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A Few Puritan Thoughts

After Sunday’s sermon (August 30, 2009) several of you asked about the Puritan prayers and the Puritan quotes.

The prayer book I referred to is called ‘The Valley of Vision.’ It was edited by Arthur Bennett, who wrote the introductory prayer. The rest of the prayers are by Puritans such as Thomas Sheppard, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, William Williams, Philip Doddridge, William Romaine, David Brainerd, Augustus Toplady, Christmas Evans, William Jay, Henry Law and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Each prayer is about two small pages long, taking maybe two minutes to read, though much longer if you actually pray each phrase.

As I said in the sermon, the prayers are full of Scriptural phrases and tend to focus on the character and deeds of God. However, you will also find that the Puritans had an almost lost ability to look within and see both what displeased their Father and what pleased him. It’s worthwhile time.

The other thing I did in the sermon was to quote a number of Puritan authors on the subject of prayer. As I mentioned to a few folks afterward, most of those Puritan quotes came from a paper I wrote in seminary about Puritan spirituality. I know that I have carefully kept that paper over the nearly twenty years since I wrote it, but right at the moment I am unable to find it. When I do I’ll get it scanned in so that it’s in the permanent record. In the meantime, here are most of the quotes I used Sunday, some of them slightly expanded:

There’s secret prayer, that’s excellent; O for the Soul to be with God alone, treating with him in private, about its everlasting concernment, spreading is more special and particular wants, corruptions, temptations, burdens before him, Jacob-like wrestling with him for this and that blessing; surely this is excellent. There’s public prayer, when the Saints go together in a body and offer an holy violence to the Kingdom of heaven, join all their forces and strength together for the obtaining of mercy; this is excellent. Family prayer comes between these: it is private, and yet in part it is public: it is public, and yet in part it is private; this is excellent too. (Thomas Jacombe)

That my sins and uncleanness may be so bathed in Christ’s blood, buried in his death, and hid in his wounds that they may never be more seen to shame me in this life, or to condemn me before thy judgement seat in the world which is to come.
(Lewis Bayly)

Praising God is the work of angels and saints in heaven, and will be our own everlasting work; and if we were more in it now, we would be more like what we shall be then. (Richard Baxter)

Meditation is the serious exercise of the Understanding whereby our thoughts are fixed on the Observation of Spiritual things in order to practice them. (William Bates)

Meditation is a serious intention of the mind whereby we come to search out the truth and settle it effectually upon the heart. (Thomas Hooker)

Search the Scriptures; this is both the Rule and Matter of Prayer: if you be mighty in the Scriptures, you will be mighty and pithy in Prayer: God loves to be spoken to in his own language: study Scripture-Precepts and turn them into Prayers. Study Scripture-Promises and turn them into pleas, and study Scripture-Patterns for imitations. . . (Oliver Heywood)

The life of our life consists in our communion with God, which we maintain not only by the set performances of Prayer, Morning and Evening, . . . But we maintain this communion more especially by a daily, and hourly, and frequent, and constant lifting up of our hearts to God in these sighs and groans, and so follow him, as that we will not let him go from us, or be one moment out of our sights.
(Thomas Horton)