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