Christ Crucified by James Durham

Book review
Christ Crucified by James Durham

Inside the cover of his personal copy of Christ Crucified, 19th century preacher C.H. Spurgeon wrote two words: “Much prized.”

Without question, author James Durham (1622-1658) left the Church with a precious treatise on the Cross of Christ. But, sadly, this “much prized” Puritan work never found itself printed in the 19th century, and the last printed edition appeared in 1792! The work may be prized for its content, but we lament that it’s so far outside the reach of contemporary readers.

This absence temporarily ended in 2001 when Chris Coldwell and publisher Naphtali Press (Dallas, TX) released a retypset, edited, and beautiful edition of Durham’s classic. But the 500 copies – even selling at $75 each to cover high expenses of a short print run – sold out by the Fall of 2003. The classic, while back for a flash, returned quickly to the status of “rare” and again outside the reach of most readers.

Just in the past few weeks (August of 2007), Naphtali finished their second (and much larger) printing. The 2001 Naphtali edition is back, fully stocked, and now available for $30!

So why is Durham’s classic so treasured?

“Much Prized”

Admittedly, Durham is a lesser-known of the Puritan divines and probably because the Scottish preacher died in 1658 at the age of 36. His productive ministry lasted a mere decade and the 11 books that bear his name were all printed posthumously. The 72 sermons in Christ Crucified were transcribed by Durham’s ministry partner John Carstairs. Carstairs edited and first published the sermons 25 years after Durham’s death. The full title is Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53 and was originally published in Edinburgh in 1683.

Christ Crucified is traditionally classified and used as a commentary on Isaiah 53:1-12. And it certainly contains an encyclopedia of biblical exegesis and deep doctrine you would expect from a Puritan commentary. But Durham’s sermons go further, being filled with rich application, exhortation, encouragement and fuel for the Cross-centered life. It’s a Puritan work that, when carefully digested, molds Gospel-centered preachers like Spurgeon.

In these 72 sermons, Durham patiently and carefully walks verse-by-verse through the great OT prophecy of Christ. His aim is not merely exegesis or theology, but rich application. He wants us to experience the Cross, and he moves the reader frequently from doctrine to application.

For example, in sermon 22 Durham traverses the mystery of Christ’s substitution, of His absorbing the wrath of God and being “wounded for our transgressions” (v. 5). The sermon ends with a plea for us to feel our dire condition as sinners. Our sin deserves the wounding of judgment. The suffering of Christ should lead us to despair in our empty self-righteousness. The sermon concludes with these words:

“O let these things sink in your hearts, that you are sinners, great sinners, under wrath, and at feud with God; that Jesus Christ is the savior of lost sinners, and that there is no way to pardon and peace, but by closing with him, and laying hold on his satisfaction, that you may be drawn to cast yourselves over on this everlasting covenant, for obtaining the benefits that Christ has purchased” (p. 252).

From beginning to end, Durham’s work is rich and applicable but the book is perhaps best remembered for the final six sermons on Isaiah 53:12, covering the intercessory work of Christ. Here Durham is at his best, reminding us our salvation, sanctification, and all other spiritual victories are a direct result of the Melchizedek-like eternal priesthood of Christ.

Christ intercedes for the elect, that they be justified, pardoned, and receive “favor, friendship, and fellowship” with God and kept from temptation. He intercedes so our service will being acceptable before God, our prayers be heard, that we be armed against the fear of death, always advancing in sanctification towards our ultimate salvation and glorification. “In a word, he intercedes for everything needful, and for everything promised to them, his intercession being as broad as his purchase” (p. 626).

Durham contends that we fail to comprehend the far-reaching influence of Christ’s intercession. He seeks to comfort his readers by opening our mind beyond Calvary and into the eternal holy of holies where Christ is now interceding for the saints.

Throughout the volume Durham presses his readers into Scripture, presses them into the Cross, and then applies the Cross for their salvation, sanctification, joy and comfort.

The enduring value of Christ Crucified is quite evident.

Naphtali edition

The Naphtali edition is more than 700-pages long and noticeably tall and wide. You can see how it stands alongside Meet the Puritans.

The retypeset text is clean and easy to read. Archaic words are underlined with a brief definition in brackets. The text includes sidebar headings for each subheading, and these headings are all listed in the extensive table of contents (download a PDF copy of the full table of contents here). The outside columns provide great room for notes.

IMG_8101.ed.jpg

Publishers of Puritan works should take careful note of Chris Coldwell’s work. Here is a retypeset Puritan classic, with the following admirable features:

  • Uses original sources for careful edits and corrections.
  • Notes variants and archaic words in the footnotes with a glossary in the back.
  • Provides an excellent introduction and author biography.
  • Supplies extensive table of contents in the front.
  • Adds a Scriptural index and topical index in the back.
  • Brought together with durable Smyth-sewn binding and housed in a cloth cover.

It’s doubtful the Naphtali edition could be improved.

Recommendations

I first learned of Durham four years ago when reading Spurgeon. In an early sermon Spurgeon said, “If I had lived in his [Durham’s] time, I should never, I think, have wanted to hear any other preacher; I would have sat, both by night and day, to receive the sweet droppings of his honeyed lips” (sermon 172). Obviously, Durham played a significant role in Spurgeon’s early ministry development.

As I mentioned earlier, in his personal copy of Christ Crucified, Spurgeon simply wrote “Much prized” (Autobiography, vol. 4). In Commenting and Commentaries – a book where Spurgeon freely assaults poor commentaries and their authors – he writes Christ Crucified is “marrow indeed” and “We need say no more: Durham is a prince among spiritual expositors.”

From contemporary reviewers Joel Beeke and Randall Peterson in Meet the Puritans (RHB: 2006) Christ Crucified is said to be “an excellent book for believers who yearn for a more intimate fellowship with Christ in His sufferings” (p. 678). Later they make the amazing claim that Christ Crucified is “one of the best commentaries ever written on Christ’s person and work in redemption” (p. 679). On this Naphtali edition they write, “The present reprint is carefully and beautifully done” (p. 678).

We agree with all of the above.

Take the advice of Beeke and Spurgeon. Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53 is a classic Puritan work that has been beautifully reproduced. Your soul will be drawn to fellowship with Christ and stirred to deeper discoveries of the Cross. Since 1792, Durham’s classic has never been more available and never more affordable.

IMG_8100.ed.jpg

Title: Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53
Author: James Durham (1622-1658)
Editor: Chris Coldwell
Reading level: 3.0/5.0 > Easier thanks to excellent editing and glossary
Boards: cloth spine, embossed
Pages: 704
Volumes: 1
Dust jacket: no
Binding: Smyth-sewn
Paper: white and clean
Topical index: yes
Scriptural index: yes
Text: perfect type, re-typeset
Publisher: Naphtali Press
Year: 2001 ed., 2007 printing
Price USD: $45 retail; $30 pub.; $29 RHB
ISBN: 094107546x

         
 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Puritans

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Puritans

No preacher more influenced my early Christian life (which began at 22 years old) than Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). I have grown ever more thankful for his books over the past eight years. But I have yet to read Iain Murray’s biography. Last Tuesday during the bookstore tour, Sinclair Ferguson slapped a magic sticker on the cover of the biography and, like lightning, was discounted 65-percent. It was time to buy.

A thorough reading of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years (1899-1939) will have to wait until I’m done with Spurgeon’s autobiography, but last night I did sneak a read of the first 100 pages. I was especially drawn towards Lloyd-Jones’ early comments on the Puritans. Lloyd-Jones is quoted by Murray as saying,

“The Puritan is not the strong man. He is a very weak man who has been given strength to realize that he is weak. I would say of all men and women that we are all weak, very weak, the difference being that the sinners do not appreciate the fact that they are weak, whereas the Christians do. … I have mentioned Baxter, Bunyan and Fox, but if you wish to have the best description of all of what Puritanism means, read the epistles of St. Paul. During the air raids many of us, indeed most of us, objected to the restrictions that were imposed upon us by the army commanders. We objected to dark blinds and shaded lights. We objected because we did not realize the danger, we did not realize that we were at the mercy of those powers that were in the air or might be there at any moment. But the army commanders knew and carried out the preparations on our behalf. Sin is ignorance, and we object to the restrictions and the vigor of the Puritan regime, but let me remind you that the Puritans are, and were, the commanders-in-chief of God’s garrison upon earth. … Is it surprising that, to the Puritan, life is a serious matter, demanding the whole of his time and attention? If you have once seen the face of God, there is nothing else worth seeing as far as you are concerned. All these other things merely obscure the vision, therefore they must be swept away … If anything interferes with the worshipping of God it must be destroyed. … It is because of these feelings that the Puritan is always a crusader. To him Christianity is a fight, a noble crusade, not merely a defensive action against the principalities and powers, but also a challenge to and an assault upon their fortress. … Oh! how far have we wandered from this! ‘Plain living and high thinking’ are no more! The church is no longer distinct from the world, for instead of the church going out into the world we have allowed the world to capture the church from the inside. We nearly all recognize the position. When will we return to Puritanism? Let us be up and clear the brushwood and the thorns that have overgrown the face of our spiritual world!” (1:99-100).

This quote is pregnant of content for further meditation. Here are a few thoughts that come to my own mind.

(1) Modern day Puritanism.
Lloyd-Jones was convinced that Puritanism was as relevant in his day as the seventeenth century. We should not only read Puritans, he challenges, but we should be Puritans. Lloyd-Jones — and for that matter C.H. Spurgeon — were tutored by the piety, spirituality and preaching of the Puritans. They patterned their spiritual lives after the Puritans sobriety and earnestness. What does modern day Puritanism look like?

(2) The Puritan weakness. The idea today is that Puritan literature is reserved for the really strong Christian but this is not the case. The Puritan is a weak man. Approaching the Puritan literature is to be done out of a deep sense of personal frailty and weakness. Until we are well acquainted with the indwelling sin that remains in our hearts, the pride, the self-righteousness, the tendency towards unbelief and worldliness and laziness, Puritan literature will not be appealing. Entrance into the Puritan spirituality is through a low doorway and readers must bend and bow down in humility to enter. The Puritan’s are not for the strong, they are for those who ‘appreciate’ their own weakness. The Puritan is a weak man and the Puritan works were written for weak men.

(3) The Puritan warfare. Puritanism embodies the spiritual struggle of Paul. Working out salvation, killing the remaining sinfulness, being diligent and spiritually alert and sober are the sure marks of the Puritan. Puritanism is dressing for spiritual battle. The illustration of the bombing raids speaks the uncomfortable restraints of the Christian in this life. Puritan literature will not appeal to readers seeking to preserve these comforts.

There are other principles here in this quote by Lloyd-Jones, but this short excerpt answers the question: Who would read the Puritans today? Puritan literature will never appeal to a reader until he has seen the wickedness of his own heart and his post-conversion, continued gullibility to sinfulness. Likewise, the Puritan literature will seem insignificant until we approach dressed in our battle uniforms, prepared for lifelong (and uncomfortable) disciplined spiritual warfare. It was in this humble self-knowledge and this declaration of war against what beclouds the beauty of God to the spiritual eye that prepared Lloyd-Jones for Puritan literature.

Mark Dever’s Canon of Theologians (Annual Reading Plan)

books.jpg

Thursday morning (4/12/07)
Breakout seminar #2
Mark Dever: “Watch the Past: Living Lessons from Dead Theologians”

GAITHERSBURG, MD – Being one who loves to read the books of dead theologians and preachers, Mark Dever’s session was a personal highlight. The point was to encourage us to broaden our theological and biographical reading to at least 12 different authors, each to be read for one month annually. Dever himself uses a yearly reading plan where he reads a specific author each month of the year (like Augustine in February). Then every April he moves on to John Calvin, reading a new biography or theological work. Each year the reading plan starts over.

For readers of the Together for the Gospel blog, this will sound familiar. On February 1, 2006 Dever wrote a short post titled “An apostolic agenda” outlining this very thing. On Thursday morning at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Leader’s Conference, Dever filled out the details.

Dever began with a lengthy quote from C.S. Lewis’ introduction to Athanasius’ On The Incarnation which outlines some reasons why old books are important. Lewis writes,

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire. …

The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

With this introduction, Dever launched into his “canon of theologians.” He encouraged us to read on theological issues that are not a particular struggle at the time. Let the theologians talk about what they want to talk about. Dever then outlined his own personal reading plan.

The ‘canon of theologians’

JanuaryEarly church writings (1st-3rd centuries). Recommended reading: Many and various works and authors were mentioned like the Epistle of Dionysius, The Didache, Clement, The Martyrdom of Polycarp and the Penguin paperback, Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (0140444750). When asked if he used the early church writings in his expositional research, he said ‘no.’ He is familiar with the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture but has not found them exegetically beneficial. [This helps answer an important question we asked earlier this year]. Dever’s use of the early church fathers is predominantly theological and historical.

FebruaryAugustine (354-430). The most influential extra-biblical theologian in the West. Recommended: City of God and The Confessions (Henry Chadwick edition). Dever’s disagreement: That the church is the conduit of salvation. “Augustine got it bad wrong on ecclesiology.”

MarchMartin Luther (1483-1546). Lessons learned: 1. Justification is by faith alone, all of sheer grace. Luther “cleanses the church from the barnacles of traditionalism.” 2. Luther’s boldness. Read biography Here I Stand. Recommended reading: 95 Theses and Bondage of the Will. You can read Bondage of the Will out loud to children and they will be engaged because of the vigorous prose and Luther’s name-calling towards Erasmus (Dever is very funny). Best bio being Here I Stand by Roland Bainton (0452011469).

AprilJohn Calvin (1509-1564). The greatest theologian of the Reformation period. Lessons learned: 1. God’s glory at the center of everything. The world is the “theater” of God’s glory. 2. Centrality of man’s depravity, shown especially in the heart’s perpetual idol production. 3. He was careful with Scripture. Calvin had a very rare combination of gifts that balanced the theological, linguistic, pastoral, and exegetical. 4. He filled both the offices of pastor and scholar. 5. The diligent training of his spiritual children even as he knew sending these pastors back into France would mean certain death [see the concept of “Calvin’s School of Death”]. Disagreements: That the state is responsible for the church. He confused the church and state, a distinction we take for granted today. Recommended: Sermons on the Ten Commandments, commentary on 1 Cor. 12-14, The Institutes of the Christian Religion and anything written by T.H.L. Parker. He does not recommend modern bios of Calvin and especially warned against McGrath.

MayRichard Sibbes (1577-1635). Lessons learned: 1. The tenderness of Christ. The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax a great example of Jesus’ tenderness and it makes for a great read together with your spouse. Sibbes was able to point out evidences of grace very well. 2. “Diagnostic evangelism.” Sibbes continued to hold out the biblical truth of what a genuine Christian looks like and, by consequence, sorted out those who nominally professed faith. By authenticating the Christian life he naturally separated the sheep from the wolves and goats. He was clear that one’s salvation does not come through assurance but rather assurance comes from genuine salvation. Sibbes pointed those who were never converted to run to grace in the Cross. Disagreement: Infant baptism. Recommendations: Sibbes stuttered in his preaching so he kept his sentences relatively short and this makes him easier to read than his contemporaries. Start with the sermons in volume seven of his collected works.

June John Owen (1616-1683) and John Bunyan (1628-1688). John Owen is known for his argument on limited atonement in Death of Death. It’s a good book to scare Arminians, but there exist better exegetical ways to argue for limited atonement. Lesson learned: Linger with Scripture. “Diligent meditation reaps great rewards.” Dever especially recommends the Owen volumes by Kris Lundgaard (The Enemy Within and Through the Looking Glass) and those by Kapic and Taylor (Overcoming Sin and Temptation). … John Bunyan was a “pot-repairer with extraordinary preaching gifts.” Bunyan clearly expresses himself without the use of long, Latin sentences. His life was marked by a sincere pastoral concern. Recommended: Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (autobiographical) and The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Pilgrim’s Progress being a “great systematic theology” built around the “centrality of heaven.”

JulyJonathan Edwards (1703-1758). There are many lessons and warnings from the life of Jonathan Edwards. Lessons learned: 1. Diligent meditation. “Edwards can stare at an idea” and has “a powerful ability to think out and illustrate” that idea. An excellent example of this is Edward’s sermon The Excellency of Christ. 2. Edwards demonstrates a zeal for the purity of the church. 3. Understands the connection between his ministry and his congregation. In his Farewell Sermon, after Edwards was fired, he tells his congregation “I’ll see you before the throne.” Disagreements: 1. Infant baptism. 2. The logic of God’s centrality seemed a bit philosophical rather than always biblical. 3. He shows some pastoral carelessness especially with the “young folks’ Bible” controversy [see chapter 18 in George Marsden’s biography]. Nevertheless, Edwards demonstrates a powerful ability to think out and illustrate. Read his sermons and especially his sermon The Nakedness of Job which he wrote when he was 18 years old! As an interesting side note, Dever has preached an Edwards sermon to his congregation. On October 5, 2003 he took Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, marked up the manuscript as he would his own and preached it. You can listen to the final product here.

AugustC.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). Lessons learned: 1. Evangelism. Spurgeon preached the gospel from any and every text. “More than anyone else, I think of Spurgeon when I prepare my sermons.” Preach each sermon as though someone may be converted. 2. His life is filled with stories of God’s kindness upon his ministry. Read Spurgeon’s autobiography and be amazed at the stories. Spurgeon’s autobiography “may be the most fun thing to read apart from Scripture.” It will encourage you to see that we have a glorious God. 3. He had a lively faith. Spurgeon had “a heightened God-consciousness.” Even in the midst of a prolonged depression, Spurgeon shows that depression drives a faithful Christian to God. Read his Morning and Evening devotional.

SeptemberB.B. Warfield (1851-1921). “Warfield strengthens my faith.” Like John Calvin, Warfield had a wonderful mix of scholarship and piety. Disagreements include infant baptism and Presbyterian polity.

OctoberMartyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). Not much in disagreement. Lessons learned: 1. Gave his life to preaching and lived confident in the power of God’s Word. 2. Deadly earnest. It was no light thing for him to preach. The pulpit was the “desk of God.” Recommended: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Preaching and Preachers, Spiritual Depression and his biography by Iain Murray.

NovemberC.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and Carl F.H. Henry (1913-2003). Because time ran short, Dever simply finished off his list of writers he reads in November and December without further comment or recommendation.

December – Contemporary authors like John Stott, J.I. Packer, Iain Murray, R.C. Sproul and John Piper.

Conclusions

This breakout session encourages me to pursue the study of the early church writers, although I’ve become more convinced that they will not prove as helpful in my expositional research and sermon preparation as others. It also encourages me to narrow my focus to a handful of great writers and focus attention on their writings each year. I’m in the process of creating my own “canon of theologians” for annual study.

Why You Should Read the Puritans by Beeke

Unable to attend the Ligonier conference (Contending for the Truth), I stayed at home and watched a fair amount over the Internet. One personal surprise and highlight was seeing Joel Beeke. It’s great to see his book Meet the Puritans (our 2006 Book-of-the-Year) continue to grow in popularity. Our friends from Reformation Heritage Books and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI have made the notes from his short address available to TSS. -Tony

——————————-

Why You Should Read the Puritans
by Joel R. Beeke

The great eighteenth-century revivalist, George Whitefield, wrote:

The Puritans [were] burning and shining lights. When cast out by the black Bartholomew Act, and driven from their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in a special manner wrote and preached as men having authority. Though dead, by their writings they yet speak: a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour (Works, 4:306-307).

Whitefield went on to predict that Puritan writings would continue to be resurrected until the end of time due to their scriptural spirituality. Today, we are living in such a time. Interest in Puritan books has seldom been more intense. In the last fifty years, 150 Puritan authors and nearly 700 Puritan beeke.jpgtitles have been brought back into print.

Puritan literature has so multiplied that few book lovers can afford to purchase all that is being published. What books should you buy? Where can you find a brief summary of each Puritan work and a brief biography of each author so that you can have a glimpse of who is behind all these books?

These kinds of questions motivated Randall Pederson and me to write Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints. In this book, we tell the life stories of the 150 Puritan writers who have been reprinted in the past fifty years. We have also included concise reviews of the 700 newly published Puritan titles plus bibliographical information on each book. And we have noted the books that we consider most critical to have in a personal library.

We had four goals for writing this book: first, that these godly Puritan writers will serve as mentors for our own lives. That is why we have told the stories of the Puritans on a layperson’s level and kept them short. You could read one life story each day during your devotional time. Second, we trust that when you read these reviews of Puritan writings, you will be motivated to read a number of these books, each of which should help you grow deeper in your walk with the Lord. Third, we hope this book will serve as a guide for you to purchase books for your families and friends, to help them grow in faith. Finally, for those of you who are already readers of Puritan literature, this guide is designed to direct you to further study and to introduce you to lesser-known Puritans that you may be unaware of.

Definition of Puritanism

Just who were the Puritan writers? They were not only the two thousand ministers who were ejected from the Church of England by the Act of Uniformity in 1662, but also those ministers in England and North America, from the sixteenth century through the early eighteenth century, who worked to reform and purify the church and to lead people toward godly living consistent with the Reformed doctrines of grace.

Puritanism grew out of three needs: (1) the need for biblical preaching and the teaching of sound Reformed doctrine; (2) the need for biblical, personal piety that stressed the work of the Holy Spirit in the faith and life of the believer; and (3) the need to restore biblical simplicity in liturgy, vestments, and church government, so that a well-ordered church life would promote the worship of the triune God as prescribed in His Word (The Genius of Puritanism, 11ff.).

Doctrinally, Puritanism was a kind of vigorous Calvinism; experientially, it was warm and contagious; evangelistically, it was aggressive, yet tender; ecclesiastically, it was theocentric and worshipful; politically, it aimed to be scriptural, balanced, and bound by conscience before God in the relationships of king, Parliament, and subjects; culturally, it had lasting impact throughout succeeding generations and centuries until today (Durston and Eales, eds., The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560-1700).

How to Profit from Reading the Puritans

Let me offer you nine reasons why it will help you spiritually to read Puritan literature still today:

1. Puritan writings help shape life by Scripture.
The Puritans loved, lived, and breathed Holy Scripture. They relished the power of the Spirit that accompanied the Word. Their books are all Word-centered; more than 90 percent of their writings are repackaged sermons that are rich with scriptural exposition. The Puritan writers truly believed in the sufficiency of Scripture for life and godliness.

If you read the Puritans regularly, their Bible-centeredness will become contagious. These writings will show you how to yield wholehearted allegiance to the Bible’s message. Like the Puritans, you will become a believer of the living Book, echoing the truth of John Flavel, who said, “The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.”

Do you want to read books that put you into the Scriptures and keep you there, shaping your life by sola Scriptura? Read the Puritans. Read the Soli Deo Gloria Puritan Pulpit Series. As you read, enhance your understanding by looking up and studying all the referenced Scriptures.

2. Puritan writings show how to integrate biblical doctrine into daily life. The Puritan writings do this in three ways:

First, they address your mind. In keeping with the Reformed tradition, the Puritans refused to set mind and heart against each other, but viewed the mind as the palace of faith. “In conversion, reason is elevated,” John Preston wrote.

The Puritans understood that a mindless Christianity fosters a spineless Christianity. An anti-intellectual gospel quickly becomes an empty, formless gospel that never gets beyond “felt needs,” which is something that is happening in many churches today. Puritan literature is a great help for understanding the vital connection between what we believe with our minds and how that affects the way we live. Jonathan Edwards’s Justification by Faith Alone and William Lyford’s The Instructed Christian are particularly helpful for this.

Second, Puritan writings confront your conscience. The Puritans are masters at convicting us about the heinous nature of our sin against an infinite God. They excel at exposing specific sins, then asking questions to press home conviction of those sins. As one Puritan wrote, “We must go with the stick of divine truth and beat every bush behind which a sinner hides, until like Adam who hid, he stands before God in his nakedness.”

Devotional reading should be confrontational as well as comforting. We grow little if our consciences are not pricked daily and directed to Christ. Since we are prone to run for the bushes when we feel threatened, we need daily help to be brought before the living God “naked and opened unto the eyes of with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12). In this, the Puritans excel. If you truly want to learn what sin is and experience how sin is worse than suffering, read Jeremiah Burroughs’s The Evil of Evils and Thomas Shepard’s The Sincere Convert and the Sound Believer.

Third, the Puritan writers engage your heart. They excel in feeding the mind with solid biblical substance and they move the heart with affectionate warmth. They write out of love for God’s Word, love for the glory of God, and love for the soul of readers.

For books that beautifully balance objective truth and subjective experience in Christianity; books that combine, as J.I. Packer puts it, “clear-headed passion and warm-hearted compassion” (Ryken, Worldly Saints, x); books that inform your mind, confront your conscience, and engage your heart, read the Puritans. Read Vincent Alsop’s Practical Godliness.

3. Puritan writings show how to exalt Christ and see His beauty. The Puritan Thomas Adams wrote: “Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line, the Scriptures being but as it were the swaddling bands of the child Jesus.” Likewise, the Puritan Isaac Ambrose wrote, “Think of Christ as the very substance, marrow, soul, and scope of the whole Scriptures.”

The Puritans loved Christ and exalted in His beauty. Samuel Rutherford wrote: “Put the beauty of ten thousand worlds of paradises, like the Garden of Eden in one; put all trees, all flowers, all smells, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all loveliness, all sweetness in one. O what a fair and excellent thing would that be? And yet it would be less to that fair and dearest well-beloved Christ than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and foundations of ten thousand earths.”

If you would know Christ better and love Him more fully, immerse yourself in Puritan literature. Read Robert Asty’s Rejoicing in the Lord Jesus.

4. Puritan writings reveal the Trinitarian character of theology. The Puritans were driven by a deep sense of the infinite glory of a Triune God. When they answered the first question of the Shorter Catechism that man’s chief end was to glorify God, they meant the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They took John Calvin’s glorious understanding of the unity of the Trinity in the Godhead, and showed how that worked itself out in electing, redeeming, and sanctifying love and grace in the lives of believers. John Owen wrote an entire book on the Christian believer’s communion with God as Father, Jesus as Savior, and the Holy Spirit as Comforter. The Puritans teach us how to remain God-centered while being vitally concerned about Christian experience, so that we don’t fall into the trap of glorifying experience for its own sake.

If you want to appreciate each Person of the Trinity, so that you can say with Samuel Rutherford, “I don’t know which Person of the Trinity I love the most, but this I know, I love each of them, and I need them all,” read John Owen’s Communion with God and Jonathan Edwards on the Trinity.

5. Puritan writings show you how to handle trials. Puritanism grew out of a great struggle between the truth of God’s Word and its enemies. Reformed Christianity was under attack in Great Britain, much like Reformed Christianity is under attack today. The Puritans were good soldiers in the conflict, enduring great hardships and suffering much. Their lives and their writings stand ready to arm us for our battles, and to encourage us in our suffering. The Puritans teach us how we need affliction to humble us (Deut. 8:2), to teach us what sin is (Zeph. 1:12), and how that brings us to God (Hos. 5:15). As Robert Leighton wrote, “Affliction is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its jewels with.” The Puritans show us how God’s rod of affliction is His means to write Christ’s image more fully upon us, so that we may be partakers of His righteousness and holiness (Heb. 12:10–11).

If you would learn how to handle your trials in a truly Christ-exalting way, read Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot: The Sovereignty and Wisdom of God Displayed in the Afflictions of Men.

6. Puritan writings explain true spirituality. The Puritans stress the spirituality of the law, spiritual warfare against indwelling sin, the childlike fear of God, the wonder of grace, the art of meditation, the dreadfulness of hell, and the glories of heaven. If you want to live deep as a Christian, read Oliver Heywood’s Heart Treasure. Read the Puritans devotionally, and then pray to be like them. Ask questions such as: Am I, like the Puritans, thirsting to glorify the Triune God? Am I motivated by biblical truth and biblical fire? Do I share their view of the vital necessity of conversion and of being clothed with the righteousness of Christ? Do I follow them as far as they followed Christ?

7. Puritan writings show how to live by wholistic faith. The Puritans apply every subject they write about to practical “uses”―as they term it. These “uses” will propel you into passionate, effective action for Christ’s kingdom. Their own daily lives integrated Christian truth with covenant vision; they knew no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. Their writings can assist you immeasurably in living a life that centers on God in every area, appreciating His gifts, and declaring everything “holiness to the Lord.”

The Puritans were excellent covenant theologians. They lived covenant theology, covenanting themselves, their families, their churches, and their nations to God. Yet they did not fall into the error of hyper-covenantalism, in which the covenant of grace becomes a substitute for personal conversion. They promoted a comprehensive worldview, a total Christian philosophy, a holistic approach of bringing the whole gospel to bear on all of life, striving to bring every action in conformity with Christ, so that believers would mature and grow in faith. The Puritans wrote on practical subjects such as how to pray, how to develop genuine piety, how to conduct family worship, and how to raise children for Christ. In short, they taught how to develop a “rational, resolute, passionate piety [that is] conscientious without becoming obsessive, law-oriented without lapsing into legalism, and expressive of Christian liberty without any shameful lurches into license” (ibid., xii).

If you would grow in practical Christianity and vital piety, read the compilation of The Puritans on Prayer, Richard Steele’s The Character of an Upright Man, George Hamond’s Case for Family Worship, Cotton Mather’s Help for Distressed Parents, and Arthur Hildersham’s Dealing with Sin in Our Children.

8. Puritan writings teach the importance and primacy of preaching. To the Puritans, preaching was the high point of public worship. Preaching must be expository and didactic, they said; evangelistic and convicting, experiential and applicatory, powerful and “plain” in its presentation, ever respecting the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

If you would help evangelicals recover the pulpit and a high view of the ministry in our day, read Puritan sermons. Read William Perkins’s The Art of Prophesying and Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor.

9. Puritan writings show how to live in two worlds. The Puritans said we should have heaven “in our eye” throughout our earthly pilgrimage. They took seriously the New Testament passages that say we must keep the “hope of glory” before our minds to guide and shape our lives here on earth. They viewed this life as “the gymnasium and dressing room where we are prepared for heaven,” teaching us that preparation for death is the first step in learning to truly live (Packer, Quest, 13).

If you would live in this world in light of the better world to come, read the Puritans. Read Richard Baxter’s The Saint’s Everlasting Life and Richard Alleine’s Heaven Opened.

Where to Begin

If you are just starting to read the Puritans, begin with John Bunyan’s The Fear of God, John Flavel’s Keeping the Heart, and Thomas Watson’s The Art of Divine Contentment, then move on to the works of John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, and Jonathan Edwards.

For sources that introduce you to the Puritans and their literature, begin with Meet the Puritans. Then, to learn more about the lifestyle and theology of the Puritans, read Leland Ryken’s Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), Peter Lewis’s The Genius of Puritanism (Morgan, Penn.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1997), and Erroll Hulse’s Who are the Puritans? and what do they teach? (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2000). Then move on to James I. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1990) and my Puritan Reformed Spirituality (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2006).

Whitefield was right: the Puritans, though long dead, still speak through their writings. Their books still praise them in the gates. Reading the Puritans will place you and keep you on the right path theologically, experientially, and practically. As Packer writes, “The Puritans were strongest just where Protestants today are weakest, and their writings can give us more real help than those of any other body of Christian teachers, past or present, since the days of the apostles” (quoted in Hulse, Reformation & Revival, 44). I wholeheartedly agree. I have been reading Christian literature for more than forty years and can freely say that I know of no group of writers in church history that can so benefit your mind and soul as the Puritans. God used their books to convert me as a teenager, and He has been using their books ever since to help me grow in understanding John the Baptists’s summary of Christian sanctification: “Christ must increase and I must decrease.”

In his endorsement of Meet the Puritans, R.C. Sproul says, “The recent revival of interest in and commitment to the truths of Reformed theology is due in large measure to the rediscovery of Puritan literature. The Puritans of old have become the prophets for our time. This book is a treasure for the church.” So, our prayer is that God will use Meet the Puritans to inspire you to read Puritan writings. With the Spirit’s blessing, they will enrich your life in many ways as they open the Scriptures to you, probe your conscience, bare yours sins, lead you to repentance, and conform your life to Christ. Let the Puritans bring you into full assurance of salvation and a lifestyle of gratitude to the Triune God for His great salvation.

You might want to pass along Meet the Puritans and Puritan books to your friends as well. There is no better gift than a good book. I sometimes wonder what would happen if Christians spent only fifteen minutes a day reading Puritan writings. Over a year that would add up to reading about twenty average-size books a year and, over a lifetime, 1,500 books. Who knows how the Holy Spirit might use such a spiritual diet of reading! Would it usher in a worldwide revival? Would it fill the earth again with the knowledge of the Lord from sea to sea? That is my prayer, my vision, my dream. Tolle Lege―take up and read! You will be glad you did.

—————-

Joel Beeke is President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and the Editorial Director of Reformation Heritage Books.

Book of the Year, 2006: Meet the Puritans by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson (9781601780003, 1601780001)

Book of the Year, 2006
Meet the Puritans
by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson

This was a great year for Christian publishing. We saw the first installment of Justin Taylor’s edited version of John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation. John Piper’s What Jesus Demands from the World was also excellent. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, edited by Piper and Taylor and Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? by Wayne Grudem were also very good. We saw the release of the The ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament: English Standard Version. [Can someone at Crossway please give Justin Taylor a vacation already?] John Calvin’s excellent Sermons on the Beatitudes was released by Banner of Truth. Steven Lawson released the first volume of A Long Line of Godly Men, titled Foundations of Grace, which covers the history of the doctrines of grace in what is certain to become his greatest accomplishment. Reformation Heritage Books released the Works of Thomas Goodwin (12 volumes) in paperback form, containing much rich teaching on the beauty of Christ. No doubt, the second best book published this year was Mark Dever’s incredible, The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. Perhaps no book has better opened up the Old Testament storyline.

Each of these books are tremendous accomplishments in themselves. I thank the publishers and their devoted writers, editors, administrators and warehouse managers who seek to magnify Christ in their publishing endevors. Thank you!

With all respect for these books released in 2006, none topped Meet the Puritans by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson. We had the honor of announcing this book to the public a few months ago. By any standard, this volume is a monumental accomplishment.

It’s endorsed by Packer, Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, Duncan, Mohler, Ferguson… and the recommendations go on and on. It’s packed with terse information, illustrations, great biographies on more than 140 individual Puritan authors, overviews of over 700 individual Puritan volumes, a list of all the known reprints published beween 1956 and 2005, excellent articles ,and a glossary of terms used. At 900 pages, its a deep well of information. As clothbound, it’s made to endure years of use.

Important helps include chapters on who the Puritans are, why we should read them, and short histories of the English, Scottish and Dutch Puritans. I found the short history of the resurgence of Puritan literature in the 20th century especially interesting.

Here is just one quote, taken from the section explaining why we should read the Puritans today:

“With the Spirit’s blessing, Puritan writings can enrich your life as a Christian in many ways as they open the Scriptures and apply them practically, probing your conscience, indicting your sins, leading you to repentance, shaping your faith, guiding your conduct, comforting you in Christ and conforming you to Him, and bringing you into full assurance of salvation and a lifestyle of gratitude to the triune God for His great salvation” (xix).

Perfect for the beginner and the more advanced reader, Meet the Puritans will help guide and direct your way through the forest of Puritan authors.

In summary, I cannot say it better than our friend, Dr. Ligon Duncan:

“Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson have produced a tremendous gift to and resource for all who want an entryway into the study of the Puritans. They not only provide accurate biographical and theological introduction to every Puritan whose works have been reprinted in the last fifty years, but also combine with their helpful summaries an insightful analysis. If this were not enough, they’ve added major appendices that include the so-called ‘Scottish Puritans’ (that is, the great Scottish theologians who were contemporaries of and like-minded brethren in doctrine and piety with the English Puritans) as well as the Dutch Further Reformation divines. Meet the Puritans, With a Guide to Modern Reprints is a must have. I know of nothing like it. If you are looking for a reliable window into the life, theology, piety and ministry of the Puritans — this is it.”

Like I said, a monumental work!

—————————————

FREE: Reformation Heritage Books graciously provided The Shepherd’s Scrapbook with a special peak into the book… Here is one of the 140+ biographies in this volume: Dutch ‘Puritan’ Willem Teellinck, pp. 782-791 [download .pdf file].

SPECIAL DISCOUNT: Purchase Meet the Puritans directly from Reformation Heritage Books for the special discounted price of $22.50 between November 21st and 30th. You need to do two things. First, call the bookstore directly (1-616-977-0599 ext. 2). Second, tell them you are “a friend of The Shepherd’s Scrapbook.” [While you are there, consider buying The Path of True Godliness, the incredible book on pursuing godliness by Teellinck you can read about in the free chapter above].

Meet the Puritans (details)

Boards: clothbound, hardcover (blue, silver gilding)
Pages: 900
Dust jacket: yes
Binding
: Smyth sewn
Paper: normal
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Price USD
: $35.00/$22.50 for a limited time (see discount above)
ISBNs: 9781601780003, 1601780001

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