Thursday, 19 November 2015

Zion's Pilgrim

Robert Hawker was the vicar of Charles, in Plymouth from 1778-1827. He was concerned to engage the attention of his flock beyond the church walls with an extensive writing ministry, which is most well known for his Poor Man's Bible Commentary and Morning and Evening Portions. Altogether it ran to 10 volumes when his collected works were first published in 1831. He inventively adopted a different literary form in Zion's Pilgrim to provoke interest whilst instilling sound teaching. It appears his thoughts ran along similar lines to those of John Bunyan, and indeed this composition of his has been favourably compared with Pilgrim's Progress. It has the same theme - tracing out the life and experiences of a pilgrim (cf. Hebrews 11:13). However it must be said that in terms of literature it is far short of Bunyan's standard, although arguably reaching greater heights theologically. Hawker has a style that is quaint, his characters and plot are almost ludicrously contrived, but for the serious and discerning reader there is much meat on the bone here. His Pilgrim starts out and almost immediately encounters a neighbour - the Moral Man. Hawker's familiarity with the methods and reasonings of Pilgrim's antagonists is evident. He does not set up straw men to knock down, but we recognise in them the age-old arguments subtly brought forward. These deepen with the Moral Preacher at church, then shift when entering the home circle of a 'pious' family. But he is helped to progress by meeting a Traveller and through his introduction to a very different kind of prayer meeting and the (inevitable) Poor Man who ministers at it. Here we find a very different kind of religion, and one which begins to enter into Pilgrim's case. There are yet many adventures leading to his conversion, and after to an advanced age, but all are subservient to Hawker's purpose of instruction in the vital principles of a revealed faith. There is a savouriness about these truths which transcends the shortcomings of the form into which they are cast, and well repays persevering reading.
The edition of Zion's Pilgrim still available to purchase new is a paperback volume within Gospel Mission's Select Works set, which sells separately at just £6.95. They are reproductions of the originals, which is short of desirable, as this book could do with some reformatting. Introducing chapters would be helpful for a start!
Zion's Pilgrim by Robert Hawker, Gospel Mission, £6.95

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Not For Crown or Sceptre

We restocked our supplies of Deborah Alcock books over the summer and have just received this really enthusiastic review from a customer of  Not for Crown or Sceptre - A Story of Sweden in the 16th Century...

Despite the incredulity expressed by some about what interest 16th Century Swedish history could hold, I took this 'new in' Deborah Alcock's 'Not for Crown or Sceptre' on holiday with eager anticipation. Already a firm Alcock fan, I expected this little known part of history to reveal some nuggets! And I was not disappointed! Alcock's usual fine literary style is on display, weaving a page-turning masterpiece around the ''scanty historical notices that have come down to us of the hero Gustaf Ericson Vasa''.
The story begins with King Gustaf Vasa, rousing the Dalesfolk of Sweden to fight for freedom from the tyranny of the Danes, and embracing the creed of the Reformation. Within a chapter Gustaf Vasa's glorious 37 year reign has ended in his death, leaving the crown to the murkier and deceitful characters of his family. Gustaf's brother John deposes Gustaf's eldest son Eric on account of his insanity, and dismisses Eric's young son into a planned but failed obscurity.The child is also named Gustaf and the hardships and struggles of his youth in exile, and ultimately his return to Sweden, form the historical backbone of this book.
King John immediately introduces subtle changes, firstly in his 'Red Book', the contents of which departed from the reformation with the suggestion of prayer for the dead, and encouragement to pray to the saints and virgin Mary. When this new liturgy begins to be insisted upon, divisions appear in the churches of Sweden - and in the families of Sweden too.The story is set with the two Nilson brothers: one a university professor with his head turned by the ''king's Romanising changes in the liturgy'', and the other a simple and adored Pastor of Orsa who could not endorse ''the changes that touched the fundamental doctrines of our Reformed Protestant Faith''. The difference between a head knowledge of religion and a heart communication is highlighted remarkably in these two brothers. Extensive discourse between them is expertly used by Alcock to demonstrate the political and religious struggles with Rome of the time. The reader is led on an intricate journey of both heart-rending and heart-warming proportions as we follow the lives of these two brothers and how they intertwine with the child Gustaf.

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Life You Never Expected

Just received this thoughtful and valuable review from a couple who also parent special needs children:

The buckets of sound counsel in this book have been drawn from deep waters: ‘I am come into deep waters where the floods overflow me’ (Psalm 69:2).  Perhaps it is only those floundering in the ‘deep waters that cross life’s pathway’ that will fully appreciate the spiritual and practical wisdom that saturates these pages.

In ‘The life you never expected’ Andrew and Rachel Wilson write candidly about the shock, disappointment and frustration of adapting to a life that not only wasn’t expected, but wasn’t wanted.  As the shock subsides and a ‘new ordinary’ replaces former dreams, so the authors explore the ‘Jobesque’ conundrum of faith in suffering.

The sub-title ‘Thriving while parenting special needs children’ is somewhat misleading and unfortunate.  At best it suggests that this is some kind of lifestyle manual with a spiritual twist; at worst some sort of prosperity gospel tackling life’s most complex questions in a flippant and superficial manner.  The introduction soon allayed these fears as the authors acknowledge that they are ‘feeling for God’s purposes in the dark’, ‘the need to find God and lean on him in the storm’, concluding that ‘for us, nothing short of a Saviour is enough’. Amen, to that!

The real value of this book is the way that the short, punchy chapters shift the focus away from the self-pity, self-indulgence and bitterness that are the natural domain of those feeling the isolation and pain of coping with life with disability. Our thoughts and coping strategies are recalibrated - lifted above the temporal drudgery to the uplifting, eternal realities revealed in God’s word. Perhaps, at times, the book is not telling us anything we don’t already know or have not already considered – but it does crystallise our disjointed musings with its clarity of style and biblical insight.

A few highlights:

  • Thankfulness in a world of entitlement: ‘if what you have is greater than what you deserve, then that’s where thankfulness comes from. If what you think you deserve is greater than what you think you have, then that’s where bitterness comes from.’ And, of course, we deserve nothing – apart from death by sin. ‘Grace, by revealing both how much I have and how little I deserve, helps bring me to a place of humility and thankfulness’.
  • Individualitis and the dung gate: this chapter demolishes the notion that ‘the world is mainly about me’. Malchijah is put forward as a role model – ‘he sits marooned in the midst of an incredibly long and dull list of names in Nehemiah 3....All we know is that he spent a short period of his life doing something very mundane, very smelly and very unnoticeable: he fixed a Dung Gate. Yet in his mediocre, ordinary way, Malchijah, along with all the others, helped establish the kingdom of God on earth....I was always inclined to think that God’s purposes came about through great leaders...travelling preachers, justice campaigners....Mostly, however, they don’t. They come about through millions of unnamed people doing unheard of things, in unnoticeable ways, to the glory of God. Repairing a wall. Teaching a classroom of seven-year olds. Sweeping a street. Running a business. Raising autistic children. Fixing a dung gate.’ 
  • The true battle: ‘the fake battles are a whirlwind of phone calls, government services, websites, more phone calls, forms, applications, more phone calls. And each of these can distract me from the true battle, which more often than not, is not fought that way. Frequently , the weapons of the true battle include silence, prayer, thought, clinging onto a Scripture passage with my fingernails, singing through gritted teeth...reaching for Jesus through the mist of confusion or unanswered prayer....I love my kids most by not loving them the most, but by first loving Him’.

As might be expected from authors of a charismatic persuasion there is a chapter on healing, but, on the whole, this topic is handled in a fairly orthodox manner. Our bodies constantly heal themselves as part of what might be termed common grace; God can and occasionally does still heal miraculously if he chooses; the healing through means such as modern medicine is a gracious gift from a loving God; the healing in the last day when our bodies are raised incorruptible, spiritual, glorious – without affliction, pain or disability – ‘Autism and Down’s syndrome and schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s are swallowed up in victory’.  

We recommend this wise and thought-provoking book to all who ‘sink in deep mire, where there is no standing’ who are ‘come into deep waters where the floods overflow’ (Psalm 69 v 14). It may be part of God’s sovereign purpose that the deep waters last a lifetime – but, as this books underlines, full provision has been made in the gospel for the life we didn’t expect. 

Monday, 31 August 2015

By Far Euphrates - Deborah Alcock

By Far Euphrates, a tale of Armenia in the 19th Century is particularly pertinent in 2015 as we remember the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  The history of Armenia is a complex one to untangle geographically and politically. This story is set near the Euphrates close to what is now the Turkey/Syria border and relates the details of the Hamidian Massacres in 1894-1896 which preceded the more well known Genocide in 1915. Interestingly it seems that a friend requested this particular book from Deborah Alcock.  This friend had lived through and suffered in the persecution and was desperate for the wider world to hear the truth of the depths that this area of the world had descended to.  Miss Alcock worked to a tight schedule and wrote the book in only 5 weeks.  It was said that the atrocities her friend spoke of had such an emotional impact on her that she was never quite the same again.
Alcock writes with her usual depth and detail but perhaps her direct emotional involvement is what makes this book particularly powerful and gripping. The persecution of Armenian Christians in the late 1800s was truly awful; indiscriminate killing of men and boys, women and children saved alive to be subjected to worse horrors. In a helpful appendix Alcock explains which characters were real and which were fictional.  She also makes it clear that the atrocities described in the book left much detail out - she felt it impossible to depict the worst features of the horrible crimes committed.
Tragically some of the events described seem sadly and horribly familiar in these current times.  Christians are being persecuted in 139 nations around the world.  The news that feeds through to our western society is often biased and secular neither recognising nor understanding the religious elements often involved in the incidents reported.  I recently read this article 'Why don't we hear more about persecuted Christians' which gives food for thought on this subject. It is a subject which at the very least, should be kept often in our prayers.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

View from the Youth

We were amazed and fascinated recently to discover what a bunch of youngsters can do with an iPad and the iMovie app.  We hadn't before considered ourselves entirely technologically inept, but we were forced to admit some deficiencies when it comes to movies!  So we decided to challenge a group of youngsters to take on a summer project of making a promotional video for the shop.  This is the fab result...

Without naming them all, our huge thanks go to all the youngsters involved, from age 4 to 13 - you know who you are!  Please don't all head off to Hollywood.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


This little booklet was published by Gospel Tidings Publication in 1978, sold out long ago, and has now been reissued in response to demand. 
The preface assures us that this is indeed a true story, which has been questioned by those who doubt the reality or power of the Holy Spirit. It was translated from German in the mid-1800s and gives the account of the remarkable conversion of Thirza, a young Jewish woman and her parents, traced back, as far as the means goes, to the words of Matthew 11:28 and 1 John 1:7. These were brought back to memory from her very early schooldays spent at a Christian school. What a salutary reminder this is that we should never be discouraged in the endeavour of spreading the word of God! Thirza's father, though a devout Jew, had allowed her to go to a Christian school thinking that she was too young to receive any serious impression from it. But these gracious words were planted like a seed not only in her heart, but that of her mother also, and sprang to life at the appointed time. Thirza was immediately disinherited by her father on hearing of her conversion, but even this could not prevent God's working in his soul and he eventually was glad of her help when brought under conviction of sin.
The subtitle of this story is 'The Power of the Cross' and how evident that is here! But there is also much profitable reflection within the account provided by the translator, Elizabeth Maria Lloyd, on true spiritual experience. This has application beyond the pages of this booklet, and is certainly not unique to this family, thanks to the grace of God.
The many scriptural quotations are from the Authorised Version. Recommended.
Thirza by Elizabeth Maria Lloyd, published by Gospel Tidings Publications, £1.95, booklet.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Girolamo Savonarola

It is good to see something in print on this lesser known pre-Reformation figure. Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) was rooted in the Medieval monkish traditions, but he thundered out his denunciations of a corrupt Church and Pope from his pulpit in Florence. He blazed a trail which men like Martin Luther in the next generation would follow and develop. Indeed Luther pays tribute to him:
'Although some theological mud still adhered to the feet of that holy man, [he] nevertheless maintained justification by faith alone without works, and he was burned by the Pope.'
Sadly this was indeed his end, the result of criticising moral corruption too strongly and publicly. He presented a scriptural challenge to the Renaissance humanists and their proud culture in a city where artists of legendary fame were legion. He also grieved over the Church of Rome, evacuated of the gospel of Christ, consumed by worldliness and guilty of tyranny over the consciences of the people. Savonarola spoke boldly, not in Latin, but in the Italian that they could understand. Moreover he extended his reach by a farsighted adoption of the emerging technique of the printing press. Remarkably, he was the most widely published author of the fifteenth century, with editions of his sermons in French and German.
In those days a biblical message of judgment, repentance and grace as the sinner's only refuge could lead to no other conclusion but elimination. Thus Savonarola suffered a martyr's death. Yes, we can see many faults in him, but he has much about faithfulness to teach us, and we delight in his gospel witness in such dark days of church history.
Anything written by Douglas Bond is worth reading, but this book was slightly disappointing. Maybe it is the consequence of a co-authored book, because the material seemed awkwardly arranged in places. Nevertheless it is clear and straightforward as befits a title in this generally excellent Bitesize Biography series.

Girolamo Savonarola by Douglas Bond and Douglas McComas, published by EP Books, p/b,£6.99.

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Post-Event Post

Last night we had one of our ladies events, and today I am bleary eyed! When you don't close the shop doors until after 11pm you have to take this as a good result! So, what do we do at these events? Laugh, drink tea, eat cake, read and discuss books.  If you couldn't join us, here's what we discussed...

We kicked off with a quote from Sinful Speech by John Flavel (one of the pocket puritan series):
How long does an idle word, or foolish jest, stick in men's minds, and become an occasion of much sin to them?  The froth and vanity of your spirit, which your tongue so freely vents among your vain companions, may be working in their minds when you are in the dust, and so be transmitted from one to another.
Hard hitting and to the point - but that's the Puritans for you. 'I need that' was the immediate cry from one of the ladies, and it was quickly snapped up.

Next book up was First Wives' Club by Clare Heath-Whyte.  The history buff present was very enthusiastic about this book - well written by another history buff, it draws lessons from the lives of 6 sixteenth century women.  With points for Bible Study at the end of each chapter, it could prove useful for ladies meetings?

We talked about the new book by Courtney Reissig called The Accidental Feminist. This takes a look at how feminism has become so prevalent in our culture that many of us have imbibed the feminist principles without question and need to re-examine the Biblical roles for womanhood.  One of the ladies was concerned that it was being counter-cultural for the sake of it.  Only having read half of it I couldn't really answer that one, but someone bought it so we're hoping for a full review next time!

A provocative quote from A Woman's Wisdom started off some more discussion...
The wild fluctuation of hormones at certain times may challenge our tolerance of others or depress our outlook, but nowhere does the Bible gives us a hormonal pass on the call to kindness, patience, contentment, joy and love.
A collective intake of breath while everyone counted to ten... and then admitted that perhaps they had at times failed on that one. The author of this book, Lydia Brownback has also written a series of smaller books On the Go Devotionals, which many of the ladies had read, so interest grew for A Woman's Wisdom, which is a more in depth look at Proverbs. Perhaps Miss Brownback had a point!

Spurgeon's Sorrows by Zack Eswine was another popular choice - with many Spurgeon lovers present and a very enthusiastic reviewer of this book who highly recommends it to all who suffer depression and their carers ('and anyone else in fact').  Spurgeon suffered severe bouts of depression throughout his life but always viewed it as a precursor to greater blessing.  To encourage he says...
Depression of spirit is no index of declining grace; the very loss of joy and the absence of assurance may be accompanied by the greatest advancement in the spiritual life... we do not want rain all the days of the week, and all the weeks of the year; but if the rain comes sometimes, it makes the fields fertile, and fills the waterbrooks.
Awaiting a Saviour by Aaron Armstong, was another that sparked off some discussion.  Poverty and sin - what is the relationship between them?  Aaron very firmly asserts that poverty is in the world because of sin, not the sin of the poor people, but original sin. The discussion ranged over a few topics, but eventually the lady who didn't like the sound of the book, bought the book to give Aaron a fair hearing - I look forward to finding out if he persuaded her to change her mind!

Now, I am not one for verbal diarrhoea, but I have been accused many-a-time of written diarrhoea so let me wrap this up!  Just quickly, some of the other books that we were discussing were...
Far Above Rubies - Lynette Clark
A Little Bird Told Me - Timothy Cross
Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full - Gloria Furman
To Honour God - The Spirituality of Oliver Cromwell - Michael Haykin
When World's Collide - R C Sproul

Whet anyone's appetite?

Thursday, 18 June 2015

First Wives' Club

Twenty-first century lessons from the lives of sixteenth century women.
This book belongs to an exclusive club in itself - at least as engineered by the publisher - it is designed and jacketed in such a feminine manner as to cause any man to feel rather intrusive in daring to peep between its covers. But in defiance of this I determined to brave all to see what kind of lessons were being given and what standard of historical analysis was being relied upon for deriving them. I had a pleasant surprise. The author is a robust historian - the blurb declares her as a prize winner at Cambridge University - and she serves it up effortlessly. Among the six women she studies from Reformation Europe she has boldly chosen three who are relative unknowns. Who has heard of Katharina Zell or Argula von Grumbach for instance? Perhaps the scanty historical information in these cases is pressed too far and hence the lessons contrived, but it is good to be introduced to them. Of course the danger with historical lessons is that we judge people by today's standards and assume that our values are superior. However this book is birthed in the belief that we live in a post-Christian society and determines to be counter-cultural. The women of 500 years ago are looked to as role models because of the biblical mindedness which was fundamental to the Reformation. That shapes the view that a woman's role is not one of ecclesiastical leadership but complementary to the man's role. And this is not necessarily the traditional one despised of feminists. We witness variation in the sixteenth century due to circumstances in family, health, persecution, the nature and place of a husband's ministry, etc. In all these cases the women faithfully studied to understand and apply the teaching of scripture. This is the message being communicated to the women of today. It deserves a hearing and I believe men need to listen in too. We all should be inspired to build our lives on the Word of God.
'First Wives' Club' by Clare Heath-Whyte, p/b, 10Publishing, £7.99.
In addition to the two ladies already mentioned, Katie Luther, Anna Zwingli, Wibrandis Rosenblatt and Idelette Calvin make up the club.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Far Above Rubies

This is a biography that many will consider long overdue.  Apart from Bethan Lloyd-Jones' own 'Memories of Sandfields', there is little known about the woman who supported the well known D Martyn Lloyd-Jones through his years of influential pastoral ministry.  Interviews with the Lloyd-Jones' daughters and access to letters written by and to Bethan have made this biography well researched and full of anecdotes. 
Bethan was by all accounts a remarkable woman, a strong character who initially clashed with the man she later came to marry. Interestingly, she was truly converted only after their marriage and under the ministry of her husband, and this changed her legalistic 'Christian' ways to a life that was lived through love to the Lord and to others around her. She was clearly an independent thinker and neither she nor Martyn followed tradition for tradition's sake. This is notable in her efforts as a pastor's wife and as a parent.  Bethan did though have her difficulties: one that came through clearly was her struggles with anxiety.  This was a particular problem for her in the area of travel, and also in illness.  However, it is evident that she was brought to find peace through trusting in God in these matters.

Indeed, there are many spiritual and practical lessons to be learnt from this account and the author is particularly skillful in drawing these out.  To further this end there has been added a 'Questions for Reflection' section at the back of the book.  This gives a number of questions exploring the subjects and spiritual lessons that can be learnt from each chapter. These would be ideal to use as prompts in a group setting. Additionally there are also helpful Appendices giving further pertinent information related to each chapter.
Overall, Far Above Rubies is a fascinating insight into the life of a woman who played a hugely important supporting role in the life of 'the doctor'.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Grace Works! (And Ways We Think It Doesn't) @bondbooks

This book is a surprise. Douglas Bond is a greatly appreciated author, but what is he doing dabbling in theological issues? Historical fiction yes, but a defence of the gospel seems rather out of his province. Indeed we learn in the foreword that he questioned this himself when the idea for the book was birthed: 'I'm a storyteller, not a theologian. If this book needs writing so much, leave it to the experts.' But that is precisely the dimension that gives this book its usefulness. He has the flair to connect. And he does it on an important subject, which must not be allowed to be caught up into the ivory towers of the 'experts'. The matter of concern is 'law creep'. This is the term describing a subtle activity of the Devil in every generation to pollute the pure doctrine of the gospel. He works to undermine confidence in free grace within the church of Jesus Christ. How is this manifested? When preachers proclaim the 5 Solas of the Reformation, but then call the law in by the back door to disciple the converts. When imputed righteousness is treated as if it were a dangerous concept. When faithfulness to the covenant is a teaching directed at man, not God, and drowns out the call to faith in Christ.
Bond demonstrates law creep from church history. He shows that no denomination has been free from its corrupting tendency. Everyone asserts that this is an issue in other churches, or for other families, but not for them. And this is the way law creep spreads - no one sees the beam in their own eye. Bond also presents the results from a tour he has undertaken of a spread of churches. Without mentioning names he supplies and analyses key sermon quotes, acting as a watchdog, vigilant but not scathing. He further engages with the radical language of the Apostle Paul in Romans - if this were not in the Bible would it not be condemned in many churches as unsafe? Free grace = cheap grace = loose living. But this is the conclusion Paul is denying. Grace does not lead to ungodliness, not because of the safeguards of the law, but because of the sanctifying effect of love in the heart.
Douglas Bond is definitely not an innovator or a 'new calvinist'. He roots his concerns in Reformation confessions. He is just concerned (as John Newton) that self righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works. In other words, 'correct' churches can harbour works righteousness as much as those where free will and man's doings are rampant.
As a lover of hymns, one very telling point Bond makes is that free will theology cannot be put to music. Isaac Watts could write soaring lyrics concerning the sovereign love of God, but words about the choice of man never get off the ground. In proof, Appendix B contains Bond's humorous attempt at such a hymn.
Each chapter closes with discussion questions in true American fashion. Note that this is not a slim book, and one criticism would be that he has spun out his tale too long. But it is easily read (although the issue makes for uncomfortable reflections).
Grace Works! by Douglas Bond, large p/b, published by P & R Publishing 2014. Price £9.99.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Forty Years in the Wilderness

'The Autobiography of an early Australian Baptist' is how the book is described - but John Chandler started life as an English one! As a young man he emigrated to Australia with his parents and (a fascinating social study) a group of members from a Strict and Particular Baptist chapel in Brighton. He goes on to give a rare firsthand description of the life of an 'ordinary' settler in the State of Victoria in the mid-1800s. Its value is demonstrated in that, though it was left to gather dust by Particular Baptists, it was rediscovered by secular historian Michael Cannon in 1990 and published out of historical interest. He however had no understanding of Chandler's religion and his lack of sympathy for it resulted in drastic editorial work. But at least, although with limitations, this honest and interesting account of the hardships and fortitude of the early white Australians was made public once again.
Those of us who have known of Chandler's book since the 1990s have long looked forward to a time when it might be published again in full, and his faith revealed in addition to his adventures. Gospel Standard Trust Publications (GS) have obliged at last, and with the input of considerable research, brought out a new and complete edition. The original book was scarce but came in two forms. They had different endings. It seems there was a 'diplomatic' version, glossing over some awkward aspects of contemporary church affairs, and also a longer no holds barred version! The new edition contains both endings and also supplies copious footnotes to provide explanations and contexts for many of Chandler's geographical and historical references, which otherwise would be lost on today's readers - especially English ones.
A foreword has been written by Annette Seymour, who is the wife of the current pastor of Zion Chapel, Hawthorn (a suburb of Melbourne) which Chandler was instrumental in founding. This aspect of the book is fascinating to students of Baptist beginnings and beliefs in Australia, but it is disappointing that the GS edition's footnotes give limited attention to it in comparison to the amount of detail provided on secular Australian history. For John Chandler was emphatically a Particular Baptist; his own striking experience of the sovereign grace of God led him to this conclusion. Indeed it is noteworthy that his Calvinistic theology was not an aberration - it had underpinned the labours of Henry Dowling, the founder of the first Baptist church formed in Australia in 1835. For more on him and Australia's Particular Baptist heritage refer to my five part Ryde Rediscovery Series. Ultimately, however, this is not a book of history or theology but a simple autobiography told in a compelling way, and it may be read with profit and pleasure by all ages from teenage years upwards.
'Forty Years in the Wilderness', by John Chandler, published by Gospel Standard Trust Publications, hardback, 288 pp including colour photos and other illustrations. Price £12 - very reasonable indeed.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Freedom from the Law

William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Particular Baptist preacher and hymn writer, for many years the beloved pastor of Rochdale Road Baptist chapel, Manchester. His vigorous gospel ministry brought him into inevitable conflict, especially his maintaining that as the gospel proclaims forgiveness of sins through Christ, and deliverance from the condemnation of the holy Law of God, believers are 'dead to the law' (Galatians 2:19). This, Gadsby stated, means that they are "in no sense whatever under it." Such a statement was seized on by his protagonists, already stirred up by his strong emphasis on the sovereign grace of God. To the charge of hyper-calvinist they now added the opprobrious term of antinomian - lawless. Andrew Fuller weighed in against him, and others including John Stevens, who otherwise was in sympathy with his theology.
Until now Gadsby's defence of his position has been locked up in the collated two volume 'Works of William Gadsby', printed by his son John Gadsby in 1851. This was never reprinted in full and is now scarce on the secondhand book market. CBO Publications have therefore rendered a valuable service in drawing together Gadsby's writings on the Law, which filled most of Volume One of his Works. This has been published as a 576 pp paperback 'Freedom from the Law', retailing for a modest £9.95. The editor has rearranged the articles - including 'The Perfect Law of Liberty' and 'The Gospel the Believer's Rule of Conduct' - into a more logical order, and included appendices containing the publications of his opponents which are referred to. It is worthy of note that Gadsby's articles are reprinted from their latest unedited editions published during his lifetime, thus avoiding John Gadsby's editorial pen. It accounts for cross-referenced page numbers being different from those found in Volume One of his Works. This however is a minor difficulty and overall the new format is welcome.
The subject of the Christian's relationship to the Law is still a live and hotly debated one in Reformed and Evangelical circles today. The Apostle Paul said 'we establish the law' (Romans 3:31) - but the question is, how and in what way? Is it by reassigning it to a role in governing Christian obedience, or in reaffirming it as the perfectly holy standard which exposes sin? The one view asserts its continuity in sanctification, the other its completion at justification. Gadsby is very clear as to where he stood on this vexed question and he strongly urged the point that the Law has been fulfilled by Christ on behalf of his people, so delivering them from its piercing claims. Justified by faith, believers are freed - not into a moral vacuum, but in fact to begin to 'live unto God' (Galatians 2:19). With spiritual wisdom, and a pastoral heart, Gadsby keeps to the main points, avoiding the many pitfalls that dot this doctrinal battleground. It was no mere intellectual contest for him; he wrote of what he had experienced for himself of Romans 8:2, and he knew that tender consciences in his congregations needed assurance and not disturbance with a revived Law. He is as equally Christ exalting in his aim in these writings on the Law as in his hymn compositions - the most well known today being 'Immortal Honours'.
This is not a book for philosophers; not every detail is pinned down, but it is a notable contribution to the subject, and more importantly, a spiritually profitable read.

Freedom from the Law by William Gadsby, CBO Publications, £9.95

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Reading Together - our online ladies reading club

The time has come for our ladies online reading club to start a new book so I am canvassing for new members (you can tell an election's coming!).  We are starting on Krummacher, the well known F W Krummacher who wrote the popular books 'Elijah the Tishbite', 'Elisha a Prophet for our Times' and 'The Suffering Saviour'.  The book we have chosen is not so well known - 'Christ and His People' is an exposition of  Christ's life and the beginnings of his Church here on earth.  Krummacher writes in his typically colourful and highly devotional style and there is much thought provoking application. Anyone ladies keen to read something that might be a bit tougher than most books they would naturally pick up, with gentle support and encouragement along the way should get in touch with me.  The online reading club is run as a member's only blog, our members vary from old to young (it's all relative!) and are spread around the world so don't think you won't fit in - we would love to have new members, it all helps add to the discussions!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A Free Gift!

Make an order in the next couple of weeks and remember to quote the Free Gift code to get a copy of Faith Cook's Stars in God's Sky absolutely free! (normally worth £8.99)...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

World Book Day #WBD2015

Do you have World Book Day vouchers still floating around the house?  Get your £1 World Book Day books here - we have 2 excellent choices, or you can get £1 off any book over £2.99...

To find out more about the books... Ten Boys... Ten Girls
Go for it!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Spurgeon Deal... @Christian_Focus @CFLCharity

This is a deal that you really cannot afford to miss - it will only be available until the end of the month...

And don't forget, that with any book you buy this month we pledge to give 50p to Caring for Life...

How can you not?!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Growing up God's Way #EPBooks

Published back in 2013 these 2 books fill what was a huge gap in the market, certainly in our shop. Written by two paediatricians they are down to earth and God-honouring.  They are written with just enough detail for pre-pubescent children including pictures and diagrams, but most importantly, a clear focus on our need to view all things through the lens of the Bible. A brief introduction firstly addresses some of the natural fears of children facing puberty and gently explains why our bodies need to change and develop.  We then learn about the biblical view of marriage and the traditional roles of men and women, physical changes, physical intimacy, emotional changes, going out and preparing for the future. In each book, there is some less detailed information given about the physical changes in the opposite sex.  The books are serious but easy to read, so that they can be read with the child, or left to be read alone.
Highly Recommended!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts #BondBooks

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is much more than a biography.  Not only do we learn about Watts and his life, but we also learn and deeply contemplate the truths contained in his best loved hymns.  Bond slows us down to read carefully and meditate on Watts' theology and poetry.  We stop and pause as each line displays some glorious truth which Bond expounds and explains further.  We discover the background circumstances, the controversies of the day and more importantly the true religion of the hymnwriter.

Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from Watts' poetry is his understanding of how we read and interpret all of Scripture; Watts, like Spurgeon and the best preachers of the past and present, made a beeline for the cross, and so must we.

This is a profitable read and a must for any lover of Watts' hymns.  For those who are not familiar with his hymns, may this book serve as a taster to whet the appetite.

As we flounder about in the "liturgical fidget" of the contemporary church, Watts can provide both the theological and liturgical ballast Christian worship so desperately needs. And he can give us an emotional rudder, a means of steering the passions in worship by objective propositional truth feelingly delivered.

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond, Published by Reformation Trust, £12.99, hardback.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Spurgeon's Sorrows

Zack Eswine has woven together C H Spurgeon's personal experience and words on depression to produce a sympathetic 'handwritten note of one who wishes you well', rather than 'an exhaustive word or prosaic treatise.' Here are some quotes:-

The Road to sorrow has been well trodden, it is the regular sheep track to heaven, and all the flock of God have had to pass along it.

Personally, I also bear witness that it has been to me, in seasons of great pain, superlatively comfortable to know that in every pang which racks his people the Lord Jesus has a fellow-feeling. We are not alone, for one like unto the Son of man walks the furnace with us.

It might puzzle us to tell why Elijah should get under a juniper bush, but when we get under the juniper ourselves, we are glad to recall the fact that Elijah once sat there.

I am certain that I have seen more in the dark than ever I saw in the light - more stars, most certainly - more things in heaven if fewer things on earth. The anvil, the fire, and the hammer, are the making of us; we do not get fashioned much by anything else.

There is much more here that is helpful for sufferers and caregivers. Some of it enters into general Christian experience; some of it reaches to the exceptional.
Newly published by Christian Focus Publications. £6.99 p/b.