Wednesday, March 21, 2012

People You’ve Maybe Never Heard of But Should: Jeremiah Burroughs

Jeremiah Burroughs was born sometime around 1600.  He went to college at Emmanuel College in Cambridge in 1617 finally graduating with a Master of Arts in 1624.  His tutor was another famous Puritan--Thomas Hooker

He began his ministerial “career” as an assistant to Edmund Calamy in Suffolk.  Here he and Calamy vehemently opposed King James’ Book of Sports, refusing to read “the king’s proclamation in church that dancing, archery, vaulting, and other games were lawful recreations on the Lord’s Day.”  Eventually he moved to Norfolk where he served as pastor until 1636 when he was suspended for refusing to read the Book of Sports, bow at the name of Jesus, and read prayers rather than speak them extemporaneously. 

From 1638-1640 the ejected Burroughs ministered in the Netherlands with other Congregationalist pastors.  By 1640 he returned to London and became a very popular preacher.  He pastored two of the largest congregations in London: Stepney and St. Giles, Cripplegate.  Burroughs remained in London until his death in 1646.  He died two weeks after a fall from his horse. 

Why You Should Know Him:

He’s a Puritan with a stately mustache an awesome hat and what appears to be double-jointed fingers, what more do you need to know to be inspired to read him? 

Not only did Burroughs pave the way for great mustaches but he was also had a great influence on the Westminster Assembly.  He was one of the few Independents that opposed the Presbyterian majority.  Yet he did so with his typical moderate and irenic spirit.  Those of us churches that come from an Independent strain of Puritanism owe a great deal to the work of men like Jeremiah Burroughs who paved the way for a middle-ground between Presbyterianism and the more chaotic Brownism. 

Though Burroughs is worth studying for his historical value and influence on Westminster the greatest reason to get to know Jeremiah Burroughs is his prolific writing career.  (Actually his books are really nothing more than a compilation of his sermons).  One of Burroughs’ works that has had a great influence on me personally—and many other believers—is his Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Burroughs’ writing contains within it an engaging Christian spirit and a steadfast dedication to the gospel.  He writes like many of the Puritans of his time, in that he will tear open up your soul with the Law and then apply the gospel for healing. 


As far as God sees Christ in anyone He accepts them. If Christ is not there, no matter what they have, He does not regard them. Christ is all in all, even in the esteem of the Father Himself. He was the delight of the Father from all eternity, Prov.8:30, and the Father undertook infinite contentment in Him upon His willingness to undertake this blessed work of the redemption of mankind. God the Father is infinitely satisfied in Christ. He is all in all to Him. Surely if Christ is an object sufficient for the satisfaction of the Father, much more, then, is He an object sufficient for the satisfaction of any soul.

I will give you just this note: if it were your last time to pray to God and your everlasting estate depended on God's mercy, should you seek God never so earnestly, if it is only in a natural way as your Creator, your condition would be very dreadful and you would perish eternally. If God should lay any of you upon your sick or death beds and you should cry to God for mercy, be sure to take Christ along with you and look upon God through Christ, or else all your cries will be of no avail. Luther said that God looked upon outside of Christ is most dreadful and terrible. And it proves a great deal of ignorance in us when we think we can go to God and find mercy in Him without considering Him as a God that will be reconciled to us only through His Son.

Both selections are from Christ is All in All an excellent piece worthy of your reading.

Further Reading:

Joel Beeke’s Biography from Meet the Puritans is helpful and also includes a listing of his Modern Reprints available for purchase.  (NOTE: I’m indebted to Beek’s biography for much of the material above). 

The full text of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is available for free here

You can find almost anything you want to know at the Jeremiah Burroughs Homepage.  Phil Simpson has also written a biography that I may try to check out at some point.  You can buy that biography here.

I’ve also quoted and written a few things from Burroughs on my own site—a search on Borrowed Light will yield you some fruit.

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