Sunday, January 20, 2013

A review of Puritan Portraits by J.I. Packer

Puritan Portraits by J.I. Packer

Publisher description:

"Here one of the leading authorities on the Puritans, J. I. Packer introduces us to their rich theology and deep spirituality. Packer gives us profiles of John Flavel, Thomas Boston, John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, Henry Scougal, John Owen and Stephen Charnock and two closer portraits of William Perkins and Richard Baxter. The writings of the Puritans continue to profoundly reward readers and here J. I. Packer brings them alive in an inspiring way to encourage a new generation to experience their delights."

Any time spent with the Puritans is well spent, but many Christians today are largely ignorant of the amazing spiritual treasure these men have left us.  As Packer says, "Puritanism's most significant contribution to the ongoing life of the Church was, and is, without doubt its literary legacy." This book is perfect for anyone new to the Puritans who wants to learn more about them.  The rewards for the Christian are immense, these men walked with God and have much to teach us today.

Packer starts out with a helpful introduction to the Puritans in general, then begins individual portraits as outlined below:


Part I: Puritan Pastors at Work

Part II: Puritan Pastors in Profile
1 - Henry Scougal: The Life of God in the Soul of Man
2 - Stephen Charnock: Christ Crucified
3 - John Bunyan: The Heavenly Footman
4 - Matthew Henry: The Pleasantness of a Religious Life
5 - John Owen: The Mortification of Sin
6 - John Flavel: Keeping the Heart
7a - Thomas Boston: The Art of Man Fishing
7b - Thomas Boston: The Crook in the Lot
7c - Thomas Boston: Repentance

Part III: Two Puritan Paragons William Perkins Richard Baxter

Epilogue: The Puritan Pastor's Programme

At first I was a bit thrown off to learn that chapters 1-7 were originally introductions included in books that were part of the Christian Heritiage series published by Christian Focus.  But, as Packer himself states, these introductions have much value even when standing alone, and I agree.

I think one of the best uses for this book is to use it as an introduction and guide to the writers and their writings included in this volume.  Let me just say as a kindle owner that this is a fantastic book for anyone with a kindle.  You can read each chapter, then go to the kindle store and get these books for pennies.  After reading Chapter 3 on John Bunyan and his work Heavenly Footman, I got a kindle version of it for free!  Similarly, John Flavel's Keeping the Heart was $.99.  Reading the intros before diving into the books themselves is a huge help in getting the most from these works.  With a kindle you can start with this book and quickly and cheaply build a puritan library that will give you untold spiritual treasure and benefit!

Each chapter is excellent and you will benefit from each one as Packer introduces them and their writings.  Some highlights for me where gems such as Packers description of the death of of Stephen Charnock, that "he died, while looking what to say next of the mercy, grace, and goodness of God."

Then their was Bunyan encouraging us to "press, crowd, and thrust through all that stands between heaven and his soul!"  I was fired up as I read "Arise man, be slothful no longer; set foot, and heart, and all into the way of God, and run, the crown is at the end of the race." 

Chapter 5 introduces us to the great John Owen as Packer shares how the works of Owen freed him from the Higher life teachings that so stifled his spiritual growth.  Much of this resonated with me as I reflected on my own experiences with American evangelicalism.  This is a great chapter as we are introduced to Owen's work Mortification of Sin, a true desert island book for any Christian.  Packer gives us snippets like this, which will whet your appetite for more:

'Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin,’ he writes. ‘His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.'

If you are new to the Puritans and want to learn more, I would encourage you to start here.  J.I. Packer and the Puritans, how can you go wrong! 

Cross Focused reviews provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

1 comment:

  1. Alex,

    Great review. Thanks for being part of the blog tour!

    Shaun Tabatt
    Christian Focus Publications