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The Puritans enjoyed a great number of forceful preachers and teachers. The learned Dr. William Ames explained "the doctrine of living of God" in The Marrow of Theology, a book used as a text during the first fifty years of Harvard College. The sermons and tracts of William Perkins outlined with sympathy the steps that a repentant sinner should take to find God.
John Preston preached the severity of God's law and the wideness of his mercy fearlessly in the courts of James I and Charles I. John Owen, adviser to Cromwell and vice - chancellor of the University of Oxford, wrote theological treatises on the atonement and on the Holy Spirit which still influence Calvinistic thought in the English - speaking world.
His contemporary, Richard Baxter, published nearly two hundred works expounding the virtues of theological moderation and the truths of what C S Lewis in the twentieth century would call "mere Christianity." In America, Boston's John Cotton labored to present God's glory in conversion, and Hartford's Thomas Hooker glorified God in the labors of the converted.
The Westminster Confession and Catechisms which Puritan divines wrote at the request of Parliament (1643 - 47) remain a guide to Reformed theology, especially in Presbyterian circles, to this day. Together, the works of the Puritans comprise Protestantism's most extensive library of sacred and practical theology.
Important as the contributions of ministers were, the greatest contribution of Puritans to Christian history probably resided with its laymen. The English - speaking world has never seen such a cluster of thoroughly Christian political leaders as the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, the governor of Massachusetts John Winthrop, or the governor of Plymouth William Bradford. These leaders erred, perhaps often, but they yet devoted their lives to public service, self - consciously and whole - heartedly, out of deepest gratitude to the God of their salvation.
We also glimpse the genius of Puritanism when we look beyond its politicians to its writers. It is all too easy to forget that John Milton, who in Paradise Lost dared "assert Eternal Providence / And justify the ways of God to men," had earlier defended the execution of Charles I and served as Cromwell's Latin (or corresponding) secretary.
John Bunyan served in Cromwell's army and preached as a layman during the Commonwealth before he was jailed in Bedford for his Puritan beliefs, where he redeemed the time by writing The Pilgrim's Progress.
In America, Puritanism produced a woman poet of note in Anne Bradstreet (1616 - 72). It also gave us the poems of Edward Taylor (1645 - 1729), a retiring country minister. Taylor's meditations, composed to prepare his own heart for quarterly celebrations of the Lord's Supper, are among the finest poems ever written by an American.
"Use thy duties, as Noah's dove did her wings, to carry thee to the ark of the Lord Jesus Christ, where only there is rest."
"The Christian's life should put his minister's sermon in print."
"Screw the truth into men's minds."
"A hot iron, though blunt, will pierce sooner than a cold one, though sharper."
"A river continually fed by a living fountain may as soon end its streams before it come to the ocean, as a stop be put to the course and progress of grace before it issue in glory."
"It is not the glorious battlements, the painted windows, the crouching gargoyles that support a building, but the stones that lie unseen in or upon the earth. It is often those who are despised and trampled on that bear up the weight of a whole nation."
"He who prays as he ought will endeavour to live as he prays."
"A man may be theologically knowing and spiritually ignorant."
"Neither place, parts, nay, nor graces, will exempt any man from falling. O believers, what need is there to be watchful and humble!"
"Christ is the most cheap physician, he takes no fee. He desires us to bring nothing to him but broken hearts; and when he has cured us he desires us to bestow nothing on him but our love."
"Christ heals with more ease than any other. Christ makes the devil go out with a word (Mark 9:25). Nay, he can cure with a look: Christ's look melted Peter into repentance; it was a healing look. If Christ doth but cast a look upon the soul he can recover it. Therefore David prays to have a look from God, 'Look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me' (Psalm 119:132)."
"No heart can conceive that treasury of mercies which lies in this one privilege, in having liberty and ability to approach unto God at all times, according to his mind and will."
"If we would talk less and pray more about them, things would be be better than they are in the world; at least, we should be better enabled to bear them."
"Faith, without trouble or fighting, is a suspicious faith; for true faith is a fighting, wrestling faith."
"The law breaks the hard heart, but the gospel melts it. A stone duly broken, may be still a hard stone; but the gospel melts."