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The Heart of Christ

By Thomas Goodwin
October 2012 | Review by Jeremy Walker

Synopsis

The Heart of Christ in Heaven towards Sinners on Earth was first published in 1651, and it soon became Thomas Goodwin’s (1600-1680) most popular work. It is a fine example of his Christ- centredness and his mix of theological rigour and pastoral concern. In it he aims to show from Scripture that, in all his heavenly majesty, Christ is not now aloof from believers and unconcerned, but has the strongest affections for them. Goodwin begins with the beautiful assurances given by Christ to his disciples, taking as an example of that love Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet (John 13). The heart of his argument, however, lies in his exposition of Hebrews 4:15, in which Goodwin shows that in all his glorious holiness in heaven, Christ is not sour towards his people; if anything, his capacious heart beats more strongly than ever with tender love for them. And in particular, two things stir his compassion: our afflictions and—almost unbelievably—our sins. How we need Goodwin and his message today! If we are to be drawn from jaded, anxious thoughts of God and a love of sin, we need such a knowledge of Christ.

  • Publisher: Banner of Truth Trust
  • ISBN: 978-1-84871-146-4
  • Pages: 160
  • Price: 5.00
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Book Review

This is a profoundly refreshing book by the warm-hearted Puritan, Thomas Goodwin. The author’s contention is that believers do not consider as they should – to their great comfort and encouragement – the disposition of Christ in his glory toward his people on earth. In this volume he sets out to correct that oversight.

      To accomplish this, Goodwin identifies first the outward and then the inward demonstrations of the tenderness of Christ’s heart toward sinners, moving on to his affectionate compassion toward sinners in their infirmities. The pastoral tone of this work is evident from the outset, as Goodwin dismantles doubts and fears in the souls of God’s people, providing them with every reason to be assured of the love of the Lord Jesus toward us.

      There is something delightfully relentless about Goodwin’s argument. He will not allow us to get away from the certainty and sweetness of Christ’s heart toward his redeemed people, considered in all the breadth and depth of their continued need. He reasons from Christ’s nature, his offices and his conduct, often working from the lesser to the greater: ‘If Christ loved his people in such a way at such a time, how much more can we be assured of his love now.’

      Goodwin is absolutely right that too many of God’s children lack confidence in Christ’s loving attitude toward them. The world, the flesh and the devil all undermine such a buoying sense of reality. When battling with sin, we tend to assume – especially if we have a tender conscience – that we are driving Christ from us. Goodwin, working from the Scriptures and without excusing our sin, demonstrates that such struggles are in fact the very things which most draw out Christ’s love toward us.

      While the language is not always simple, the logic is clear, the reasoning straightforward, and the tone sweet throughout. For all with the will and wherewithal to read this volume, the return will be abundant, both in blessing to oneself and in communicating that blessing to others. As Goodwin points out: ‘Men love to see themselves pitied by friends, though they cannot help them; Christ can and will do both.’

 

Jeremy Walker

Crawley, West Sussex

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