16 Puritan Biographies
with Guide to Modern Reprints

Excerpts from Meet the Puritans
by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson

Christopher L0ve - Christopher Love was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1618. At the age of fourteen, he went to hear William Erbury, vicar of St. Mary’s in Cardiff, who would later stray into mysticism. His wife later wrote how Love reacted to that sermon: “God met with him and gave him such a sight of his sins and his undone condition that he returned home with a hell in his conscience.” His father noticed his son’s depression and locked him in a room on the second floor of the house to prevent him from attending church the next Sabbath. Love tied a cord to the window, slid down it, and went to church. His earlier convictions deepened and he was soon converted.

Isaac Ambrose - Isaac Ambrose was born in 1604, the son of Richard Ambrose, vicar of Ormskirk, Lancashire. Entering Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1621, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1624, and was ordained to the ministry. He became vicar of the parish church in Castleton, Derbyshire, in 1627, then served at Clapham, Yorkshire, from 1629 to 1631. The following year he received a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge.

Jeremiah Burroughs - Jeremiah Burroughs (or Burroughes) was baptized in 1601 and admitted as a pensioner at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1617. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1621 and a Master of Arts degree in 1624. His tutor was Thomas Hooker. Burroughs’s ministry falls into four periods, all of which reveal him as a zealous and faithful pastor. First, from about 1627 until 1631, he was assistant to Edmund Calamy at Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. Both men became members of the Westminster Assembly. Both men strongly opposed King James’s Book of Sports. Both refused to read the king’s proclamation in church that dancing, archery, vaulting, and other games were lawful recreations on the Lord’s Day.

John Bunyan - John Owen said of John Bunyan, a powerful preacher and the best-known of all the Puritan writers, that he would gladly exchange all his learning for Bunyan’s power of touching men’s hearts. John Bunyan was born in 1628 at Elstow, near Bedford, to Thomas Bunyan and Margaret Bentley. Thomas Bunyan, a brazier or tinker, was poor but not destitute. Still, for the most part, John Bunyan was not educated well. He became rebellious, frequently indulging in cursing. He later wrote, “It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil at his will: being filled with all unrighteousness; that from a child I had but few equals, both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God” (Works of Bunyan, ed. George Offor, 1:6). Sporadic periods of convictions of sin helped restrain some of that rebellion, however.

John Flavel - John Flavel (or Flavell) was born in 1628 in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. He was the son of Richard Flavel, a minister who died of the plague in 1665 while in prison for nonconformity. John Flavel was educated by his father in the ways of religion, then “plied his studies hard” as a commoner at University College, Oxford. In 1650, he was ordained by the presbytery at Salisbury. He settled in Diptford, where he honed his numerous gifts.

John Owen - John Owen, called the “prince of the English divines,” “the leading figure among the Congregationalist divines,” “a genius with learning second only to Calvin’s,” and “indisputably the leading proponent of high Calvinism in England in the late seventeenth century,” was born in Stadham (Stadhampton), near Oxford. He was the second son of Henry Owen, the local Puritan vicar. Owen showed godly and scholarly tendencies at an early age. He entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and studied the classics, mathematics, philosophy, theology, Hebrew, and rabbinical writings. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1632 and a Master of Arts degree in 1635. Throughout his teen years, young Owen studied eighteen to twenty hours per day.

Jonathan Edwards - Jonathan Edwards, often called America’s greatest theologian and philosopher and the last Puritan, was a powerful force behind the First Great Awakening, as well as a champion of Christian zeal and spirituality. Both Christian and secular scholarship concur on his importance in American history. The treasures from Edwards’s pen have been mined, pondered, and evaluated to the present day. His famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” is still being read and studied in America’s public schools as a specimen of eighteenth-century literature. Students of American history pay much attention to Edwards’s scientific, philosophical, and psychological writings; theologians and church historians regard Edwards’s work on revivals as unexcelled in analysis and scope. Christians continue to read his sermons with great appreciation for their rich doctrine, clear and forceful style, and powerful depiction of the majesty of God, the sinfulness of sin, and Christ’s power to save.

Joseph Alleine - Born at Devizes, Wiltshire, early in 1634, Joseph Alleine loved and served the Lord from childhood. A contemporary witness identified 1645 as the year of Alleine’s “setting forth in the Christian race.” From eleven years of age onward, “the whole course of his youth was an even-spun thread of godly conversation.” When his elder brother Edward, a clergyman, died, Joseph begged that he might be educated to take Edward’s place in the ministry of the church. He entered Oxford at age sixteen and sat at the feet of such great divines as John Owen and Thomas Goodwin. Alleine began his studies at Lincoln College in 1649. Two years later, he became a scholar of Corpus Christi College, where the faculty was, in general, more thoroughly Puritan than at Lincoln. Alleine studied long hours, often depriving himself of sleep and food. He graduated from Oxford in 1653 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and became a tutor and chaplain of Corpus Christi. He also devoted much time to preaching to prisoners in the county jail, visiting the sick, and ministering to the poor.

Richard Baxter - Richard Baxter was born in 1615, in Rowton, near Shrewsbury, in Shropshire. He was the only son of Beatrice Adeney and Richard Baxter, Sr. Because of his father’s gambling habit and inherited debts, and his mother’s poor health, Richard lived with his maternal grandparents for the first ten years of his life. When his father was converted through “the bare reading of the Scriptures in private,” Richard returned to his parental home, and later acknowledged that God used his father’s serious talks about God and eternity as “the Instrument of my first Convictions, and Approbation of a Holy Life” (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:2-4).

Richard Sibbes - Richard Sibbes was born in 1577 at Tostock, Suffolk, in the Puritan county of old England. He was baptized in the parish church in Thurston, and went to school there. As a child, he loved books. His father, Paul Sibbes, a hardworking wheelwright and, according to Zachary Catlin, a contemporary biographer of Sibbes, was “a good, sound-hearted Christian,” but became irritated with his son’s interest in books. He tried to cure his son of book-buying by offering him wheelwright tools, but the boy was not dissuaded. With the support of others, Sibbes was admitted to St. John’s College in Cambridge at the age of eighteen. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1599, a fellowship in 1601, and a Master of Arts degree in 1602. In 1603, he was converted under the preaching of Paul Baynes, whom Sibbes called his “father in the gospel.” Baynes, remembered most for his commentary on Ephesians, succeeded William Perkins at the Church of St. Andrews in Cambridge.

Samuel Bolton - Samuel Bolton was born in London in 1606, was educated at Manchester School, matriculated as a pensioner at Christ’s College, Cambridge, in 1625, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1629 and a Master of Arts in 1632. Bolton became curate of Harrow, Middlesex, in 1634; minister of St. Martin Ludgate, London, in 1638; and then, in 1641, minister of St. Saviour’s, Southwark. During his ministry there, he was also appointed lecturer at St. Anne and St. Agnes, Aldersgate, and was delegated as a member of the Westminster Assembly.

Samuel Rutherford - Samuel Rutherford was born in 1600 in Nisbet, Roxburghshire, eldest son of a well-to-do farmer. His parents noted his intellectual gifts and believed that God would call him to the ministry, though they seldom spoke about Christ in an experiential way. Rutherford later wrote that in his birthplace “Christ was scarce named, as touching any reality or power of godliness” (Letters, p. 680). Rutherford was educated first at Jedborough, then at the University of Edinburgh, where he excelled in Latin and Greek, and earned a Master of Arts degree in 1621.

Thomas Brooks - Thomas Brooks was born in 1608. He entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1625, where such New England Puritans as Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, and Thomas Shepard were also educated, but he appears to have left before graduating. Brooks was ordained as a preacher of the gospel in 1640 and became a chaplain to the parliamentary fleet, serving for some years at sea. That ministry is mentioned in some of his “sea-devotions” as well as his statement: “I have been some years at sea and through grace I can say that I would not exchange my sea experiences for England’s riches.”

Thomas Watson - Thomas Watson was probably born in Yorkshire. He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1639 and a Master of Arts degree in 1642. During his time at Cambridge, Watson was a dedicated scholar. After completing his studies, Watson lived for a time with the Puritan family of Lady Mary Vere, the widow of Sir Horace Vere, baron of Tilbury. In 1646, Watson went to St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, London, where he served as lecturer for about ten years, and as rector for another six years, filling the place of Ralph Robinson. In about 1647, Watson married Abigail Beadle, daughter of John Beadle, an Essex minister of Puritan convictions. They had at least seven children in the next thirteen years; four of them died young.

Walter Marshall - Walter Marshall was born in 1628 at Bishops Wearmouth in Durham, England. At age eleven, he went to study at Winchester College. He then became a fellow at New College, Oxford, from 1648 to 1657. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1652. Two years later, he was approved for the living of Fawley, Hampshire. In 1656, he was appointed to the vicarage of Hursley, Hampshire, four miles from Winchester. From 1657 to 1661, he served as a fellow at Winchester College. He married and had two daughters.

William Perkins - William Perkins was born in 1558 to Thomas and Hannah Perkins in the village of Marston Jabbett, in Bulkington parish, Warwickshire. As a youth, he indulged in recklessness, profanity, and drunkenness. In 1577, he entered Christ’s College in Cambridge as a pensioner, suggesting that socially he nearly qualified as gentry. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1581 and a master’s degree in 1584.



Excerpts from Meet the Puritans
by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson
Posted with permission on Monergism.com by Reformation Heritage Books