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Suffering from poor health all his life, Richard Baxter preached, he said, "as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men." Living daily in the shadow of eternity gave the Puritans a deep appreciation for living every moment on this earth to the fullest for God. "Promise not long life to yourselves," Baxter advised, "but live as those that are always uncertain of another day."

For the Puritans, to "redeem the time" (as Baxter put it) meant to order one's daily life in accordance with godly principles and for maximum effectiveness. One of the Puritans' favorite epithets was well-ordered. Their opponents nicknamed them the disciplinarians. The Puritans aspired to be worldly saints—Christians with earth as their sphere of activity and with heaven as their ultimate hope. Baxter exhorted his readers, "Write upon the doors of thy shop and chamber, … This is the time on which my endless life dependeth."

This approach to life resulted in three vintage Puritan traits: the ideal of the God-centered life, the doctrine of calling or vocation, and the conviction that all of life is God's.

The God-centered life

The Puritans' sense of priorities in life was one of their greatest strengths. Putting God first and valuing everything else in relation to God was a recurrent Puritan theme.

Baxter's parting advice to his parishioners at Kidderminster was to "be sure to maintain a constant delight in God." Preaching before the Houses of Parliament, Cornelius Burges admonished everyone present "to lift up his soul to take hold of God, to be glued and united to him, … to be only his forever."

For the Puritans, the God-centered life meant making the quest for spiritual and moral holiness the great business of life. "In a ...

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