I recently finished two modern books that were based on ministers from the past. One book was based on a sermon from Jonathan Edwards and talked about the glory of God and the other was based from the writings and sermons of Charles Spurgeon during the Down-Grade Controversy.
Reading these books was an incredible experience simply because the messages were from centuries ago but they are still relevant to our time.
The first book by John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards is a two part book. The first part of the book tells Piper’s Introduction to Edwards, gives a biographical sketch and discusses his four most important works. The second part of the book is the complete text of Edwards’ sermon on The End for Which God Created the World.
The primary focus of the book is the glory of God. Living for His glory, preaching His glory, and understanding that everything is about and for the glory of God. We can get so caught up in our own lives, watching sports, taking care of things, even just checking church off the list that we forget about the glory of God. Piper’s story and Edwards’ sermon is a wakeup call to all of us to be reintroduced to the truth of the glory of God.
That brings me to the second book, Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Looks Like the World by John MacArthur. Now before you dismiss the book based on the recent dust up, don’t. This book is based from the life of Charles Spurgeon during the Down-Grade Controversy. What was the Down-Grade Controversy? It was during the later part of Spurgeon’s life when he stood basically alone against the shifting tide in the church of being more about plays and self help than solid Bible teaching. Spurgeon has much to teach us about what it means to live the Christian life and be part of a congregation that doesn’t water down or change the gospel. Regardless of your feelings toward John MacArthur, pick up the book and learn from the wisdom of the great prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
When reading MacArthur’s book, start with Appendix 1 to get a grasp on what the Down-Grade Controversy was about. I wrote this short post because like Spurgeon and Edwards, I am concerned about the Church in my day. We have become so “felt needs” focused, so concerned about having things that attract people in that by time we get them in we can’t keep them with the Gospel, it’s simply not trendy enough. In fact it is offensive to most of the hot button issues of our day. It’s supposed to be, Jesus said it would be. I’m encouraging you to read these two books because we need the wisdom and the sound doctrine of their time and we need to know that there are two “modern evangelicals” who preach the same thing Edwards and Spurgeon did and they are changing the world with a non-fluff gospel. It can be done. It was done by Edwards and Spurgeon and it can be done by us if we follow their example.
One More Thing
After you read those two books and will no doubt be inspired to read deeper, let me encourage you to do that. If you are inspired by Jonathan Edwards get the books Piper mentions and work through them. If you’re inspired by Spurgeon go to christianbook.com and type in Spurgeon on and insert a subject like prayer, Jesus, etc. and get a book or three by him.
C. S. Lewis said the following in God in the Dock. “There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books…This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is no more rampant than in theology…. Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or the old, I would advise him to read the old… It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones…We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books….We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century….lies where we have never expected it….None of us can fully escape this blindness….The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”(God’s Passion for His Glory, Piper, pg. 23).
The power of that quote will be demonstrated as you read MacArthur’s book and realize how much Spurgeon speaks to our day. If you choose to start down the path of old books, let me first recommend reading a biography of the minister. Iain Murray has written great biographies on many ministers of Old and is a good place to start. I would also recommend looking for devotionals by the minister.
I am spending next year studying the life and sermons of Spurgeon. For me the year will start with reading the two volume auto biography and from there reading his sermons on the gospel and Jesus and continue studying the Bible with Spurgeon all year. As some of you may have read in previous posts I am also studying through the New Testament, and I think Spurgeon will be a great guide. I am reading the Bible through in a year in the Spurgeon Study Bible. this isn’t as much as it seems, I have all year to work my way through things and by no means will I scratch the surface of all of Spurgeon’s material.
If you want to keep up with my New Testament and Spurgeon journey next year, you can follow me on Instagram.
If Spurgeon or Edwards don’t strike your interest read 131 Christians Everyone Should Know and you should be able to find someone to study from. You will also find helpful information in the Bible Study sidebar. The Christian Library has huge amounts of free documents, books and biographies. The Edwards, Spurgeon and Wesley Study Centers have sermons, books, letters and theological material of the perspective person that will be a great benefit if you choose to read and study their works.