Keeping your quotes in order

Frequently pastors ask me to explain my method of indexing quotes. You are looking at it, really.

1. Value blogs

One of the primary reasons for launching this blog was to allow myself enough categories to track quotes easily and to have the freedom of classifying quotes into multiple categories. You, too, may find it helpful to start your own blog simply for the purpose of keeping quotes in order.

But here are a few more suggestions to keeping your library well-indexed…

2. Value commentaries

I intentionally avoid a lot of “contemporary issues” books. There are thousands of books out there on the newest controversies, debates and methods. While these can be helpful, they can also be an overwhelming time-consumer and impossible to adequately index for a busy pastor. Start to collect a few hundred of these books and it becomes easy to forget what issues you have already covered.

So my goal has always been to spend more money on commentaries than on topical books. As an expositor, this has proven very helpful over the years. If you do not index well or don’t have the time, buy the very best commentaries you can. They need no indexing (and will hold their value better over time).

[Speaking of excellent commentaries, tomorrow we will look at Jeremiah Burroughs’ commentary on Hosea, recently re-printed by Reformation Heritage Books.]

3. Value a book with a good index

If you must, look for topical books with scriptural and subject indexes in the back. Someone has done the indexing for you.

4. Value an organized library

Be certain to group your topical books that cover the same issue. It may be nice to categorize your library by author, but it’s not practical. A few weeks ago I posted my library database here so you can see how I grouped my topical books (click here for the .pdf).

5. Value a database

Another useful tool is assembling a simple Excel database for quotes. Here is a .pdf version of my very small but growing index.

Hopefully these simple suggestions will help maximize your study time and feed your flocks more efficiently.

Book review: The Banner of Truth Magazine: Issues 1-16 (0851519199)

Iain Murray was just 24 years old when he began publishing a little magazine titled The Banner of Truth. The purpose of the magazine was to confront contemporary weakness in the church (loose doctrine, lazy preaching and pragmatic evangelism) and allow the Puritans and Reformers to speak to the issues.

In Sept. 1955 the first issue was released because “There are many today who regard truth and error as matters of small consequence; if a man lives rightly, they say, it matters not much what his beliefs and opinions are” (3).

Admittedly, some of the language in these early magazines is too sharp and the labels are sometimes too general. Fifty years after the first magazine, Murray admits regret on both counts. “When the magazine began I was only twenty-four years old, and it is doubtful if that is the age when one should attempt to be a reformer. Youth is ever possessed with more confidence than wisdom” (xiv). I think many of us can personally relate. Murray humbly presents these issues unedited.

The first 16 issues consist of 90 brief editorials, commentary excerpts and biographies. Subject matters range from a defense of the doctrines of Calvinism to evangelism, revival and family issues. Most of the book, and especially the first six issues, are largely given to defending a biblically accurate soteriology. But the seventh issue shifts to matters of the home and family, and from then many of the issues feature topics on growth in godliness.

In all, there is a good balance of doctrine and devotion covering a wide variety of issues and drawing from several writers of past centuries. Because of its diversity, the lack of subject index will make the volume a bit difficult to reference.

This collection of magazines has historical significance, too, as it traces the early desires of Murray to reprint the Puritan/Reformed thought to a new generation. We take for granted the wealth of Puritan reprints from the Banner of Truth Trust, but their books would not be printed until the magazine’s ninth issue. It is interesting to read Murray’s anticipation for Puritan and Reformed reprints for his generation.

I found this volume especially valuable because of the short biographical sketches on Martin Luther, Howell Harris, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, John Elias, John Knox, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, A.W. Pink, Thomas Charles, Thomas Cranmer, John Angell James and Brownlow North. Murray’s lively biographical writing raises the leaders of former generations from history books and walks them into the contemporary age.

Over the past 50 years, Iain Murray has been a reformer, re-focusing the church upon the authority of Scripture, the biblical accuracy of Calvinism and the reliance upon the sovereignty of God in evangelism. Failures on these central topics have always been (and will ever be) dangers for the church. Murray reminds us not to forget the many faithful men who have gone before us in previous generations and to follow in their footsteps. This collection clarifies the message of the church, motivates faithfulness for pastors and points back to the legacies we now continue.


Where this volume fits in my library (in ranking order):

Soteriology > Calvinism > explained and defended
Biography > Giants of the Faith
Ecclesiology > Dangers to the Church
Church History > Reformation
Christian family > Advice & Instruction


The Banner of Truth Magazine: Issues 1-16, Iain Murray, 0851519199, 9780851519197, 516 pages, clothbound, no index

New books

A number of new books have been printed that will make excellent additions to the preacher’s library. I’ll be passing along book reviews at The Shepherd’s Scrapbook in the next few weeks.

Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing the first volume of collected magazines published by The Banner of Truth. The early BoT magazines were an interesting diversity of themes, quotes, commentaries and biographies that I think many pastors will find useful.

In America, Reformation Heritage Books has recently reprinted Jeremiah Burroughs’ great commentary on Hosea and a must-read on sanctification titled, The Path of True Godliness, written by a Dutch Puritan. Plus there is a new children’s book that explains the substitutionary atonement very clearly for little hearts.

RHB has also released a new Octavius Winslow book, The Fullness of Christ, that looks very good (and I’m told it’s one of OW’s best).

Tentmaker Publications in the UK is printing The Works of Thomas Boston (12 volumes). I think Boston is one of the most important Puritans for the preacher today. These volumes are very well indexed and that makes them very useful in sermon prep.

And not to be outdone, P&R has recently released some excellent commentaries and we will look at a few P&R classics, too.

These and other books will be reviewed here in the coming weeks.

See you tomorrow….


The importance of family worship

“Worship God in your family. – If you do not worship God in your family, you are living in positive sin; you may be quite sure you do not care for the souls of your family. If you neglect to spread a meal for your children to eat, would it not be said that you did not care for their bodies? And if you do not lead your children and servants to the green pastures of God’s Word, and to seek the living water, how plain is it that you do not care for their souls! Do it regularly, morning and evening. It is more needful than your daily food, more needful than your work. How vain and silly all your excuses will appear, when you look back from Hell! Do it fully. Some clip off the psalm, and some the reading of the Word; and so the worship of God is reduced to a mockery. Do it in a spiritual, lively manner, go to it as to a well of salvation.”

– Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Tony’s Book Club pick #2: The Precious Things of God by Octavius Winslow (1877611611, book review)

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).