Some general statements:-
1. Puritan exegetes are pre-modern, in the sense that they emphasise the similarities between their culture and that of biblical times rather than the differences. They felt a kinship with biblical characters and their experiences because they belonged to the same human race, worshiped the same unchanging God, and struggled with the same spiritual problems.
2. Puritan grammatical-historical exegesis is remarkably competent, as an informed reading of Matthew Henry’s commentary demonstrates.
3. Puritans exegeted Scripture in order to apply it.
1. To the Puritans, Scripture was the utterance of God. Its prophecies, histories and doctrines are God’s. What Scripture says, God says. Scripture is, accordingly, unfathomable and inexhaustible.
2. In terms of subject-matter, the Scriptures principally teach ‘what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man’ (Westminster Shorter Catechism).
Governing principles of interpretation:-
1. Interpret Scripture literally and grammatically. In this, they followed the Reformers and opposed the “spiritual” (allegorical) approach favoured in medieval times.
Let the expositor ask, therefore, “What do these words actually mean?”
2. Interpret Scripture consistently and harmonistically. If Scripture is the unified expression of a single divine mind, there can be no real contradictions between its various parts. Scripture should be interpreted by Scripture, and, accordingly, what is obscure should be interpreted by what is plain, and the peripheral ambiguities should be interpreted in harmony with fundamental certainties. These fundamental certainties are summarised in, for example, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Catechism.
Let the expositor ask, therefore, “What light do other scriptures throw on this text? Where and how does it fit in to the total biblical revelation?”
3. Interpret Scripture doctrinally and theocentrically. Scripture teaches us about God and created things and their relation to him. And it places God at the centre of things. Let the expositor ask, therefore, “What truths does it teach about God, and about man in relation to God?”
4. Interpret Scripture christologically and evangelically. All of Scriptures bears witness to Christ.
Let the expositor ask, therefore, “How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?”
5. Interpret Scripture experimentally and practically. “Pilgrim’s Progess” is a kind of pictorial index to the practical themes of Scripture: faith, doubt, temptation, despair, fear, hope, and so on.
Let the expositor ask, therefore, “What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure? For what practical purpose do they stand in Scripture?”
6. Interpret Scripture with a faithful and realistic application. The standard ‘uses’ were information, exhortation, comfort, and trial. Application must be relevant and realistic, speaking to real people in real situations.
Let the expositor ask, therefore, “How do they apply to myself and others in our own actual situation? To what present human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?”
Based on J.I. Packer, Among God’s Giants, 128-139