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The Works of John Newton Volume 3

Works of John NewtonNew Edition – The Works of John Newton: Volume 3. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2015. 679 pp. 4-Volume set – $150.00 Purchase the entire set from The Banner of Truth Trust for much less.

Introduction

You can read the review of Volume 1 here. You can read the review of Volume 2 here. You can read the review of volume 4 here.

From the dust jacket:

When John Newton, ex-sea captain and, as yet, unsuccessful candidate for the Church of England ministry, finished his first book (an autobiography) in 1762 there was no ready publisher. Any thought that he was destined to become one of the best known authors of his age would have been as fantastic as the last 37 years of his life. But in both cases the improbable came about. Becoming curate of Olney, a small village in the south of England, in 1764, Newton there laid his reputation as an evangelical writer, pre-eminently by his published letters and by the Olney Hymns (including ‘How Great the Name of Jesus Sounds, ‘Glorious things of Thee are spoken’ and ‘Amazing grace’). Before the end of his subsequent pastorate at St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807), his writings were prized around the world from America to Australia.

Newton has a firm place in the classics of Christian literature. While his style is strong and clear, it is the spiritual attractiveness and importance of his main themes which secure the permanent value of his writings. Most of his books came, unpremeditated, out of a need to help his congregation or individual hearers, and it is in practical helpfulness towards Christian living that he excels. If he is loved rather than admired, it is for this reason. Conformity to Christ is the one subject upon which his themes finally focus (‘It will not be a burden to me at the hour of death that I have thought too highly of Jesus, expected too much from Him myself, or laboured too much in commending and setting Him forth to others’). Not surprisingly, Alexander Whyte could write, ‘For myself, I keep John Newton on my selectest shelf of spiritual books: by far the best kind of books in the whole world of books.’

The text of this new four-volume edition of The Works of John Newton has been entirely reformatted, producing a clear and easily navigable set of documents for today’s reader.

Summary

This volume consists of Newton’s history of Christianity which was published in two books. Also included in this volume is the Olney Hymns. The first book of ecclesiastical history looks at the birth of Christ to His ascension. The second book looks at the time of the church from Christ’s Ascension to the end of the life of the apostle John.

The final book, which comprises the hymns sung by Newton’s congregation in Olney.

Review

The history is fascinating as it looks only at a 100-year history of the early church. His source material is primarily Scripture though he draws from historians of his day as well as those of the Patristics (just after the end of the Apostolic Age). Newton’s perspective is fascinating as he offers a similar testimony to that of Paul insofar as a his radical salvation. Just as Paul went from a persecutor of the church to its greatest apologist, so, too, Newton went from a legalistic hell raiser to a man known for teaching and living the amazing grace God offers through Jesus Christ to wretched sinners.

The hymns of Olney go to show how far we have fallen in terms of the content of our worship hymns. Fortunately, this is being rectified by the likes of Stuart Townend and Matt Redman and the Getty’s as well as others. Regardless, Newton’s hymns are a gold mine for the church to sift through today. Lord willing, we may begin to find more of these being sung on Sunday mornings.

Recommendation

This volume may be viewed by many as the weakest of the four volumes given its particular content. That is until you realize that a solid grasp on the history of the church and solid foundation of singing hymns helps to not only inform a pastor and congregation, but also helps to reinforce a proper understanding of the Christian faith. Do not allow the historical aspect of this third volume deter you from reading it. It remains an excellent addition to your library and will prove to be a wonderful resource that leads you to worship the sovereign God of history (and the present and the future). I recommend this to all Christians although those who are interested in history will probably enjoy it more than those who are not as interested.

My Neighbor’s House by Marja Meijers

My Neighbor's HouseMeijers, Marja. My Neighbor’s House: The Ten Commandments Series. Mustang: Tate Publishing, 2012. 102 pp. $9.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Note: I recently found a box that has been unopened since before I moved to take a pastorate in Mexico, MO back in March 2013. Inside that box was a few books I was in the process of reading for the purpose of review. This is one of those books.

Introduction

I have reviewed another of Marja’s books, Grace of Giving. She and her husband are both active in prayer groups and Teen Challenge-a ministry dedicated to helping young adults overcome addictive behaviors.  You can read more from Marja at her website, Sacred Sabbath.

Summary

Continuing her series looking at the Ten Commandments, Marja tackles the 10th in this particular book. Over the course of nine chapters, she looks at what a full life really entails while questioning who is really in charge of “my” life. She then offers a change of direction which involves the Spirit of God.

In the end, she argues that combating covetousness can only be done effectively through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Review

As before, I appreciate her perspective on this commandment. She takes what is often viewed as a negative – after all, God said, “You shall not…” – and shows how it is meant to be more of a positive command in the life of God’s children.

She draws on a rich heritage of Spirit-empowered living that involves complete submission to the Lord because you, as a believer, have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is not sheer obedience that will satisfy. Rather, it is knowing that you have been redeemed by Jesus and having been redeemed, you can, for the first time ever, actually obey the Lord’s commands.

What is more, she shows how obedience is a paradigm shift in the Christian’s thinking.

Recommendation

My Neighbor’s House is a fresh take on the 10th commandment. Not fresh in that it is new, but fresh in that we don’t often think of the positive aspect of the “thou shalt not’s.” I recommend this book to all Christians seriously considering how the 10 Commandments still apply to us today (and they do!).

Coffee Mug by The Banner of Truth Trust

BOT MUGCoffee mug. The Banner of Truth Trust. $12.00.

Introduction

Yes, this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but this will be a legitimate review. For the record, the above picture is of the mug sitting on my well loved…ahem…coffee table with a set of books from the same publisher.

Summary/Review

From the Banner:

This premium, etched (not printed), 16 ounce coffee mug is the perfect gift for the Banner book reader. Tea could equally be enjoyed with this mug, although its hearty frame lends itself to a stronger hot beverage. Dishwasher friendly.

When I first opened the package for this mug, I was very impressed with the quality of the appearance. The etching of the logo and name is striking to the senses. I say senses because you will find yourself running your thumb over the name and the logo as well as find yourself gazing at it.

You may think I am goofy (and I probably am) but I have actually found that drinking from this mug has led me to meditate on past books I have read from the Banner.

Also, the fact that the mug is 16 oz is a huge bonus. Many coffee mugs are 8 oz and some 12, but to find a 16 oz means less times spent refilling your mug and more time reading your Bible or favorite book (from The Banner of Truth, obviously!).

Finally, holding this mug just once and you will discover that it is made from quality material. This mug will not chip easily nor will it spill down the side when drinking.

Recommendation

If you enjoy a good cup of coffee, or even tea, you will want this mug. Those who know me know I am a stickler for a good coffee mug. This is one of the best I own. I am pretty sure it will quickly become one of your favorites as well. At only $12, you cannot go wrong with this mug.

Mortification of Sin by John Owen

Mortification of SinOwen, John. On the Mortification of Sin in Believers. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004. 144 pp. $9.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I actually read this from Volume VI of The Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust. The book I am picturing, and the one most commonly read, is the “abridged and made easy to read” version.

For many, John Owen is a common name from the Puritan era. Even those who are not in the so-called Reformed camp are familiar with Owen largely in part because of this particular work. He was born in 1616 in Stadhampton, Oxfordshire and died in Ealing, West London, in 1683. During his sixty-seven years he lived out a life full of spiritual experience, literary accomplishment, and national influence so beyond most of his peers that he continues to merit the accolade of ‘the greatest British theologian of all time.’

Summary

In fine literary and Puritanical form, John Owen states succinctly the need to always be killing sin this side of eternity. The primary verse from which this small work is rooted is found in Romans 8:13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (I quote the KJV because that is more typical of the language Owen spoke.)

After laying the foundation of the command to kill sin, Owen proposes a number of general principles as to the means by which the Christian ought to be engaged in this daily struggle. These general principles comprise the ensuing three chapters. The first is the necessity of mortification. The second is the means by which one may engage in this battle. The third is the usefulness of mortification.

He then moves into particulars as regards how we are to actually combat sin – a total of nine “directions.” The final chapter. the fourteenth, offers the encouragement that all of this is for the Christian’s assurance of salvation but shows that it is actually the Holy Spirit working in you to mortify sin in your body.

Review

How does one review a work that 1. has been monumental within Christendom concerning the topic of sanctification and 2. has withstood the test of time (it was published in 1656)?

Obviously, Owen writes in an form of English that most today are no longer familiar. Hence, the necessity to make this book easier to read in the Puritan Paperback. Also, it must be noted that the style of writing, as well as their preaching, is lost on many today. They do not follow a simple 3-point outline as we do today. Rather, they would look at one particular point of application and then break it down into a number of subsets and then break those down even further!

What you wind up with is a very thorough dealing with a particular topic that, once you have read the work, you have pretty much read all there is on the topic. Though that is hyperbole, it is safe to say that the treatment with which the Puritans dealt with their topic leaves the no stone unturned. It is from this work where the axiom, “be killing sin or it will be killing you” originated.

It is worth persevering through the language barrier and the length of the treatment of each point and consequent subpoint to read this excellent work.

Recommendation

I have reviewed this classic work in order to introduce it to those who read this website in the even that they have never heard of John Owen or this classic work. I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about dealing with the sin in their life.

 

Mark Twain: A Christian Response by Ray Comfort

Mark TwainComfort, Ray. Mark Twain: A Christian Response to His Battle with God. Green Forest, Master Books, 2014. 160 pp. $12.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Mark Twain needs no introduction to those who read books. Then again, he may given the perspective of this book. Ray Comfort’s books and movies and study courses have been reviewed quite regularly here at Christian Book Notes.  I have also been blessed to interview him.

Summary

Divided into 15 chapters, Comfort attempts a conversation with Mark Twain based on Twain’s writings. In the course of the book, Comfort establishes via Twain’s own words, that he was indeed a theist and that he was appalled at the God of the bible. Instead of seeking to understand God on His terms in the Bible, Twain used human reasoning to establish that the God of the Bible was not a God worthy of praise. If anything, the God of the Bible was to be derided and mocked and ridiculed because of His willingness to kill “innocent people” and take virgins captive.

Review

To be honest, the book was a bit difficult to understand at first. I could not tell if I was reading the words of Mark Twain or Ray Comfort. After a few chapters, I figured out how Comfort had organized this work and from there I found it to be quite enjoyable.

I enjoyed how Ray actually penned a conversation with Mark based upon his own writings. The obvious caveat is that Twain was limited to what he wrote and Comfort could easily anticipate the answer.

The charge could be leveled that Comfort was able to ask the question or offer a response such that Twain “loses” or looks bad. The truth is, Comfort is very generous with his conversation. He strives to keep Twain in his proper context and does not commit the sin of eisogesis (stripping a sentence or phrase out of a context in order to make it say something contrary to what was actually said).

Ultimately, however, Comfort did a wonderful job of exemplifying how one should engage an unbeliever and skeptic in the course of conversation. This work ultimately becomes an apologetics class on how to share and defend your faith. In the end, Comfort shows that while Twain was a theist, i.e., he believed that something existed that created everything, he was certainly not a Christian. In fact, he went so far as to mock Christianity and deride those who would worship a god such as the one depicted in the pages of the Bible.

Recommendation

Once I figured out the style of the book, this was a very enjoyable read. I found that as I read I was treated to a plethora of methods of evangelism and apologetics. Further, this work strips away the veneer and shine of the carefully crafted image that is Mark Twain and allows the reader to look underneath and see, in his own words, how genuinely angry he was. I recommend this resource to all Christians. It would make a great gift to the one you know who is a fan of Mark Twain.

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks

Precious RemediesBrooks, Thomas. Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000. 256 pp. $9.00. Purchase at Westminster books for less or for Kindle for $0.99.

Introduction

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680), was a Puritan pastor who, along with so many others of his day, wrote and published many books. You can purchase his 6 volume Works here. At the time of writing this review, this is one book in a series of forty-six in the Puritan Paperback series of which Brooks has four. I have reviewed a few other books by Thomas Brooks. You can read those here.

Summary

As with most Puritan books, this work is easily summarized in its title: these are remedies against the devices of satan meant to either keep you in sin or keep you from repenting and trusting in Christ. This work is basically divided into six chapters. The first is the proof of the point in which he shows us the need for this particular book.

The second chapter looks extensively at the devices used to draw us into sin. Here, he presents a dozen such devices and how we can combat against them. Chapter three offers methods in which Satan keeps the believer from his spiritual duties.

The fourth chapter looks to how Satan keeps the believer doubting his salvation though it has been secured by and is kept by Christ. The final chapter takes aim at specific people found in the world. The appendix,which is basically another chapter, offers a hodge podge of additional devices and characteristics of false teachers with a conclusion as to how one ought to wage war against Satan and his devices.

Review

Brooks states in his introduction, “The strange opposition that I met from Satan, in the study of the following discourse, hath put an edge upon my spirit…” I can honestly testify that the mere reading of this work nearly wrecked me. I struggled with sinful thoughts more in the reading of this work than most any other save the Bible.

I will say that it was definitely worth persevering through to the end. I found chapter four, the devices designed to keep a believer sad and doubting, to be most helpful and emboldening to my soul.  Hardly a page goes by in the book that I did not underline or write a note. Oddly enough, the book is worth owning if for nothing more than the table of contents.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this work to all believers. The language may be dated, but the value of this work is in its complete treatment of a subject that is rarely discussed due to the nature of our spiritual warfare. You will be the better prepared to wage the war against Satan when you do.

The High King of Heaven by Dean Davis

The high king of heavenDavis, Dean. The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time Debate. Enumclaw: Redemption Press, 2014. 754 pp. $34.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

This is now the third book I have reviewed for Dean Davis. You can read the reviews for The Test and In Search of the Beginning. This was also a book I was asked to endorse. I did so gladly as this is a topic of which I am still unsettled. Dean is the Director of Come Let Us Reason – a ministry of apologetics and worldview studies.

Summary

Divided into five parts consisting of twenty-five chapters and ten appendices, Dean Davis seeks to inform the reader on the subject of Biblical Eschatology. Part one defines the terms while looking at the issues and options within a biblical worldview.

Part two, chapters five through eleven, help the reader to understand the Kingdom of God. He looks at God’s Kingdom from the perspective of the beginning (creation), His covenants, the OT promises, and the Good News of the Kingdom here and yet to come.

Part three, chapters twelve through eighteen delve into the pertinent Old Testament passages which prophecy the Kingdom.  Part four, chapters nineteen through twenty-one, attempt to explain the millennium.  The final part, chapters twenty-two through twenty-five help explain the consummation – that is, the end of it all and the coming of Jesus Christ.

The appendices consist of critiques of other models that are not amillennial (spoiler alert! This is the position Dean holds) and also ties up loose ends with various lists of biblical texts and creed through the history of the church that concern the end times.

Review

While it would be easy to attack any particular perspective on the discussion of end times, I do not want to do that here. What I do want to do for the ‘review’ of this work is to point out that Dean Davis truly flexes his biblical scholarship methods in this work. At 754 pages, he has authored what may be the most systematic treatment (certainly that I have read) on the discussion of end times. He shows how he arrived at his conclusions based on studying the Scriptures.

You will obviously not agree with everything he says or every conclusion he arrives at. What you will not be able to say is that he did not arrive there through a careful study of the word. He does not get caught up in what some call “newspaper eschatology” where people look to the world to try to explain the Bible. Rather, he lets the Bible explain itself and then, through the lens of a biblical worldview, he attempts to explain how this world as we know it will come to an end with the Second Coming of Christ Jesus.

Finally, I appreciate that Dean offers a myriad of ways in which to use this resource. He gives a seven chapter smattering at the outset that will give the reader an aerial view of the book with the hopes that the curiosity will be piqued and the reader will read the entire work. After all, at over 750 pages, this is certainly a daunting book to pick up!

Recommendation

If you are interested in studying biblical eschatology, I could not recommend a starting point much more than The High King of Heaven.  Dean is as objective as possible and offers biblical support for his views and against those of others.

The Foundation of Communion with God edited by Ryan M. McGraw

The Foundation of Communion with GodProfiles in Reformed Spirituality – The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen edited by Ryan M. McGraw. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 136 pp. $10.00. Purchase at Westminster Books or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Ryan McGraw is pastor of First Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sunnyvale, CA as well as serving as a research associate at the University of the Free State.

John Owen is known the world over for his works on sin and temptation. In this resource, McGraw seeks to show how Owen’s Trinitarian understanding of how one can cultivate a deeper communion with God.

Summary

He opens with a lengthy apologetic of John Owen’s theology and life and explains how his piety was peculiarly one rooted in the Triune Godhead.  From there, the work is divided into three parts: Knowing God as Triune, Heavenly-mindedness and apostasy, and covenant and church.  There are forty-one choice selections grouped together according to these three sections.

He ends the work with a suggestion on how to read this most difficult of Puritans. Interestingly enough, he does not recommend immediately the reading of Mortification of Sin (or volume 6 of his Works). Rather, he suggests starting with volume 9 (a selection of various sermons) and then moving back to volumes 2-4 in order to read Communion with God and his treatises on the Holy Spirit.

Review

I have reviewed most of the works in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality set and have found each one to be beneficial both to my soul and to the introducing of these men of God to a newer generation. Ryan almost does the impossible when he takes the writings of Owens and arranges them in such a manner that they are readily understandable.

His ability to arrange them topically in the three categories he did helps the reader to understand Owen’s foundation for pretty much everything he wrote. Reading this work first may be the best way to slowly wade into the deep sea that is the writing of John Owen.

Recommendation

As I stated above, I really enjoy this series and have found each one to be excellent in its presentation of the particular theologian from years gone by. In this case, I highly recommend The Foundation of Communion with God to all Christians yearning for a deeper relationship with the Lord.

The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Kostenberger and Kruger

Heresy of OrthodoxyKostenberger, Andreas J. and Michael J. Kruger. The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity has Reshaped our Understanding of Early Christianity. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010. $19.99.  Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Andreas Kostenberger is professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and has written a number of books. Micheal Kruger is President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary. HE blogs at Canon Fodder.

Summary

Divided into three parts, the authors begin with a look at the origins of the New Testament and how today’s understanding of diversity and pluralism are impacting our view on early Christian tradition.

The second part traces the development of the New Testament Canon.  Here they spend three chapters explaining the historical evidence as understood by the historical time and place of the actual occurrences of the formation of the Bible.

The third part explains how the Bible was copied through the years before the printing press and now, the digital age.  Throughout this section, they offer an apologetic for a right understanding of textual criticism and the importance of ones presuppositions.

Review

This book is not going to be for everyone. It is fairly technical in its jargon and study.  It predominantly takes on the Bart Ehrman and is a solid response to his work Misquoting Jesus.  Ultimately, The Heresy of Orthodoxy is yet another book that seeks to answer the challenges of the validity and authenticity of the Bible.

Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun.  This conversation will never end as long as Christ tarries.  I found that this work was extremely concise and and informational as to the nature of the argument in denying the authenticity of Scripture. The author’s make the case that it boils down to one’s worldview. The effects of higher criticism notwithstanding, Kostenberger and Kruger successfully show how one can be critical of the Bible while maintaining an orthodox view of its writing.  Furthermore, they detail with great accuracy the historical context from which it was written and came to be accepted as the final 27 books of the New Testament.

Again, this work is heavy on technical language, but is necessitated by the technical language espoused by those who profess to be scholars.

Recommendation

If you are questioning the authenticity of the Bible, specifically the New Testament, then this book is for you.  If you are a pastor or a budding theologian, then you ought to read this book.  We must be able to engage the charges leveled at the Bible especially when there are “innocent bystanders” in the cross-hairs.