This is an update of a book originally written in 1960, describing the great 17th century struggle for religious freedom. The author highlights the conflict as seen through the lives of four eminent Puritans – Alexander Henderson, Samuel Rutherford, John Bunyan and Richard Baxter.
After a brief introduction, there follows a biographical sketch of each man identifying the role he played in the struggle. The biographies vary in quality. I felt the first on Alexander Henderson was sketchy and overly laden with the politics. The second on Rutherford drew a more balanced picture of an astute scholar yet a man full of devotional warmth.
The third on Bunyan, the most well known, is superbly drawn and would be an ideal short introduction to the man. The final sketch on the life of Baxter was equally concise, although aspects of Baxter’s theological inconsistencies could have been more clearly explained. Each man stands out as a valiant contender for truth and religious freedom, and much can be learned from their examples.
My main criticism of the book is its lack of cohesion. Rather than being almost four separate biographies, it could have been enriched by an editorial introduction, perhaps giving a sketch of the period to help those less acquainted with it. Likewise, a concluding chapter drawing lessons from these great men and making reference to the current situation would have been helpful.
Having said that, this is a timely reminder that our religious freedom is not something we can take for granted. We are all now acutely aware that, even in our generation, freedoms we never dreamt would be challenged are under threat from the powers that be.
Christians today cannot have enough good reading material on our past heritage. This is a book worth purchasing and thoroughly digesting.