Jesus on Every Page

Jesus on Every Page 2

No one can give me a better gift than to help me to see Jesus. And there is so much to see in Him! All the fullness of God dwells in Him, and He fills us completely. Why then is it that we sometimes find reading the Bible a frustrating experience? Often it is because we do not approach the Old Testament equipped to see the Lord Jesus there.

This is where Dr. David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at our seminary, has helped us so much with his book, Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament. With simplicity, clarity, and humility, David explains how the ordinary Christian can discover the glories of Christ in the Old Testament. Whether you are reading the story of Abraham, or the law of Moses, or the Proverbs of Solomon, this book shows how the whole Bible points to Jesus Christ.

Sinclair Ferguson writes,

With deceptive ease Dr. David Murray brings his readers on to the Road to Emmaus for a few hours of conversation about Jesus and the Old Testament. With an enviable grace and simplicity he teaches us how to read the Old Testament as Christians. Jesus on Every Page is a book on Christ-centered biblical interpretation that doesn’t involve complex grammatical, rhetorical, or hermeneutical complexities that cause the ordinary Christian (and pastor for that matter) to glaze over and despair. Rather, as a most agreeable companion, Professor Murray walks alongside us and points out the most important landmarks we need to notice if we are to make our ways through the Old Testament for ourselves and see how it points to Christ.

Far from talking down to us from the lofty heights of technical Old Testament scholarship (although he is familiar with them), he tells us that he once sat where most of us sit. But then, as a quality teacher, he is able to help us learn what he himself has so obviously done. Here, then, is an ideal primer for beginners, a great refresher course for anyone who has got lost in the woods attempting to read Scripture the Emmaus Road way, and a wonderful reminder to us all that it was Jesus himself who taught us that he is at the heart of the entire Bible, and not just the right hand side of it!

So I encourage you to read this book, and buy copies for your pastor(s) and office-bearers. Your church will be greatly enriched!

New Book from Dr. Jerry Bilkes

Have ever reached into the pocket of an old set of clothes and discovered a wad of money? Maybe those pants hung in the back of the closet, neglected for months, and suddenly you are thanking God for a boost to your cash flow. That’s the way I feel about a new book from my colleague, Dr. Jerry Bilkes. He has taken something old and neglected, and shown us how it is full of profit.

Memoirs of the Way HomeMemoirs of the Way Home is a book about Ezra and Nehemiah, but it is far from the obscure and technical commentaries we sometimes associate with the study of the Old Testament. While Jerry walks the reader through these biblical books text by text, he helps us to see that we are not just studying ancient history, but learning how God lovingly calls people to come back to Him, even when they have wandered far, and helps them to rebuild their lives. Each one of Jerry’s short chapters brings us handfuls of spiritual insights and personal applications. The book also comes with study questions well-suited for small groups, Sunday School classes, or family worship. I heartily recommend it to you!

Forgotten Puritan Remembered in England

St. Helen’s Church—Ashby-de-la-Zouch: The parish church of Ashby where Hildersham preached throughout his ministerial career as lecturer and vicar.

St. Helen’s Church—Ashby-de-la-Zouch: The parish church of Ashby where Hildersham preached throughout his ministerial career as lecturer and vicar.

Arthur Hildersham (1563–1632) was an influential Puritan preacher in late Elizabethan and early Stuart England. Though little known today (his works have not been reprinted in modern times), his preaching was quite popular. He gave his hearers solid, doctrinal sermons that perhaps did not move the emotions as much as more gifted speakers but fed their souls. His published sermons include 108 messages on John 4. He also suffered for his Reformed convictions, first when his Roman Catholic parents disinherited him, and then later when the Church of England’s bishops had him suspended from ministry and imprisoned. Reformation Heritage Books recently published a biography of Hildersham, and its author, Dr. Lesley Rowe had an opportunity to give an address at Hildersham’s parish in England.

Interior: Since Hildersham's time, some aisles have been added and the pews replaced. Hildersham is buried in the chancel, toward the top of the photograph.

Interior: Since Hildersham’s time, some aisles have been added and the pews replaced. Hildersham is buried in the chancel, toward the top of the photograph.

Dr. Rowe shares, “Over 100 people attended the lecture in St Helen’s Church, Ashby-de-la-Zouch (Hildersham’s church), which was a great encouragement. Some had travelled from as far afield as Rochdale, London, and Cambridge to be present, but most of the people came from the Midlands, with a good number from Ashby itself. The current vicar of Ashby, Brian Robertson, introduced the evening by reading Hildersham’s prayer of 1625, which he prayed before his lectures in 1625, and by reading Psalm 51:1–7, on which Hildersham had delivered 152 lectures. I then spoke for about 40 minutes, describing Hildersham’s life and ministry in Ashby and explaining why he was so loved and revered in the town. Afterwards I took questions. At the end, I signed and sold nearly 40 copies of the book. Many people expressed their appreciation, and also said they had not realised what an important figure Hildersham was.”

Thomas Manton on the Need for More Sound Books

Thomas Manton

Thomas Manton

A good friend sent me this remarkable quotation from Thomas Manton today on why we still need to keep writing and reading sound, biblical literature:

There is no end of books, and yet we seem to need more every day. There was such a darkness brought in by the fall, as will not thoroughly be dispelled till we come to heaven; where the sun shineth without either cold or night. For the present, all should contribute their help according to the rate and measure of their abilities. Some hold up a candle, others a torch; but all are useful. The press is an excellent means to scatter knowledge, were it not so often abused.

All complain there is enough written, and think that now there should be a stop. Indeed, it were well if in this scribbling age there were some restraint. Useless pamphlets are grown almost as great a mischief as the erroneous and profane.

Yet tis not good to shut the door upon industry and diligence. There is yet room left to discover more, above all that hath been said, of the wisdom of God and the riches of his grace in the gospel; yea, more of the stratagems of Satan and the deceitfulness of man’s heart. Means need to be increased every day to weaken sin and strengthen trust, and quicken us to holiness.

Fundamentals are the same in all ages, but the constant necessities of the church and private Christians, will continually enforce a further explication. As the arts and slights [expertise] of besieging and battering increase, so doth skill in fortification. If we have no other benefit by the multitude of books that are written, we shall have this benefit: an opportunity to observe the various workings of the same Spirit about the same truths, and indeed the speculation is neither idle nor unfruitful.

—Cited from Manton’s letter to the reader in The Works of Richard Sibbes, 3:3.

Pre-Publication Sale at Logos

logo_logos_5Logos has asked me to let readers of my blog know that they are offering The Select Works of Joel R. Beeke at the pre-pub order price of 22% off. It’s a collection of 28 books I authored, co-authored, or edited. Go here to check it out.

ReformedCast on A Puritan Theology

ReformedCast Logo Trim

I am grateful to Scott Oakland for his interview with me on ReformedCast about A Puritan Theology. We discuss how the book came into being as a collaborative effort with Mark Jones, what “Puritan theology” means as compared to Reformed theology, the divisions of theology, the succinct summary of theology in the Marrow by William Ames (who greatly influenced New England theologians), the importance of a sound covenant theology, the beauty of Christ’s compassion for every believer on earth, and other topics in the book. The podcast is available here.

A Puritan Theology

1500 copies of A Puritan Theology going to Ligonier

1500 copies of A Puritan Theology going to Ligonier

A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life continues to sell well. Today we shipped out 1500 copies to Ligonier for their February conference where Dr. Mark Jones and I will be speaking about our book. Also, today we were able to send to the printer a 200-page paperback,  Encouragements for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans, coauthored by Terry Slachter and myself. It should be available by mid-January.

Tomorrow I’m heading to Ontario with my wife Mary and daughter Lydia where we hope to see Victoria and dozens of extended family members, then preach in Burgessville on Sunday.

Eight Helps for Coping with Affliction

Flower Crack SidewalkYesterday I underwent a second minor surgery in as many weeks for basal cell skin cancer on my face. This really is not serious and I’ve gone through this a half dozen times. Yesterday was more painful, however. Shots in the nose to numb the infected place don’t feel good! After the dermatologist takes off one layer, you go into a waiting room with a half dozen others who are similarly affected—all sporting large bandages across the nose or other facial parts. I would surmise that everyone is secretly praying while they wait that the doctor would have gotten all the cancer on the first round. Wait time between rounds averages forty-five minutes to an hour.

Well, suffice it to say, that yesterday half the people were sown up after round #1, and nearly another half after round #2—all except for me. The dermatologist was finally successful with me after round three. That means getting numbed up four times and lots of pokes in the nose and surrounding area throughout the day. We ended up being there six or seven hours.

To my shame, I was beginning to murmur when I was the only one left in the room. Two providential things helped, however. One was a sweet old Methodist lady who kept telling us that her life was in God’s hands so that it didn’t matter how many rounds she had to undergo. Her testimony was rather humbling.

But second, and more helpful, was the book I was editing throughout the waiting times—the first ever biography on the Puritan Arthur Hildersham, which Reformation Heritage Books hopes to publish next month. Just as my murmuring began to pick up, I came to a remarkable section of the book about the afflictions that Hildersham had to endure in his life, and how he then wrote about eight helps for coping with affliction. Here they are in shorthand:

1. Think about affliction, expect it, and prepare for it before it comes.

2. Wean your heart from loving earthly things so that when losses and crosses come, you will be able to bow under them in sweet submission.

3. Acquaint yourself thoroughly with the Scriptures, for they prepare people for affliction, and teach us patience and comfort in affliction, like no other book can.

4. Labor to realize how sinful you really are, so that you will understand that what you are enduring is nothing compared to what you deserve.

5. Before the trial comes, make sure you get a true and living faith, and a comfortable assurance of your reconciliation with God through Christ, for faith in Christ and assurance of your soul’s well-being in Him will enable you to drink “the bitterest potion from His hand.”

6. Remember that you possess the hope of eternal glory if and when you die.

7. Before affliction comes, be careful “to lead a godly life, and to get a good conscience.”

8. Let prayer strengthen you in every trial.

What a help these eight takeaways were for me yesterday! How can a believer murmur after meditating on a list like this? Truly, God is better to us in our worst trials than we are to Him in our best righteousness and most godly moments.

Interview on the Puritans (II)

This is the second part of Matt Smethurst’s interview of Mark Jones and myself about the Puritans. He graciously gave me permission to post the interview here on my blog.

Puritans are commonly accused of proof-texting. Are the Puritans a good model for expositional preaching?

When William Perkins wrote his manual on preaching (The Art of Prophesying), he included instructions on careful exegesis of the text based on grammatical and contextual factors. The Puritans were concerned to interpret and apply Scripture rightly. However, the Puritan preacher often started with a particular text, drew out a doctrine, then spent most of his time developing this doctrine from many Scriptures and offering several applications. So their preaching tended to be more doctrinal and applicational than expositional. It all depends on whom you read, however. We doubt very much that one would come away thinking they were guilty of ripping texts out of context if one read carefully the sermons of Thomas Manton, for example.

Typically, the proof-texting charge comes as a result of the “Scripture proofs” found in the Westminster documents (WCF, WLC, WSC). But the divines had resisted giving proof-texts precisely because they believed their answers were based on the whole counsel of God. Parliament had their way eventually, however, and the texts were inserted. Of course, one should also read the English Annotations (first ed., 1645) alongside the Westminster documents. The Annotations are made up of 2,400 folio pages of exegesis of the entire Bible. A cursory glance at documents such as these will reveal that the Puritans were continuing in an exegetical tradition developed in the Reformation. Any critique that the Puritans were slavish in their proof-texting will necessarily be a critique of Reformation and post-Reformation Reformed theology.

In addition, a careful reading of Puritan texts shows they were highly sophisticated theologians. As Protestant scholastics, they were trained in several languages. They almost invariably read Latin in addition to English. Proof-texting tends to ignore the context of a particular verse; however, as Goodwin put it, “context is half the interpretation.” They typically interacted not only with the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, but also with the Aramaic Targums (“Chaldee paraphrasts”) and several other languages (e.g., Coptic).

Perhaps Charles Spurgeon is a better example of proof-texting gone wrong, notwithstanding his obvious genius!

How should we think about the fact that the Puritans by and large were theologically careful, devotionally vibrant slave-owners?

One of us has written on this here. Let us just reinforce from this, and add to it, that there are a number of issues that should be addressed in relation to this particular question. We should welcome the point that we mustn’t put our spiritual heroes on pedestals. But the historical point is less tenable than some think. After having checked with some of the best Puritan historians from both sides of the Atlantic, it seems that we have no record of an English Puritan owning a slave. Richard Baxter, for example, saw a difference between slavery due to debt or conquest (regardless of race) and slavery in the way we think of it today. Not that any of the former examples are commendable. Yet Baxter did unequivocally denounce the slave trade, and he was a Puritan, unlike some of the names bandied around as evidence the Puritans were slave-owners.

To condemn the Puritans, then, as slave-owners is largely anachronistic historically (though, of course, there are exceptions). Sadly, many later Calvinists manipulated the Bible to validate and promote slavery. But they weren’t Puritans. It is primarily in post-Reformation Calvinism we find slave owners and slave abolitionists.

It’s also noteworthy that, contrary to popular suggestion, Jonathan Edwards wasn’t technically a Puritan, even if he was deeply sympathetic to their theology and for that reason is sometimes included as such. There are debates about when Puritanism ended, some arguing for as early as 1662 with the Act of Uniformity and the Great Ejection. But few deny the transition from Puritanism to Dissent typically comes around 1689 with the Act of Toleration. After 1689 we normally talk about Protestant Nonconformity. Edwards wasn’t even born then.

These points are important because there is considerable difference between Puritans such as John Owen and 18th-century New England Reformed theologians like Edwards. And we should note that the rise of Puritanism began somewhere around the 1570s. In other words, to move into 18th century in New England and still use the term “Puritan” is highly problematic. So to suggest many Puritans were slave-owners implicates generations of men who had nothing to do with slavery.

What Puritan works have influenced you most and why?

Mark Jones: Three works have influenced me a lot. First, volume 4 in Thomas Goodwin’s Works, which includes The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth, hugely influenced how I understood the person of Christ. Second, John Owen’s work on the Holy Spirit (vol. 3 in his Works) discusses the role of the Spirit in relation to Christ. That is the finest work on Christology I’ve read. What Goodwin did for my heart, Owen did for my mind! Finally, Stephen Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God gave me a far greater sense of God’s essential being than any other book I’ve read on the topic.

Joel Beeke: I grew up in a family where my father read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress to us every Sunday evening. In my teen years, I literally asked my dad hundreds of questions about the Spirit’s saving work in relation to dozens of characters in this classic. When I was 17, I drank deeply from Thomas Goodwin’s Christ Our Mediator. I learned more about my Savior from this book than any other I’ve ever read. More recently, Anthony Burgess’s Spiritual Refining, especially the first part on the doctrine of assurance, has ministered to my mind and soul. I’m presently working on a popular paperback version of his section on assurance of faith.

For the person interested in dipping into Puritan writing, where would be a good place to start?

Some short, practical, and sweet Puritan books have been put into contemporary English in the Puritan Treasures for Today series, such as George Swinnock, The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith, John Flavel’s Triumphing over Sinful Fear, and William Greenhill’s Stop Loving the World.

Several other Puritan works are available in the Puritan Paperback series. We’d especially commend Jeremiah Burroughs’s The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

Finally, if one wants to get a Puritan “body of divinity” (their term for systematic theology), a good place to start would be Thomas Watson’s A Body of Divinity.

Interview on the Puritans (I)

Following the publication of A Puritan Theology, Matt Smethurst at The Gospel Coalition interviewed Mark Jones and myself about Puritans. He graciously gave me permission to post the interview here on my blog. The first part appears below, and the second will appear, God willing, on my blog tomorrow.

Where do the Puritans speak most helpfully to the contemporary church?

Puritanism was first and foremost about the church. All of their efforts, whether in writing, preaching, or lecturing, aimed to reform the Church of England in a manner more consistent with God’s Word and Reformed principles of worship and piety.

Here are a few areas where the Puritans are very helpful to the contemporary church:

1. The Glory of God. The Puritans had a robust doctrine of God. Many of the problems in today’s church stem from losing sight of who God is. Both their writings and their prayers evince a view of God who brings to mind his majesty.

2. The Centrality of the Mediator. The Puritans constantly pointed to Christ, not merely as an example or teacher but as priest and king. Man-centered preaching is so popular today. Even expository preaching can also go astray if it loses sight of Christ as the center of all biblical truth and Christian experience.

3. The Evil of Sin. The Puritans reflected deeply on the Bible’s witness to the horror of rebellion against a righteous and loving God. Sin rests lightly on the contemporary church. We need to hear the Puritan call to humble ourselves and repent of our sins.

4. The Obedience of Worship. The Puritans understood that true worship is always an echo of the Word created in the heart by the Spirit. The contemporary church has wandered dangerously far into the territory of worship based on man’s will and ideas.

5. The Necessity of Personal Sacrifice. Many Puritans made great sacrifices in order to worship according to their conscience. Thomas Goodwin, for example, gave up fame—he was quickly advancing in theological circles—and moved to Holland, where he ministered with other Puritan divines in Arnhem.

Where do the Puritans speak least helpfully to the contemporary church?

1. Eschatology. In the area of eschatology the Puritans, particularly the millennialists, seem to have gotten things very wrong. Their historicist interpretation of Revelation proved incorrect, at least in terms of specific timetables.

2. Apologetics. The Puritans don’t contribute much to specific questions in contemporary apologetics. Certain concerns that figure prominently in today’s debates weren’t controversial issues in the time of the Puritans, so they didn’t say much about them. The church didn’t face the challenges of Marxism, atheistic Darwinism, and liberal feminism, to name a few. Yet even in such areas the Puritans’ expositions of biblical themes often have relevance.

3. Political Liberty and Equality. The concepts of liberty and equality now dear to us in the Western world hadn’t yet matured during the Puritan era. Civil powers had established the church for more than a thousand years. Full liberty of conscience was untested, and the disestablishment of religion seemed foolhardy in the context of multiplying heresies and sects. Sensitivity to racism and sexism simply didn’t exist in any developed form in the British and European mindset as it does today. We’d argue, however, that the seeds of truth that would blossom and bear fruit in contemporary freedoms are found in Puritan theology.

We need to read the Puritans realizing that, while the Reformation had transformed much of their thinking by the Scriptures, in some ways they were more like medieval Christians in their cultural viewpoint than modern Christians. Yet even here they are helpful, since they enable us to step outside our modern cultural box.

Puritans were known as prudes. But what do modern evangelicals seem to be prudish about that Puritans didn’t emphasize?

Ironically, the Puritans are known as sexual prudes, but they were quite healthy—even enthusiastic—about sexual love. Books like Domestical Duties by William Gouge demonstrate a very healthy view of sex between husband and wife. Prior to the Reformation, England was steeped in medieval views of sex as a necessary evil. The Reformers’ return to the Bible moved the Puritans to view sex and romantic friendship as important—delightful duties and not just means of procreation. They didn’t isolate sex from committed relationship the way many do today, nor turn sex into some kind of ultimate experience. But the Puritans did teach men and women the God-ordained goodness of enjoying each other sexually in marriage. They also celebrated the blessings of food, drink, and enjoying the beauties of nature as gifts from God.