Donor Login spacer divider Translate

Missions 101

J.I. Packer & Puritan Manliness

Jun. 9, 2015By: Evan Burns

John Owen has been called the John Calvin of England, and he is arguably the greatest of all the Puritan writers.  C.H. Spurgeon called him the prince of the Puritans.  J.I. Packer, having summarized Owen’s spirituality, sounds a clarion call to contemporary evangelicalism.  Packer says,

9781433515811Anyone who knows anything at all about Puritan Christianity knows that at its best it had a vigour, a manliness, and a depth which modern evangelical piety largely lacks.  This is because Puritanism was essentially an experimental faith, a religion of ‘heart-work’, a sustained practice of seeking the face of God, in a way that our own Christianity too often is not.  The Puritans were manlier Christians just because they were godlier Christians.  It is worth noting three particular points of contrast between them and ourselves.

First, we cannot but conclude that whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing.  The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not.  The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it.  When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christians acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.  Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God.  Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour.  We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters.  Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us.  But how different were the Puritans!  The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God….

Then, second, we observe that whereas the experimental piety of the Puritans was natural and unselfconscious, because it was so utterly God-centred, our own (such as it is) is too often artificial and boastful, because it is so largely concerned with ourselves.  Our interest focuses on religious experience, as such, and on man’s quest for God, whereas the Puritans were concerned with the God of whom men have experience, and in the manner of his dealings with those whom he draws to himself.  The difference of interest comes out clearly when we compare Puritan spiritual autobiography… with similar works from our own day.  In modern spiritual autobiography, the hero and chief actor is usually the writer himself; he is the centre of interest, and God comes in only as a part of his story.  His theme is in effect ‘I—and God’.  But in Puritan autobiography, God is at the centre throughout….

Third, it seems undeniable that the Puritans’ passion for spiritual integrity and moral honesty before God, their fear of hypocrisy in themselves as well as in others, and the humble self-distrust that led them constantly to check whether they had not lapsed into religious play-acting before men with hearts that had gone cold towards God, has no counterpart in the modern-day evangelical ethos.  They were characteristically cautious, serious, realistic, steady, patient, persistent in well-doing and avid for holiness of heart; we, by contrast, too often show ourselves to be characteristically brash, euphoric, frivolous, superficial, naïve, hollow and shallow….

A word to the wise?  There was once a day when God sent Jeremiah to say to Israel, ‘Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Jer 6:16).[1] 

 

[1] J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 215-218.

Tags:  spiritual life, theology
comments powered by Disqus
SubscribeRSS FeedEmail Subscribe
Contributors
Tags
abortion, acts, africa, america, answer to prayer, arcc, asia, atheism, audio, bible, bible study, biblical theology, biography, book review, books, brazil, c.s. lewis, caliphate, calvin, calvinism, cameroon, charity, china, christian, church, church growth, church history, church planting, church polity, confession, conflict, contextualization, corruption, creation, cross, culture, da carson, dead church, death, delight, demonic, dependence, discipleship, doctor, documentary, easter, ebola, ecclesiology, economics, effectiveness, ego, elder, endorsements, ethics, europe, evangelical, evangelicalism, evangelism, evil, faith, faithfulness, false teaching, forgiveness, free books, funny, gaba bible institute, gay marriage, gifts, global christianity, global south, good friday, gospel, graduation, great commission, greece, greek, healing, hermeneutics, history, history of missions, honor, hot topics, humility, humilty, humor, hymn, immigration, incarnational ministry, india, indigenous, infographic, informal education, integrity, interpretation, invitation, isis, islam, jesus, jews, john piper, journal, joy, kenya, latin america, leadership, literacy, love, majority world, map, maps, marriage, martyr, medicine, ministry, ministry of tli, miracles, missiology, mission, missional living, missionaries, missionary, missionary care, missionary kid, missionary training, missions, mission sermons, missions methodology, moms, money, nepal, news, new year, nigeria, orality, parenting, partnership, pastor, pastors, pastor sponsorship, patience, paul, persecution, pictures, pioneer, pioneer missions, politics, poor, pope, post-christian, poverty, practical, prayer, prayer requests, preaching, pride, productivity, prophecy, prosperity gospel, quote, radical, reached, reconciliation, relevance, relief, resources, retirement, revival, romania, sacrifice, salvation, scripture meditation, sending, sermon, serving, shame, shepherd, short-term missions, singing, social action, spiritual life, sports, spurgeon, stat, statistics, stats, stewardship, stm, story, strategic, strategy, suffering, support, support raising, teaching, team, tennent, testimonies, testimony, tgc, thanksgiving, theological education, theological famine, theology, the west, tli, training, transformation, translation, uganda, unreached, update, video, west, western influence, when helping hurts, wisdom, women, worldview, worship, young churches
blog search