"I believe in the providence of God some ages have special messages for other ages, and that as the New Testament era provides a model for the life of all churches and Christians everywhere, so the Puritan era has particular lessons to teach the Western Christian world at the end of the twentieth century." So says J. I. Packer in his conclusion to this book and so say I as well.
There are those who wish to caricaturize the Puritans as hard-nosed, pleasure-hating, legalistic, superstitious, egotistical and uneducated religious fanatics, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact they were just the opposite. They were supremely concerned to live a solidly and consistently Biblical life, which involved first of all, love for God and then love for ones neighbor and ones self. To embody this kind of love, (which I confess they did not do perfectly as we do not) demands that they were not hard-nosed at all but sought to understand others in an attempt to demonstrate before their eyes the fruits of a Godly life and thereby impress upon their hearts and minds an attraction to the Lord Jesus Christ. This they did out of a sincere desire for the conversion and well being of their eternal souls. Neither were they pleasure-haters, but rather, they recognized that to deny the pleasures of life as given to humanity by their great and benevolent Creator would be an affront to His graciousness, though they remained very careful to enjoy these pleasures to the glory of God, within His guidelines, so as not to abuse them. They were not legalistic but they did believe that obedience to the moral law was well pleasing to God and endeavored keep it to that end. Though there were some superstitions that existed among them, they were not peculiar to them but were superstitions that were held by virtually everybody in the sixteenth century. They were not egotistical, believing that their way was the only right way, but rather, they were subordinate, believing that Gods way was the only right way and that He had revealed it to us in the Holy Scriptures. They were certainly not uneducated for they were the most eminent scholars of their day. And to the charge of religious fanaticism one can only say that this is a highly subjective opinion. They were careful to live their lives to the glory of God in every arena, be it churchmanship, community service or statesmanship; financial, familial or sexual; occupational, recreational or philanthropical. If this be viewed as fanaticism, then so be it; but for my part, I view it as consistent and praiseworthy faithfulness to the God who is so consistent, praiseworthy and faithful to us. The strength of this book cannot be overstated and neither can the benefits of taking its message to heart. I know, for my own part that what I have read here will be of value throughout the rest of my ministry and throughout the rest of my Christian life. I would also venture to say that the benefits would be of the same value to all Christians if they would take the time to think these issues through. The truth of this thesis and the realization of his purpose has, for this reviewer, prevailed quite marvelously. J. I. Packer has done an excellent job once again and has given the church another invaluable resource from which to draw.