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Thursday, March 27, 2014

William Law - A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

William Law (1686-1761) was ordained in the Anglican church in 1711.  After refusing to take an oath of allegiance to George I, he was stripped of his ordination.  From thenceforth, he remained a non-juror, teaching privately and engaging in a ministry of writing.  A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life is perhaps his best known and most cherished work.  It has become an undisputed classic of Christian literature and has continued to find favor with modern readers.

In the present work, Law examines the principles of Christian devotion.  In so doing, he places tremendous emphasis on prayer.  Concerning this work, John Wesley commented, "Meeting now with Mr. Law's 'Christian Perfection' and 'Serious Call,' although I was much offended at many parts of both, yet they convinced me more than ever of the exceeding height and breadth and depth of the law of God.  The light flowed in so mightily upon my soul that everything appeared in a new light . . . I was convinced more than ever of the impossibility of being half a Christian."

Dr. Samuel Johnson referred to Serious Call as "the finest piece of hortatory theology in any language."  He also shared, "When at Oxford, I took it up expecting to find a dull book, and perhaps to laugh at it.  But I found Law quite an over-match for me; and this was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest of religion after I became capable of religious inquiry."

What is interesting about these endorsements is that both Wesley and Johnson had, elsewhere, been just critics of William Law, especially Law's association with Behmenism.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A.W. Pink - Gleanings From Elisha

A.W. Pink (1886-1952) was an English-born Christian Evangelical who held pastorates in both the United States and abroad.  He was converted from Theosophy to Christianity in his early 20's.  Pink is best known for his decades-long writing ministry, and has penned several classics of Christian literature, to include The Sovereignty of God, The Satisfaction of Christ, Spiritual Growth, The Doctrine of Election and The Life of Elijah.  Pink's view of the Scripture and of doctrine was conservative and calvinistic.  He has been described as "a Puritan born out of time."

In Gleanings From Elisha, Pink evaluates Elisha's seventeen miracles, considering the circumstances, meaning and spiritual significance of each.  From Pink's opening paragraph...

"THAT WHICH OCCUPIES the central and dominant place in what the Spirit has been pleased to record of the life of Elisha is the miracles performed by and connected with him. Far more miracles were wrought by him or were granted in answer to his prayers than any other of the Old Testament prophets. In fact the narrative of his history consists of little else than a record of supernatural acts and events. Nor need this at all surprise us, though it is strange that so few seem to grasp its implication and significance. The character of Elisha’s mission and ministry was in thorough keeping with Israel’s condition at that time. The very fact that these miracles were needed indicates the state into which Israel had fallen. Idolatry had held sway for so long that the true and living God was no longer known by the nation. Here and there were individuals who believed in the Lord, but the masses were worshipers of idols. Therefore by means of drastic interpositions, by awe-inspiring displays of His power, by supernatural manifestations of His justice and mercy alike, God forced even the skeptical to recognize His existence and subscribe to His supremacy."

J.C. Ryle - Where Art Thou?

This tract by Anglican bishop J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) was harvested from the hard-to-find and long out-of-print Startling Questions.  In "Where Art Thou?", Ryle examines the state of the false professor as well as the disquited, backslidden believer.  To the one, he provides warning; to the other, exhortation.  This e-book was carefully prepared (OCR'd, edited, formatted and converted) from the 1853 printing of Startling Questions.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Constantine von Tischendorf - When Were Our Gospels Written?

Let me preface this addition to the Reformed e-book blog by stating that this is not standard fare for The Calvinist Cafe, then again, neither is a work by Scofield.  This work does not necessarily follow the theme of the e-book blog, which is, the offering of a short list of doctrinally strong, spiritually edifying books.  I'll place it here, at least for a short time, for those who find some interest in it.

Constantine von Tischendorf (1815-1874) was a German Bible scholar, a professor of Greek and of New Testament Theology at the University of Leipzig.  In addition, he was an archaeologist who sought out ancient manuscripts.  In 1844, Tischendorf located one of the oldest New Testament mansucripts, the Codex Sinaiticus (A.D. 360-375) at St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai.  In the present work, Tischendorf recounts his discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus and makes a case for the dating and historical validity of the Gospels.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Octavius Winslow - Thus Saith the Lord

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) laid out the aim of Thus Saith the Lord -- also known as Words of Divine Love and Words of Divine Comfort -- in the work's preface...

"The title of this little work, it is hoped, sufficiently indicates its character and design, irrespective of any formal preface. It is intended to be a faint echo of God's words of divine love, addressed from time to time to His people, amid the varied experiences, duties, and trials of their Christian course.  Never was there a period when we had greater need to keep close to the, 'THUS SAITH THE LORD,' than the present!  The Word of God is assailed by avowed foe and by sworn friend.  Its most subtle and dangerous enemies are among its professed and sworn friends.  Infidelity, enthroned in high places, perched upon the pinnacles of the temple, robed in solemn gesture, and uttering its voice from the chair of authority and state, is striving, by its learning, eloquence, and sophistry, to shake the nation’s faith in the Divinity, Inspiration and integrity of the only BOOK that has made the nation truly great—even God’s revealed truth.  Where is our remedy? and what is our safety?  It is found only in believing no dogma, in recognising no teaching, in accepting no decision in matters of faith which come not with the Divine imprimatur of — 'Thus saith the Lord.'  To aid and secure this holy result is the earnest design of this little volume, which the author commends to the devout perusal of the sincere believer in Jesus, and commits to the condescending blessing of the Triune God."

This e-book was carefully prepared and contains an active table of contents.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Octavius Winslow - The Man of God

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) was an evangelical preacher of the 19th century, and a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle.  He held pastorates in both New York and in England.  His written works are known for their Christ-centeredness, their immense practicality, and their display of experimental Calvinism.  The description and aim of this book is best given by Winslow, in his original preface...

"A false profession of religion, a spurious conversion, an invalid title to heaven, is of all fallacies and delusions the most momentous and fatal!  The following pages are an attempt to supply a corrective to this evil. They by no means propose to cover the entire ground. They rather seek to portray the man of God in some of the essential and prominent features of his holy character, and to trace a few of the stages of his Christian experience; making the Lord Jesus Christ—the Divine Man—the central object of the picture. Brevity in the unfolding of each subject has been studied, with the view of introducing, into so limited a work, as great and rich a variety of topic as possible. To the blessing of the Triune God, and to the prayers of the man of God, this small volume is devoutly commended (April 1863)."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

John Flavel - Saint Indeed

Saint Indeed, known more so as Keeping the Heart in modern publications, was first published in London, in 1668.  Of its author, the Puritan clergyman John Flavel (c.1627-1691), the Reverend David Young, being quoted from an introductory essay to one publication of this work penned in 1830, is more fit to speak--

"Flavel, however, was very far from being a mere Evangelical, in the sense imposed on that term by the flippancy of modern sarcasm.  It is true he considered the sovereignty of grace, and the entire moral inability of man, as doctrines absolutely fundamental to accurate views of the Christian system; but, like all who are enlightenedly evangelical, he was also a Christian moralist of the very highest order, unfolding the principles of true morality, in the sublime of their heavenly origin, and enforcing obedience to its precepts without abatement or compromise, as the best of all evidence of genuine religion. . . . The two things, perhaps, for which Flavel was most remarkable, are mature and extensive experience of Christianity as a matter of personal exercise, and a strong propensity to Christian good-doing, excited by a particular sweetness and benevolence of disposition.  The first of these, combined with the vigour and soundness of his understanding, made him eminently skillful in analyzing the religion of the heart. . . . If we except the peerless 'Edwards on Religious Affections,' a work which is tacitly excluded from all our ordinary comparisons, we know not another writer whose accuracy in detecting false experience, and rescuing the true from dubious alliance, is more to be relied upon than that of Flavel. . . . 'The Saint Indeed,' and 'The Touchstone of Sincerity,' are perhaps the best of Flavel's writings, so far as the religion of the heart is concerned; and they are both so plain and practical, that a child may easily understand them, while the man of intellect and acquirement will find them well entitled to his most serious perusal. . . . We do think [Saint Indeed] better fitted than many more elaborate performances, for arresting the frivolous and profane, and inclining even their hearts to the pure and peacable wisdom which cometh from above.  Its judicious selection of matter, its uniform brevity of parts, its dignified simplicity, its plain dealing, but above all, its latent power of gentle and hallowed persuasion, are the likeliest of all human means for enticing the thoughtless to think of religion as a very solemn reality."