HOW DO YOU REACT when you hear the word, “Puritan?” Do you think of the hypocritical pastor Dimmesdale in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, or do you think of the uptight, rigid, legalists in Arthur Miller’s prominent play, The Crucible? Both are influential works of American fiction, read by most High School students. Both were caricatures that painted 17th century New England Puritans in a negative light. In fact, it is only through the window of these works that most Americans know anything about  the Puritans.

In light of these facts J.I. Packer has done us an immense favor. His book, A Quest For Godliness, The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life paints a more accurate view of both Puritans and Puritanism. For the 17th century Puritans, in both New England, and the British Isles from which they originated, were vibrant, fun loving, joyful, beer drinking, and most passionate Believers. They worked had and they played hard. They loved the gospel. They dressed in bright colors, and their view of marriage, sexuality, and parenting were both wholesome and fulfilling.

Packer opens by noting that the theology and holiness of the Puritans elevated them above most Christians. In fact, they were the Red Wood Trees of Christian history. This was because their era, 17th century England, was the petri dish in which the ideas of the Reformation germinated, multiplied, and bore great fruit. The theological ideas of the reformers found maturation in the Puritans.

Puritanism was a movement of revival in the church England. From England it migrated to New England. It emphasized gospel centrality, preaching, dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit, a Reformed understanding of the Bible, family life, male servant leadership, revival, and host of foundational issues that we would consider central today.

Packer writes with clarity and simplicity dividing A Quest for Godliness  into sections on subjects like…

  • Why we need the Puritans today
  • The Puritans and the Bible
  • The Puritans and the Gospel
  • The Puritans and the Christian Life
  • The Puritans and Ministry

A Quest For Godliness is one of Packer’s most popular books. If you have any interest in church history, the Reformation, or the work of the Holy Spirit in revival, this is a good place to start.