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