.

Burroughs writes, “It is easy for a minister of God to deal plainly with people in the time of adversity, but when men are in their pride and jollity, to deal faithfully with them is very difficult. That their great prosperity raised up and hardened their hearts with pride against the prophet appears plainly” (5-6).

Jeremiah Burroughs (c. 1600-1646)

Recently, Reformation Heritage Books, Inc. reprinted Jeremiah Burroughs classic commentary: An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea. Burroughs remains one of the most popular Puritan writers because of his warm devotional heart, keen exegetical eye, and sensitive perception to the sinful human heart. And these skills mark every page of his commentary.

Here is just one example.

Early in the commentary, Burroughs displays tremendous humility at the prospect of interpreting Scripture,

“… to the interpretation of Scripture, a Scripture frame of heart is necessary, a heart holy and heavenly, suitable to the holiness and heavenliness which are in the word … And because the authority of Scripture is supreme, we desire the prayers of you all to God for us that his fear may fall upon our hearts, that seeing we are men full of error and evil, yet we may not bring any scripture to maintain any erroneous conceit of our own heads nor any evil of our own hearts: this we know to be a dreadful evil” (2).

How many commentaries begin with an author stating an awareness of the “errors” and “evils” of his own heart and their danger in interpretation?

The commentary

The commentary was originally published in 4 volumes and is now printed in one large 700-page paperback volume. The text is clean and easy to read.

Burroughs actually died before he finished writing the 13th chapter. Thomas Hall completed chapter 13 and another famous Puritan, Edward Reynolds, completed chapter 14.

Big-picture overviews and help in discerning the major movements of Hosea are not the strengths of this commentary (nor most Puritan commentaries for that matter).

This commentary is high in value because, (as in most Puritan commentaries) the authors are skilled at unpacking each and every verse with dozens of observations. At times I was lost in the sheer volume of application that poured from each and every verse. Burroughs exemplifies the Puritan conviction that every verse in the bible, “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Hosea 6:6

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”

For Hosea 6:6, I give a few of Burrough’s observations as an example of what typifies this commentary.

Now, if you are used to blitzing through blog posts, I encourage you to stop. Just stop. You will need to print these excerpts to get the full effect. The Puritans are not conducive to speed reading. Take these in slowly:

Obs. 1. Carnal hearts which make little conscience of their duties, and are very cruel in their dealings towards men, yet may be contented to submit to instituted worship. This very scripture, ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,’ is a secret rebuke to such people. … Because men may be exercised in instituted worship without any power of godliness, the outward act of performance is a very easy work to flesh and blood, there is little difficulty in it. Because it has the most show of the power of godliness; they seem to be as sincere as any in their worship, there is a great show in the flesh, in the outward man; whereas God’s worship is inward, soul worship, which carnal hearts cannot endure, nor do they desire it, it is outside worship which they prize.

Obs. 2. Carnal men think to satisfy their consciences by joining in outward ordinances. Thus did they in this place think to put off God and their own consciences, by living in the external acts of worship, while they continued in the love of known sin. What a deal of stir [provoking] had the prophet to convince these hypocrites of this their wickedness!

Obs. 4. The Lord has a high esteem of mercy; and it appears in this, that he will have it preferred before sacrifice, and this is called, a ‘sacrifice acceptable,’ and a sweet savor in God’s nostrils, Phil. 4:18. … O Christians! Imitate God in this, let your esteems of mercy be raised higher than ever before, from this that you have heard concerning its excellency. The works of mercy are glorious works, there is more in such than in those acts of religion which men think are more spiritual. I speak the more of this, because it is a scandal [testimony] which is laid upon godly men by the men of the world, that they are miserable and close-handed; now in this we should labor to convince the world by the practice of mercy.

Obs. 5. It is the Christian’s skill, when two duties come together, which to choose. This is a snare in which many Christians are caught and foiled; they think both must be done at the same time, whereas the one is the duty, the other not.

Obs. 6. Though the object of an action be spiritual, yet it is not a sufficient ground to prefer it before another action, whose object may be but natural. The ordinances of God have God for their object, and the enjoying of communion with him; yet in the performance of other actions which may be only natural, I may show more obedience to God than in offering up of sacrifice.

Obs. 7. If God’s own worship may be forborne in case of mercy, how much more men’s institutions and inventions!

Obs. 8. God will have mercy rather than disputing about sacrifices. Suppose there be a truth in that which is disputed about, yet God in this case will have mercy rather than sacrifice, rather than mercy shall be neglected he will have sacrifices omitted.

Obs. 9. Mercy must be preferred before our own wills and lusts. God is contented, that we may perform our duties to our brethren, to forbear his own ordinances; and shall we stand upon our wills and humors? O proud spirit, that exalteth thyself against the Lord; we must be content to deny ourselves very far for the public good, and for our brethren’s sake, since God is please to bear with men so far, as for a time to be without that honor, which he should have from men in their acknowledgment of him in public service.

Obs. 11. The duties of the first and second table are to be joined together. Mercy and sacrifice, knowledge of God and burnt-offerings, when in their place, are acceptable, therefore let us take heed of separating that which God has joined.

Obs. 12. The knowledge of God is a most excellent thing. This is that which sanctifies God’s name, and manifests him to be very glorious in the world. Paul accounted all things but loss and dung in comparison of the excellency of this knowledge of Christ. Instruct then your children and servants in this knowledge, else how can God have his glory from them? How few are there which glorify God as God! And the reason is, because of the ignorance which is in their minds, Eph. 4:18.

Obs. 13. Men may be very diligent in instituted worship, and yet very ignorant. None so acted in their instituted worship as these people, yet none so ignorant as they.

Obs. 14. Soul-worship must be preferred before all other worship. We must not give God a carrion service, a carcass without a soul.

All of these comments come from just 2 pages in the commentary! Multiply this times 350 and you see that this blog post is only a handful of application that originates from a mountain of truth. Spurgeon was right when he said this commentary is “A vast treasure-house of experimental exposition.”

Reformation Heritage Books has served expositors well in their commitment to reprinting a priceless commentary on Hosea that will certainly spur preachers on to put major significance on one minor prophet.


Commentaries > OT > Minor Prophets > Hosea


An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, Jeremiah Burroughs, 9781892777942 , 1892777940, oversized paperback, 700 pages, Bible translation: KJV, $50.00/$38.00