In this series, we will look at the Puritan influence on the early leaders of the eighteenth century Evangelical Revival in England and Wales.
Who were the Puritans?
What is a Puritan? Why are we talking about Puritans and the Revival? Both movements have impacted our own country and churches. There are many significant lessons to be gleaned from both of these movements. The fuel for the Great Awakening and the English Revival came out of the heart of Puritan doctrines.
You would expect to hear sermons on the nature of revival if you went to a conference on revival. But if you look back on sermons preached during these revivals, very few were preached on the nature of revival. Rather, the sermons were primarily on the redemption, the work, and the person of Christ.
In case you haven't noticed, this is a topic close to John Snyder’s heart and what he wrote his dissertation on.
Don't fall into the trap of hagiography or "holy writing." It’s easy to think of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield and lump them into a kind of “super saint” category. But in reality, they were simply ordinary men used by God. Like us, they also sinned and struggled.
What was happening before these revivals?
Things were dark leading up to these revivals. But God was at work even in the midst of this darkness. In 1558, Elizabeth I took the throne. With the “Elizabethan Compromise,” the queen sought to unite the church. This Compromise meant that the church would hold Protestant doctrine, but would be externally Catholic. The Puritans, who were second-generation Reformers, were rightfully hesitant about this Compromise.
By 1662, the Puritans fell out of favor. Charles II passed the Act of Uniformity, requiring those in positions of spiritual leadership to agree to a uniform view of the English church. The Puritans couldn’t agree to this and many were kicked out of their own churches. This was called the Great Ejection.
In 1689, William of Orange became king. He welcomed the Puritans back into their churches, not as Church of England, but as their own churches. They became known as “Dissenters” or “Non-conformists.”
How can we define the Puritans?
It’s hard to define what a Puritan is. King James said, “A Puritan is a Protestant strayed out of his wits.” William Perkins wrote, “A Puritan is one that endeavors to get and keep the purity of heart in good conscience.” The term “Puritan” was an insult, but the label stuck.
The Puritans strictly adhered to the authority of Scripture. The Puritans were the first great experts on the experience of conversion. Theirs was a movement that focused on true piety or holiness.
They also gave great weight to precise morality. This is an external alignment with objective, Biblical truths. The Puritans had an experiential Biblical theology that bound both the head and the heart. They preached good truths applied aggressively.
Why are we looking at the Puritans and revivals? Ultimately, all of it brings us back to the beauty and power of the timeless Word of God.