06 November, 2005
Puritan Resource Center
Here is an article that was in the Religion section of the Grand Rapids Press on October 29th concerning the Puritan Resource center at the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary:
GRAND RAPIDS -- Believing the 17th-century Puritans have much to say to today's Christians, the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary has opened one of the world's largest collections of books by and about Puritans.
Hundreds of rare, antiquarian books line the shelves of a room off the library in the small seminary at 2965 Leonard St. NE. Some books date to the early 1600s. Some were never reprinted, and only a few copies exist. "The strength of this library is all of the antiquarian books," said seminary President Joel Beeke, who collected most of the books, starting when he was 14 years old. He expects researchers from around the world to take advantage of the center, dedicated Oct. 20. About 2,500 volumes in all, with another 500 coming soon, surround one of the centerpieces of the valuable collection -- three rebound volumes of "The Works of William Perkins" from 1612 to 1613, one of a couple hundred sets in the world and once owned by famous 19th-century England preacher Charles Spurgeon.
Perkins is considered one of the fathers of Puritanism, a movement that began in the late 16th century to apply the philosophy of John Calvin to daily life. Followers, who spread from England, Scotland and the Netherlands to North America, sought to purify the church and promote holiness in Christian life and society.
Puritans have sometimes been confused with New England's pilgrims, who more radically separated themselves.
However, Puritans were more theologically advanced and tried to "bring every area of life into subjection with the glory of God," Beeke explained.
The movement faded in the early 18th century and briefly was revived in essence by Jonathan Edwards in the Great Awakening of the 1740s.
Today, few Christian denominations have direct ties with Puritan churches. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church "harks directly to late Scottish Puritans," Beeke said. And his Heritage Reformed Church has "a fairly direct line" to the Dutch Second Reformation, a parallel movement to Puritanism. But Puritanism is alive, said Beeke, through several book publishers, such as Banner of Truth Trust, Soli Deo Gloria and Reformation Heritage Books, based at the 20-student seminary.
Beeke, 52, is a major contributor. He has written or edited 50 books, mainly on Puritan thought, and more than 1,500 articles. He's also had a hand in English translations of Dutch Puritan books and reprints of books written in England and New England that never before reached a modern printing press.
Modernizing a faith
"We want to emulate their (the Puritans') godliness and holiness and translate the foundations they laid into contemporary applications," Beeke said. "A number of scholars have a life goal of promoting a contemporary kind of Puritanism." Pastor of the 750-member Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation at 540 Crescent St. NE in Grand Rapids, Beeke said he is humbled by the new library. "I put my life's equity into it," he said. "It's my personal dream."
To protect it, the seminary installed an expensive oxygen-sucking Halon fire suppression system in the climate-controlled room. Beeke's goal is to reprint more books and digitize some volumes. He also plans to study Francis Roberts' 1,750-page "God's Covenants with Man" from 1657 for teaching a course at the seminary.
In addition to the antiquarians, the collection includes contemporary writings and every North American doctoral dissertation on Puritan philosophy.
Researchers may use the resource center by calling 977-0599, ext. 120.