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A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life

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A Quest for Godliness explores the depth and breadth of Puritan spiritual life. Drawing on a lifetime of study, Packer surveys the lives and teachings of great Puritan leaders such as John Owen, Richard Baxter, and Jonathan Edwards. He examines the Puritan view of the Bible, spiritual gifts, the Sabbath, worship, social action, and the family. The Puritans' faith, Packer a A Quest for Godliness explores the depth and breadth of Puritan spiritual life. Drawing on a lifetime of study, Packer surveys the lives and teachings of great Puritan leaders such as John Owen, Richard Baxter, and Jonathan Edwards. He examines the Puritan view of the Bible, spiritual gifts, the Sabbath, worship, social action, and the family. The Puritans' faith, Packer argues, stands in marked contrast with the superficiality of modern western Christianity. In a time of failing vision and decaying values, this powerful portrait of the Puritans is a beacon of hope that calls us to radical commitment and action, both desperately needed today. Beautifully written, A Quest for Godliness is a moving and challenging exploration of Puritan life and thought. Here is J. I. Packer at his very best.


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A Quest for Godliness explores the depth and breadth of Puritan spiritual life. Drawing on a lifetime of study, Packer surveys the lives and teachings of great Puritan leaders such as John Owen, Richard Baxter, and Jonathan Edwards. He examines the Puritan view of the Bible, spiritual gifts, the Sabbath, worship, social action, and the family. The Puritans' faith, Packer a A Quest for Godliness explores the depth and breadth of Puritan spiritual life. Drawing on a lifetime of study, Packer surveys the lives and teachings of great Puritan leaders such as John Owen, Richard Baxter, and Jonathan Edwards. He examines the Puritan view of the Bible, spiritual gifts, the Sabbath, worship, social action, and the family. The Puritans' faith, Packer argues, stands in marked contrast with the superficiality of modern western Christianity. In a time of failing vision and decaying values, this powerful portrait of the Puritans is a beacon of hope that calls us to radical commitment and action, both desperately needed today. Beautifully written, A Quest for Godliness is a moving and challenging exploration of Puritan life and thought. Here is J. I. Packer at his very best.

30 review for A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    South Asia

    This is part of a book review I wrote for both Knowing God and Quest for Godliness. I have tried to save the 5 stars for truly outstanding books. I encourage you to read this. ...In Dr. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness, he first goes through the rich history of the Puritans. He then writes about the Puritans and their views on Christian foundations (the Bible, the Gospel, the Holy Spirit, etc) and how the depth of their works and life should be used today. Our readings for this book focused a lot o This is part of a book review I wrote for both Knowing God and Quest for Godliness. I have tried to save the 5 stars for truly outstanding books. I encourage you to read this. ...In Dr. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness, he first goes through the rich history of the Puritans. He then writes about the Puritans and their views on Christian foundations (the Bible, the Gospel, the Holy Spirit, etc) and how the depth of their works and life should be used today. Our readings for this book focused a lot on Richard Baxter, John Owens, and Jonathan Edwards, men to whom we are greatly indebted to for their great spiritual impact in both their day and today. Critique These books were both excellent, however, I would highly admonish all to read A Quest for Godliness. While Dr. Packer writes about major parts of the Christian faith in Knowing God, his narrative of the Puritans as well as his summaries and practical insights on their lives was incredible. His expertise and knowledge on the Puritans is astounding. The book is well written, and thick with insights. It is a book that needs to be carefully read and thought through. At times I do think he paints an idealistic view of the Puritans, especially early on, but in the end, you realize that his idealism comes from the wealth of blessings that Dr. Packer and many have received from them. I greatly appreciate both Dr. Packer’s and the Puritans love for God and desire to point the reader to love our Creator, and to do so in way that is honoring to God, out of love, thankfulness, and reverence. Application The Puritans were in a unique stage of history where they were blessed with a wealth of understanding into the Scriptures. They were able to extract the gold from God’s word, so to speak. As I read this book, it seemed that Dr. Packer was the tour guide, showing the Biblical gold that the Puritans labored at vigorously to unearth. There isn’t a secret to their work, they loved Christ and God greatly blessed them. We can have what they had through Christ and we can learn much through the Puritans. I want this, and this book pushed me towards wanting Christ more and to share Him and His work with many. This is a book I hope to read multiple times in my life. I think that there is lots of application, from prayer, reading the Bible, worship, to understanding the necessity of revival and praying that God would bring revival. Best Quote “The healthy Christian is not necessarily the extrovert, ebullient Christian, but the Christian who has a sense of God’s presence stamped deep on his soul, who trembles at God’s word, who lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it, and who test and reforms his life daily in response to it..” (Pg. 116)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Knowles

    Outstanding. I already had a great appreciation for the Puritans, but this book by J.I. Packer only launches that appreciation into the stratosphere.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Pendleton

    This is JI Packer on steroids. Favorite chapters were ‘John Owen on Communication from God’ and ‘Puritan Evangelism’

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    It has been 19 years since I first read this book all the way through. In the years since, I have reread several of these chapters, and more importantly, have dived deeply into the vast ocean of Puritan literature for myself. Whatever love I have for the Puritans today, I owe largely to Packer’s wonderful introduction, and (further back) to my Dad’s love for the Puritans in my growing up years. My second time all the way through this book was the really enjoyable. The chapters, of course, began a It has been 19 years since I first read this book all the way through. In the years since, I have reread several of these chapters, and more importantly, have dived deeply into the vast ocean of Puritan literature for myself. Whatever love I have for the Puritans today, I owe largely to Packer’s wonderful introduction, and (further back) to my Dad’s love for the Puritans in my growing up years. My second time all the way through this book was the really enjoyable. The chapters, of course, began as papers presented by Packer at the annual Puritan conference, jointly lead by Packer with D. Martyn Lloyd Jones. As such, the one unifying theme between chapters is the Puritan subject matter, the chapters themselves addressing a wide variety of Puritan themes and persons. The material on John Owen (chapters 5, 8, 12, and 13) is exceptionally good. Though Packer had a special affinity for Richard Baxter, and speaks of him often (including helpful critique on Baxter’s views on justification, in chapter 9), I am much less of a fan. More helpful are the expository chapters on the conscience (ch. 7), The witness of the Spirit (ch. 11), preaching (ch. 17), and evangelism (ch. 18). I also think the first four chapters and the afterword — all of which actually serve as introductions to the Puritans from several different angles — are worth their weight in gold. Chapter 19, on Jonathan Edwards and Revival, is also excellent. My least favorite is chapter 14, on The Puritans and the Lord’s Day — probably because I am not a Sabbatarian in the way the Puritans were, and think the continental reformers were much more on point on this issue. As with all of Packer’s books, I am amazed at just how much he packs in (truly living up to his name!) and find his capacity for succinct synthesis and summary to be at once both illuminating and suggestive of further thought.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dillon

    My first encounter with the term "Puritan" was in A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials, in seventh grade - it was not a flattering rendering. The group is often caricatured in popular culture for reasons that Packer gets into (this caricaturization was already common in their own period), but this is not where the meat of the book lies. The book is both highly technical in its dissection of Puritan doctrine and inspirational in its characterization of the Puritan lifestyle My first encounter with the term "Puritan" was in A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials, in seventh grade - it was not a flattering rendering. The group is often caricatured in popular culture for reasons that Packer gets into (this caricaturization was already common in their own period), but this is not where the meat of the book lies. The book is both highly technical in its dissection of Puritan doctrine and inspirational in its characterization of the Puritan lifestyle and its norms. I recommend it reading it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christian Barrett

    Packer is a witty writer that forces readers to think intentionally about the Puritan way of living. This book is a call for Christians to put down the cool ways of culture and to turn to the Puritan ways of living. Packer does this by walking through six areas of life that the Puritans often wrote about. This book is incredibly profound and would be a great primer to actually reading Puritan writings. The goal of this book is to reintroduce Christians of the 21st century that are “zany piggies” Packer is a witty writer that forces readers to think intentionally about the Puritan way of living. This book is a call for Christians to put down the cool ways of culture and to turn to the Puritan ways of living. Packer does this by walking through six areas of life that the Puritans often wrote about. This book is incredibly profound and would be a great primer to actually reading Puritan writings. The goal of this book is to reintroduce Christians of the 21st century that are “zany piggies” to the “wise giants” of the Puritan age. The goal is accomplished exceedingly well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ben Chapman

    “But in seeking to honor and please God by the methodical holiness of mortifying sin, vivifying habits of grace, keeping the Sabbath, governing one’s family, mastering the Bible, working hard in one’s calling, practicing purity, justice, and philanthropy in all relationships, and keeping up communion with God by regular, constant prayer, Puritans were all at one, and all the more so because these were the things that their preachers most stressed.” This sentence embodies the life of the English P “But in seeking to honor and please God by the methodical holiness of mortifying sin, vivifying habits of grace, keeping the Sabbath, governing one’s family, mastering the Bible, working hard in one’s calling, practicing purity, justice, and philanthropy in all relationships, and keeping up communion with God by regular, constant prayer, Puritans were all at one, and all the more so because these were the things that their preachers most stressed.” This sentence embodies the life of the English Puritans. Packer compares them often to the huge Redwood trees of California, the “trees that are not handsome in any conventional sense, but have very straight, strong, solid trunks.” Such were the Puritans. And oh how important they are for us today. Packer covers well, as the title suggest, the basics of the Puritan view of the Christian life. How they worshipped, how they preached, how they read the Scriptures. The day-to-day practices of husbands and wives and the catechizing of children. The observance and feasting on the Lord’s Day (or Christian Sabbath). All of which we, the modern church, have much to learn from. He also takes some time to dive into the lives and thoughts of some of the history’s giants: John Owen, Richard Baxter, etc.. To say this work by Packer was a help to me is an understatement. It was more like a companion. Maybe because hardly any book has ever taken me so long to read? It came to a point where I didn't care how long it took to read it, I wanted to wade through this one slow and surely. And it was more than worth it. I told my wife as I finished it that I might just start it over. And truly, I might.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Logan Prettyman

    Although it took a few chapters for me to get into, I found this book to be richly practical and satisfactorily honest. He does not paint the Puritans in any colors far from honest ones, and because of that, he is able to give good application to accurate facts.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim Sandell

    Best book I’ve read all year. I was inspired to (finally) pick up this book after reading many of the moving tributes to JI Packer after his death earlier this year. It certainly takes on an extra dimension being read in the light of that. In this book, Packer introduces us to the Puritans, their theology, their spirituality and their ministries, with lots of helpful insight, lessons and challenges for us. Being in ministry ourselves, in a slow and isolated location, this book has been thoroughly Best book I’ve read all year. I was inspired to (finally) pick up this book after reading many of the moving tributes to JI Packer after his death earlier this year. It certainly takes on an extra dimension being read in the light of that. In this book, Packer introduces us to the Puritans, their theology, their spirituality and their ministries, with lots of helpful insight, lessons and challenges for us. Being in ministry ourselves, in a slow and isolated location, this book has been thoroughly encouraging. The Puritans knew how - and why - to keep on when things were tough and/or discouraging! I already had an appreciation of the Puritans, having read a bunch of Puritan Paperbacks as a student, and this book has both rekindled and deepened that affection - I’ve ordered a bunch of Puritan Paperbacks in the course of reading this book, and I’m saving my pennies to buy some larger Complete Works! Very, very good. Thoroughly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Smith

    A solid treatment of the Puritan life. Before I read this book I thought that Puritans were backwards and strange, but I have come to fully appreciate their zeal for gospel ministry. They have actually become my personal heroes, and I owe it mostly to this book. Great book for anyone interested in theology. It applies as much today as it did 300-400 years ago. This is just an introduction to Puritan theology, and it should spur deeper interest in their writings.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    Often times the subject of spirituality has Protestants turning to Catholic and Anabaptist mystics. What a shame. Protestants have a rich heritage of heart-felt spirituality that avoids the errors and excess of the mystics. We have the Puritans. This volume is far more than an introduction to the spirituality of the Puritans. It is a passionate call to what they called "experimental religion" - a faith that is thoroughly biblical, doctrinally rich, and passionate. Often times the subject of spirituality has Protestants turning to Catholic and Anabaptist mystics. What a shame. Protestants have a rich heritage of heart-felt spirituality that avoids the errors and excess of the mystics. We have the Puritans. This volume is far more than an introduction to the spirituality of the Puritans. It is a passionate call to what they called "experimental religion" - a faith that is thoroughly biblical, doctrinally rich, and passionate.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    "The hotter sort of Protestants are called Puritans." (from a 16th century tract) The Puritans were great "thinkers, worshippers, hopers, and warriors." Excellent read! "The hotter sort of Protestants are called Puritans." (from a 16th century tract) The Puritans were great "thinkers, worshippers, hopers, and warriors." Excellent read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Cannon

    Very dry and academic in style. It was difficult to cut through some of the extra fluff but it was worth it to get a glimpse into the thoughts, beliefs, practices, and lives of godliness of these puritans. There were many snippets and sections that I found immensely valuable and practical for my own spiritual growth and understanding.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Becky Pliego

    Packer does a great job in explaining how the Puritans viewed life, and how they lived it. This is a must read for those who love the Puritans and want to imitate (and we all should!). "Scripture teaches us our duty. Its instruction is for practice. It must be studied, therefore, for the purpose of setting our lives in order. And God will only prosper our study if we continually exercise ourselves to live by what we learn. Then our knowledge will deepen and expand; but otherwise it will run out i Packer does a great job in explaining how the Puritans viewed life, and how they lived it. This is a must read for those who love the Puritans and want to imitate (and we all should!). "Scripture teaches us our duty. Its instruction is for practice. It must be studied, therefore, for the purpose of setting our lives in order. And God will only prosper our study if we continually exercise ourselves to live by what we learn. Then our knowledge will deepen and expand; but otherwise it will run out into sterile verbiage and mental error." "The realism of their affirmations of matrimonial affection stemmed from the fact that they went to the Bible for their understanding of the relationship -to Genesis for its institution, to Ephesians for its full meaning, to Leviticus for its hygiene, to Proverbs for its management, to several New Testament books for its ethic, and to Esther, Ruth, and the Song of Solomon for illustrations and exhibitions of the ideal."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Wade

    This is a book that I would encourage anyone who is even remotely interested in theology to read. It is basically a history of the Puritans, told in a more devotional and encouraging style than a simple history book. Packer’s chapter on John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is worth the price of the book alone. This is an excellent book on these true giants in the faith.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Loved this book. Love the Puritans. For all those who think they were stuffy Christians who just told people what not to do, should read this book. They were the cool, young christians of their day - except they held theology and the discipline in the Christian life as something exciting and not 'life sucking' Loved this book. Love the Puritans. For all those who think they were stuffy Christians who just told people what not to do, should read this book. They were the cool, young christians of their day - except they held theology and the discipline in the Christian life as something exciting and not 'life sucking'

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    One of the first reformed books I read. I am not the neo-Puritan I used to be, but this book is important to me if for no other reason than nostalgic ones. It's probably best known for Packer's famous essay on Owen's Death of Death. I do not hold to Limited Atonement, but this essay (and Owen's book) is probably one of the finest *logical* defenses of it. One of the first reformed books I read. I am not the neo-Puritan I used to be, but this book is important to me if for no other reason than nostalgic ones. It's probably best known for Packer's famous essay on Owen's Death of Death. I do not hold to Limited Atonement, but this essay (and Owen's book) is probably one of the finest *logical* defenses of it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Al

    This should challenge perceptions of the Puritans as dour fanatics. My quote on marriage is from this book. After reading this, I wish I had been raised with this worldview from the outset. A really good overview of how we should all view the Christian life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris Wray

    Packer's aim for his collection of essays is that they would merely be history or historical theology, but spirituality. Their focus is on ways in which the Puritans are giants compared to us, and giants whose help we need to grow. Who were the Puritans? Puritanism was a movement in 16th and 17th century England, which sought further reformation, and renewal in the Church of England than the Elizabethan settlement allowed. At its heart, this was a spiritual movement, passionately concerned with Go Packer's aim for his collection of essays is that they would merely be history or historical theology, but spirituality. Their focus is on ways in which the Puritans are giants compared to us, and giants whose help we need to grow. Who were the Puritans? Puritanism was a movement in 16th and 17th century England, which sought further reformation, and renewal in the Church of England than the Elizabethan settlement allowed. At its heart, this was a spiritual movement, passionately concerned with God and godliness, and a movement for church reform, pastoral renewal and evangelism, and spiritual revival. In addition, it was a world-view and a total Christian philosophy. The Puritans "were not wild men, fierce and freaky, religious fanatics and social extremists, but sober, conscientious, and cultured citizens, persons of principle, devoted, determined, and disciplined, excelling in the domestic virtues, and with no obvious shortcomings save a tendency to run to words when saying anything important." The common features of the Puritans were: 1. A set of shared convictions, Biblicist and Calvinist in character about Christian faith and practice, an about congregational life and the pastoral office. 2. A shared sense of calling to work for God's glory in the Church of England by eliminating popery from its worship, prelacy from its government and pagan irreligion from its membership. 3. A shared literature that is catechetical, evangelistic and devotional, and that has a distinctive homiletical style and experiential emphasis. Why We Need the Puritans What the Puritans can give us is, in a word, maturity. Packer comments: "Maturity is a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity." Compared to the Puritans we are spiritual dwarfs, and they can teach us a number of lessons that will help us toward the maturity that they experienced. 1. The integration of their daily lives. The modern term for their lifestyle would be holistic, as every aspect of their lives was integrated in the single purpose of honouring God. 2. The quality of their spiritual experience. In the Puritans communion with God, Jesus Christ was central and scripture was supreme, and they were consciously methodical in their approach to biblical truth. 3. Their passion for effective action, completely shunning self-reliance and depending utterly on God to work in and through them. 4. Their program for family stability, with their high view of marriage and child rearing. The Puritan ethic of nurture was to train up their children in the way they should go, teaching them to care for their bodies and souls together and educating them for sober, godly, socially useful adult living. The Puritan ethic of home life was based on maintaining order, courtesy and family worship, with goodwill, patience, consistency and an encouraging attitude seen as the essential domestic virtues. 5. Their sense of human worth, with a vivid awareness of the greatness of moral issues, of eternity and of the human soul. 6. Their ideal of church renewal, or revival, centred on the reformed doctrine of justification by faith and requiring the thorough renewal of the pastorate as well as each individual Christian. In summary, the Puritans were "men of outstanding intellectual power, as well as spiritual insight. In them, mental habits fostered by sober scholarship were linked with a flaming zeal for God and a minute acquaintance with the human heart...In thought and outlook they were radically God-centred. Their appreciation of God's sovereign majesty was profound, and their reverence in handling his written word was deep and constant...They applied their understanding of the mind of God to every branch of life, seeing the church, the family, the state, the arts and sciences, the world of commerce and industry, no less that the devotions of the individual, as so many spheres in which God must be served and honoured." In sum, the Puritans were Englishmen who embraced whole-heartedly a version of Christianity that paraded a particular brand of Biblicist, pietist, churchly and worldly concerns. As business-like believers, unpretentiously serious, humble, sober, and confident in Christ, fair and just in all their dealings, wholly uncompromising when God's truth and glory were at stake, and willing to accept unpopularity and suffer for taking a stand, they were far and away the most impressive Englishmen of the era, and have done as much for English and American Christianity as any group of would-be change agents in history, and continue to do so. Their piety exhibited four main characteristics, all formed by the Puritan view of who God is and what he does: 1. Humility. 2. Receptivity to the teaching and correction of Scripture and providence. 3. Doxology and the passion to turn everything into worship and to glorify God in every word and deed. 4. Energy, where laziness and passivity are damned as irreligious because so much remains to be done before God's name is hallowed in the world as it should be. In the combination of these qualities lies the secret of the Puritans indomitable and inexhaustible inner strength. Additionally, they held to four key realities and had four overarching areas of concern. The former are the sovereignty and sanctity of God; the dignity and depravity of mankind; the love and lordship of Christ; and the light and power of the Holy Spirit. The latter, on which their preaching dwelt, can be summarised as the first steps, the fight, the fellowship and the finish. Further, the Puritans emphasised the need for Christians to see themselves as warrior pilgrims; the need for Christians to educate and heed their consciences; the need for Christians to sanctify all relationships; and the need for Christians to delight in God and praise him joyfully at all times. Packer unpacks many of the wider aspects of Puritan thought and life in detail in the other chapters of this book, and every single one is packed full of gold that will delight and nourish any Christian who wants to grow in maturity and depth insight in the faith. The Puritans were saints of great stature, showing the comparative stuntedness of most believers in the modern West. They were great thinkers, great worshippers, great hopers and great warriors and we should learn from them all that we can, and pray that God would make us likewise in our day. My detailed summary of the book is available here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Vly...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I love reading about puritans & JI Packer loves Puritans! Perfect book with different compilations from various Purtians' writings about subjects such as ministry, evangelism, marriage/family, etc.. it's heavy loaded with aspects of the spiritual faith and discussions about different points of views between the Puritans. I appreciated the heart behind the Puritans & gained much insight from this book. I love reading about puritans & JI Packer loves Puritans! Perfect book with different compilations from various Purtians' writings about subjects such as ministry, evangelism, marriage/family, etc.. it's heavy loaded with aspects of the spiritual faith and discussions about different points of views between the Puritans. I appreciated the heart behind the Puritans & gained much insight from this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Derek Brown

    In 336 densely packed pages and over several chapters, Packer, in his book, 'A Quest for Godliness,' brings the reader face to face with many different facets of Puritan life and ministry with historical precision and keen theological insight. Packer insists that an encounter like this with the Puritans is essential for Christians today who have all but lost any true sense of what Puritans believed, lived for, and sought to give to the church. In an introductory chapter, Packer explains why we ne In 336 densely packed pages and over several chapters, Packer, in his book, 'A Quest for Godliness,' brings the reader face to face with many different facets of Puritan life and ministry with historical precision and keen theological insight. Packer insists that an encounter like this with the Puritans is essential for Christians today who have all but lost any true sense of what Puritans believed, lived for, and sought to give to the church. In an introductory chapter, Packer explains why we need the Puritans; his reason is clear and unmistakable. "The answer, in one word, is maturity. Maturity is a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity. The Puritans exemplified maturity; we don't. We are spiritual dwarfs" (22). In an earlier chapter, Packer compares the Puritans to giant Redwoods. Packer writes, "As Redwoods attract the eye, because they overtop other trees, so the mature holiness and seasoned fortitude of the great Puritans shine before us as a kind of beacon light, overtopping the stature of the majority of Christians in most eras, and certainly so in this age of crushing urban collectivism, when Western Christians sometimes feel and often look like ants on an anthill and puppets on a string (12)." To some, this description of the Puritans sounds exaggerated and contrived; a depiction not even close to the original. This is not surprising. The word `Puritan' was originally coined as a smear word implying, "peevishness, censoriousness, conceit, and a measure of hypocrisy...it's primary reference...was...to what was seen as odd, furious, and ugly form of Protestant religion" (21). Many of the word's negative connotations have endured and hardened a prejudice toward the Puritans in much of the Western world. Fortunately, at the time that Packer wrote this book (1990), scholars, for the past half-century, had already begun to unearth the lost and forgotten treasures of Puritanism, while "meticulously wiping away the mud" from the original portrait. Since then, much ground has been regained in Puritan studies, and we now have a host of resources to which we can turn for insight into what the Puritans were really like. Nevertheless, I think Packer's book is still very important, despite the recent growth in Puritan literature. For one, Packer writes from the burden to demonstrate why we need the Puritans. Although it is wonderful to have Puritan resources at our fingertips and in abundance, it is equally important to understand why we should make it a priority to study them. Packer's explanation of why we should dig deep into the Puritans in chapters one and two of this book should be required reading for Christians of all walks of life. The remainder of the book is devoted to exploring five different aspects of these godly people we call the Puritans. Packer examines, in three chapters a piece, the Puritans and the Bible, the Puritans and the gospel, the Puritans and the Holy Spirit, and the Puritan Christian life, and the Puritans in ministry. Within the section on the Puritans and the gospel, one will find Packer's famous essay from his introduction to John Owen's Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Packer's heart-felt and rigorous defense of Calvinism and it's inexorable relation to the gospel is worth the price of this book alone. A fair and thorough reading of the section on the Puritan Christian life would probably help to dislodge our misconceptions about the so-called ridged formality and prudishness of the Puritans. Far from dull and unloving, the Puritans were those who cared deeply for the physical and spiritual well-being of their families, who sought to live all of life with great passion (not merely passion as a feeling, but passion for Christ), who desired to work with diligence and excellence in their calling, and who treasured marital devotion and fidelity. That is not to give the impression that the Puritans were flawless and worthy of emulation in every respect. They had their faults, and Packer deals with several of these squarely and with grace. But, in their case, the good far outweighs the bad, and their example in a multitude of areas should be admired and followed. Packer's book, overall, is excellent. His careful choice of words to describe the Puritans ("sweet, peaceful, patient, obedient, and hopeful," is just one edifying string of adjectives) and his insight into what makes the Puritans a valuable model for Christians today are only two of the many reasons why I thoroughly enjoyed this book. One weakness I did perceive (and this is minor), is the lack of chapter to chapter coherence in some cases. 'A Quest for Godliness' is not a book that Packer sat down and wrote from start to finish. Rather, it is a collection of essays on the Puritans previously written by Packer that have been tied together by a some introductory chapters and an identifiable theme. This, however, is only a small weakness, if one could call it a weakness. Regardless, Packer's book is definitely one that is worthy of close attention; not for the sake of raw information and an educated historical perspective, but for the good of our souls, as we learn from a group of men and women who walked near to God.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike E.

    This book is a collection of essays, not really a unified whole. It is essentially an argument and motivator to read the puritans. Packer gives the reader quality doses of the puritans. Written over various periods of time but published in 1991 the book predates the rekindled interest within conservative protestantism in the USA. Those willing to read this book probably do not need it! Some of the chapters and paragraphs are gems and 5 stars. If you have yet to read a book by Packer, I'd recommen This book is a collection of essays, not really a unified whole. It is essentially an argument and motivator to read the puritans. Packer gives the reader quality doses of the puritans. Written over various periods of time but published in 1991 the book predates the rekindled interest within conservative protestantism in the USA. Those willing to read this book probably do not need it! Some of the chapters and paragraphs are gems and 5 stars. If you have yet to read a book by Packer, I'd recommend "Knowing God." ============== QUOTES: Justification by works is the natural religion of mankind, and has been since the Fall. (151) ============= CHAPTER SIX The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the scripture itself; and, therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. (The Confession of Faith of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, 1646, Chapter 1, IX) 1. What is obscure must be interpreted by the light of what is plain. 2. Peripheral ambiguities must be interpreted in harmony with fundamental certainties. ============== 1. Interpret Scripture literally and grammatically. 2. Interpret Scripture consistently and harmonistically. 3. Interpret Scripture doctrinally and theocentrically. 4. Interpret Scripture christologically and evangelically. 5. Interpret Scripture experimentally and practically. 6. Interpret Scripture with a faithful and realistic application. A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them . .the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. (Owen, "The True Nature of a Gospel Church and its Government" cited on p. 76) It were better for him to break his neck going up into the pulpit, if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God. (Calvin, ) ======== Men’s Group Questions INTRODUCTION  0. What was your perspective of the Puritans prior to beginning this book? 1. When was the Puritan era? Who are some of the Puritan leaders that have most influenced Packer? What is your familiarity with Packer? With the Puritans? 2. Packer describes contemporary Brits and Americans as “dwarfs & deadheads.” Why? Do you agree? How does Packer describe the Puritans and why?  3. What was Packer’s crisis and how did John Owen help him? Can you personally relate to Packer’s spiritual crisis? 4. Of the 7 ways that the Puritans have shaped Packer, which do you most long for or identify with? Why? CHAPTER 2 1. What one word describes what the Puritans can give us? (22) What has the Lord used during your greatest periods of spiritual growth to make the growth possible? 2. For the Puritans there was no "disjunction between sacred and secular." (23) When have you most noticed this disjunction in your life? What helps a believer to live all of life for the glory of God? (I Cor. 10:31) 3. What does it mean to be "law-oriented without lapsing into legalism?" (24) Cite a NT law. How is that NT law obeyed without legalism? 4. [This book was published in 1990.] Packer's assessment of Christianity in the West is not high: "Passionless, passive, and, one fears, prayerless." How would you describe Christianity in the Foothills in 2018-19? 5. How does Packer describe the Puritan understanding of marriage? (25) How does it differ from the contemporary view of Christians today? Or, does it? 6. How would you describe the meaning behind the phrase "reduce to practice" to one not familiar with the Puritans? (29) CHAPTER 8 (page #s are based on the chapter in Banner of Truth's "The Death of Death." 1. What is the doctrine of "universal redemption" or "general ransom"? Do you agree with Owen & Packer-- that it is "unscriptural and destructive of the gospel." (1) 1.5 Respond to this assertion in Packer's "Analysis:" The view that Christ’s death was a “general ransom” for all implies either that the Father and the Son have failed in their saving purpose, or that all will be saved, or that the purpose of Christ’s death was not to save any particular person absolutely. 2. What does Packer mean by the "biblical gospel?" Do those who embrace universal redemption abandon the biblical gospel, e.g., Richard Baxter or Charles Swindoll? Why or why not? 3. How would you describe, according to Scripture, what was accomplished by the death of Christ? If you do not affirm particular redemption are you left with the option of the death of Christ being an "ineffectual wish" to save? (10) 4. Does your salvation depend, ultimately, on your decision to believe (cf. Jn 6:47) or on the sovereign regenerating miracle of grace (Jn. 6:44)? 5. Spurgeon's thesis is that those who adhere to "universal redemption" or "general ransom" are the ones who limit the atonement? How do you respond to Spurgeon? (Footnote on p. 14)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Packer packs his sentences. Hard to follow, if you’re not reading slowly, but so rewarding.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allen

    Updated review 11/18/2018: The second time through the book I understood the contents and their purpose much better than when I originally read it over ten years ago. This encouraging and instructive overview of the English Puritans of the 16th and 17th centuries highlights how they belonged to the heritage of the early Reformers and to those who have come after them who love Jesus Christ and the gospel of his saving and transforming grace. My favorite description of the Puritans comes at the be Updated review 11/18/2018: The second time through the book I understood the contents and their purpose much better than when I originally read it over ten years ago. This encouraging and instructive overview of the English Puritans of the 16th and 17th centuries highlights how they belonged to the heritage of the early Reformers and to those who have come after them who love Jesus Christ and the gospel of his saving and transforming grace. My favorite description of the Puritans comes at the beginning of the book - while the Reformers were eminent theologians, the Puritans were eminent pastors. The introduction or first article describes the devotion and love that drove them to go into rural England where solid leadership was scarce (due to counter-Reformation purges) and ignorance dominated the churches. Puritan pastors labored intensively to instruct and encourage their flock in the truth. Again, the book highlights different aspects of how the Puritans thought about and lived out the Christian life, showing a continuity of faith and practice from the Protestant reformers that has continued to this day in faithful, gospel believing churches. Packer does regularly comment on the state of the American church (of the late 90's) as being very different from the character of that of the English Puritans. I think his concerns were relevant for most of American Protestantism at the time, however, Christ is faithfully preserving his true church through all ages. When the Bible is faithfully preached and the Holy Spirit works on the conscience, the character Packer extols in the Puritans works itself out in the lives of Christians today. Original review from 2007: Packer clearly describes the Puritans and their holistic approach to God. He discusses in detail how the Puritans built their lives around the LORD. The portrait he paints is very different from the stigmatized version of Puritanism that is popular today. I would say his main point is that the Puritans were more mature Christians than most of today's Christians and that we have much to learn from them.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book. The first few chapters are evidently taken wholesale from various magazines and papers with the result that some of it is repetitive, sometimes almost word for word. I was surprised that it was not edited to flow better. Having said that, I thought it was a great introduction to the Puritans. Packer obviously loves the Puritans and tries his best to make you love them too. I was already appreciative of them so I was not a hard sell, but my appre I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book. The first few chapters are evidently taken wholesale from various magazines and papers with the result that some of it is repetitive, sometimes almost word for word. I was surprised that it was not edited to flow better. Having said that, I thought it was a great introduction to the Puritans. Packer obviously loves the Puritans and tries his best to make you love them too. I was already appreciative of them so I was not a hard sell, but my appreciation was certainly deepened. It made me desire a deeper spirituality and a closer walk with God. There is so much we can learn from all areas of Christian history, but it does seem like the Puritans have an abundance of riches to offer us. Sometimes I was afraid that Packer verged on looking up to them too much, but I can certainly see why he is tempted to do so. A few favorite quotes: "In modern spiritual autobiography, the hero and chief actor is usually the writer himself; he is the center of interest, and God comes in only as a part of his story.… But in Puritan autobiography, God is at the center throughout.… The pervasive God-centeredness of Puritan accounts of spiritual experience is a proof of their authenticity, and the source of their power to present God to the modern reader." "The ministry of the word was thus a cooperative activity, in which the laity were to labor to learn just as hard as the minister labored to teach." Page 285 Talking about our misconceptions of revival he writes of the "romantic fallacy", saying, "We fall into this when we let ourselves imagine that revival, once it came, would function as a last chapter in a detective story functions-solving all our problems, clearing up all the difficulties that have arisen in the church, and leaving us in a state of idyllic peace and contentment, with no troubles to perplex us anymore." Page 317

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nile

    This book was absolutely fabulous. If you intend to read the writings of the Puritans themselves, this book is an excellent introduction and provides context. Even if you never intend to read the Puritan authors, this book will give you a good understanding of the gold that they offer. Word of warning for those, you will probably want to read them after finishing this book. J. I. Packer has done a wonderful job collecting quotations and speaking to the general Puritan consensus on a number of top This book was absolutely fabulous. If you intend to read the writings of the Puritans themselves, this book is an excellent introduction and provides context. Even if you never intend to read the Puritan authors, this book will give you a good understanding of the gold that they offer. Word of warning for those, you will probably want to read them after finishing this book. J. I. Packer has done a wonderful job collecting quotations and speaking to the general Puritan consensus on a number of topics. He gives the historical context, tells where the different authors differed in opinion with direct quotations, and summarizes the general opinion. This book is long and it is dense, but extremely valuable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Colin Baynes

    Not bad. It was once a Christian Booksellers Convention Book of the Year though, so I expected something more. Solid and inspiring in parts, it was too dry and theological in others. Packer would have done better to allow his subjects the Puritans to speak even more than they did; or to have spoken more fully but more lucidly himself. I felt it was more a book for a serious pastor/preacher. Perhaps its greatest effect on me was to encourage the discovery of some of the more readable authors - Ric Not bad. It was once a Christian Booksellers Convention Book of the Year though, so I expected something more. Solid and inspiring in parts, it was too dry and theological in others. Packer would have done better to allow his subjects the Puritans to speak even more than they did; or to have spoken more fully but more lucidly himself. I felt it was more a book for a serious pastor/preacher. Perhaps its greatest effect on me was to encourage the discovery of some of the more readable authors - Richard Baxter in particular. If he is truly as inspiring as he seems, Packer will have done me a great service.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Zink

    It is an in-depth study of the Puritans as well as about searching for godliness. The Puritans were godly, practical people. The Table of contents include the Puritans and the Holy Spirit, the Puritan Christian life, and the Puritans in ministry. Part of the book, his remarks on limited atonement, which the Puritans believed in, upset me so much that I laid the book aside for a long time. Under The Puritans and the Holy Spirit, Packer deals with the witness of the Spirit and spiritual gifts. Und It is an in-depth study of the Puritans as well as about searching for godliness. The Puritans were godly, practical people. The Table of contents include the Puritans and the Holy Spirit, the Puritan Christian life, and the Puritans in ministry. Part of the book, his remarks on limited atonement, which the Puritans believed in, upset me so much that I laid the book aside for a long time. Under The Puritans and the Holy Spirit, Packer deals with the witness of the Spirit and spiritual gifts. Under the Puritan Christian life, he deals with the Lord's Day, the Puritan approach to worship, and marriage and family. He has a whole chapter on Jonathan Edwards and revival.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jake Litwin

    Packer’s collection of essays on the Puritans are excellent in giving well informed information on their theology, convictions, and pursuing godliness in their lives. What I really appreciate about this book is majority of what you read are primary sources of Puritan quotes. Packer allows the Puritans to speak for themselves on each chapter that addresses each topic. John Owen and Richard Baxter are the most often quoted Puritans with a couple chapters dedicated to John Owen’s thinking. I recomm Packer’s collection of essays on the Puritans are excellent in giving well informed information on their theology, convictions, and pursuing godliness in their lives. What I really appreciate about this book is majority of what you read are primary sources of Puritan quotes. Packer allows the Puritans to speak for themselves on each chapter that addresses each topic. John Owen and Richard Baxter are the most often quoted Puritans with a couple chapters dedicated to John Owen’s thinking. I recommend this book to anyone interested in studying Puritan theology and their way of thinking.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rex Blackburn

    The subtitile nails it. This book gives us 'The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life,' and Packer seeks to set it beside 'The Modern, Western Vision of the Christian Life' and point out the many contrasts. As Packer says, the Puritans are 'great redwoods' in their stature, while we are 'zany pigmies' next to them. I'm hopeful as I dive into the Puritans that this book has given me a lens through which to view them! Read this book! The subtitile nails it. This book gives us 'The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life,' and Packer seeks to set it beside 'The Modern, Western Vision of the Christian Life' and point out the many contrasts. As Packer says, the Puritans are 'great redwoods' in their stature, while we are 'zany pigmies' next to them. I'm hopeful as I dive into the Puritans that this book has given me a lens through which to view them! Read this book!

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