Monday, March 28, 2011

A Month of Puritans--Jeremiah Burroughs--Part 1

If you are a preacher, you have discovered that you must have an effective devotional life to continue to preach week-in and week-out. If your preaching is profitable to you and the congregation that you serve, you probably have discovered that good preaching has a price-tag on it. I am aware that the majority of readers of this blog are those who are actively involved in ministry of some sort and I am thankful for the privilege that you give me by visiting my ramblings. It is always my hope that when you are finished reading that you are more encouraged toward becoming better at what you do.

A part of a preacher’s devotional life is that of reading. I heard J. T. Pugh say in a licensing seminar one time that you will never be a great preacher if you are not a great reader. I have also become very aware of what we think is heavily influenced by what we read. GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out or Good In, Good Out!) really is a principle that we need to remember.

I remember stumbling across a book a number of years ago, entitled “The Minister’s Opportunities” by Ralph Turnbull. There is also a companion volume entitled “The Minister’s Obstacles” which has also been extraordinarily beneficial to me. But in the “Opportunities” book there is a chapter that is devoted to the study habits and study life of a preacher. I think I probably read that book back in 1993 or 1994 and just running over the part where Turnbull encourages the reader to seek out the Puritans. At the time, I hadn’t the foggiest idea who these writers were.

A bit later, I picked up a book written by Tony Sargent (The Sacred Anointing) that was a biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and discovered that D ML-J had spent much time with the Puritans. More recently I read the two-volume biography written by Iain Murray on D ML-J and really found much expansion on the Puritans. One last book that I read was the small biography written by Earnest Bacon on Charles Spurgeon who was considered an heir of the Puritans.

When I started delving into the sermons of the Puritans, I soon discovered a wealth of devotional material that served as priming points for sermons. With this information, I started building into my personal library a segment totally devoted to the Puritans. Oddly, I found that very few modern preachers really read much of their writings. So for the month of April, I am going to blog a series of articles about some of the more prominent Puritans that might be helpful for you. To further assist you and save you some money, you are going to discover that the great majority of their writings are in public domain and you can download them for free if you have any kind of e-reader. (I am still without an IPad and probably will be for a while unless one of you great fellows out there decides to send me one!)

First up is one of the lesser known Puritans but he has much to offer to your devotional life. Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) was a student of Thomas Hooker. He had a relatively short period of ministry where he served in four churches. Although his life was relatively short, it was a productive one that was marked by zeal and faithfulness. It did not take him very long to face the teeth of the opposition of the state run church. King James, around 1627 published a book called the Book of Sports. In it he stated the dancing, archery, pole vaulting, and other games were lawful recreations on the Lord’s Day.

Burroughs and many of his compatriot Puritan brothers refused the directive of the King that it should be read in the church. I have a feeling that many in our generation would scoff at this kind of thing and would acquiesce to the folly of reading this today in church. However, the Puritans found a number of great themes that they preached around; Heaven, Hell, Sin, and Calvary and the work of Atonement. Therefore any encroachment of what they deemed as worldliness was ardently preached and fought against. When was the last time that you preached a message on worldliness? That is a sobering question because this is not a “hot topic” that many preachers give their efforts to nor would our hearers purposely choose to listen to a sermon on this kind of content.


I realize that some of my Pentecostal brothers are going to swipe at my recommendation of the Puritans. However if you are even remotely acquainted with church history, you will discover that the Puritans and their preaching against sin and high calling for holiness affected the Wesley’s who were the founders of the Methodists. Whether we want to admit it or not, the Methodists and their call for personal holiness and separation from the world led to the so-called Holiness movement which in turn ushered in the Pentecostal revival that took place in the early 1900’s.

Burroughs had to endure some political and social sanctions against his ministry because of his disapproval of what he felt like was a work of the king to turn the church into a social activity instead of a spiritual one. His associations were very important in their influence on his ministry. Thomas Hooker, William Ames, and Edmund Calamy all had a part in helping Burroughs come to some of his strong convictions. What I found interesting about these Puritans is that many of them preached every day! They would have morning sessions that was designed much like a Sunday School and then at night they would teach various Bible classes and they were well attended. Burroughs died in 1646 after a fall from a horse.
Many of his books are still available through reprints or e-format.

The Evil of Evils, or The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin—Has 67 short chapters that expose sin and urge believers to fight sin in their personal lives.

The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit
—Based on Numbers 14:24 where Caleb is described as having “another spirit.”

An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea—It is considered one of Burroughs greatest works and fills 700 pages.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
—This is an excellent work on Philippians 4:11—I have learned! It describes the fruit of contentment in a believer’s life.

A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness—A great warning against allowing the mind to live and breathe the world that it has to live in daily.
Tomorrow I will break some of these down so that you will be able to discover some helpful things. If you choose to acquaint yourself with the material of the Puritans, you will soon discover how superficial that many of the books that are being churned out these days are.

Thanks for reading. . . .

Philip Harrelson

3 comments:

Me and My Thoughts said...

Great stuff!! Many of the books by Puritan are either free or very inexpensive through Amazon Kindle. If you have a kindle, or an app for Kindle, check them out!!

Me and My Thoughts said...

Great stuff. Many books authored by Puritans are either free or very inexpensive if purchased electronically. Through the Amazon store, there are a great number available for the Kindle, or a Kindle app.

Jonathan McNair said...

I am always impressed by your blogging!!

I downloaded a .pdf copy of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment on my ereader but am having a hard time seeing and reading it... any suggestions??