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  The Puritan Millennium: literature & theology 1550-1682


Those that have read books by Puritan authors and are familiar with Puritan theology may, nevertheless, be unaware of how intensely eschatological (and even apocalyptic) their outlook was.

Iain Murray’s The Puritan hope is certainly helpful in exploring this theme, but for a more detailed picture, incorporating recent research, readers should turn to The Puritan Millennium.

Dr Crawford Gribben begins his study with the Protestant exiles in Geneva, whose teaching on the last things focussed especially on suffering under, and triumph over, Antichrist (whom they identified as the Papacy).

Slightly later, the Geneva Bible’s marginal notes, together with the writings of such men as William Perkins, added the expectation of a future widespread conversion of the Jews. The particularly radical eschatology of Thomas Goodwin is also outlined by Gribben.

Some of the most valuable and fascinating parts of the book are those that discuss how the various eschatological outlooks influenced the debates on church government at the Westminster Assembly (e.g. the chapter on George Gillespie).

Many Puritan writers came perilously close to ‘setting dates’ for future eschatological events. ‘Offenders’ included Bunyan, Goodwin and some of the Particular Baptists.

This was partly because they saw a need to discern God’s hand and purpose in the unfolding events of history. Their confidence sometimes resulted in obscure or mistaken predictions, but nevertheless compares favourably with present-day vagueness and nervousness in handling apocalyptic Scriptures.

While this book is more a literary history than a historical theology, it will be valuable to anyone wishing to explore eschatology from either an historical or a theological viewpoint.

Matthew Vogan, Evangelical Times, June 2001