My interest in reviewing this book was enhanced by a comment from a reviewer on the back cover, who contrasted its brevity with Stephen Charnock’s tome The existence and attributes of God, through which I am slowly reading.
I decided the best way to read it was perhaps only a chapter per day, and I found it a stimulating read, with much spiritual blessing, as I went through.
The book comprises 45 short chapters, most no more than three pages long. Each one covers an aspect of God’s character and being. The chapters are broadly grouped into five sections, addressing in turn God’s being, attributes, works and words, while a final section looks at application.
The book is part of the ‘Puritan Treasures for Today’ series, which aims to update seventeenth-century language to make these works more accessible. In this they have been successful, as the book reads well, without any loss of spiritual meat or impact.
Swinnock has the gift of condensing great truths into few words, a talent not shared by most of the Puritans. The following are a few examples of his skill. In the chapter on mercy he writes: ‘God’s justice seeks a worthy object, God’s grace seeks an unworthy object, but God’s mercy seeks a needy object’ (p.57).
On God’s satisfying knowledge: ‘Nothing in this world is suitable to the soul’s nature. The soul is spiritual, but the things of this world are physical. The soul’s needs are spiritual (pardon of sin, peace of conscience, etc.), but the good things of this life are material. Nothing in this world is suitable to the soul’s duration’ (p.146).
In the chapter entitled ‘Motivations for attaining the knowledge of God’, we read: ‘Merchants use arguments to convince their customers to buy their products, so that they can enrich themselves. But God calls us to buy from him, not to enrich himself (he is as rich as he can be), but so that we can enrich themselves’ (p.157).
Altogether an excellent book with few blemishes, and well worth reading. I found it a great devotional aid and may well return to it again.