I recently read an article on gospelcoalition.com by Joel R. Beeke entitled “Five Reasons the Puritans Were So Joyful.” If you are like me, this article caught my attention because larger culture had characterized the Puritans as stuffy, stick-in-the-mud, and killjoys not as those who experienced great joy. Admittedly, I have read enough biographical literature to realize that culture’s characterization is often misguided as a broad-brush sweep of the Puritan movement. Nevertheless, this was still an intriguing subject matter for an article.
The term Puritan was originally a 16th century term of derision. In English society there were the Roman Catholic “Papists,” and on the other the Puritans who were characterized by many as ones who believed themselves to be pure and therefore holier-than-thou. When one reads the original Puritan material, nothing could be further from the truth. They realized their own sinful frailty as part of humanity
As believers in the truth of scripture, we should not be surprised that a group of people, striving their best to live by scripture, would be joyful people. In fact, they faced challenges in the New World the likes of which we cannot imagine. If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, and that it has the correct answers for all of life and its challenges, we shouldn’t be surprised that those who live by its principles will experience joy. Yes, we will experience grief, but joy should characterize the believer’s life.
The first point of joy for the Puritans that Beeke reveals is Happiness in the Fear of God. Psalm 128 says “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord.” Beeke summarizes the fear of the Lord, as the Puritans understood it, as being “the smiles and frowns of God are of greater value than the smiles and frowns of man.” It is living reverentially, always valuing what God values.
Secondly, Beeke highlights Happiness in Your Work. The God-fearer sees his work as a calling from God to be done with integrity and diligence, all the while trusting God for provisions. They also handled disappointments with tremendous maturity, as they trusted in the sovereignty of God for said provision.
Third, there is joy that comes from Happiness in Your Family. There is joy that comes from a God-fearing spouse. There is joy in the companionship in marriage, and joy in godly counsel.
Fourth is a joy in worship that comes from Happiness through Preaching and the Sabbath. They called the Sabbath the marketplace of the soul. This was a day that they would gather to hear afresh and anew from God. They reflected upon the glory of God in their forgiven sin and were overcome with joy.
Finally, Beeke informs us that the Puritans had a future joy, a joy focused on Happiness Through God’s Covenental Faithfulness. They saw God’s faithfulness to His people ring true with the people of Israel, and they saw it ring true in lives of Christ followers throughout the centuries. With this in mind, they knew that God would sustain them through the difficulties of life.
Let me encourage you to follow the link below, or search the title of the article. You will be enriched with the insightful principles that Beeke brings to bear. May we too walk in the light of the Word and experience the joy of the Lord.