Bishop J. C. Ryle’s Autobiography

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J.C. Ryle’s Autobiography has been rescued from oblivion by Banner of Truth in this gorgeous volume edited by Andrew Atherstone. The editing, copious footnotes, and information relentlessly dug out for this edition suggest to me that it was a labor of love for Mr. Atherstone.  In fact, Banner of Truth has taken on the role of preserving Ryle’s fine writings for our generation. In addition to his set on the Gospels, BOT has at least 8 other titles of his in print currently.

Iain Murray already provided us with an outstanding biography earlier this year and mentioned he had access to the autobiography as he wrote. I assumed this would be a nice extra volume, almost a collectible, since we already had that other volume, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Ryle wrote in an ideal style for autobiography and gave us tremendous insight into himself. When he would reflect, he would see that in certain points of his life he took a course that was not the best. He even criticized himself for a disposition that might have turned off some that he pastored. You might say he was “raw” before being raw was the rage.

Though the autobiography was written in mid-life, it is still outstanding. Atherstone added 7 appendices that shared things like the family Bible, some of his earliest tracts, and even his last will and testament. In the book you will get good biography and information of historical importance that brings Ryle to life.

If I had to choose, I’d probably pick the Murray biography of Ryle. Since we are not forced to make that hard choice, grab them both. This book, as said before, is stunning and of quality binding, and it is an easy, thoughtful, and enjoyable read. I highly recommend it!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Introduction to World Christian History by Derek Cooper

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This book serves as a short introduction to Christian history and actually covers that territory in 250 pages. It’s other unique feature is the extent it goes to prove that Christianity has a global rather than a western history.

The volume was successful in proving what we often forget–Christianity has had peak periods all over the world. I personally wasn’t aware how some areas, like, for example, the Far East, had periods of flourishing in Christianity. The history is presented in broad sweeps, but you could easily get the big picture and know where to pursue other studies.

Reading a broad introduction also made it easy to notice trends. I was amazed how getting close to any government often spelled a sudden destruction of Christianity. There was proof given too of how European countries that once were highly Christian are now  mostly secular.

The downside of the book is that it makes no distinction of anything ever called Christian. It passes no judgment except where western excesses were presented, or so it seemed to me. In an effort to make a global case, it was too threadbare in presenting American Christianity.

Still, it is a great book for a broad perspective and a global emphasis.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Baptist Story–A Great New Book

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Here we have an up-to-date Baptist History textbook. They are harder to come by than you might imagine and this one boasts careful historical analysis, nice pictures, and good writing–the very things so often missing in a text book. Respected scholars Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, ans Michael A. G. Haykin join forces to deliver the definitive textbook on Baptists for this generation.

Successionists, or Landmarkers, will be disappointed as Baptists are traced to the 1600s as an English sect. Though there are some similarities to Anabapists and other groups, they followed the evidence and cannot a historically verifiable succession. Even if you are a follower of Landmark thought, you will still find a wonderful historical record from the 17th Century to today.

Though you find a love for all things Baptists here, there is no hiding our less seemly features. We have had a penchant for arguing over the years and that is respectfully handled. Since the Southern Baptists have grown to be the biggest of the Baptist world, they get the most coverage. Still, a fair handling of how other Baptists groups emerged, what issues divided, and how it worked out over time is given. Independent Baptists are treated fairly and the issues why they left the Convention are accurately reported.

This is a fine resource and I highly recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

James Robinson Graves by James Patterson

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Here is a man probably not known by many today, but who had an incredible impact on Baptist thought in America. This biography tells us of the man and we see the development of Baptists clearly as well. He particularly molded the early Southern Baptist Convention. His career was mostly as a Baptist editor and he spent his life battling for his views.

Mr. Patterson, a Baptist professor, dug deep to make this scholarly contribution. Though the scholarly style may repel some, his contribution is likely to always be the definitive volume.

He also traces the actual viewpoints that still show up in some circles that are called Landmarkism. Though Graves picked up thoughts in several places, it was his writings that put Lankmarkism on the map. Very few people believed his view on Baptist succession and rigid church and baptism beliefs before he popularized them.

Patterson shows that these beliefs matched the political thinking of the times. As a biographer, he went to great pains to be fair to Mr. Graves. The problem was, however, that Mr. Graves makes that hard to do. Mr. Graves was so rigid and harsh he failed to keep the testimony he should have held to have the ear of so many.

Frankly, the book is fascinating if you have ever been part of the Baptist world. In fact, I don’t know how we could understand Baptists accurately today if we did not know what this biography told us. I highly recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The First American Evangelical: A Short Life Of Cotton Mather

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Have you fallen prey to the prevalent misconception that Cotton Mather was the moralistic, harsh perpetrator of the Salem Witch Trials? If that is the case, you do not really know the man. Author Rick Kennedy takes us to the heart of the man and Mather is, in fact, a man worth knowing. Kennedy succeeds in a short biography at what some massive tomes can’t even deliver—a winning biography that is enjoyable to read and brings life to the subject.

I must confess that I came to greatly admire Mather by the end of this book. His faith was real. Though he worked at scholarly efforts on many occasions, he never lost his full confidence in God’s Word. He was in no way a fake. He was sincere in his home and ministry. The members of his church loved him and stood by him all his days. His faith was tested and stood as he buried 13 of 16 children and 2 of 3 wives.

Kennedy makes a good case that Mather is not the last American Puritan, but rather the first American Evangelical. He had only a cursory involvement in the Salem Witch Trials, but has had his reputation altered by a disreputable rival.

You will see just how good this book is in the first chapter entitled “The Pastor’s Study”. While that title may bore you, I have never come to know someone better in the first chapter before. The scene he draws is vivid and makes the study a vibrant place.

He doesn’t hide Mather’s weak points. He almost took his thoughts on angels too far. He relentlessly promoted his own books. His last marriage had problems and he always had trouble managing his own finances. All these things only made him real. The fine man remained. I simply loved this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Amy Carmichael by Iain Murray

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Are you looking for a Christian biography for the whole family? Here is one on a fine Christian lady that will appeal to everyone in your house. In addition to enjoying it myself, this volume will find use in our home school. Though the ladies might especially enjoy it, I will assure the men out there that this book and Amy Carmichael’s life will be a challenge to your own spiritual life.

Though the book is written where teenagers could easily read it, there is nothing fluffy about it. Prolific biographer, Iain Murray, whose books have been enjoyable to me on several occasions, distills her life for the greatest spiritual effect. Plus you get a real glimpse of who she is as a person. He tells what a wonderful impact Tomas Walker, the missionary she worked with, had on her life.

Amy Carmichael’s life, admittedly, makes a biographer’s task easy. She went just to be a help to a mission work and the Lord just opened a children’s ministry up to her. Not a typical ministry, however, as she was rescuing little girls from a life of forced temple prostitution and one of rescuing the lives of children who had no future in the harsh caste system in India.

Mr. Murray, in the last part of the book, examined her life critically because the two popular biographies wrote of her without one critical comment. He uncovers that she was human, was more and more autocratic as the years went by, but still with taking all that into account she was a sincere, humble, and trusting servant of Jesus Christ.

This is a fine volume on a fine lady and I highly recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Printer And The Preacher by Randy Petersen

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Here is the merging of two categories of reading that, if you are like me, you enjoy–Christian biography and Colonial America. You get in this volume two prominent characters in those categories–George Whitefield and Ben Franklin. It is a pleasing, somewhat stretched, and breezy read.

His premise that the friendship of these two men “invented” America failed, but the book did not. These two men made distinct contributions to what became America, and they even had some sort of friendship, but the friendship itself had nothing to with anything in forging of our nation. In fact, the friendship was much ado about nothing as he failed to uncover just how deep the friendship was. I suspect it was not that deep and we will never know for sure beyond that.

Why I will still recommend the book is that these two men with their different lives did have such an impact. The similarities and differences in the two men are fascinating and how people took to them is something Petersen did capture. He succeeded in bringing Franklin alive more than he did Whitefield in my opinion. Part of the reason, I imagine, is that he too followed the oft-discredited study of Harry Stout.

Still, with the above caveats in mind, it remains enjoyable reading.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

What a joy to see Hendrickson Publishers select this title for their new Classic Biography series in lovely bindings. The series aims to reprint the greatest biographies and this title qualifies as, perhaps, the best of its kind. I am at a loss to tell you just how extraordinary The Hiding Place really is. Beyond the timeless story, the book is well written and designed for easy reading. Teenagers to the aged need this book.

To think of a simple, God-fearing family of watchmakers in the Netherlands and then watch this same family rise to the heights of faith and action when the Nazis overran their simple existence is a spiritual journey for every reader.

After the background of their lives is vividly set in an economy of words, the story of their work in the Underground to rescue persecuted Jews with all its twists is given. Had the story ended there it would have been a testament of love, sacrifice, and dedication.

But the story did not end there. They were arrested. The father died. The first prison seemed terrible until you read of the next one. This is when faith and a growing closeness to Christ really rose and becomes a challenge for every Christian reader.

The last prison was a city of horrors, but they found a way to trust the Lord and serve Him in an amazing way. The also saw the Lord do things that were truly miraculous in the midst of their incredible suffering. Getting the Word in each prison shows how the Lord reaches out to those who turn to Him. That Word sustained them just as the Lord promises it would.

They learned how to see the Lord’s hand and be thankful for it, all the way down to the fleas (read it, you will see). The sickly, broken Betsy faced death as the victor that in Christ she truly was.

This story is not merely moving biography, nor even inspiration. No, it is one of the greatest challenges of faith you will ever lay your hands on. Truly, one of the greatest Christian books of all time!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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The Korean Pentecost by Blair and Hunt

Here is a volume coming back into print where I had heard rumors of its being outstanding. By missionaries William Blair and Bruce Hunt, this book covers the first 60 years of the Gospel coming into Korea. The title “The Korean Pentecost And The Sufferings Which Followed” gives a hint of what you will discover here. It is hard to comprehend so much happening in 60 years and that the ministries of two missionaries went through it all. What the reader gets through it all is a strengthening of faith, the amazement of seeing God’s hand at work, and the inspiration of others serving our Lord through tribulation and even death.

The authors well tell a story of the preparation for the Gospel in Korea before Mr. Blair arrived. The story of the seed sown by Robert Thomas in 1865 in chapter 3 is one you will never forget once you read it. It moved me in a way nothing has in a long time.

Then the work is described until in 1907 the Lord graciously sent revival.  It is so compelling to read of real revival, what it looks like, and what transpired. Negatives as are present in any revival were not hidden, but they were few. As you read you will catch yourself praying: “Lord, send such a revival today.”

The second half of the book tells of the sufferings that came next over several decades, first at the hands of the Japanese, then from the Communists. Amazingly, the work of the Lord continued to grow though sufferings reached horrific levels. The book was never about gratuitous violence, but just enough to explain what happened. What says more in the reader’s mind is the calm, pure dedication to Christ of those who suffered. When we have no idea of what we may face, it is good to read of what can be true in Christ in the worst of times.

The authors were humble and made the stories about the Korean Christians, yet I believe I discovered two more Christian heroes in them. This is the kind of story that needs to be in every home. More than merely biography or history, it is a gripping portrait of what Christianity should be.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Bainton

Here is a classic biography reissued in a stunning hardback as part of the Hendrickson Classic Biography series. Though they have been publishing classic biographies for several years, they are in the process of republishing them in volumes worth collecting or displaying in libraries. Fortunately, they have managed to keep them economically priced as well. I’m glad Bainton’s volume on Luther made its way into this series.

This biography made Luther come alive. While Bainton was clearly sympathetic to Luther, he did not smooth off the edges. His background on Reformation history enriched this book in many places.

Luther’s story is amazing. He is heroic in ways hard to comprehend. When he rose up from within the Catholic Church, he traveled an uncharted course and continuously had his life on the line. He never dreamed he would start a Reformation, totally change his country, and shake a continent, but he did. While I do not personally agree with Luther on where he landed on several theological points, I was ever amazed at what he did come to see with no man really guiding him. This volume well handles his theological journey.

This volume tells the story where he finally uttered, perhaps, the most audacious statement any man ever said: ” My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” Wow!

We get the real Luther here. Mr. Bainton does not sugarcoat, for example, his inexcusable treatment of the Anabaptists. As a Baptist myself, I just remember where he came from and I am still impressed. The story of his marriage and relationship to his wife will bring a few smiles, though perhaps not to Mrs. Luther. As you read, you will wonder if he experienced survivor’s guilt as many of his followers were executed while he never was. We even learn here that he became quit the grumpy old man. We also learn the context of his failing health and difficult life. This volume is, without question, a winner!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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