By Meg Rusick, Marketing & Communications Manager
Looking to the Past
As we approach our American Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of those who struggled in the past to ensure our religious freedom to celebrate national holidays. Before the first New England colonists even shared a meal with their Native American neighbors in the early seventeenth century, the English Puritans were struggling to hold on to their own religious freedoms under the monarchy across the pond. In the late 16th century, Thomas Cartwright and others were formally censured for trying to reform the church, and separatists were executed for their heretical views. During this tumultuous time, the English Puritans continued to publicly and politically campaign for the reforms that they so passionately wanted. Under persecution they honed their craft, teaching, preaching, and writing about the benefits of a well-ordered, godly life, stripped of the excess their monarchy was pushing. It is in this landscape that the Puritans preached a life of simplicity, reliant on the gifts of God alone, so that we might not grow too attached to this world.
Mining Truth and Spiritual Insight from Imperfect Vessels
With the benefit of hindsight, we can’t help but see and acknowledge the Puritans’ faults as well: They could be an intolerant, rigid, and fearful people. Dissenting voices within their communities were often exiled or oppressed. And to put it mildly, their violent relationship with the Native Americans and their later handling of the witch trials are dark and permanent bruises on their reputation.
Despite these failings, elements of their teachings, lifestyle, and faith can still be admired. Their example of seeking an authentic and biblical ideal for godly living eventually drove the Great Awakening in America and propelled Britain into the Evangelical revival. In today’s world, their struggles to be holy citizens of heaven and earth continue to resonate, and their words of insight and devotion continue to reform.
Here are five selected quotes from sixteenth and seventeenth century Puritan pastors, written and preached to their congregations during these tumultuous times. May their exhortations and reminders inspire us to greater love, service, and friendship with those around us.
5 Quotes from English Puritans to Treasure Today
(All quotes are taken from the devotional book Day by Day with the English Puritans: Selected Readings for Daily Reflection, Hendrickson Publishers.)
“There is no ease as that which God gives; He gives ease to troubled minds, and peace to wounded consciences . . . What is the light of a candle to the light of the sun? God is not only good as earthly comforts would be, but He is much better . . .”
William Whittaker, “Better in God” p. 244
“The fire of grace [is] quenched, when we use not our graces, but let them be idle, neither by them procuring glory to God, nor good to others . . . The moth frets the finest garment, when it is not worn, and standing water is sooner frozen than the running stream.”
Thomas Taylor, “Rusting Graces” p. 245
“Eye the Father as love. Do not look on Him as a Father always disappointed, but as one most kind and tender. Let us look on Him by faith, as one that has had thoughts of kindness towards us from everlasting.”
John Owen, “Behold Love” p. 198
“The light of the sun, moon, and stars is of such concern to men, that without them the beauty of the old creation would be buried in darkness, and therefore the children of God have given the Most High the credit of those greater and lesser candles (Ps. 136:7-9). . . . The light of God’s law and Word is of infinitely more worth, for by it the glory and beauty of the new creation, and that curious piece of man’s redemption, is seen and known. What honor God deserves for this favor!”
George Swinnock, “Thanksgiving” p. 192
“Never be afraid to show mercy…But seize all opportunities and thankfully embrace them, taking occasion to bless God that he has furnished us with any ability and opportunity to be helpful, serviceable, comforting to any sad heart or ruinous estate.”
Robert Harris, “Seize the Day” p. 193
Meg Rusick is Marketing & Communications Manager at Hendrickson Publishers. She lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with her husband and baby daughter, and loves hiking, reading, and being outside as much as possible.