If there's one thing sure in this world, it's that the Puritans have been dealt with unjustly by history and popular culture. The word puritanical with all its negative associations has become equated with its root, and people "remember" the Puritans as a brooding black-clad group of Sabbath-keepers and witch-killers who hated everyone, especially themselves.
This is pretty much the description you'd expect from people in rebellion against God's Law. The Puritans, it so happens, were neither overly dour nor exclusively black-clad; they were simply people who wanted most of all to serve God and to model their lives and churches as much as possible on biblical principles. Their critics, on the other hand, were and are generally those least interested in God's decrees.
Unfortunately, this biased view is the popular one, and has even affected the way Christians look back on these chronically misrepresented people. Not that all the depictions are inaccurate—the Puritans did frown on sin, they did judge all things, and they were interested in the denial of the flesh. All of these, however, are things any Christian would affirm.
Historically, the term Puritan referred to any member of the Church of England interested in purging every pernicious doctrine and practice from the Body of Christ. They embraced Reformed theology wholeheartedly, preferring a presbyterian church government to the episcopal Catholic-influenced ecclesiology of the Anglican Church. They emphasized personal holiness and faith. They wrote long books about deep theological matters. Some of them were very smart. They all exalted Christ above the things of this world. They were the kind of Christians you'd look up to.
It's no wonder the world hated them, and continues to do so. Any group that emphasizes over and over the complete and utter sinfulness of every man, woman and child isn't likely to be popular. Even less popular were their constant calls to repentance, and constant preaching of the Gospel. Men like Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Watson, and John Owen didn't care about popularity, however; they cared about Christ and doing His will.
Some of the stereotypes aren't wholly unjustified, of course. The idea that they only wore black and never smiled date back to the time of Oliver Cromwell, who ruled England, Ireland and Scotland after overthrowing the British monarchy from 1653-58. He fancied himself a Puritan, and made certain laws about dress and laughter, but he was mostly a Puritan for political purposes and his views weren't representative of the movement.
Far from it: the Puritans believed Christians have a duty to glorify and enjoy God, and they took every opportunity to do so, through avenues as diverse as devotional study and prayer, public worship, the raising of families, literature, hard work, and vigorous living. We agree with them, and one of our goals at Exodus Books is to help rescue the Puritans from the slight history has dealt them, and restore them to the attention, admiration and interest of Christians of all denominations.
Below you'll find mostly books by the Puritans, with some about them as well. Keep in mind this isn't reading to be done on a lazy day in your favorite armchair or hammock; it's intense, often difficult, consistently convicting, and generally wearying if you aren't prepared for it. Don't let that scare you away, though. If you're serious about your commitment to Christ, you should seriously study the Puritan writings. More realistic or God-fearing devotional and theological works are hard to come by; we offer these without reservation.