Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts by Octavius Winslow

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.

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)

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!”

Specs

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.

Editing

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.

Benefits

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.

It’s with great joy I recommend Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts.

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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
Volumes: 2
Dust jacket: no
Binding: Smyth-sewn
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

The Cross-centered (prayer) life

Octavius Winslow
The Cross-centered prayer life

“Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24)

“A most powerful incentive to prayer is found in a close and realizing view of the atoning blood. What encouragement does it present to this blessed and holy life of communion with God! The atoning blood! The mercy seat sprinkled over! The High Priest before the throne! The cloud of incense constantly ascending! The Father well pleased! What can more freely invite the soul that pants for close and holy communion with God? And when the atoning blood is realized upon the conscience, when pardon and acceptance are sealed upon the heart by the Eternal Spirit, oh, then what a persuasion to draw near the throne of grace has the believer in Christ! Then, there is no consciousness of guilt to keep the believer back; no dread of God; no trembling apprehensions of a repulse. God is viewed through the cross as reconciled, and as standing in the endeared relationship, and wearing the inviting smile of a Father. With such an altar, such a High Priest, such atoning blood, and such a reconciled God, what an element should prayer be to a believer in Christ! Let the soul, depressed, burdened, tried, tempted, as it may be, draw near the mercy seat: God delights to hear, delights to answer. Taking in the hand the atoning blood, pleading the infinite merit of Christ – reminding the Father of what His Son has accomplished, of His own gracious promise to receive and favorably answer the petition endorsed with the name and presented in behalf of that Son – the feeblest child of God, the most disconsolate, the most burdened, may approach and open all the heart to a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God. Let the atoning blood be strenuously pleaded, let the precious and infinite merit of Christ be fully urged, and the blessing petitioned for will be obtained.”

“May not this be assigned as a reason why so few of our petitions are answered, why so little blessing is obtained: The faint pleading of the atoning blood? There is so feeble a recognition of the blessed way of access, so little wrestling with the precious blood, so little looking by faith to the cross, the dear name of Immanuel so seldom urged, and when urged so coldly mentioned – oh, is it any marvel that our prayers return to us unanswered, the petition ungranted, the draft on the full treasury of His love unhonored? The Father loves to be reminded of His beloved Son; the very breathing of the name to Him is music; the very waving of the censer of infinite merits to Him is fragrant. He delights to be pressed with this plea; it is a plea at all times prevalent; it is a plea He cannot reject; it glorifies Himself, honors His Son, while it enriches him who urges it. And, oh, in the absence of all other pleas, what a mercy to come with a plea like this! Who can fully estimate it? No plea has the poor believer springing from himself: he searches, but nothing can he find on which to rest a claim; all within is vile, all without is marred by sin; unfaithfulness, ingratitude, departure do but make up the history of the day. But in Christ he sees that which he can urge, and in urging which God will hear and answer.”

– Octavius Winslow (1808-1878), Daily Walking With God, June 12th.

Christmas book recommendation: The Fullness of Christ by Octavius Winslow

Christmas book recommendation:

The Fullness of Christ by Octavius Winslow

The Fullness of Christ, written by my favorite author (Octavius Winslow), was published this year by Reformation Heritage Books. All of his books are devotional and exceptional in highlighting the beauty, fullness and refreshment in Christ!! His best book and — apart from the bible — the best book I have ever read is The Precious Things of God. (Yes, you heard me right, the best book I have read apart from the bible. For some reason this gem is out of print but worth every effort to find.) The Fullness is a great introduction to this wonderful author.

– Read The Precious Things of God online for free here.

– Read The Fullness of Christ online for free here.

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!

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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?).

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– 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!

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The Precious Things of God, Octavius Winslow, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1860/1994, 424 pages, 1877611611. (Out of print).

Favorite books

I am often asked to list my favorite books. So this week I’m going to give you my top 20 and reviews of my top 5. Drum roll, please. Here are my (ever changing) top 20 favorites …

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1. Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Newer translation that is excellent in many ways.

2. The Precious Things of God, by Octavius Winslow. No book more relishes in the preciousness of the eternal things. I’ll give a fuller recommendation later in the week.

3. The Everlasting Righteousness, by Horatius Bonar. Many great books have been written on justification (how sinners are made right with God). But this one, written over a century ago, is my favorite, the most passionate and the most quotable.

4. The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer. “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” Fabulous book for those who want a grand view of God. A tiny book with a heavy message.

5. The Glory of Christ (Vol. 1 of Works), by John Owen. Few things are better than to look at the depth of Christ’s beauty. Though Owen is not easy to read he is very valuable.

6. George Whitefield, 2 vols., by Arnold Dallimore. This is my favorite biography ever. Very readable. This set of books will inflame a desire to be extinguished for Christ.

7. The New Park Street Pulpit (1855-1860), 6 vols., by C.H. Spurgeon. The early sermons of the greatest preacher in church history. All of his books and sermons are recommended but these volumes are especially precious. There is a youthful zeal to the early sermons.

8. The Works of John Bunyan, 3 vols., by John Bunyan. Bunyan was an uneducated man who was imprisoned for his non-conformist preaching of the gospel. Few have plumbed the depths of the human heart deeper than him. He remains one of the greatest preachers and maybe the most famous writer (The Pilgrims Progress) in church history. These three volumes contain all of his works and require diligence and patience. To the patient these volumes contain a lifetime of treasures!

9. The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, by Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford, in my opinion, is one of the most overlooked Puritan authors. He wrote so many beautiful books and preached so many Christ-exalting sermons yet few are in print. This collection of beautiful letters was written with great spiritual insight. The Banner of Truth just released an unabridged version unavailable for many years. It will be of great use for pastors wondering how to address the Cross to specific pastoral situations.

10. Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore. My favorite biographer (Dallimore) + my Christian “hero” (Spurgeon) = a classic! Spurgeon focused on preaching, caring for widows and orphans, training pastors for the future, etc. A man who extinguished himself for the gospel!

11. Communion with God (Vol. 2 of Works), by John Owen. Deep scholarship with a burning affection for Christ. How do we relate and respond to God personally? This is the question that he answers thoroughly.

12. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols., by Jonathan Edwards. The greatest American theologian. These two works contain many of his best sermons and books. A lifetime of eternal gems are here contained for the patient reader. Though I also recommend preachers purchase a few of the Yale edition volumes (Donald Whitney especially suggests vol. 14).

13. Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden. A fabulous biography whose author shows tremendous spiritual sensitivity while looking at the life of America’s great theologian/preacher.

14. God’s Passion for His Glory by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards. Not one of Edward’s easiest books to work through but a very powerful one. God does everything for Himself. Gets to the heart of the most important reality we can ever comprehend – that God loves nothing more than Himself. (A special thanks to my friend Rick Gamache for his editing of the book).

15. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. A classic book that allows the heaviness of God to come down upon the reader.

16. Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. A transforming book.

17. The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made by Mark Dever. A new book of Dever’s sermon manuscripts covering a broad and sweeping overview of the Old Testament. This book has drawn the Old Testament together for me in great ways. I now see the cohesive big picture like never before!

18. The Confessions by Augustine (Maria Boulding translation). Great classic and from what I am told this is the first true autobiography in history. In this book a sinner’s soul is honestly opened for all to see.

19. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. I like Reymond, Erickson and others, but this is my favorite systematic. I also really like what Jeff Purswell did in editing it into the book Bible Doctrine.

20. Lectures to My Students by C.H. Spurgeon. No pastor should be allowed to lead a church who has not read it at least 10 times.

Now you tell me. What are your top 5 favorite books ???

Sin makes man a destroyer

“Man is a suicide – he has destroyed himself; a homicide – his influence destroys others; a deicide – he would, were it in his power, annihilate the very being of God. What a proof of this have we in the crucifixion of the Son of God! When God brought himself as near to man as Infinity could approach, he exclaimed, ‘This is the Heir; come, let us kill him!’ and they proceeded to consummate the crime by nailing him to the tree.”

Octavius Winslow, No Condemnation in Christ Jesus (Banner of Truth: 1853/1991), p. 93. Online edition.