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Before I began publishing the Puritans myself in 1987, I had risen early in the mornings for a devotional time and used that time to type a Puritan book. When that book was completed I thought to myself, “This is really good material. I’ll bet some publisher would be interested in it.”
So I sent it off to two different publishers of Christian material. One did not bother to respond. The other sent me a rejection letter that said, “This material is too God-centered.” That stunned me. I thought that was what Christian books should be, God-centered!
If there’s anything that describes Puritan literature and sermons, it’s that. They are God-centered. We used to go to a yearly convention of Christian booksellers and it was an eye opener. Most of the books were man-centered. Many of them were “how to” books: How to have a better marriage. How to love your partner better. How to raise your kids right. All relevant topics, but all about man and his problems, not about God and His glory.
That’s where the Puritans were strongest. Their obsession was to know God and Christ and how we are to serve them best. This is certainly reflected in the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which was penned by a collection of Puritan pastors and theologians in the 17th century: “What is the chief end of man?”
The answer? “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
If someone wrote that question and answer today it would go something like this: “What is the chief end of man?”
Answer: “The chief end of man is to be happy forever and to never have any problems.”
The Puritans are typically thought of as legalistic, sour, dour, and miserable. Nothing could be further from the truth, unless you define legalism to mean “serious about obeying God.” And that’s what the Puritans strove to do, obey God in all things that He has commanded and live a life that is pleasing to Him. And that’s what you will find as the central theme of a Puritan books.