How diverse were the Puritans?

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
(Mods, do edit my Title to 'were' the correct spelling.) While I know about Richard Baxter and the Arminian John Goodwin, what other areas of disagreements did Puritans have among themselves (republication exempted)? Preparationism?
I came across this article where it seems Sibbes is placed over against a moralistic and intellectual theology of Perkins, Ames and many others (the footnotes seem,that way as well).
Rather, he was a persistent but careful advocate of a distinctively affective theology that he recovered and developed from some of the earlier reformers, including Martin Luther and John Calvin. 6 In particular he emphasized the inherent community of the Trinity—Trinitarian theology—rather than follow the more common Reformed emphasis on God’s simplicity and essential unity. 7 This distinctive orientation was translated into an applied theology of sanctification and personal assurance in The Bruised Reed.
William Erbery (1604-1654), a younger contemporary of Sibbes, saw that divide and held Sibbes to be a leader of the “free-grace” movement—the party of puritans who opposed any idea that grace is conditioned by human cooperation.

I observed four great steps of God's glorious appearance in men's preaching. First, how low and legal were their teachings as they learned the way of preaching from Mr. Perkins, Bolton, Byfield and Dod and Dike . . . . Next the doctrine of free grace came forth, but with less success or fruit of conversion by Doctor Preston, Sibs [Sibbes], [and] Crisp. . . . Thirdly the letter of scripture, and flesh of Christ hath been highly set up by both the famous Goodwins: . . . [Thomas] excels in spiritual discourses of Christ's death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession, yet much according to the flesh, for he meddles not with the mystery of Christ in us. . . . [The fourth step] is the knowledge of Christ in the Spirit. . . . 10
Erbery’s contemporary assessment was accurate. While Sibbes acknowledged some biblical support in calling Christians to obedience as a duty—Erbery’s category of “low and legal” preaching—Sibbes clearly understood that duty can only be sustained if it is supported by the motivation of desire.
It is more of the Calvin vs. Calvinist narrative again or was Sibbes really not only instrumental but a headwater of recovery of grace?
So how diverse were the Puritans? Was it more of an emphasis? Or are some to avoided with their links to preparationism?
Last edited:


Puritan Board Junior
I have studied the puritans mainly to help conform myself to the their practical views of godliness. In my readings though I have seen variances in doctrines, though I don't have the knowledge off the top of my head.


Puritanboard Commissioner
A whole lot more diverse than many people imagine. It certainly wasn't synonymous or necessarily equivalent with Presbyterian, for example. (Some later worthies such as Warfield contrasted Protestantism (incl. Presbyterianism) with Puritanism, although I'm not sure how much of that related to New England Puritanism specifically.) But then you get into "What was a Puritan?" Is it basically just someone who thought that the Church of England was still too Romish?


Staff member
in my opinion modern Historians render the term puritan almost meaningless. Go to Brooks, Calamy or other such authors that categorized at least those that fall within Reformed orthodoxy.

Stephen L Smith

Staff member
in my opinion modern Historians render the term puritan almost meaningless. Go to Brooks, Calamy or other such authors that categorized at least those that fall within Reformed orthodoxy.
Agreed. In some ways this is the old problem of what is historically accurate vs what is spiritually helpful to the church.

The most helpful workable definition I have found is that Puritanism is the desire of English Reformers to Reform the Church of England according to the best Reformed Churches on the Continent particularly the Reforms in Geneva. Obviously there was diversity among the Puritans, but then some Puritans are more helpful, theologically speaking than others.

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I find the suggestion that Perkins was overly intellectual a bit strange. He wrote the most famous work on cases of conscience (today we call that pastoral theology), and preached many sermons intended to encourage his listeners to consider their spiritual estate. Relatively little of his works are focused on dogmatic theology. Sibbes has a warmer tone, although Perkins is still quite warm and pastoral. Not everyone is blessed like Sibbes with a golden tongue. Perkins is not moralistic and intellectual on that account. I also find the suggestion that Sibbes was a fountain of the rediscovery of grace a bit strange, since I wasn't aware that at the height of the puritan movement they had forgotten what grace is, and because Sibbes never struck me as that influential. Perkins on the other hand is cited constantly, even by Dutch writers.
Not open for further replies.