J. I. Packer
Christian Focus Publications, 192 pages
Star Rating : 4
The body of this book consists of a number of Dr Jim Packer’s essays, previously published as introductions to individual Puritan book titles and here collected together.
The addressed Puritan titles include Henry Scougal’s The life of God in the soul of man, John Bunyan’s The heavenly footman and John Owen’s The mortification of sin.
The book’s central section has seven such ‘portraits’: the above three and also essays on Stephen Charnock, Thomas Boston (three of Boston’s titles covered in the one chapter), John Flavel and Matthew Henry.
Book-ending all this are chapters entitled ‘The devotional direction’, ‘Puritan pastors at work’ and ‘The Puritan pastor’s programme’; and two longer pieces on William Perkins and Richard Baxter. The whole volume makes for a polished, erudite introduction to Puritan writing and spirituality.
Dr Packer is a word craftsman who knows how to make what he says both accessible and interesting. He sees Puritanism as a call to a practical, biblical, Christ-centred holiness that emphasises the believer’s union with Christ in his various states and that union’s implications for submission to a sovereign yet gracious God.
Packer’s approach provides a helpful focus, but the author repeats the one theme of union with Christ so often that, by the end of the book, it threatens to become an over-simplification — the Puritans certainly did not neglect such other aspects of soteriology as justification by faith and redemption through Christ’s blood.
One of the book’s commenders says, ‘Puritan portraits is a treat for anyone with healthy spiritual taste buds’. This reviewer thought the meat course a bit lacking in zest, but enjoyed the hors d’oeuvre and dessert!