The patterns of Puritan piety

The following quote is from a sermon by John Eliot and recorded by Cotton Mather. It gives a good feel for the patterns of Puritan piety.

 

Behold, the ancient and excellent character of a true Christian; ’tis that which Peter calls ‘holiness in all manner of conversation’ [1 Peter 1:15]; you shall not find a Christian out of the way of godly conversation.

For, first, a seventh part of our time is all spent in heaven, when we are duly zealous for, and zealous on the Sabbath of God. Besides, God has written on the head of the Sabbath, REMEMBER, which looks both forwards and backwards, and thus a good part of the week will be spent in sabbatizing.

Well, but for the rest of our time! Why, we shall have that spent in heaven, ere we have done. For, secondly, we have many days for both fasting and thanksgiving in our pilgrimage; and here are so many Sabbaths more. Moreover, thirdly, we have our lectures every week; and pious people won’t miss them, if they can help it.

Furthermore, fourthly, we have our private meetings, wherein we pray and sing, and repeat sermons, and confer together about the things of God; and being now come thus far, we are in heaven almost every day.

But a little farther, fifthly, we perform family-duties every day; we have our morning and evening sacrifices, wherein having read the Scriptures to our families, we call upon the Name of God, and ever now and then carefully catechise those that are under our charge.

Sixthly, we shall also have our daily devotions in our closets; wherein unto supplication before the Lord, we shall add some serious meditation upon his word: a David will be at this work no less than thrice a day. Seventhly, we have likewise many scores of ejaculations in a day; and these we have, like Nehemiah, in whatever place we come into.

Eighthly we have our occasional thoughts and our occasional talks upon spiritual matters; and we have our occasional acts of charity, wherein we do like the inhabitants of heaven every day. Ninthly, in our callings, in our civil callings, we keep up heavenly frames; we buy and sell, and toil; yea, we eat and drink, with some eye both to the command and honour of God in all.

Behold, I have not now left an inch of time to be carnal; it is all engrossed for heaven. And yet, lest here should not be enough, lastly, we have our spiritual warfare. We are always encountering the enemies of our souls, which continually raises our hearts unto our

Behold, I have not now left an inch of time to be carnal; it is all engrossed for heaven. And yet, lest here should not be enough, lastly, we have our spiritual warfare. We are always encountering the enemies of our souls, which continually raises our hearts unto our Helper and Leader in the heavens.

Let no man say, ‘Tis impossible to live at this rate’; for we have known some live thus; and others that have written of such a life have but spun a web out of their own blessed experiences. New-England has examples of this life: though, alas! ’tis to be lamented that the distractions of the world, in too many professors, do becloud the beauty of an heavenly conversation.

In fine, our employment lies in heaven. In the morning, if we ask, ‘Where am I to be to day?’ our souls must answer, ‘In heaven.’ In the evening, if we ask, ‘Where have I been to-day?’ our souls may answer, ‘In heaven.’ If thou art a believer, thou art no stranger to heaven while thou livest; and when thou diest, heaven will be no strange place to thee; no, thou hast been there a thousand times before.

 

From Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety: Puritan Devotional Principles in Puritan New England, University of North Carolina Press. The Practice of Piety is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.


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