I did my doctoral research on the theology and polity of Interregnum England. In particular I focused on the Quakers and Baptists, but my studies provided wonderful glimpses into the faith and minds of the era’s Puritans more generally. These were people of true faith, and many of their utterances still have the ability to challenge and inspire us today.
One of the most distinct beliefs of the period was the sufficiency of the scriptures. While there was variation on this (especially among the Friends*), it was clear that “man-made religion” was anathema. Let God speak!
1. “If the scriptures do thoroughly direct men to know God in Christ, and save their own souls, why should we look any further?” Thomas Manton
The word softens the heart. It shows you the way. It convicts and begins to bring about change. Like the sower who spread his seed, the well prepared ground (enriched by the scriptures) is ready for the changes to come.
2. “O! make room for Christ in your hearts, or else He is never like to dwell with you; He loves to dwell with the poor and humble and contrite spirit, He abhors the proud, He will empty your souls, that He may fill them.” William Dewsbury
Once one’s humbled soul is touched by the word, and is filled by God, they become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-18).
3. “The old man worships a God at a distance, but knows Him not, nor where He is, but by relation from others, either by word or writing . . . The new man worships a God at hand, where He dwells in His holy temple, and he knows Him by His own Word from His dwelling-place, and not by relation of others.” James Nayler
The new man as well has a sense of that transformation which God has brought about. This glorious change is used by God as an example to others.
4. “I remember myself, that when I was young, I had sometime the company of one ancient godly minister, who was of weaker parts than many others, but yet did profit me more than most; because he would never in prayer or conference speak of God, or the life to come, but with such marvelous seriousness and reverence, as if he had seen the majesty and glory which he talked of.” Richard Baxter
These changes will become manifest. His growth in our lives is assured – as it has been promised.
5. “The Seed, or Grace of God, is small in its first Appearance, even as the Morning Light; but as it is given Heed to, and obeyed, it will increase in Brightness, till it shine in the Soul, like the Sun in the Firmament at its Noon-day Height.” Elizabeth Bathurst
Such transformed lives are now mirrors of Christ. They should never be about self-promotion, but that of Him who brought about the change. It is for us to let God move in us, not us to attempt to direct Him.
6. “If you do any thing in your own wills, then you tempt God; but stand still in that power that brings peace.” George Fox
This life of God-driven action is to be in His image, following Jesus’ example. It is a life of communication with the transforming power of God, and emulation of Jesus in our own lives.
7. “He who prays as he ought will endeavour to live as he prays.” John Owen
And as New Creations we are to be focused on God, and thankful for the transformation. We are more than caterpillars turned to butterflies, we are men turned to be truly spirit filled beings.
8. “Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of religion. In prayer we act like men; in praise we act like angels.” Thomas Watson
Let us be so transformed, that we too can be known as Bunyan’s pilgrim was:
9. “He has his back to the world, his face toward heaven and a Book in his hand.” John Bunyan
*The Friends were not, strictly speaking, Puritans, but they were of the same non-conformist ilk.