Category Archives: Octavius Winslow
Octavius Winslow writes the following to comfort all who carry the weight of “home-burdens.” After I read it I stopped to pray for the wives I know who carry a heavy load of family duties and burdens on a daily basis. This is from his book The Ministry of Home (London: 1847), pages 351–352:
Perhaps, your home-duties, trials, and needs, form your burden. Every home is an embryo kingdom, an epitomized world, of which the parent constitutes the sovereign. There are laws to be obeyed, rules to be observed, subjects to be governed, cares to be sustained, demands to be met, and “who is sufficient for all this?” is often your anxious inquiry. Who can tell what crushing burdens, what bitter sorrows, what corroding cares, what pressing demands, may exist within a single family circle, deeply veiled from every eye but God’s? . . . Your children are an anxiety. Your domestic duties a trial. Your necessities are pressing. Your whole position one of embarrassment and depression [financially].
What shall you do? Do even as the Lord who loves you enjoins — “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you.” Your Heavenly Father knows all your home-trials, for He has sent them! Jesus, though he had no home on earth, yet sympathized with the home-cares and sorrows of others, and is not a stranger, nor indifferent to yours. Bring all to Him, tell Him all, confide to Him all, trust Him in all. You have no family trial too great, and no domestic need too little, and no home-sorrow too delicate, to take to Christ. Obey the precept, “Cast your burden upon the Lord;” and He will make good the promise, ”and He shall sustain you.” O costly and blessed home-burden that brings Jesus beneath our roof! . . .
Jesus is the great Burden-Bearer of His people. No other arm, and no other heart, in heaven or upon earth, were strong enough, or loving enough, to bear these burdens but His! He who bore the weight of our sin and curse and shame in His obedience and death — bore it along all the avenues of His weary pilgrimage, from Bethlehem to Calvary — is He who now stretches forth His Divine arm, and makes bare a Brother’s heart to take your burden of care and of grief, dear saint of God, upon Himself.
Octavius Winslow, The Ministry of Home (London: 1847), page 39:
The sight of Jesus is a soul-satisfying spectacle.
The penitent soul is satisfied, for it sees in Jesus a free pardon of sin.
The condemned soul is satisfied, for it receives in Jesus a free justification.
The believing soul is satisfied, for it discovers in Jesus a fountain of all grace.
The tried, tempted, sorrowful soul is satisfied, for it experiences in Jesus all consolation, sympathy and love.
O, what an all-satisfying Portion is Jesus!
He satisfies every holy desire, for He realizes it.
He satisfies every craving need, for He supplies it.
He satisfies every sore grief, for He soothes it.
He satisfies the deepest yearnings, the highest aspirations, the most sublime hopes of the renewed soul, for all these center and end in Him!”
From the sermon of Octavius Winslow (1808–1878) titled “The Vitality of the Atoning Blood”:
The moment the ransomed and released soul enters glory, the first object that arrests its attention and fixes its eye is the interceding Savior. Faith, anticipating the glorious spectacle, sees him now pleading the blood on behalf of each member of His Church upon earth.
“By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” [Hebrews 9:12]
“For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, NOW to appear in the presence of God for us.” [Hebrews 9:24]
There is blood in heaven! the blood of the Incarnate God! And because it pleads and prays, argues and intercedes, the voice of every sin is hushed, every accusation of Satan is met, every daily transgression is forgiven, every temptation of the adversary is repelled, every evil is warded, every need is supplied, and the present sanctification and the final glorification of the saints are secured.
“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” [Romans 8:33–34]
Draw near, you Joshuas, accused by Satan!
Approach, you Peters, whose faith is sifted!
Come, you tried and disconsolate!
The mediatorial Angel, the pleading Advocate, the interceding High Priest, has passed into the heavens, and appears before the throne, for you.
If the principle of the spiritual life in your soul has decayed, if your grace has declined, if you have ‘left your first love,’ there is vitality in the interceding blood of Jesus, and it prays for your revival. If sin condemns, and danger threatens, and temptation assails, and affliction wounds, there is living power in the pleading blood of Immanuel, and it procures pardon, protection, and comfort.
TSS readers have a track record of supplying rare biographical and bibliographical information. So here goes another request.
Today, a seminary student contacted me who is pursuing a PhD and wants to study the homiletics of Octavius Winslow (1808-1878). Here’s what’s needed:
(1) Biographical details of Winslow’s life and ministry (beyond the short summary in his books).
(2) Access to Winslow’s original sermon manuscripts (if they exist).
If you know of where to find these details, or have possible leads, please leave comments.
Recently, a good friend emailed me for recommendations on my favorite books on the cross. He wanted me to focus on books God has used to make a profound impact on my soul. When I sent the list, it included great titles like The Cross of Christ by John Stott, Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney, and several titles by John Piper. But as I scanned through my shelf of books on the cross, I realized that over the past few years I’ve come across a number of lesser-known, but richly valuable, books. And so in my list for a friend I added a subcategory of books that have great value in meditating on the cross, but don’t get much attention or are now out-of-print.
So here are five of those titles (in no particular order):
1. Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53 by James Durham (Naphtali Press; $30). I’ve written a more extensive review of this volume so I’ll keep this description brief. Christ Crucified is a precious Puritan work on the work of Christ. Yet when this volume appeared in print in 2001, it had not been previously published since 1792! In 72 sermons Durham slowly walks through Isaiah 53:1-12, pulling out the doctrine of the cross and calling the reader to respond with praise, joy, and obedience. The editor behind this contemporary edition did an outstanding job of making the text clean and easy to navigate. In the front cover of his personal copy, C.H. Spurgeon simply wrote, “Much prized.” I would agree.
2. Caleb’s Lamb by Helen Santos (Reformation Heritage; $7.50). A family favorite, my wife and I read this book with our children. The 100-page chapter book is the story of Caleb, a reluctant boy forced to work with his shepherd dad. Caleb personally despises the sheep. The narrative develops within the context of the Old Testament Israelites in the months leading up to the Exodus. Long story short: Caleb rescues a spotless, newborn lamb from wilderness danger and his dad passes on to Caleb a personal responsibility to care for this sheep. The story progresses around Caleb’s growing maturity and his growing bond with lamb. But rumors are stirring of Moses and a coming deliverance from Egypt. Every household must prepare for the coming angel of the Lord by sacrificing a spotless lamb. It’s a sobering yet wonderful story for children capturing the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
3. The Precious Things of God by Octavius Winslow (Soli Deo Gloria; out of print, buy used, read online). For a while now, I have considered Winslow to be one of the most influential writers on my soul. This book—The Precious Things of God—has the unique distinction of being classified as my most personally life-transforming book (apart from Scripture itself). The chapter on the preciousness of Christ’s blood really opened my eyes to the fuller experience of the cross within the Christian life. It impacted my life at a time when I needed to get away from very technical theology books and simply needed someone to remind me again of the cross. A faithful friend pointed me towards Winslow. And this precious book was a success. Here is one excerpt.
4. The Fullness of Christ by Octavius Winslow (Reformation Heritage: $12.00, read online). Drawing his framework around the history of Joseph and his brothers, Winslow captures the sufficiency of Christ. You may not agree with Winslow’s hermeneutic but through the framework he is faithful to the character and work of Christ. It’s a unique work and a treasure I return to often I my personal devotional time. Here is one choice excerpt:
This quote captures the passion, skill, and articulation of Octavius Winslow. What a treasure!
5. Outrageous Mercy: Rediscovering the Radical Nature of Christianity by William P. Farley (Baker; out of print). Pastor Farley has become a friend over the years. His book, which briefly appeared in 2004 from Baker, is a gem. This is one book on the cross that you should make sacrifices to find. Here is one excerpt:
I’m hopeful Outrageous Mercy will be printed again in the future.
So those are some important, lesser-known books on the cross I would encourage you to incorporate into your library of resources and spiritual diet.
Now, what about you? What books have ministered the cross of Christ to your soul?
Book review (from 2007)
Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts
by Octavius Winslow
Over the past five years, Reformation Heritage Books (Grand Rapids, MI) has become a household name in reformed publishing. It was RHB, under the direction of Dr. Joel Beeke, that brought us the Works of Thomas Goodwin 12 volume reprint (2006), The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety by J. Stephen Yuille (2007), Jeremiah Burrough’s commentary on Hosea (2006), The Path of True Godliness by William Teellinck (2003), A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards (2007) and the other ‘Profiles in Reformed Spirituality.’ RHB produced the 2006 TSS book of the year, Meet the Puritans, by Beeke and Randall Peterson.
Another noteworthy achievement from this five-year span is the re-typeset and newly reissued devotionals written by Octavius Winslow – Morning Thoughts (2003) and Evening Thoughts (2005). These two volumes, first published 150 years ago, should be considered some of the best devotional literature in print today.
Winslow enjoyed a lengthy ministry as a pastor and writer. His many books all rise to peak expressions of the beauty of our Savior. Rich reformed spirituality saturates each page and few authors have risen to his levels of sustained doxological expression of thanks for the Cross, of sobering real-life reminders of living under the Cross, and helping the reader draw spiritual strength from the Cross.
Several years ago, at a time when I needed to learn how to affectionately respond to my growing theology, I was told to read The Precious Things of God (incredibly it remains out-of-print). This was my introduction to Winslow and it made a significant impact on my soul. became, from that point onward, one of my favorite books apart from Scripture. It continues to be–I think–Winslow’s greatest achievement although it’s one of the most difficult of his books to find in printed form [although it is available as online text, at Google books, the Internet Archive, and now on the Kindle].
Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts both capture this same warm spirituality of Winslow. It’s no surprise his many works are accessible online for free. Thankfully this has not prevented many of his works to be reprinted by multiple publishers like Banner of Truth and Tentmaker. Just recently RHB has edited, re-typset and reprinted The Fullness of Christ (2006) and Our God (2007). Both are classics!
Morning and Evening
A morning with Christ is the best way to begin a day with Christ. But the evening devotions – oftentimes overlooked – play an important role as well. Winslow begins the second volume by looking to the evening temple lamb sacrifice as our pattern. “The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even” (Num. 28:4 KJV).
“The devout Israelite was thus taught to close the day as he began it: with a sacrifice for sin” Winslow writes in the preface to Evening Thoughts. “Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, meets this new and depressed condition of the believer. To Him how blessed, before slumber seals the eyelid, to take all the sins, the imperfections, the wanderings of the day, and with a fresh believing view of the cross lie down peacefully and repose beneath a loving, forgiving Father’s care!”
These two devotionals were originally published in 1856 and 1858. The selections are hand-picked by Winslow from his pre-existing works. They begin with a passage (KJV) and then expound one or two principles from the text at hand. The text has been re-typeset and slightly edited to increase the readability of Winslow’s writing.
Morning Thoughts was originally published in a larger print to accommodate an elderly audience (approximately 14 pt font). The text in the second volume, Evening Thoughts, was shrunk because of space limitations (approximately 12 pt font). The sharp re-typeset editions make them easy to read in either size.
The readings are short (2+/- pages each) and I normally read them slowly, and always I read them twice.
Both volumes are similar in size and construction. Morning Thoughts is 788 pages and Evening Thoughts is 733 pages in length. Both are hardcover and feature durable Smyth-sewn binding and very clean white paper. An index to all main Scripture citations is found at the end of the second volume. There is no topical index, which would have been helpful for preachers and readers using the devotionals as a reference.
The text is only slightly edited and eliminates minor hindrances to readability. One example will highlight this. Here is the original text from the morning of January 7th:
“The Atonement itself precludes all idea of human merit, and, from its very nature, proclaims that it is free. Consider the grandeur of the Atonement- contemplate its costliness: incarnate Deity- perfect obedience- spotless purity- unparalleled grace and love- acute and mysterious sufferings- wondrous death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of the Savior, all conspire to constitute it the most august sacrifice that could possibly be offered.”
And here is the edited RHB text:
“The atonement itself precludes all idea of human merit, and, from its very nature, proclaims that it is free. Consider the grandeur of the atonement, contemplate its costliness: incarnate Deity, perfect obedience, spotless purity, unparalleled grace and love, acute and mysterious sufferings, wondrous death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of the Savior. All conspire to constitute it the most noble sacrifice that could possibly be offered.”
Notice the many dashes are removed for commas and “august” is replaced with a more contemporary word “noble.” On the whole, the editing is minimal but effective.
Winslow was particularly skilled at broad application to hit each reader. He would apply one theme across a wide spectrum of saints in various life situations – the joyful, the suffering, the lazy, the struggling, the young and the old. These volumes will appeal to a broad readership and will make great general gifts for Christian friends. The choice selections are easy-to-read and will suit family reading times. Even small children can easily follow the beautiful selections. And family prayer will be compelled from these powerful readings. Pastors will find here a wealth of quotable material.
Title: Morning Thoughts (1856) / Evening Thoughts (1858)
Author: Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)
Editors: Joel R. Beeke and Kate DeVries
Reading level: 1.5/5.0 > excellent editing makes them very readable
Boards: hardcover (not cloth)
Pages: 788 / 733 = 1,521
Dust jacket: no
Paper: very white and clean
Topical index: no (would be helpful)
Scriptural index: yes (for both volumes at end of Evening Thoughts)
Text: perfect type, re-typeset
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Year: 1856 and 2003 / 1858 and 2005
Price USD: $20.00 from RHB / $20.00 from RHB
ISBNs: 1892777290 / 1892777452
The Cross-centered prayer life
“Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24)
“A most powerful incentive to prayer is found in a close and realizing view of the atoning blood. What encouragement does it present to this blessed and holy life of communion with God! The atoning blood! The mercy seat sprinkled over! The High Priest before the throne! The cloud of incense constantly ascending! The Father well pleased! What can more freely invite the soul that pants for close and holy communion with God? And when the atoning blood is realized upon the conscience, when pardon and acceptance are sealed upon the heart by the Eternal Spirit, oh, then what a persuasion to draw near the throne of grace has the believer in Christ! Then, there is no consciousness of guilt to keep the believer back; no dread of God; no trembling apprehensions of a repulse. God is viewed through the cross as reconciled, and as standing in the endeared relationship, and wearing the inviting smile of a Father. With such an altar, such a High Priest, such atoning blood, and such a reconciled God, what an element should prayer be to a believer in Christ! Let the soul, depressed, burdened, tried, tempted, as it may be, draw near the mercy seat: God delights to hear, delights to answer. Taking in the hand the atoning blood, pleading the infinite merit of Christ – reminding the Father of what His Son has accomplished, of His own gracious promise to receive and favorably answer the petition endorsed with the name and presented in behalf of that Son – the feeblest child of God, the most disconsolate, the most burdened, may approach and open all the heart to a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God. Let the atoning blood be strenuously pleaded, let the precious and infinite merit of Christ be fully urged, and the blessing petitioned for will be obtained.”
“May not this be assigned as a reason why so few of our petitions are answered, why so little blessing is obtained: The faint pleading of the atoning blood? There is so feeble a recognition of the blessed way of access, so little wrestling with the precious blood, so little looking by faith to the cross, the dear name of Immanuel so seldom urged, and when urged so coldly mentioned – oh, is it any marvel that our prayers return to us unanswered, the petition ungranted, the draft on the full treasury of His love unhonored? The Father loves to be reminded of His beloved Son; the very breathing of the name to Him is music; the very waving of the censer of infinite merits to Him is fragrant. He delights to be pressed with this plea; it is a plea at all times prevalent; it is a plea He cannot reject; it glorifies Himself, honors His Son, while it enriches him who urges it. And, oh, in the absence of all other pleas, what a mercy to come with a plea like this! Who can fully estimate it? No plea has the poor believer springing from himself: he searches, but nothing can he find on which to rest a claim; all within is vile, all without is marred by sin; unfaithfulness, ingratitude, departure do but make up the history of the day. But in Christ he sees that which he can urge, and in urging which God will hear and answer.”
- Octavius Winslow (1808-1878), Daily Walking With God, June 12th.
Christmas book recommendation:
The Fullness of Christ by Octavius Winslow
The Fullness of Christ, written by my favorite author (Octavius Winslow), was published this year by Reformation Heritage Books. All of his books are devotional and exceptional in highlighting the beauty, fullness and refreshment in Christ!! His best book and — apart from the bible — the best book I have ever read is The Precious Things of God. (Yes, you heard me right, the best book I have read apart from the bible. For some reason this gem is out of print but worth every effort to find.) The Fullness is a great introduction to this wonderful author.
Naturally, the most precious things to our hearts are not the most precious things to God. This distinction is what we commonly label ‘sin.’ Our hearts treasure the temporary, the cheap and the sinful. God treasures the eternal, the priceless and the holy. The Christian life is a path of aligning our affections with the precious things God treasures.
This brings me to both my favorite book and favorite author (apart from the bible): Octavius Winslow. I have yet to read a book by Winslow that has not pushed me closer to the heart of God. As for devotion and edification, no author rivals Winslow.
Octavius Winslow was a good friend of Spurgeon and it’s no secret why. Winslow is devotional, passionate and concrete. The Precious Things of God covers such a wide panorama of the Christian life that every Christian reader will be ministered to and the preacher will find in this one book a quote to fit almost any sermon on any topic.
Winslow writes with power because, like the Puritan legacy he follows, a simple understanding of the truths of God’s Word is insufficient. Like the hammer on the head of a nail, the experience of the truth drives itself into a permanent place in our lives.
In the preface Winslow writes, “We really know as much of the gospel of Christ, and of the Christ of the gospel, as by the power of the Holy Ghost we have the experience of it in our souls. All other acquaintance with Divine truth must be regarded as merely intellectual, theoretical, speculative, and of little worth” (p. iv).
Winslow’s goal (by God’s grace) is to give the readers an experience of God’s Word, and that is the motive behind this and his other works.
I have noticed that many well-meaning devotional works tend towards the abstract and vague. Winslow’s language remains concrete throughout. For example, take this excerpt about the crucifixion event:
“In that vital stream He [the Father] saw the life, the spiritual and eternal life, of His people. His everlasting love had found a fit and appropriate channel through which it could flow to the vilest sinner. Divine mercy, in her mission to our fallen planet, approached the Cross of Calvary, paused – gazed – and adored. Then dipping her wings in the crimson stream, pursued her flight through the world, proclaiming, in music such as angels had never heard, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men!’” (p. 169).
And the following quote recently came alive to me personally. Just two weeks ago, my 51-year-old neighbor Greg was driving home from work on his motorcycle when he did not see a drunk man pulling out onto a busy street. Greg slammed into the back of the vehicle and died from his injuries shortly thereafter. My heart broke when I heard that in the hour following the accident, his family was frantically trying to find a priest to come and give the last rites. Greg was dead before a priest arrived.
I’ve since been haunted by the scene of my neighbor on the pavement as his life was leaving his body. What was he thinking of? What was he hoping in?
A Winslow’s quote continues to come to mind when I consider this dreadful scene:
“All of earth’s attraction ceases, all of our creature-succor fails. Everything is failing – heart and strength failing – mental power failing – medical skill failing – human affection and sympathy failing; the film of death is on the eye, and the invisible realities of the spirit-world are unveiling to the mental view. Bending over you, the loved one who has accompanied you to the margin of the cold river, asks for a sign. You are too weak to conceive a thought, too low to breathe a word, too absorbed to bestow a responsive glance. You cannot now aver [verify] your faith in an elaborate creed, and you have no profound experience, or ecstatic emotions, or heavenly visions to describe. One brief, but all-emphatic, all-expressive sentence embodies the amount of all that you know, and believe, and feel; it is the profession of your faith, the sum of your experience, the ground of your hope – ‘Christ is precious to my soul!’ Enough! The dying Christian can give, and the inquiring friend can wish no more” (pp. 31-32).
Winslow’s book will help our lives end with those simple and profoundly supernatural words – Christ is precious to my soul!
The Precious Things of God is available on-line from a number of sources but I recommend the Soli Deo Gloria printed volume. It’s dark blue cloth binding is wonderful and fitting such a precious volume. (Update: the book is now officially out-of-print. I cannot tell you how affirming it is when you tell people it’s the best book you have read and the publisher stops printing it at the very same time =) Second-guessing my sanity, anyone?).
- Read The Precious Things of God online for free here.
- My friend Joe at StillTruth recently converted several Winslow books into Libronix format for Logos Bible software. A great free resource!
The Precious Things of God, Octavius Winslow, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1860/1994, 424 pages, 1877611611. (Out of print).