One word in the Bible can be a game changer. When John says “SEE what kind of the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God, and so we are” (1 John 3:1), it’s like he brings us to a halt with hands waving and fingers pointing to a jaw-dropping sight. You’ve got to see this! Look! Come and see something you won’t believe! While we are quick to speak of God-especially his love-with generalizations and glance over Scripture in our readings, John invites us to slow down, take a look at something, and be amazed.
In the Men’s Bible Study I’m a part of, this week we talked about “Knowing God.” In the midst of a series about the basics of growing in Christ we must see our relationship with God at the center of discipleship and sanctification. We are created and redeemed to know God, commune with God, walk with God, and grow in intimacy with God. This is what it means to have a “personal relationship with God.” It is through knowing and enjoying God that we actually then begin to image him in the world we live in.
This Sunday night I’ll be giving a short presentation on English Puritanism at my church. I’d like to whet the appetite by beginning with a few Puritan quotes. Here are some I grabbed off my notes from Evernote but I’d love for you to leave any great (short) English Puritan quotes you might have.
“The winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory.” Richard Sibbes
“Conceal not your wounds; open all before him.” Richard Sibbes
“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” Richard Sibbes
“Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” John Owen
“He who prays as he ought will endeavour to live as he prays.” John Owen
“Christ is the most bountiful physician. Other patients do enrich their physicians, but here the physician enriches the patient. Christ elevates all his patients: he not only cures them but crowns them (Rev. 2:10). Christ not only raises them from the bed, but to the throne; he gives the sick man not only health but also heaven.” Thomas Watson
“Let this revive you; shortly you will enjoy God, and then you shall have more than you can ask or think, glory without intermission or expiration. We will never be ourselves fully until we enjoy God eternally.” Thomas Watson.
“In the Word preached the saints hear Christ’s voice; in the sacrament they have his kiss.” Thomas Watson
“We are justified & saved by the very righteousness of Christ, and no other. He wrought it, though we wear it.” John Flavel
“Here is encouragement to persevere. Jesus, our head, is already in heaven; and if the head be above water the body cannot drown.” John Flavel
“In our first paradise in Eden there was a way to go out but no way to go in again. But as for the heavenly paradise, there is a way to go in, but not way to go out.” Richard Baxter
“God’s presence makes a crowd a church.” Richard Baxter
What is the relationship between knowledge, experience, affections, love, and joy? It’s a complicated question with a number of answers. To put it simply, as we grow in understanding of something true or beautiful we experience it in greater ways, and as we experience it and understand it more we love it all the more. This is true when it comes to food, relationships, and especially when it comes to worship. One of the things I appreciate most about the Puritans is the strong emphasis upon experience, and yet it’s experience rooted in actual understanding (knowledge) that sinks in by producing joy in our affections (emotions & desires).
Consider these words from Paul in Philippians. “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” (Phil. 19-10) Paul himself has a beautiful vision of an ever-increasing love that has two feet firmly planted in knowledge and discernment. The love, knowledge, and discernment help us to approve, to rightly see, and to have proper affections and joy in the things that are most excellent. This knowledge, love, and approving leads to us being “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11). Here we see a cycle of love rooted in knowledge that leads to rightly experiencing and approving what is excellent, which leads to a life of more love and knowledge.
Puritan theologian and politician Francis Rous (1579-1659) beautifully captures something similar to what Paul says by appealing to the image of honey (no Jonathan Edwards wasn’t the first or the last to do it). What a beautiful vision for us to be people constantly spinning in the cycle of tasting, loving, and knowing.
“In one place we are told, that Christ’s love is more pleasant than wine; and in another, that the laws of God are more pleasant than honey…By tasting the things themselves, God teaches us to know what the things are; and the more we know them; the more we shall love them; and the more we love them, the more we shall taste them, and the more we taste them, the more we shall know them. And thus shall we run on in an endless circle of tasting, loving, and knowing, which grows still greater, the more we round it.” 
Cited in Geoffrey Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), 40.