Puritan reformed spirituality
475 pages; £14.95
This book is subtitled A practical theological study from our Reformed and Puritan heritage – which correctly implies a diet that is attractive, suitable, satisfying and profitable. It takes some digesting in places but the meat is good and the menu interesting.
There is much variety here. Although the book is a coherent whole the chapters are self-contained – independent addresses, articles and lectures woven together to give us biography, history, theology and practical application. Sinclair Ferguson calls it ‘a first-class tour of some of the great sites of Reformed theology and spirituality’.
We meet John Calvin, William Ames, Anthony Burgess. Soon we have travelled north to meet the Scotsmen John Brown of Haddington, the great Thomas Boston, and the remarkable brothers Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine.
Predictably, but happily, our guide brings us eventually to the Netherlands and then to the New World. But the climax of the tour is when we reach the family roots from which all these theologians and pastors came – the strong foundations of justification by faith and sanctification in life, nourished by the power of biblical preaching.
‘This book promotes biblical spirituality through a study of the Reformed and Puritan heritage’ (p.viii). Thus we learn of God’s dealings with men in the past, of truths made plain, of his providential and reviving work, and his grace in individual lives.
Specific subjects covered include evangelism, the Law, assurance, faith, guidance, holiness and preaching. This is all relevant in our present day and the book is warmly commended.
Consider this: ‘Preaching is not exposition alone. A minister who only presents the grammatical and historical meaning of God’s Word may be lecturing or discoursing, but he is not preaching. The Word must also be applied. This application is an essential characteristic of Reformed preaching. Without it, vitality is quenched’ (p.429).
The book is an introduction to much more – there are over a thousand end-notes, thirteen pages of bibliographies, sixteen pages of indices and 67 illustrations. In the light of this, it is a pity there are quite a few typographical slips (e.g. there are two pages 386, which puts out the remaining pages of the book).
Let John Brown of Haddington have the last word (p.213) – and then go and buy the book!
‘There is no master so kind as Christ; no service so pleasant and profitable as that of Christ; and no reward so full, satisfying, and permanent as that of Christ. Let us, therefore, begin all things from Christ; carry on all things with and through Christ; and let all things aim at and end in Christ’.