C. S. Lewis once wrote, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” The editors (Kelly M. Kapic and Randall C. Gleason) of The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics have put together a masterful introduction to some of the most important literature ever penned in the English language…all of it very old! It is not so much an introduction to the lives of the Puritans as it is an introduction to some of their key writings. However, readers will be delighted to know that the first chapter goes a long way to answer the question: “Who were the Puritans?” (pp.15-37) and the last chapter on “Puritan and Spiritual Renewal” (pp.298-309) is worth the price of the book. The Puritans were chiefly responsible for shaping social and religious thought in the post-Reformation era. They are greatly misunderstood and often falsely caricatured. This introduction will be a great encouragement to the believer who wants to go beyond the typical fluff of modern writing and dig in to Christian literature that lives and breathes. The editors will take the reader on a grand tour of Western Canon heavy-weights like Pilgrim’s Progress and Paradise Lost, setting them in both their proper literary and theological contexts. Of special interest to ministers will be the chapters on The Arte of Prophesying (William Perkins), The Reformed Pastor (Richard Baxter), and A Method of Prayer (Matthew Henry) among others. Biblical counselors will glean insight as well as appreciate the chapter on Richard Sibbes’ excellent treatise The Bruised Reed. In addition to the aforementioned chapters on Bunyan and Milton, students of English literature will profit from Mark Noll’s examination of “The Poetry of Anne Bradstreet (1612-1272) and Edward Taylor (1642-1729)”. The Devoted Life deserves a prominent place in the growing literature on Puritan lives and writings. The editors have furthered the discussion of Puritan writings in this readable and engaging edition. One hopes that it will encourage a first-hand reading of the Puritans and renew a present-day application of their humble theology. As an aside, if one is looking for an accessible introduction to the lives of the Puritans, this reviewer would recommend, Leland Ryken’s Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Zondervan, 1986). Though Ryken’s work is deemed less “scholarly” by some it is still a fair and accessible introduction to the puritans.
The Devoted Life: A Review