How did the Reformers and Puritans view Christian piety?

Posted By on October 18, 2019


Sometimes the Puritans are sort of seen as
overly zealous in their piety. You know, we have this understanding that
there is always introspection, this is the word that is sometimes associated with the
Puritans. We have these really urban legends of the
Puritans, with four-hour sermons, and why can’t you sit there for thirty minutes, or
the Puritans would pray for hours on end, and I can’t even pray for five minutes in
the morning. So what did J.I. Packer call them, the redwoods
of the forest, right. So, we have this image of the Puritans as
almost super Christians. And so one of things I think we’ve got to
be aware of is how, understanding how they understood piety, because I think it can help
us not see them as some example we’re unable to follow, but actually see them as helpful
to us. And so, I’ll come back to Edwards. Edwards was a very pious person, but he also
recognized that he could worship God as he went on horseback rides through the Connecticut
River Valley. And I got to tell you this, the 1700s, the
Connecticut River Valley was, I mean, today it’s one of the most beautiful places. In Edward’s day, the pristine nature of the
Connecticut River Valley, it had to be beautiful. And so, there was an earthliness to Edwards’
piety and there was an earthliness to the Puritans’ piety, and we miss that sometimes. And the other thing we want to say is, this
isn’t a development from Calvin; this is Calvin. So Calvin’s piety, and here too we think of
Calvin as this rational figure. You know, all you got to do is read the Institutes. I mean, there are portions, there are portions
in the Institutes that are just so, what we would put in books today on the Christian
life. One of my favorite portions in the Institutes
is the sections on prayer towards the end of Book Four. Calvin has this beautiful discussion. He says, it’s like, you know, imagine you’ve
got a treasure chest in your yard and you never bother to dig it up, you just leave
it there. You know it’s there, you don’t even bother
to get a shovel and dig it up. He says that’s what prayer is like. And, you know, as you neglect prayer, it’s
like leaving the treasure unearthed right at your feet. Why did you do that? Alright, this is in the Institutes of the
Christian Religion, right? So let’s think through that, the Reformers
and piety and then the Puritans and piety. But what can we learn. I think we need to recognize that piety is
ultimately godly living. That’s all it is. It’s a, it’s recognizing that the call to
being a Christian is a holistic call. It’s a holistic call to all walks of our life
and to all areas of our life. And there’s no area of our life that is outside
the view of worshiping God. And it’s either going to be done to advance
our self-interests, or to advance our own well-being, or it’s going to be done to advance
God and done in worship of Him. And the Puritans grasped that. It wasn’t that, “Okay I’m going to have all,
I’m going to spend four hours in prayer, I’m going to spend four hours in Bible study,
I’m going neglect life.” It was, “Yeah, I’m going to pray and study
my Bible, I’m going to dig into this Bible like anything. But in all of life, I’m going to worship God.” And they had a capacious view of what serving
God meant. And sometimes, I think we just, we bifurcate
these things. We say, “Well, here this is spirituality,
that’s the church stuff, and then there’s my job, and then there’s, you know, my family,
and then there are my hobbies, and I don’t know how they fit. So, they don’t.” The Puritans would not get that. And so, I think they help us. Let’s have that capacious view. Let’s recognize what worshiping God and serving
God in all of life really means. BINGHAM: Not just Sunday, Monday to Saturday. NICHOLS: That’s right, absolutely.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 3 comments

  1. The vast majority of Christians don't pray anywhere near as much as they ought, myself included. Let's change that.
    "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving"

    Reply
  2. I love this interview/AskLigonier and I love the idea raised here with this guy it is really blessing and full of life wisdom from the word of God and the life of Christian fathers. Grace be with you beloved brothers!

    Reply

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