The life and times of Arthur Hildersham — prince among Puritans
Lesley A. Rowe
Reformation Heritage, 212 pages
Star Rating : 3
This is about a much neglected Puritan and the author has done an excellent job in bringing his life and labours to our attention.
In her introduction Rowe gives the reasons why such a prominent Puritan of his day should have become largely unknown today. Among these is the lack of a good biography of his life, excepting a 13-page account by Samuel Clark.
There is little published sermon material, due to the strictures placed on his preaching for long periods. Also the nature of the material, while biblically profound, could be somewhat plodding. Even Spurgeon remarked on his ‘copious and discursive’ style.
That said, his sermons were popular and admired by many prominent Puritan contemporaries. However, it is his life and example rather than his preaching that is the real treasure in this book.
The author writes with a passion for her subject, in a crisp, easy to follow style. Here we get a real insight into the life of a Puritan pastor, as well as the times he lived in.
He was a remarkable man, having royal connections and yet enduring persecution and imposed silence for periods of his life. He rubbed shoulders with the likes of Greenham, Cartwright, Preston, Dod, Cotton, Gouge and Bradshaw, some of the most significant names in Puritan history.
He was well known and highly respected and took a leading part in the Millenary Petition, presented to King James I in 1603. Rowe describes his influence in the town as being that of true salt and light. He became involved in education, local politics and commerce.
To be honest, I struggled to get into the story in the early chapters and it was not until I got to the period of Hildersham’s enforced silence that the book opened up. Here was a preacher who denied his calling, but was not beaten.
I would recommend this book with just one proviso — that the reader is prepared to persevere to the end. Its greatest value, apart from the obvious insight into Puritan life and history, is to show us the humble heart of a great man and how he impacted his generation.
There are so many good lessons to learn here. Though not everyone’s choice, those who read it will be rewarded. The author has done a great service to the Christian public in reintroducing us to a forgotten hero.