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 established 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 tells Piper’s Introduction to Edwards, gives a biographical sketch, and discusses his four most important works. The book’s second part 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. We are 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 wake-up 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 partly on the life of Charles Spurgeon during the Down-Grade Controversy. What was the Down-Grade Controversy? During the later part of Spurgeon’s life, he stood 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 understand the root of the Down-Grade Controversy. I wrote this short post because I am concerned about the church like Spurgeon and Edwards were in their day. We have become so “felt needs” focused, so worried about having things that attract people in that by the time we get them in; we can’t keep them with the gospel; it’s simply not trendy enough. 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, Edwards and Spurgeon did it, and it can be done by us if we follow their example.
One More Thing
After reading these two books, I hope they will have inspired you to read deeper; let me encourage you to do that. If Jonathan Edwards inspires you, get the books Piper mentions and work through them. If Spurgeon inspires you, 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 an excellent place to start. I would also recommend looking for devotionals by the minister.
If Spurgeon or Edwards doesn’t strike your interest, read 131 Christians Everyone Should Know, and you should be able to find someone to study. You will also find helpful information in the Bible Study sidebar. The Christian Library has vast amounts of accessible 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.