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).