William Perkins, Richard Sibbes, Samuel Rutherford, Anthony Burgess, John Owen, John Bunyan, John Flavel–these are some of the greatest names in Christian literature. I have spent a lifetime reading the theological, devotional, and practical writings of sixteenth and seventeenth-century Puritans. Why is it worthwhile to do so? To find out, listen to the recent podcast: The Value of Reading the Puritans.
An exciting day for RHB in Grand Rapids—we just received our shipment from the Netherlands of 10,000+ copies of the Family Worship Bible Guide, which presents rich devotional thoughts for private and family worship on all 1,189 chapters in the Bible, including searching questions to promote conversation in your family. I thank Michael Barrett, Jerry Bilkes, Paul Smalley, and others who joined me in producing this book. Pray that the Holy Spirit will mightily bless the daily use of this book, offered both in leather and in hardback, so that families will be more richly informed, reformed, and transformed by daily family worship.
I’m very excited that, with the help of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society, we at Reformation Heritage Books can finally bring into English print in 2 volumes Theodore VanderGroe’s (1705–1784) classic Heidelberg Catechism sermons, which were nearly as famous in his day for their doctrinal soundness and experiential warmth as Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service (4 vols.). Brakel excepted, this is the most major work ever translated from the Dutch Further Reformation.
Steeped in Scripture and pastoral in nature, these sermons promote a healthy form of spirituality; they contain both great comforts for believers and powerful warnings to unbelievers. Bartel Elshout has provided an excellent translation and I thoroughly enjoyed editing it.
If you or someone you know enjoys Brakel, or appreciates the Heidelberg Catechism, this would make a perfect year-end gift—a beautiful set of books for only $45.00 which now reads in English like it was written yesterday. You will love this renowned classic exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism written for lay people. Buy, read, and be edified.
To read and view pictures about my ministry trips from September through November, 2016, including visits to Mexico and Brazil, please download my pastoral letter here.
God has been very merciful to me over the summer of 2016 in various opportunities to preach and teach. If you would like to read about my travels in Europe and Africa, with pictures of many dear friends I saw there, you may download my pastoral newsletter by clicking here.
Old friends can be full of surprises. Have you ever visited with a dear friend whom you have known for years, only to discover something new about him that makes you admire him all the more? I grew up with John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and though of course I never met Bunyan, I count him a dear friend whose writings have long nourished my soul. Yet after co-authoring a book with Paul Smalley on Bunyan and the fear of God, my admiration and gratitude for the tinker-theologian has deepened.
As a seminary professor, I never cease to be astounded by Bunyan. He had little formal education, but he received a Ph.D. from the School of Suffering with Christ. His persecutors thought they had confined this preacher to jail, but in reality Bunyan lived in the Bible—and the word of God cannot be bound. To read Bunyan’s voluminous writings is to be immersed in the text of Holy Scripture.
That’s why I find Bunyan’s perspective on the fear of God so valuable. This topic is clouded with much confusion today. It seems that most people think that the fear of God annihilates faith in God’s grace, and vice versa. Some preachers distort the love of God in a manner that would take God off His throne and make Him our spiritual buddy. Other preachers fixate on God’s law and wrath to the neglect of the gospel so that people cower in degradation or run away from the Lord.
Bunyan, however, discovered in the Bible that God’s grace ignites the fear of God in us. God puts His fear in those whom He loves and intends to bless forever. Many of God’s best promises are to the people who fear Him and hope in His faithful love. While it is true that some fear is bad, Bunyan teaches us how to discern between healthy and unhealthy fear toward God. We need not fear the true fear of God, for it is our best friend as we travel by grace along our pilgrimage toward His glory. In fact, God’s very grace is fearful, for it is the grace of God. Our distaste for the fear of the Lord shows how poorly we know God.
So I commend the book to you in the hope that, by learning from Bunyan, you will learn more about God and will delight to fear His name.
Rejoice with me for the translation into Portuguese and printing of A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, written by Mark Jones and me. (Click here for a sample of Teologia Puritana.) It is printed by Vida Nova, a large Portuguese publisher which does a good job at getting its publications into bookstores all over Brazil. Please pray that God will bless my trip to Brazil next month and that He will bless this volume to thousands of readers to help promote even more reformation and revival in that country.
I’m excited to announce that Theodore Beza, Calvin’s great successor, just arrived at Reformation Heritage Books in the form of his A Clear and Simple Treatise on the Lord’s Supper—now translated from Latin into English by David Noe. R. Scott Clark wrote the foreword and Marty Klauber wrote a great intro. I had the privilege of serving as final editor of this great book.
Theodore Beza’s book, first published in 1559, advances a tireless defense of the Reformed perspective on the Lord’s Supper, responding chapter by chapter to specific arguments raised against John Calvin by his Lutheran opponent Joachim Westphal. Beza makes great use of the concept of metonymy, or a figure of speech, in his interpretation of the words of institution, yet he equally champions the position that the Lord’s Supper is not a bare symbol and in it we have true communion with the risen Christ. And like Calvin, Beza refers extensively to the church fathers, especially Augustine, in defense of his position.
This often-overlooked treatise marks some of the major differences between the Reformed and the Lutheran movements during the so-called second generation of the Reformation. A critical issue at the time, sacramental theology was at the forefront of the original break with Rome and prevented the various Protestant movements from uniting. Its translation into English from the original Latin provides a wider opportunity for those interested in these movements to learn more about some of the substantial issues of the period.
Appended to the book are two smaller treatises of Beza: A System of Doctrine on the Sacramental Substance and The Law of God in Various Classes.
As Dr. Clark says in the foreword, in this book we find Beza to be “a happy warrior” for the truth, using wit and learning to explain the Holy Scriptures for the edification of the saints. May God bless the translation of this classic text, and be pleased to employ it to advance our understanding of that precious gift of the Lord’s Supper.
If you would like to read about my ministry travels from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Canada, Colombia, Portugal, the Dominican Republic, and various points across the United States–with many pictures–you may download my pastoral letter here.
Nothing is more important than the fear of the Lord. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
However, few things are as little esteemed and sadly misunderstood as the fear of God. In some respects, this arises from a cultural contempt for all authority in our nation, and a widespread failure of authority figures to live with integrity. In other respects, it arises from the fallen condition of all mankind: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18).
Yet “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life” (Prov. 14:27). A true fear of God does not cripple us psychologically, but nourishes our soul in gospel freedom and joy. We neglect it to our own detriment.
This fall, I will be joining several other speakers at the NCFIC annual conference to talk about this precious subject, and by God’s grace, to grow together in our reverence for God. Please consider joining us in Asheville, North Carolina, on October 27-29.
To help us to prepare for this event, NCFIC is posting a series of short, daily devotional videos with various preachers, including myself. You may watch the first one by Paul Washer here. Or you may view the whole list of them here.