Category Archives: BP > Reformation Heritage Books
The stack of excellent Christian books published in 2007 would reach at least 5 feet in the air. So while I’m privileged to have read so many great books, whittling down my top 30 favorites is no easy assignment.
In the past, some TSS readers have asked what criteria I use in making this determination and I admit it’s very subjective. My list of top books is based upon a personal opinion of the overall value of individual volumes. Which volumes pioneer new territory? Which books clarify topics of great importance? Which books from 2007 will my kids read in 10 years?
Included in the list are complex doctrinal books, academic polemics, historical biographies, children’s books, marriage books, exegetical guides, etc. My reading interests are wide open, and so is the TSS book of the year competition. There are book recommendations for pretty much all readers.
Themes in 2007
Topically, 2007 will be remembered as the year where precious doctrines like justification and the atonement took rightful center stage (see The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul, The Great Exchange by Bridges and Bevington, and also #3, #12, and #25 on the top-30 list). The doctrine of assurance was the focus of two excellent new volumes (see #13 and #23). Church history and the events of the Reformation found themselves in three excellent volumes (see #8, #11, and #30). But 2007 will also be remembered as the year of John Owen, reformed spirituality, and communion with God (see #6, #14, #15, and #21). We also saw the publishing of one of the best new children’s books (see #4). All around, it was a very fruitful year for some very important topics.
2007 Books of the Year
But two books stand apart from the rest in 2007, because they are volumes that promise to shed a wealth of understanding over large sections of Scripture. They captured my attention because I know I myself have some work to do in discovering the richness of God’s revealed truth in Scripture (and especially in the Old Testament narratives).
So today I happily announce the 2007 TSS books of the year – The ESV Literary Study Bible by Leland and Philip Ryken and An Old Testament Theology by Bruce Waltke.
TSS top-30 books from 2007
1 (tie). ESV Literary Study Bible edited by Leland and Philip Ryken (Crossway). Getting readers comfortable enough to read large selections of Scripture was formerly the work of dynamic equivalent translations like The Message. But the Rykens establish a framework for readers to comprehend large sections of Scripture for themselves by introducing each chapter, exposing the literary style of the work, and providing a general outline of what to expect. Then readers can jump into the literature of Scripture to experience the text for themselves. In the end, the Rykens have produced a Bible that retains the “word-for-word” literal language of the ancient Scriptures (ESV) while helping readers along in fruitful comprehension. Readers who have never enjoyed the Bible from cover-to-cover will especially benefit and find the biblical storyline easier to follow. This is no ordinary study Bible, and it is one that will be cherished by the church long into the future. We wrote a full review of the LSB and also talked with Leland Ryken about it this Summer. $31.49
1 (tie). An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach by Bruce Waltke (Zondervan). Some of the details of the Old Testament appear to simply hang suspended for the modern reader. Let’s take Exodus 2:11 for example: Why is it important that Moses became angry when he saw the harsh treatment of the Israelite by an Egyptian? Why did Moses kill the Egyptian? Why would the biblical author record this event in the first place? Some events in the Old Testament don’t entirely make sense on the surface. Waltke takes these events from the biblical narratives and weaves them into the bigger storyline of Scripture. For this specific example, it helps to understand that Moses was in transition from his identity in Pharaoh’s palace to his new identity with Israel (p. 352). Exodus 2:11 is actually critical in establishing Moses’ transition from Egyptian-raised to Israel’s front-man in the Exodus. And this is just one itsy-bitsy detail from the Old Testament. By taking these seemingly disconnected events and connecting them into the bigger picture of Scripture, Waltke has given us a very helpful guide to understanding the Old Testament. And his insights into the Ten Commandments are worth the price of the volume (see pp. 415-433). In the end, Waltke’s clear articulation of the Old Testament informs the church of her past and thereby informs her present identity. This is a volume you will want to read slowly and digest fully, perhaps within a group of fellow Christians. It will open up the theology and storyline of the Old Testament like no other book I’ve seen. Read more about this volume in our full review. $29.69
3. Pierced for our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution (UK:IVP/US:Crossway). Written by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, this book has proven to be a huge success in both the UK and the US in defending the core of the atonement of Jesus Christ. If you want to understand the Cross at a deeper level (don’t we all) you will cherish this volume. It will go on my shelf along with some of the giants on this topic (like Stott). But what makes this volume especially important is the central role it represents in bringing together a worldwide brotherhood of Christians who believe and cherish the penal substitutionary atonement of the Cross. What Together for the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition conferences have done to unify American churches and ministries around these precious truths, Pierced for Our Transgressions has accomplished on an international scale. $16.50
4. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones (Zondervan). Finding children’s books that introduce little ones to the major stories of the Bible while simultaneously pointing their souls to the Cross is a rarity. This is perhaps the best children’s storybook Bible on the market, and a must-have for any parent of young children. Incredible illustrations, too. $11.65
5. When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage by Dave Harvey (Shepherd Press). Harvey has blessed couples with an excellent book for connecting the Cross to the daily trials and triumphs of marriage. Don’t attempt marriage without the Gospel. Bring Harvey along to explain why. $11.16
6. Communion with the Triune God by John Owen (Crossway). The classic book written by English Puritan John Owen resurfaced in 2007, in a new edition edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor. It’s unlikely I can overstate the importance of Taylor and Kapic’s editorial work in introducing Owen to the new generation of young, reformed Christians. An excellent follow-up to last year’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Crossway). $14.96
7. Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart by John Ensor (Crossway). Ensor provides an excellent introduction to biblical manhood and femininity that will help engaged or married couples understand their God-ordained roles. This book is perhaps the best introductory volume on these often controversial topics. $9.59
8. The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World by Stephen Nichols (Crossway). With brevity, pictures, call-out boxes and humor, Stephen Nichols walks through the highlights of the Reformation to help us see that “the Reformers saw nothing less than the gospel at stake” (p. 21). It’s cliché, but true: I couldn’t put this volume down. Nichols is always good, but especially here. $10.39
9. The Reading and Preaching of the Scripture in the Worship of the Christian Church: The Modern Age by Hughes Oliphant Old (Eerdmans). This is volume six of Old’s large series tracing out the history of preaching from the Biblical era (vol. 1; 1998), the Patristic age (vol. 2; 1998), the Medieval church (vol. 3; 1999), the Reformation period (vol. 4; 2002), during Moderatism, Pietism and Awakening (vol. 5; 2004) and now the most recent volume covering the modern age of 1789-1989. Volume six alone is about 1,000 pages and covers preachers like Broadus, Kuyper, Maclaren, Moody, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones. Very insightful work on the history of preaching that has replaced Dargan on my shelves. $36.50
10. Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Religious Affections’ by Samuel Storms (Crossway). Edwards’ work is classic, and Storms helps the contemporary reader glean its gold. Excellent commentary on one of Edwards’ most valuable works. $10.87
11. Church History: A Crash Course for the Curious by Christopher Catherwood (Crossway). Catherwood sets out the history of the Church from a global perspective, and at all times relays the implications of history to contemporary events. This “crash course” is another volume published this year for a popular audience that will help readers grown in appreciation for developments in the church’s history. $12.99
12. The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright by John Piper (Crossway). Piper excels with a clarification on justification in light of the contemporary debate. $12.23
13. Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace by Philip Graham Ryken, Al Mohler, Joel Beeke, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, Jerry Bridges and R.C. Sproul (P&R). This collaborative effort is a very helpful collection of essays on the topic of the reformed doctrine of assurance. How do we know that we know God? (see Tullian Tchividjian’s work later.) $12.24
14. Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation (Baker Academic). Written originally in Dutch by Arie de Reuver, this academic work was made available in English in 2007. It traces the influences of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471) upon the “Dutch Puritans” like Willem Teellinck, Herman Witsius and Thodorus and Wilhelmus à Brakel. The seven biographies that fill this volume are excellent. This volumes helps us develop a “reformed spirituality,” a seeking after God’s presence illuminated by genuine theology. $21.89
15. The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ (Reformation Heritage Books). Flavel is one of the most valuable Puritans, and this study by Stephen J. Yuille looks at one facet of his theology. The doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ lies at the heart of the Puritan pursuit of godliness, and this small but wonderful outline traces the doctrine generally and highlights Flavel’s rich teaching specifically. $12.00
16. Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election (Crossway) by Sam Storms. Originally published in 1987 by Baker under the title, Chosen for Life: An introductory guide to the doctrine of divine election, Storms’ work was republished in 2007 and remains one of the clearest defenses for reformed soteriology. $12.23
17. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges (NavPress). Hitting from all sides, Bridges confronts all those sins we would rather not talk about, and provides a very Cross-centered approach to killing the flesh. $12.91
18. B.B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought edited by Gary L.W. Johnson (P&R). Part biography, part theology, this new book on Warfield provides a treasure of essays on the thought and life of the outstanding theologian. $15.59
19. A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards by Michael A.G. Haykin (Reformation Heritage Books). A short but excellent collection of Edwards’ most important and moving personal letters, this little volume makes a great gift. $7.50
20. By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification edited by Gary L.W. Johnson and Guy P. Waters (Crossway). Including chapters by David Wells, Cornelius Venema and Al Mohler, this work tackles contemporary attacks upon the gospel (and especially those of N.T. Wright). $12.23
21. Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen by Kelly Kapic (Baker Academic). The long-awaited printing of Kapic’s research did not disappoint. On these same lines, Kapic also wrote the introduction to Communion with God (see #6). $18.47
22. The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven J. Lawson (Reformation Trust). This short work traces out 32 distinctives from the expositional ministry of the great Reformer, and sets them out as patterns for contemporary preachers. A short and encouraging work for pastors.
23. Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship by Tullian Tchividjian (Random House). An understanding of assurance written from a very personal and compelling vantage point. Excellent in content, but I especially appreciate the format that other writers can follow in communicating biblical doctrine to a new generation of readers. $11.55
24. Interpreting the Psalms: An Exegetical Handbook by Mark D. Futato (Kregel). Excellent little handbook in helping expositors pull all the meat from the Psalms for their their sermon preparations. Not just exegetical, but also helpful in determining the overall theology of the Psalms. $14.27
25. Justified in Christ: God’s Plan for us in Justification (Christian Focus). Edited by K. Scott Oliphant this compilation includes an intro by Sinclair Ferguson and chapters by men like Carl Trueman, William Edgar and Peter Lillback on the importance of justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. Looks at traditional problems with Roman Catholic theology and contemporary concerns with N.T. Wright on union and imputation. $12.99
26. The Majesty of God in the Old Testament: A Guide for Preaching and Teaching (Baker Academic). Renowned Old Testament scholar Walter C. Kaiser Jr. says we should preach more of the Old Testament and in his newest book he takes the preacher by the hand and shows them exactly how. Walking through 10 texts, Kaiser models exegesis and outlining of each specific texts. But in it’s easy-to-read format and concluding application questions in each chapter, this book will double as a group study of God in the Old Testament. $11.55
27. Preaching the Cross: Together for the Gospel (Crossway). The transcripts from the 2006 Together for the Gospel conference written and delivered by Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, John Piper and R.C. Sproul. An all-star lineup and one of the best compilation on the topic of preaching the gospel. $13.59
28. Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics (P&R). Edited by K. Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton. Yet another excellent collection of essays from P&R that captured my attention and helped me work through various difficulties in apologetics. $18.24
29. The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors by Thabiti Anyabwile (Crossway). Highlights Lemuel Haynes (1753-1833), Daniel A. Payne (1811-1893) and Francis J. Grimké (1850-1937). The book contains one short biography of each man, but is largely comprised of sermon transcripts. Anyabwile’s book is especially important because he is challenging the contemporary African-American churches to consider the gospel of first importance and is thereby calling for large-scale reform. $10.87
30. Reformation Heroes: A Simple, Illustrated Overview of People Who Assisted in the Great Work of the Reformation by Joel R. Beeke and Diana Kleyn (Reformation Heritage). The men, women and events of the Reformation written for older children and teens to boost their appreciation for the church. $18.00
And here are some other titles that are likely worthy of the above list, and I wish I made time to read:
- Andrew Hoffecker, ed., Revolutions in Worldview: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought (P&R) $23.51
- Norman Geisler, Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith (Crossway) $12.23
- J. Mark Bertrand, Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World (Crossway) $11.55
- Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington, The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness (Crossway) $10.87
- Herman J. Selderhuis, Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms: Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought (Baker Academic) $21.89
- Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone (Reformation Trust) $14.40
- Justin Taylor and John Piper, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World (Crossway) $10.19
- R.C. Sproul, Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Christian Focus) $14.99
- Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity (IVP) $13.60
So these are my favorite books of 2007. I hope this list serves you in your book-purchasing for the glory of Christ!
Blessings to you all and Merry Christmas from your friends at TSS,
The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ
by J. Stephen Yuille
At the very heart of Puritanism is the saints’ mystical union with Christ. We are in Christ! He is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption. From this union to Christ we experience all the blessings and delights of communion with God and find spiritual vitality for obedience, prayer, ministry and sacrificial love. This powerful union is mystical because we cannot see it with our eyes. It is a spiritually-revealed truth.
Puritan John Flavel is certainly one of the most valuable (and perhaps one of the more overlooked) of the Puritans. The theme of mystical union with Christ is threaded throughout his entire ministry. A study of Flavel on this theme has become one of my favorite books of the year: The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ by J. Stephen Yuille (Reformation Heritage, 2007).
John Flavel (1628-1691) had an eventful life on the run as a nonconformist preacher (see Beeke’s bio of Flavel here). He is remembered for his books The Mystery of Providence, The Method of Grace, Christ Knocking at the Door of the Heart, The Fountain of Life, and Keeping the Heart. His complete works are still in print and available from the Banner of Truth in six volumes. These works remain strikingly valuable for contemporary readers. Almost a year ago I wrote this review.
Back to our specific theme. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “If you have got hold of this idea [i.e., mystical union with Christ] you will have discovered the most glorious truth you will ever know in your life.” It is glorious because it reminds us that in all things, at all times, Christ is central to our lives. All of our spiritual vitality and life comes through Christ. Christ is the “Head” from whom the whole Body is nourished, knit together and grows (Col. 2:19). Paul’s phrase for Christ is simply “who is your life” (3:4) and says our lives are hidden in Christ (3:3). This glorious truth of being united to Christ is at the core of the Christian life.
And Flavel “got hold” of this idea. It became central to his ministry and from this center flowed his understanding of pursuing obedience, prayer and communion with God. Now, Yuille has taken the highlights of Flavel’s teaching on this theme and systematized them into one short volume (128 pages).
Yuille covers the full spectrum of the doctrine in this book. I have taken the index and provided it to the right (click for larger image). The comprehensiveness of this volume does not make it unreadable or overly academic. Yuille is a professor at Toronto Baptist Seminary, but he is also a pastor and this book shows the intellectual awareness of a scholar and the experiential sensitivities of a pastor.
Whether this is your introduction to the full scope of the mystical union with Christ, or your introduction to John Flavel (or both!) this short work will richly bless your soul. Yuille has well-captured the precious truth of our union with Christ through the ministry of a first-rate Puritan. The result is a contender for the 2007 TSS book of the year award.
Title: The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ
Author: J. Stephen Yuille (forward by Michael A. G. Haykin)
Table of Contents: scanned and posted online by TSS [click here]
Reading level: 2.75/5.0 > moderate
Dust jacket: no
Topical index: yes
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Price USD: $12.00/$9.00 from RHB
Today’s post is for communicators who know the clarity a John Owen quote brings to a complex biblical topic or the punch a C.H. Spurgeon quote adds to application points. My goal today is to encourage evangelists, authors, bloggers, preachers in their work of reaching lost souls and edifying redeemed souls.
I will address various related questions: Are electronic books and printed books friends or enemies? How can I find the best electronic books? How do I search those works effectively? How do I find quotes on my topic? How do I best handle the quote in hand?
I regularly express my appreciation for paper books AND electronic books when it comes to sermon preparation. A useful library balances both. Electronic books provide a technological enhancement to printed books. Sometimes I want to search the Works of John Owen in a jiff (electronic), and sometimes I want to chain off several weeks to ice pick my way through an entire volume (printed). The electronic text enhances the printed copies by making them easier to navigate, but reading the full text of Communion with God on a computer screen would surely lead to a hyper-extended retina.
Sweet Communion by Arie de Reuver
So I was all ready to wind down a bit this weekend, and not push to get another post up. That was all disrupted Saturday when a bubble mailer arrived in my mailbox from Baker Academic. I simply could not wait until next week to announce their new release. The book is Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation by Arie de Reuver. The book was published in Dutch in 2002 and translated into English by James A. De Jong.
To explain the importance of this book, I need to give some background.
We are familiar with the English Puritans (men like John Owen, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan, Thomas Brooks, etc.) primarily because their original works were written in English, and easily reprinted over the centuries with little editing necessary. However, in the Netherlands another “Puritan” movement was taking place. Like their English counterparts, men like Willem Teellinck, Herman Witsius and Thodorus and Wilhelmus à Brakel were producing valuable theological and spiritual works in Dutch. But until only recently has the work of Dr. Joel R. Beeke and the Dutch Reformed Translation Committee made these works more accessible. In fact, one of the great highlights of Beeke’s Meet the Puritans is a section entirely devoted to the Dutchmen of the “Further Reformation” (see pages 739-824). Books of the Dutch “Further Reformation” authors (like the recently translated The Path of True Godliness by Willem Teellinck) bear all the marks of brilliance we see in the English Puritans.
One of the most noticeable strengths of these “Dutch Puritans” (as I call them) is their emphasis on Reformed spirituality and their enjoyment of sweet communion with Christ. Theirs was a deep and sincere devotion to Christ where their union with Christ was the means of experiencing vibrant communion with Christ. They defended the doctrines of grace and simultaneously enjoyed a joyful and warm spirituality.
This beautiful Reformed spirituality can be seen in the works of Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711).
Wilhelmus à Brakel is most noted for his four-volume work, The Christian’s Reasonable Service (Reformation Heritage Books; 1993; 4 vols.). While it looks like another Reformed systematic theology it is actually more practical in nature and intended to provide content for small group discussions as Christians gather to encourage one another in the Christian life. It is one of the beautiful works of the “Dutch Puritans.”
I have noticed in the past the “sweet communion” of the believer with Christ is a theme that sparkles from this work. After emphasizing the marriage union between the Groom (Christ) and His Bride (the Church), à Brakel explains the believer’s communion with Christ within this marital union. Once this union between the sinner and his Savior has taken place in conversion “Jesus Himself delights in having communion with you” (2:93). Read that incredible sentence again! This communion produces a “sweetness and overflowing delight … Here they (Christians) find balm for their sick souls, light to clear up their darkness, life for their deadness, food and drink for their hunger and thirst, peace for their troubled heart, blood to atone for their sins, the Spirit for their sanctification, counsel when they are at their wit’s end, strength for their weakness, and a fullness of all for their manifold deficiencies” (2:93,94).
Of this marital union and the communion that follows, à Brakel writes,
“A temporal believer concerns himself only with the benefits and has no interest in Christ Himself. Believers, however, have communion with the Person of Jesus Christ, but many neither meditate upon nor closely heed their exercises concerning Christ Himself. They err in this, which is detrimental to the strength of their faith and impedes its growth. Therefore we wish to exhort them to be more exercised concerning the truth of belonging to each other, and the union and communion with Jesus Himself. They will then better perceive the unsearchable grace and goodness of God that such wretched and sinful men may be so intimately united with the Son of God. Such reflection will most wondrously set the heart aflame with love. It will strengthen their resolve to put their trust in Jesus without fear. It will give them strength and liberty to obtain everything from Him to fulfill the desires of their soul, causing them to grow in Him, which in turn will generate more light and joy. Therefore, faith, hope, and love are mentioned in reference to the Person of Christ. Scripture speaks of receiving Him, believing in Him, trusting in Him, living in Him, loving Him, and hoping in Him” (2:91).
This beautiful passage points the believer back to the Person of Christ to find her joy and strength in the beauty of Jesus Christ. This light and joy is the byproduct of communion with Him and this communion goes back to the believer’s union with Christ in justification.
Later, à Brakel explains that since our union with Christ is absolute, our communion with Christ does not shift with circumstances or emotions. “By faith, hold fast to the fact that you are reconciled to and are a partaker of Him and His benefits, even if you do not perceive and feel this. This belonging to Him is not based on feeling. If the souls may truly believe this and be exercised therewith, this will lead the soul toward communion with Him” (2:96). Communion can never be separated from our union and our union is described by our justification by faith alone and in our election in the Son. So à Brakel and the “Dutch Puritans” remind us that our sweet communion with Christ is inseparably bound to our understanding of our union with Christ in the gospel!
In his conclusion on the teachings of Wilhelmus à Brakel, de Reuver writes that his “spirituality is one that is rooted in Christ through the word believed, even in its most intimate and mystical moments. This foundation protects his mysticism from spiritualism” (258).
Many today are drawn towards Roman Catholic mysticism or a non-theological spirituality by thinking a deep spiritual experience of Christ can be separated from a genuine understanding of the gospel. This, as à Brakel displays, is not the case. Neither does Reformed theology favor a cold orthodoxy. Following the best intentions of the Medieval theologians, the Reformed “Dutch Puritans” always believed that rich biblical doctrine is the vein for the warm blood of spiritual experience of the Son in communion.
So here is the importance of Sweet Communion by de Reuver: The rich spirituality we have received from the “Dutch Puritans” is a spiritual legacy following the spiritual traditions of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471) but is firmly rooted in the precious theology of the Reformation. The final conclusion of de Reuver is that the all-controlling center of the Dutch Further Reformation spirituality rested in the Reformed theology. This is a beautiful and timely book to further dismantle the idea that Reformed theology is cold and stiff intellectualism. Our rich theology actually leads us deeper into true “mysticism” of direct communion with Christ.
Title: Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation.
Series: Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought
Author: Arie de Reuver (Dutch)
Translator: James A. De Jong (English)
Reading level: 4.5/5.0 > academic and some untranslated Dutch quotations
Dust jacket: no
Topical index: no
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Baker Academic
Price USD: $29.99/23.99 from Baker
ISBNs: 0801031222, 9780801031229
Related: Communion with God by Kelly Kapic. Another gem from Baker this year on communion with God. Kapic studies English Puritan John Owen’s understanding that communion with God takes place within a balanced Triunity of the Father, Son and Spirit. Highly recommended.
By John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787)
I’ve been working on a review of The Systematic Theology of John Brown of Haddington (more commonly known as A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion, published in 1782 and reprinted by Christian Focus in 2002). Taking the past month to become acquainted with this remarkable man has been a great blessing to my own soul. Brown was the son of a basket weaver, whose poor Christian parents were both dead by the time he was 11-years old. He became an orphan shepherd. Although every circumstance in Brown’s life pointed towards a rough future of poverty and ignorance, he would teach himself NT Greek! Under the sovereign direction of God, being self-taught from the well of Scripture, this man would become one of the most prominent theological professors, writers, preachers and theologians in Scottish history, producing a long-revered Bible dictionary and a massive study Bible (The Self-Interpreter’s Bible). Most striking in his life, letters and books is Brown’s vast and encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture. The following is an excerpt from an address given to students of theology published in the preface of his systematic theology. I would encourage pastors to print this out and return to it frequently. Blessings! Tony
“See that your minds be deeply impressed with the nature, extent, and importance of your ministerial work, — that therein it is required of you, as ambassadors for Christ, as stewards of the mysteries and manifold grace of God, — to be faithful; — to serve the Lord with your spirit, and with much humility in the gospel of his Son: — to testify repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, not keeping back or shunning to declare every part of the counsel of God, or any profitable instruction, reproof, or encouragement; and not moved with any reproach, persecution, hunger, or nakedness, — to be ready not only to be bound, but to die for the name of the Lord Jesus, in order to finish your course with joy. Bearing with the infirmities of the weak, and striving together in prayer, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, and your message provided by God, and made acceptable to your hearers, you must labor with much fear and trembling, determined to know, to glory in, and to make known, nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, — preaching the gospel, not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, as men-pleasers, but with great plainness of speech, in demonstration of the Spirit and with power, – speaking the things which are freely given you by God, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but in words which the Holy Ghost teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, — as having the mind of Christ, always triumphing in Him, — and making manifest the savor of the knowledge of him in every place, that you may be a sweet savor of Christ in them who are saved, and in them who perish; — as of sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God, speaking in Christ, and through the mercy of God, not fainting, but renouncing the hidden things of dishonesty; — not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, or corrupting the truth, but manifesting the truth to every man’s conscience, as in the sight of God; — not preaching yourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and yourselves servants to the church for his sake, always bearing about his dying, that his life may be manifested in you; — and knowing the terror of the Lord, and deeply impressed with the account which you and your hearers must give to him of your whole conduct in the day of judgment, — awed by his infinite authority, constrained and inflamed by his love, you must persuade men, beseeching them to be reconciled unto God, and making yourselves manifest to God and to their conscience, — and, as their edification requires, changing your voice, and turning yourselves every way, and becoming all things to all men, in order to gain them to Christ, — jealous over them with a godly jealousy, in order to espouse them to him as chaste virgins, — travailing in birth, till he be formed in their hearts. You must take heed to your ministry which you have received in the Lord, what you may fulfill it; — stir up the gifts which were given you, — give yourselves wholly to reading, exhortation, and doctrine; — and perseveringly take heed to yourselves and to the doctrine which you preach, that you may save yourselves and them that hear you; — watching for their souls, as they who do, and must give an account for them to God, — rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving every man his portion in due season, faithfully warning every man with tears night and day, teaching every man, particularly young ones, and laboring to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, — and warring, not after the flesh, nor with carnal weapons, but with such as are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds and casting down imaginations, and subduing every thought and affection to the obedience of Christ. Having him for the end of your conversation, and holding fast the form of sound words in faith in, and love to him, — not entangling yourselves with the affairs of this life, nor ashamed of the Lord, or of his cause or prisoners, but ready to endure hardships as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and to endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may obtain salvation with eternal glory; — ye must go forth without the camp, bearing his reproach, and, exposed as spectacles of suffering to angels and men, must not faint under your tribulations, but feed the flock of God which he has purchased with his own blood, and over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, — preaching the word in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with all long-suffering and doctrine, — taking the oversight of your people, not by restraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre of worldly gain, or larger stipends, but of a ready mind, — neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but as examples to the flock, — exercising yourselves to have a conscience void of offense towards God and towards man, — having a good conscience, willing in all things to live honestly, — exercised to godliness, — kindly affectioned, disinterested, holy, just, and unblamable, — prudent examples of the believers in conversations [daily life], in charity, in faith and purity, — fleeing youthful lusts, and following after righteousness, peace, faith, charity, — not striving, but being gentle to all men, — in meekness, instructing them who oppose themselves, avoiding foolish and unlearned questions, and old wives’ fables, — fleeing from perverse disputings and worldly mindedness, as most dangerous snares; and following after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness; — fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life, — keeping your trust of gospel truth and ministerial office, and, without partiality or precipitancy, committing the same to faithful men, who may be able to teach others; — and, in fine, faithfully laboring, in the Lord, to try, and confute, and censure false teachers, restore such as have been overtaken in a fault in the spirit of meekness, — and having compassion on them, to pull them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, and never conniving at, or partaking with an in their sins. Who is sufficient for these things? May your sufficiency be of God; and as your days are, so may your strength be. (Ezek. 2:7, 3:9, 17-21, 33:7-9; Isa. 58:1; Jer. 1:17-18, 15:19-20; Mic. 3:8; Mal. 2:6-7; Matt. 10:16-39, 19:28-29, 20:25-28, 23:3-12, 24:42-51, 28:18-20; Acts 18:24-28, 20:18-35, 24:16, 26:16-23; 1 Cor. 2:1-5,9,12-13, ch. 1-5, 9, 12-14; 2 Cor. ch. 2-6, 10-13; Rom. 1:9,16, 9:1-2, 10:1, ch. 12 and 15; Gal. 1:8-16, 4:19; Eph. 3:7-9, 4:11-15, 6:19-20; Col. 4:7,17, 1:23-29, 2:1-2; 1 Thes. ch. 2, 3, 5:12; 1 Tim. ch. 3-4; 2 Tim. ch. 1-3; Heb. 13:7,17-18; 1 Pet. 4:10-11, 5:1-4; Jude 22, 23; Rev. ch. 2, 3, 11:3-7, 14:6-11).”
- John Brown of Haddington, “Address to Students of Divinity,” in The Systematic Theology of John Brown of Haddington (Christian Focus: 1782/2002), pp. viii-xi.
The Works of Thomas Goodwin
The complete works of Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679) have become quite rare and so I was encouraged to find that Reformation Heritage Books released the complete set this year.
Goodwin was a very gifted bible scholar and experiential preacher. He and John Owen (1616-1683) team-preached on Sundays at Oxford between 1652-1657. According to scholars, much of the content in those precious volumes on the mortification sin and the glory of Christ were preached by Owen during these years. The bar was set high, and Owen was certainly more gifted, but Goodwin was an able counterpart. For me, Goodwin seems a bit easier to read than Owen, although that hardly makes Goodwin an easy read.
Owen may have been more prolific, but Goodwin was much more handsome and fashionable, incorporating hip stocking caps at formal occasions. Though differing in style, Owen (who favored a more kippot cap) and Goodwin were united by common passions. Both exalted the glory of Christ and encouraged believers to fight personal sin. And seeing that both men majored on these important topics makes me long to have been an Oxford student between 1652-1657.
The Glory of Christ
My first contact with Goodwin’s works came a few years ago when I purchased volume 5 (Christ the Mediator). In this volume Goodwin consumes 436 pages to relish in Christ’s fitness and work as our Mediator. He shows evidence upon evidence that Christ is the only hope for humanity. No angel or fallen man can save us – we sinners are helpless and hopeless of redemption without Christ. But here is the kicker: Christ’s fitness for the work does not make Him our Savior.
Christ, being perfectly suited for the work and able to fulfill the demands of the Father, still needs to freely choose the work for Himself. I was moved by Goodwin’s description of Christ’s willingness to freely lay His own life down for sinners. That nobody took His life, but He chose to give it (in a transaction made in eternity past) is a truth I will never fully consume or digest. It is a great truth that moves my affections and mortifies my sin.
When it comes to the glory of Christ, Owen and Goodwin are the power-hitting duo for the Puritans, what Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were to baseball. No duo matches Owen and Goodwin in overwhelming me with the glory of Christ.
For a preacher or writer who needs to navigate Puritan literature efficiently and timely, the index at the end of these works is a real treat. The topical index alone is 89 pages long. The text index contains over 10,200 biblical references and takes up 95 double-column pages. These two indexes make every one of the 6,600 pages easily accessible.
As I was recently reading, the following example struck me. In volume three Goodwin preaches a sermon titled, The Trial of Christian Growth (on John 15:1-2). We grow when we are pruned and we are pruned because we, as believers, are still sinful.
In the sermon, one question naturally arises: How do we know that sin resides in the heart of the believer? And for the next few pages Goodwin sets out to answer this important question. The following is a good example of Goodwin’s thought.
Of course sin resides in the believer because they are pruned. But then, Goodwin argues that we know sin resides in our hearts due to the nature of our justified righteousness in Christ.
“When the Apostle, long after his first conversion, was in the midst of that great and famous battle, chronicled in that 7th chapter of Romans, wherein he was led ‘captive to a law,’ and an army of sin within him, ‘warring against the law of his mind,’ presently upon that woeful exclamation and outcry there mentioned, ‘O miserable man that I am,’ &c., he falls admiring the grace of justification through Christ,–they are his first words after the battle ended,–‘Now,’ says he, ‘there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ.’ Mark that word now; that now, after such bloody wounds and gashes, there should yet be no condemnation, this exceedingly exalts this grace; for if ever, thought he, I was in danger of condemnation, it was upon the rising and rebelling of these my corruptions, which, when they had carried me captive, I might well have expected the sentence of condemnation to have followed; but I find, says he, that God still pardons me, and accepts me as much as ever upon my returning to him, and therefore I do proclaim with wonder to all the world, that God’s justifying grace in Christ is exceeding large and rich. And though there may be many corruptions in those that are in Christ, yet there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, that walk after the Spirit, though flesh be in them.” (3:448 )
Then on to the next idea… Sin resides in the heart of the believer, otherwise God’s preserving grace of His children would be no special thing.
“It serves exceedingly to illustrate the grace of perseverance, and the power of God therein; for unto the power of God is our perseverance wholly attributed. 1 Peter 1:5, ‘Ye are kept,’ as with a garrison, as the word signifies, ‘through the power of God unto salvation,’ And were there not a great and apparent danger of miscarrying, such a mighty guard needed not. There is nothing which puts us into any danger but our corruptions that still remain in us, which ‘fight against the soul,’ and endeavor to overcome and destroy us.” (3:448-449)
Then on to the devil. Satan can only be motivated towards tripping and tempting believers if they have opportunity for sin. He writes,
“Neither would the confusion of the devil in the end be so great, and the victory so glorious, if all sin at first conversion were expelled. For by this means the devil hath in his assaults against us the more advantages, fair play, as I may so speak, fair hopes of overcoming, having a great faction in us, as ready to sin as he is greedy to tempt; and yet God strongly carries on his own work begun, though slowly, and by degrees, backs and maintains a small party of graces within us to his confusion.” (3:449)
Sin in the believer’s heart humbles us and makes certain we do not think of ourselves too highly. Notice Goodwin’s humor.
“But sanctification being a work wrought in us, we are apt to dote on that, as too much upon excellency in ourselves. How much ado have poor believers to keep their hearts off from doting upon their own righteousness, and from pouring on it, when it is, God wot [knows], a very little! They must therefore have something within them to pull down their spirits…” (3:450)
But Goodwin continues. We know sin resides in the believer’s heart to exalt post-conversion grace and again to humble us.
“It is not the sins of a fore-past unregenerate estate that will be enough to do this thoroughly; for they might be looked upon as past and gone… God would have us humbled by seeing our dependence upon him for inherent grace. And how soon are we apt to forget we have received it, and that in our natures no good dwells! We would not remember that our nature were a step-mother to grace, and a natural mother to lusts, but that we see weeds still grow naturally of themselves.” (3:450)
And Goodwin continues. Further, we know sin resides in the heart of the Christian because how else could God call believers to a life of self-denial?
“As thus to humble them, so that they might have occasion to deny themselves; which to do is more acceptable to God than much more service without it, and therefore the great promise of ‘having a hundred-fold’ is made to that grace. It was the great grace which of all other Christ exercised. Now, if we had no corruption to entice and seduce us, what opportunities were there for us thus of denying ourselves? Christ indeed had an infinite deal of glory to lay down, not so we. Unless there be a self in us to solicit us, and another self to deny those solicitations, we should have no occasions of self-denial or the exercise of any such grace.” (3:450)
But Goodwin hasn’t even arrived at the application! In application he reminds us (1) we must be humbled towards other Christians who fall into sin, and (2) we must fight to ever purge sin from our acts and hearts.
“If thou hast prevailed against the outward act, rest not, but get the rising of the lust mortified, and that rolling of it in thy fancy; get thy heart deaded towards it also; and it must not only be ‘crucified with Christ,’ but ‘buried’ also, and so rot.” (3:451)
I find his argument for sin in the life of the Christian to be compelling, humorous, experiential and very valuable. These four little pages held my attention for a few hours as I reflected upon them. I find this a common response to Goodwin’s sermons.
The first two volumes are largely comprised of sermons through Ephesians 1:1-2:11. The first volume also contains a helpful biography and strategy for reading Goodwin, written by Joel R. Beeke. Volume one contains 36 sermons through the first chapter of Ephesians and volume two contains 24 sermons on the second chapter of Ephesians. It has been said that, “Not even Luther on Galatians is such an expositor of Paul’s mind and heart as is Goodwin on the Ephesians.” Volume two concludes with four sermons on various other sections of Ephesians and a short book on James 1:1-5.
Volume three contains an exposition on various passages from Revelation 4-16. A 120-page book titled, A Child of Light Walking in Darkness, covers the darkest periods of the Christian life. An 80-page book follows on the topic of noting answered prayers. A 70-page book, The Trial of a Christian’s Growth, considers the God who prunes His children for more usefulness. A powerful 20-page sermon on The Vanity of Thoughts concludes this valuable volume. Volumes four and five are loaded with Christ-exalting books and sermons including Christ the Mediator (a personal favorite), Christ Set Forth and the Supereminence of Christ.
Volume six is comprised of one long book on the work of the Holy Spirit in our salvation. Volume seven contains several books covering the perfection of original created order, a call to gospel holiness in the Christian life, the three stages of Christian maturity (babes, men, fathers), the glory of the saints after death, man’s restoration by grace and a book on repentance. Volume eight is one long book titled, The Object and Acts of Justifying Faith, and clearly defines the object, act and properties of personal faith.
Volume nine is given almost wholly to defining the doctrine of election except for a sermon on thankfulness due to God for His blessings to us. Volume ten is one long indictment towards the unregenerate and their guiltiness before God. Volume eleven contains Goodwin’s argument for congregational church government over a Presbyterian form. The final volume is the shortest. It contains five sermons on various topics, a collection of quaint sayings of Goodwin and some extracts of sermon notes taken by hearers. The volume includes with those two incredibly helpful indexes to navigate the complete works.
Goodwin was mighty in the scriptures and a scholar of the human heart. He was balanced in topics and so provides help for the preacher on various themes. He was never content with the superficial, but dove to the depths of divine wisdom.
His complete works provide us a lifetime of learning into the sin-killing glories of Calvary. It is a set worth planning your library around.
Dust jackets: no
Text: facsimile of 1861-66 version (Nichol’s Standard Divines)
Topical Index: yes (excellent; end of vol. 12)
Textual index: yes (excellent; end of vol. 12)
Biography: yes (Joel R. Beeke; vol. 1)
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books (Grand Rapids, MI)
Price USD: $350/$240 at RHB, Inc.
Indexed: yes, in both Martin and PCA
ISBNs: 1892777916, 9781892777911
9781892777904, 9781892777829, 9781892777805, 9781892777898, 9781892777874, 9781892777843, 9781892777850, 9781892777867, 9781892777881, 9781892777836, 9781892777799, 9781892777812, 9781892777911