The Puritan’s sense of priorities in life was one of their greatest strengths. Putting God first and valuing everything else in relation to him was a recurrent Puritan Theme.
The Puritans know that only God can satisfy people permanently and at the deepest level. John Winthrop wrote that “only the fruition of Jesus Christ and the hope of heaven can give us true comfort and rest.” He accordingly “resolved by the grace of God….not to allow my heart to delight more in anything than in the comfort of my salvation.”
Having identified God as “the great and ultimate object of religion,” Samuel Willard went on to conclude that “the knowledge of him is the first thing necessary to be sought after.” In such a hierarchy of values, the great mistake that a person can make is to “neglect his precious soul.”
For the Puritans, spiritual reality was the great single principle in life, the ultimately important factor. Samuel Willard wrote:
"The generality of men take their measures from the observation of outward providence: if there be outward peace and plenty, they call them happy days; of out ward distress and trouble, they call them evil. But we have a better rule, and more safe for Christians….. The more of Christ that a people enjoy, the happier are they, and the less He is known and acknowledged in his great design of mediatorship, the greater is the unhappiness of such a people.”
Delight in God’s presence was what the Puritans sought and found. Baxter’s parting advice to his parishioners at Kedderminster was to “be sure to maintain a constant delight in God.” Cornelius Burges preached that every person should
“lift up his soul to take hold of God, to be glued and united to him… to be only his forever.” For Thomas Watson, one of the signs of being a child of God “is to delight to be much in God’s presence.”
John Winthrop’s account of his life after his conversion sounded the authentic Puritan note: “I was now grown familiar with the Lord Jesus Christ; he would oft tell me he loved me. I did not doubt to believe him; if I went abroad, he went with me, when I returned, he come home with me. I talked with him upon the way, he lay down with me, and usually I did awake with him; and so sweet was his love to me, as I desired nothing but him in heaven or earth.”
The Puritan vision was not simply theocentric, but was Christocentric, William Perkins concluded his treatise on preaching with the statement, “The sum of the sum: preach one Christ by Christ to the praise of Christ.”
When Oliver Cromwell’s daughter was approaching her marriage, he wrote to her: - ‘Dear heart, let not anything cool thy affections after Christ. That which is best worthy of love in thy husband is that of the image of Christ he bears. Look on that and love it best, and all the rest for that’.
Samuel Ward wrote, “O Lord, give us grace to consider how that all our night watching and all ought to tend to this end, to the winning of Christ.’
And Richard Sibbes wrote: “Christ himself is ours. In the dividing of all things, some men have wealth, honors, friends and greatness, but not Christ…but a Christian hath Christ himself….Therefore what if he lacks those lesser things, he hath the main… the spring, the ocean, him to whom all things are.”