“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
What does it mean to be poor in spirit? If a man is willing in heart to take a low condition if God shall so please, or if he has many worldly goods yet he is willing to give them up when God calls for them, he is poor in spirit. Aye, his soul says, ‘It is true I have received these good mercies from God, but if the Lord calls for these to give witness to his truth, I am here ready to part with all these outward accommodations. I am willing to lie upon bread and water all my days, and to live in a poor condition as ever a poor creature has lived, to lay aside all my pomp and riches and glory that I have in this world, that the Lord may have any glory by me. Yea, so be it!’ There is no special grace in a ‘vow of poverty’ but we should be willing to lay them down at Christ’s feet if he calls for our estate or any comforts we have. If you have been given estates, you may enjoy them, but do you have the disposition in your heart that if you had to make a choice, you would let your estate go, instead of denying the least truth of God? Would you rather yield your estate than commit the least sin against your conscience? Do you prize the advance of truth more than living in the joys of this world? Can you bring your heart to this? Why, this is to be poor in spirit, in the midst of all your abundance. Grace consists in the well managing of our estates while we have them, and in the willingness to part with them when God calls for them. The poor in spirit are also willing to take whatever spot God places them in, and not murmur and repine against God, nor envy others that are placed in a higher condition. I am content to apply myself to the duties God requires of me in such a poor and low estate. If you can find your heart submissive to God in this low way, you are blessed, for you are poor in spirit.
Dr. Packer has had a long-standing passion for the Puritans. Their understanding of God and His ways with man has largely formed his own spirituality and theological outlook. In A Quest for Godliness, the esteemed author of Knowing God and a dozen other books shares with his readers the rich world of Puritanism that has been so influential in his own life.
Dr. Packer masterfully uncovers the hidden treasures of Puritan life and thought. With crystalline clarity he reveals the depth and breadth of Puritan spiritual life, contrasting it with the superficiality and deadness of modern Western Christianity.
Drawing on a lifetime of study, Dr. Packer takes the reader on a survey of the lives and teachings of great Puritan leaders such as John Owen, Richard Baxter, and Jonathan Edwards. He offers a close look at such subjects as the Puritan view of the Bible, spiritual gifts, the Sabbath, worship, social action, and the family. He concludes that a main difference between the Puritans and ourselves is spiritual maturity–the Puritans had it; we don’t.
In a time of failing vision and decaying values, this powerful portrait of Puritans is a beacon of hope that calls us to radical commitment and action when both are desperately needed.
A Quest for Godliness is a profoundly moving and challenging exploration of Puritan life and thought in a beautifully written book. Here is J. I. Packer at his very best.