In December 2015, I attended the Westminster Conference in London where these papers were first given. The six papers cover five significant men from a period of over three centuries. They include Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466–1536), John Owen (1616–1683), Isaac Watts (1674–1748), Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) and Andrew Fuller (1754–1815).
The papers cover a variety of subjects. Peter Hallihan, dealing with Erasmus, emphasises that the Dutchman should be remembered for his Greek New Testament and his insistence that theologians and preachers must begin with the Greek text in order to determine the meaning of Scripture.
John Owen merits the attention of both David Pfeiffer and Crawford Gribben. The former traces Owen’s arguments for a definite atonement and free offer of the gospel. He also deals with the vexed question of whether God really desires the salvation of the non-elect.
In the second paper, Gribben explores the changes in Owen’s eschatology. Owen interpreted the Scriptures against a backdrop of great political and religious change in seventeenth-century England. The Civil War, protectorate of Oliver Cromwell and restoration of Charles II occurred during Owen’s lifetime.
Rather than considering the hymns of Isaac Watts, Benedict Bird focuses attention on his book, A guide to prayer. He helpfully suggests that we can learn from Watts about prayer for the churches and our families, and our own private devotions.
Paul Helm provides a critical assessment of one of Jonathan Edwards’ principal works, The religious affections. In affirming that true religion largely consists in the affections, Edwards (Helm asserts) was overstating his case.
Finally, Jeremy Walker holds out Andrew Fuller as a faithful, model pastor. He considers his pastoral theology and shows how Fuller went to Scripture for both his message and his models.
There are just over 100 pages in this slim volume. The papers do not need to be read at one sitting, nor in the book’s order. All six make for informative and fascinating reading. Why not discover some church history by using these papers?