The Reformation in England (2-volume set) by D’Aubigne

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What a classic! I’ve heard of this jewel for years and am excited to see this reprinting by Banner of Truth. D’Aubigne is an able historian who writes with spiritual fire. These volumes lived up to the hype I heard and I was not disappointed!

Volume 1 was made up of 4 books and took us all the way back to the earliest days of Christianity in England (2nd to 6th Centuries). I enjoyed the fine Introduction to the writer and this work. When we jump into the text, we hear of St. Patrick, the early infiltration of Rome, Wycliffe, the Lollards, and the very origin of the Reformation in England. There’s amazing, inspiring tales of martyrs for Christ. The latter part tells how the divorce of Henry and all that led up to it had an amazing impact on the Reformation. He won’t allow you to believe that the Reformation is a secular event, though, but rather the Lord working through amazing means.

Volume 2 was made up of 3 books and takes us on through Henry VIII’s death as the author sees that as the ultimate birth of the Reformation in England. Henry was a despicable, unstable man! His treatment of his wives was heinous. Still, it’s clear that the Lord works behind the scenes to free England from its religious darkness through these political events. It’s incredible how much blood was spilled along the way. If you’re a Baptist like me, you will love the respectful way he mentions the Anabaptists.

This 2-volume set is well-written, captivating, and illuminating. The author clearly knows what he’s talking about and knows how to tell us. He reads much better than some of the usual heavy reading of that time period. As with other Banner titles, the set is beautiful and bound to last. Frankly, I loved it. It’s THE title for those with an English background for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

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.

Seven Leaders by Iain Murray

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Iain Murray continues his impressive output of biographies in this latest volume published by Banner of Truth. Though some are more known than others, his 7 mini-biographies on John Elias, Andrew Bonar, Archie Brown, Kenneth MacRae, Martin Lloyd-Jones, W. J. Grier and John MacArthur makes for enjoyable reading. He intends to show that the Lord uses different individuals to similarly do a mighty work. Still, you might not see the connection in the seven here, and even surmise that a better list could have been assembled, yet that doesn’t hinder the book from being a good one.

Murray is chatty. He at times falls into the minutia of a doctrinal debate, he over-emphasizes election, and can jump around a lot. While being casual would sink most biographers, Murray comes out on top again. I’ve never failed to be blessed by his biographies. It’s the perceptive spiritual and devotional content he draws out of the lives of those he writes about that makes his books as edifying as they are enjoyable.

Any preacher will get a double blessing from this book. He has striking conversations about what we do as preachers from the words and actions of those whose story he tells. He refers several times to the difference in varying texts and the consecutive method and concludes both have a place. It’s only preaching devoid of doctrine that misses the mark.

The three he has already written biographies on were the ones he seemed to purposefully not give as much biographic details. He preferred to make more wry observations instead. I’ve always loved Lloyd-Jones and that chapter was what you’d expect. Of those I knew little, I especially enjoyed John Elias, Archie Brown, and Kenneth MacRae. Though I was familiar with Bonar, his chapter was enlightening and outstanding.

As an added bonus, Banner always provides beautiful volumes with its hardbacks. This book is a worthy choice to find its place on your biography shelves and to provide several hours of reading pleasure.

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.

Paths to Power by A.W. Tozer

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I’m one of those people who find A. W. Tozer to be an incredibly challenging writer. Having always loved his more famous books, I’m enjoying discovering his lesser-known titles published by Moody Publishers including this little gem called Paths to Power. It’s a small book that you could probably read in one enjoyable sitting, though its thoughtful paragraphs might call for a slower perusal.

This title is subtitled “Living in the Spirit’s Fullness”. As you may know, that’s a prevalent subject and Mr. Tozer’s writings as he laments the anemic state of Christianity in a way few writers do today. Chapter 1, entitled “Power in Action”, describes the deadness of our day and our bizarre acceptance of it. Chapter 2 gets quite doctrinal on us as he says, “God cannot do our repenting for us”. You’ll find a lot to think about in that chapter. The third chapter discusses “The Fruits of Obedience” and how we have removed the idea of obedience from our lives by mistakenly describing it as a works-salvation approach.

Chapter 4 takes the famous text of Hosea 10:12 explains how miracles follow the plow. Chapter 5 discusses doctrinal hindrances while chapter 6 explains how power comes through the “Out-poured Spirit”. To get a feel for the flavor of this book you should read where he says, “another thing that greatly hinders God’s people is a hardness of heart caused by hearing men without the Spirit constantly preaching about the Spirit.” See what I mean? Chapter 7 is a concluding chapter that discusses the relationship between unity and revival.

As always, you can’t go wrong with A. W. Tozer and I highly recommend 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.

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.