On a narrow strip of the northern California coastline grow the giant redwoods, the biggest living things on Earth. Some are over 360 feet tall, and some trunks are more than 60 feet around. Some have actually been burned, but are still alive and growing. Many hundreds of years old, over a thousand in some cases, the redwoods are (to use a much-cheapened word in its old, strict, strong sense) awesome. They dwarf you, making you feel your smallness as scarcely anything else does. Thoughtlessly felled in California’s logging days, the redwoods have recently come to be appreciated and preserved, and redwood parks are today invested with a kind of sanctity. A 33-mile road winding through the redwood groves is fittingly called the Avenue of the Giants.

California’s redwoods make me think of England’s Puritans, another breed of giants who in our time have begun to be newly appreciated. Between 1550 and 1700 they too lived unfrilled lives in which, speaking spiritually, strong growth and resistance to fire and storm were what counted. As redwoods attract the eye, because they overtop other trees, so the mature holiness and seasoned fortitude of the great Puritans shine as a kind of beacon, overtopping the stature of the majority of Christians in most eras, and certainly so in this age of crushing urban collectivism, when Western Christians sometimes feel and often look like ants in an anthill and puppets on a string. In Britain and America, the parts of the world that I know best, affluence seems to have been making dwarfs and deadheads of us all. In this situation, the teaching and example of the Puritan giants has much to say.

The ecclesiology and politics of the Puritans have often been studied, but only recently ...

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A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life
A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life
368 pp., 30.0
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