I think a healthy habit for Christians in the 21st century is to read the wisdom of the Puritans in the 16th-18th centuries. Men like John Owen, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Baxter, Richard Sibbes, John Foxe, John Bunyan, and many others have found their way onto my bookshelf; but more importantly, their biblical wisdom and insight has permeated my soul. I want to be a puritan of the 21st century, and one reason why I think it so important for modern Christianity to be immersed in the rich theological and pietistical culture of the Puritans is that we have lost the art at proper self-evaluation. We tend to stare at our belly-buttons in an ecclesiastical, introspective stupor. The Puritans, as I like to say, kept a “finger on the pulse of their soul” not by self-evaluation as we understand it, but by evaluating self in light of God’s Word and truth. This is a great cure for lack of fervency, passion and love to God in the believer’s life. Like Henry Law stated, “stare at the Gospel-page until thy soul’s feature’s melt into Christ’s likeness.”
I stumbled across this gem from Puritan Thomas Brooks. This is just an excerpt from his fantastic piece “Christ’s Love for Us.” I truly hope you enjoy and are spurred onward in godliness, love and good works!
See that you love the Lord Jesus Christ with a superlative love, with an overtopping love. There are none have suffered so much for you as Christ; there are none that can suffer so much for you as Christ. The least measure of that wrath that Christ has sustained for you, would have broke the hearts, necks, and backs of all created beings.
O my friends! There is no love but a superlative love that is any ways suitable to the transcendent sufferings of dear Jesus. Oh, love him above your lusts, love him above your relations, love him above the world, love him above all your outward contentments and enjoyments; yes, love him above your very lives; for thus the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, saints, primitive Christians, and the martyrs of old, have loved our Lord Jesus Christ with an overtopping love: Rev. xii. 11, ‘They loved not their lives unto the death;’ that is, they slighted, contemned, yes, despised their lives, exposing them to hazard and loss, out of love to the Lamb, ‘who had washed them in his blood.’ I have read of one Kilian, a Dutch schoolmaster, who being asked whether he did not love his wife and children, answered, Were all the world a lump of gold, and in my hands to dispose of, I would leave it at my enemies feet to live with them in a prison; but my soul and my Savior are dearer to me than all. If my father, says Jerome, should stand before me, and my mother hang upon, and my brethren should press about me, I would break through my brethren, throw down my father, and tread underfoot my mother, to cleave to Jesus Christ.
Had I ten heads, said Henry Voes, they should all be cut off for Christ. If every hair of my head, said John Ardley, martyr, were a man, they should all suffer for the faith of Christ. Let fire, racks, pulleys, said Ignatius, and all the torments of hell come upon me, so I may win Christ. Love made Jerome to say, O my Savior, did you die for love of me?-a love sadder than death; but to me a death more lovely than love itself. I cannot live, love you, and be longer from you. George Carpenter, being asked whether he did not love his wife and children, which stood weeping before him, answered, My wife and children!- my wife and children! are dearer to me than all Bavaria; yet, for the love of Christ, I know them not. That blessed virgin in Basil being condemned for Christianity to the fire, and having her estate and life offered her if she would worship idols, cried out, ‘Let money perish, and life vanish, Christ is better than all.‘ Sufferings for Christ are the saints’ greatest glory; they are those things wherein they have most gloried. Your cruelty is our glory, says Tertullian. It is reported of Babylas, that when he was to die for Christ, he desired this favor, that his chains might be buried with him, as the ensigns of his honor. Thus you see with what a superlative love, with what an overtopping love, former saints have loved our Lord Jesus; and can you, Christians, who are cold and low in your love to Christ, read over these instances, and not blush?