Book review: The Gospel Life series by Jeremiah Burroughs

Book review

The Gospel Life Series by Jeremiah Burroughs

As we have already discovered, Jeremiah Burroughs [1599-1646] was a first-rate bible expositor. His massive commentary on the book of Hosea is wonderful proof of this (we reviewed this commentary earlier this Summer).

However, unlike most of the Puritans recommended in our Puritan Study Series, Burroughs’ collected works do not exist. His works are largely scattered around, and for the purposes of the Puritan study, we will have to piece his works together.

But one of the easiest ways to collect six of his books comes in a series published by Soli Deo Gloria titled, The Gospel Life Series.


These six volumes were not intended by Burroughs to be a set, though because the word “Gospel” occurs in all six, editor Don Kistler saw that they were all linked together in a common theme. Kistler re-typeset the volumes, updated the spelling, and edited for length. “I do not believe that any of Burroughs’ thoughts have been altered. I have tried to remain faithful to his words as well as to his intent throughout this edition” (3:v ).

The result is a series that covers the various facets of the Christian life, is easy to read, and will appeal to a larger community of readers than just Puritan nerds like me. This year, the sixth and final volume of the series was released.

Contents

Vol. 1: Gospel Worship (1648/1990). In 14 sermons on Leviticus 10:3 (“Among those who are near me I will be sanctified”) Burroughs shows that we honor God when we draw near to Him in worship, in preparing for worship, in hearing the Word preached, in receiving the sacraments, and in prayer.

Vol. 2: Gospel Fear (1647/1991). In 7 sermons on Isaiah 66:2 (“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word”) and 2 Kings 22:19, Burroughs encourages us to cultivate a tender heart by cultivating a healthy fear of God.

Vol. 3: Gospel Conversation (1648/1995). Not conversation as in speech only, but the Puritan concept of conversation – of work, family, fellowship and all-around general conduct. Here are ten sermons to help us live the Cross-centered life. Most of the sermons are based upon Philippians 1:27 (“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”) and focus believers to be diligent in their walk. The Gospel must be the center of the Christian life, he argues.

Vol. 4: Gospel Revelation (1660/2006). In about 18 sermons, Burroughs explains the excellency of the eternal. God is excellent, Christ is excellent, and the nature of an eternal soul is excellent as well. It was here in the excellency of Jesus Christ (pages 51-182) that I came to a deep respect of Burroughs’ love for Christ. Truly, His name is called “Wonderful” (Isaiah 9:6). See “Example” below.

Vol. 5: Gospel Remission (1668 and 1674/1995). In 20 sermons Burroughs shows that the true blessedness of the human heart stems from the knowledge that God has perfectly pardoned my sin! The entire volume is built from Psalm 32:1 (“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven / whose sin is covered”). “There is nothing in all the world that so much concerns us as to know how things stand with us in relation to God and our souls, whether we are pardoned or not. A mistake in this is a wonderful mistake, and yet how many thousands are there who venture the weight of this great business upon poor, weak, and slight grounds, yea, rather, on mere suggestions of their own heart” (p. 175).

Vol. 6: Gospel Reconciliation (1657/1997). Here are 18 sermons on 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 covering the who, what, when, where and why of reconciliation of sinners to God. This volume is filled with excellent encouragement for pastors to remain earnest in their preaching of the Cross.

Each of these volumes shows Burroughs to be a man deeply concerned that Christians live diligent Cross-centered lives. But, as with the great experiential preachers, there is a parallel theme of evangelism as well.

Example

The litmus test of all preachers and writers is this: Are they passionate about the beauty of Jesus Christ? Are they overwhelmed with His preciousness? Are they distracted with duties or are they first centered around a Man?

Burroughs argues that Jesus Christ is beautiful for 13 reasons (!): He is beautiful in His natures, Person, incarnation, His earthly works, His offices, endowments, miracles, as the revelation of God’s glory, in His humiliation, His conquest, exaltation, in the wonder of the saints towards Him, and in His eternal glory (4:59). Yes, Burroughs passes the test.

But he is not content that readers just admit they understand Christ’s greatness, but that they feel Christ’s greatness. He writes,

“When you ask your children what Christ was, you teach them that He was both God and man. Aye, but I appeal to you, when were your hearts taken with this as the greatest wonder in the world…” (4:61)?

It would be inconsistent to believe and not feel the power of the incarnation. After an exposition of Ephesians 1:17-18 and 3:14-20 he writes,

“Oh, what a shame it is that those who profess themselves to be Christian should understand so little of Jesus Christ! God expects that we should study the gospel, search into the gospel, so that we may see more of Christ. And the more we see, the more still we shall wonder; for Christ is an infinite depth, and the more we search into Him, the more we shall see cause to wonder … What I would especially observe is that Christians should not content themselves with a little knowledge of Christ, but they should labor to comprehend what is the length, breadth, depth, and height; they should labor to dive into the mysteries of the gospel” (4:171,173).

It is diving into the mysteries of the Gospel that sanctifies the heart. In other words, the Gospel is central to the Christian’s life!

“We should study Christ, and praise and bless God, and have our hearts enlarged for Jesus Christ. This is the duty of believers to whom God has revealed Christ as wonderful, that in their conversations they should hold out the wonderful glory of Jesus Christ. You should so walk before men as to manifest to all the world that your Savior is a wonderful Savior” (4:177).

All of these volumes contain such God-glorifying and Cross-centered experiential exhortations for the Christian.

Indexes

On the down side, there are no indexes in this series and they are not well-indexed in Martin either. So to use these volumes effectively will require some time. Soli Deo Gloria (and any Puritan publisher that does not include indexes) should consider releasing an electronic version of this set for those who purchase the printed set. This would prove very useful to exegetes like myself who need to sift through the volumes quickly.

For now, preachers who want to use Burroughs in sermon preparations will need to become familiar with the contents of each volume. The detailed contents pages in each volume will help much here.

Conclusion

The bottom line is this: The Gospel Life series is an exceptionally good resource of Puritan exposition. After 350 years, Burroughs still speaks powerfully through these volumes.

The publisher boasts that this book has a shelf life of 200-300 years. But even more important, Dr. Kistler’s editing of the text will make Burroughs accessible to readers for at least another 350. An excellent Puritan resource!

Boards: clothbound, hardcover (grey, gilded)
Volumes: 6
Pages: 1,710
Dust jackets: yes (once again, beautiful covers from SDG)
Binding: Smyth sewn
Paper: acid-free; normal
Text: edited, updated, perfect type
Topical Index: no (electronic file is much needed)
Textual index: no (electronic file is much needed)
Biography: yes (very short; end of Gospel Remission)
Publisher: Soli Deo Gloria
Price USD: $140.00 / $91.00 from publisher
ISBNs: 187761131x, 1877611913, 1573580147, 1877611123, 1567690696, 1573580422

6 thoughts on “Book review: The Gospel Life series by Jeremiah Burroughs

  1. Tony,
    I appreciate your post. I’ve been reading your posts for the past month and searching through your Puritan Study series. I appreciate all the hard work you put in to this. I’m trying a blog myself and wish I had more time to give to writing. It’s a delight but a challenge.
    How long have you been building your library? I have a few Puritan works and have been reading some of them lateley. My former pastor is a student of the Puritans and spoke often of them from the pulpit. I was able to help one of the assistant pastors find about $10K worth of antique puritan works for him for his 25th anniv. in the ministry. That was a great deal of fun! They bought a few from Humbers Books.
    Anyway, keep up the good work! I’ve added your RSS feed to my site so that I can keep up with you and direct others that may stumble across me.

  2. I’ve been excited about this collection ever since I heard about Soli Deo Gloria’s printing them again, and in such a wonderfully designed set!

    And at $91, that’s a great deal. Too back I don’t have an extra $91 laying around. Guess I’ll be picking these up one at a time.

    Thanks for this post!

    Blessings!

    Tom
    Doctrine Matters

  3. Jason,

    I’ve been collecting Puritan books for only about 4 years now. God has been gracious to allow me to meet and talk at length with Puritan scholars and to have access to lots of Puritan literature myself. I am thankful you find this to be of help!

    Tony

  4. […] 1. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (63 sermon vols.; CD-Rom) 2. Jonathan Edwards (2 vol. works; printed) 3. John Bunyan (3 vol. works; printed) 4. Thomas Boston (12 vol. works; printed) 5. Thomas Manton (22 vol. works; CD-Rom) 6. John Owen (16 vol. works; but especially vols. 1,2 and 6; printed) 7. John Flavel (6 vol. works; printed) 8. Richard Sibbes (7 vol. works; printed) 9. Jeremiah Burroughs (misc. books; printed) 10. Thomas Brooks (6 vol. works; printed) 11. Thomas Goodwin (12 vol. works; printed) 12. John Newton (6 vol. works; printed) 13. David Clarkson (3 vol. works; printed) 14. Edward Reynolds (vols. 1,4,5,6 of 6 vol. works; printed) […]

  5. Thanks for the great guide to creating a puritan library. Do you have a list of all the books by Burroughs that have been recently published?

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