Rare Puritan Books: Highlights From Our Collections
Though all of the books in the rare books room are special in some way, several early editions of Puritan books warrant extra attention and may be the most useful for research. The dates in brackets besids the titles listed in this research guide are the dates of the copies in our collections, some of which are first editions.
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (1656)
Baxter’s famous instructions for the pastorate has been continually reprinted and used as a manual for training in ministry since its first publication in 1656. It includes reflections on his own experiences as well as practical advice for others.
*this new acquisition is on its way to our library
Richard Baxter, The Saint’s Everlasting Rest (1662)
Baxter wrote his discourse on heaven when suffering from a serious illness. In it, he exposits Hebrews 4:9, shows the excellencies of rest, grapples with questions about assurance of salvation, and instructs readers how to use meditation to stay focused on a hope for heaven. This ninth edition was donated by Dr. James Houston.
Robert Bolton, Some General Directions for a Comfortable Walking with God (1634)
This fourth edition was donated by Dr. James Houston. It is one of the important Puritan casuistries, which were detailed outlines of holy living in all areas of life including resolutions to moral problems.
Thomas Brooks, The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod (1671)
Brooks' Mute Christian was first published in 1658 and soon became very popular. This copy was donated by Dr. James Houston and is signed by three women in the eighteenth century. In it, Brooks aims to address “the great duty and concern of gracious souls to be mute and silent under the greatest afflictions, the saddest providences, and sharpest trials.” This is a common theme in Puritan literature, also seen in Jeremiah Burroughs’s Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (see below) and the Scottish Covenanter Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot.
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1689, 1690, 1693)
Bunyan composed this allegory of the Christian life in prison; it was a best-seller both before and after his death. The story follows Christian, a new convert, from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. This copy includes a twelfth edition of Party One, a third edition of Part Two, and a first edition of “The Third Part,” signed in its preface, J. B. This J. B. was not John Bunyan, though he persuaded many that he was, as ninety editions of the Third Part appeared before the end of the eighteenth century.
Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (1670)
In this Puritan classic, Burroughs defines contentment as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” He describes each part of this definition in detail, explores the art and mystery of contentment, explains how Christ teaches contentment, and contrasts the excellencies of contentment with the sin of complaining. This early edition was donated by Dr. J. I. Packer.
Thomas Goodwin, The Vanity of Thoughts Discovered (1637)
In The Vanity of Thoughts, Goodwin argues that one’s thoughts are often filled with vanities, lists characteristics of vain thoughts, shows the depth of this problem, and suggests remedies for it. This first edition was donated by Dr. James Houston.
John Owen, Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ (1684)
This is a first edition of Owen’s meditation on Christ, which he wrote shortly before his death though it was not published until after his death. It contains a beautiful frontispiece portrait of Owen. In Meditations, Owen lists implications of Christ’s humanity for our relationship with God, explains Christ’s dual natures, and gives instructions on how to behold Christ’s glory by faith in this world, which will be by sight in heaven.
John Preston, The Breastplate of Faith and Love (1630)
This first edition of Preston's Breastplate of Faith and Love has much marginalia, including a signature from one Sarah Baylis in 1720. Preston was best known for his excellent preaching, and these sermons on Romans 1:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, and Galatians 5:6 were very popular.
Richard Sibbes, Bowels Opened, or, A Discovery of the Near and Dear Love, Union, and Communion Betwixt Christ and the Church (1639)
Our collection has two copies of this classic, the first donated by Dr. James Houston and the second (published in 1641) donated by Dr. J. I. Packer. The book consists of Sibbes’s sermons on the Song of Songs 4:16 and 6:13.
George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling (1663)
This early edition was donated by Dr. James Houston. Swinnock explains the believer’s calling in spiritual disciplines, personal lifestyle, relationships at home, work, and death.
Ralph Venning, Milk and Honey (1654)
Venning dedicates this work to his parents and presents a “miscellaneous collation of many Christian experiences, sayings, and sentences” that are quite pithy; there are eight hundred and twenty-eight in total. This second edition was donated by Dr. James Houston.
William Bates, The Harmony of the Divine Attributes (1675)
This book, first published in 1674, was reprinted more than any other book by Bates. John Howe said Bates yearned to study God’s love and mercy, which he deals with extensively in this book.
Thomas Hooker, The Soul’s Effectual Calling to Christ (1637)
This first edition was donated by Dr. James Houston. In these sermons on effectual calling, Hooker explains on the nature of faith and the will.
John Howe, The Living Temple (1675, 1702)
Howe’s largest and most famous book was first published in two parts, and our collections have a first edition of each. Overall, Howe explains what it means for a person to be the temple of God.
John Owen, Pneumatologia (1674)
Owen is not often remembered for his work on the Holy Spirit, but he considered this systematic on the Spirit’s nature and work to be one of his greatest contributions to theology. This is a rare first edition.
*this new acquisition is on its way to our library
William Perkins, A Golden Chain, or The Description of Theology (1597)
Perkins sets forth the order of a person’s salvation according to God’s work (often called the ordo salutis), namely, predestination, calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification. Perkins is famous for the chart that illustrates this order, which is included in this second edition.
Thomas Shepard, Theses Sabbaticae (1649)
This first edition was purchased for our collections from Dr. James B. Torrance. In it, Shephard aims to prove that the Sabbath is an essential part of worship.
William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (1655)
Gurnall is best known for this three-part commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20, and our collections hold the first edition of the first part. Gurnall's commentary is the most famous Puritan discourse on spiritual warfare. In it, he describes the Christian’s spiritual enemies, explains Satan’s work in temptation, depression, and discouragement, and instructs the reader how to use the armour of God.
Matthew Henry, An Exposition on the Old and New Testament (1793)
Henry is best remembered for his commentary on the whole Bible. Though pre-critical, it remains relevant and useful because of its excellent practical expositions and thus has been reprinted many times.
Edward Reynolds, An Explication of the Hundreth and Tenth Psalm (1632)
This first edition of Reynold’s exposition was donated by Dr. J. I. Packer. Reynolds was renowned for his preaching; the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, would later say this exposition from Reynolds is “surpassingly clear and elaborate.”
Thomas Taylor, A Commentary on the Epistle of Saint Paul Written to Titus (1619)
Taylor’s exposition was first published in 1612, but then enlarged and reprinted in 1619. This copy was donated by Dr. J. I. Packer. Taylor’s book became a famous commentary on Titus and was reprinted many times.
Richard Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696)
Baxter’s autobiography remains a valuable source of information about his personal ministry and broader seventeenth-century context, though its structure has been critiqued and thus been abridged several times since this first publication in 1696. This copy contains a beautiful frontispiece portrait of Baxter.
John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1692)
Bunyan wrote a spiritual autobiography about his conversion experience in 1666 while in prison. It was immensely popular and has been analyzed from psychoanalytical and political-social perspectives. This seventh edition has been beautifully rebound.
William Bridge, The Works of William Bridge (1649)
This first edition of Bridge’s works donated by Dr. James Houston are in three volumes, which was later added to and compiled into a larger set in 1845. Bridge addresses many topics including temptation, faith, covenant, repentance, and justification.
Richard Greenham, The Works of the Reverend and Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ M. Richard Greenham (1601)
This third edition was donated by Dr. James Houston. Greenham’s book on the Sabbath, included in this collection of his works, was influential in supporting strict observance.
Ezekiel Hopkins, The Works of the Right Reverend and Learned Ezekiel Hopkins (1710)
This third edition of Hopkins’s works (first published in 1701) was donated by Dr. J. I. Packer. His works cover several topics such as the Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments, law, sin, covenants, regeneration, sacraments, God’s attributes, assurance of faith, sufficiency of Christ, mortification of sin, death, and heaven.