Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”: The Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong

Jan 21, 2016 | Justin Taylor

“I’ll bet not half a dozen people can tell who was hit and where he was hit by my Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost once wrote to his friend Louis Untermeyer.

David Orr, the poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review, seeks to explain this in his book, The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong (Penguin Press, 2015).

The famous poem, Orr argues, “is popular for what seem to be the wrong reasons.”

Most readers consider “The Road Not Taken” to be a paean to triumphant self-assertion (“I took the one less traveled by”), but the literal meaning of the poem’s own lines seems completely at odds with this interpretation. The poem’s speaker tells us he “shall be telling,” at some point in the future, of how he took the road less traveled by, yet he has already admitted that the two paths “equally lay / In leaves” and “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.” So the road he will later call less traveled is actually the road equally traveled. The two roads are interchangeable.

According to this reading, then, the speaker will be claiming “ages and ages hence” that his decision made “all the difference” only because this is the kind of claim we make when we want to comfort or blame ourselves by assuming that our current position is the product of our own choices (as opposed to what was chosen for us or allotted to us by chance).

The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism; it’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives. “The Road Not Taken” may be, as the critic Frank Lentricchia memorably put it, “the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” But we could go further: It may be the best example in all of American culture of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

You can read a fuller excerpt of the book here.

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Why Reconstructing the Past Is So Hard to Do

Jan 21, 2016 | Justin Taylor

Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco:

If we try to approach history, in R. G. Collingwood’s phrase, by discovering “the outside of events,” we shall never grasp something as elusive as the shape of hope or dread. We shall never get hold of mental states by making inventories of numerable things.

It is possible to chart the acceleration of locomotion and communications since the industrial age, the growing percentage of households with indoor plumbing and central heating since the Second World War, the hump in life expectancy since the discovery of antibiotics.

But it is equally possible to graph rising rates of illegitimacy, divorce, juvenile crime, and the expanding disparity between the incomes of rich and poor.

Such taunting symmetries are what Norman Mailer had in mind when he remarked that the problem in understanding even the recent past is that “history is interior.” Getting at the interior thought of a friend, or a spouse, or one’s own child is hard enough; trying to catch the mood of strangers in the present, even with the help of pollsters, is harder. But retrieving something as fragile and fleeting as thought or feeling from the past is like trying to seize a bubble.

One reason it is hard is that most of the voices still audible to us come from a tiny minority who left written accounts of their experience; and the relation is often mysterious between these few and the many more whom time has rendered silent. . . . .

In the face of such obscurities, the best we can usually manage is to take the scraps left by witnesses and try to assemble them, as if they were fossil fragments, into a reconstructed skeleton. The result will always be incomplete, and we can only guess at the missing parts.

—Andrew Delbanco, The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope (Cambridge, Mass./London: Harvard University Press, 1999), 6-8.

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“Donald Trump Is Not Capable of Serious Moral Reasoning”

Jan 20, 2016 | Justin Taylor

John McCormack of The Weekly Standard:

When Ben Carson was rising in the polls, Donald Trump was quick to attack the former neurosurgeon for being “pro-abortion not so long ago.”

The attack was more than a bit hypocritical because Trump himself was “very” pro-abortion not so long ago. In 1999, Tim Russert asked Trump if he would support a ban on “abortion in the third-trimester” or “partial-birth abortion.”

“No,” Trump replied. “I am pro-choice in every respect.” Trump explained his views may be the result of his “New York background.” Now that Ted Cruz has attacked Trump’s “New York values,” Trump’s views on abortion will be getting a second look by many Republican voters.

During the first Republican presidential debate, Trump explained that he “evolved” on the issue at some unknown point in the last 16 years. “Friends of mine years ago were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn’t aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child. And I saw that. And I saw other instances,” Trump said. “I am very, very proud to say that I am pro-life.”

When the Daily Caller‘s Jamie Weinstein asked Trump if he would have become pro-life if that child had been a loser instead of a “total superstar,” Trump replied: “Probably not, but I’ve never thought of it. I would say no, but in this case it was an easy one because he’s such an outstanding person.”

That Trump could go from supporting third-trimester abortion–something indistinguishable from infanticide, something that only 14 percent of Americans think should be legal–to becoming pro-life because of that one experience is a bit hard to believe. If it’s true, the story still indicates at the very least that Trump is not capable of serious moral reasoning.

You can read the whole thing here.

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What’s Going on at Wheaton? A Modest Proposal for the “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God” Debate

Jan 15, 2016 | Justin Taylor


As many readers will know by know, Wheaton College is embroiled in a public controversy over comments made by Larycia Hawkins, the first female African-American tenured professor at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

What’s Going On?

If you need to catch up on the discussion, Joe Carter has a handy “explainer” where he answers the following questions:

  • What is the Wheaton “same God” controversy about?
  • Was Hawkins put on leave because she wore a hijab?
  • How did Hawkins respond to the questions?
  • What was Wheaton’s response to Hawkins’s letter?
  • Does this mean that Hawkins has been fired?
  • How has Hawkins responded to the Notice of Termination?

Mistakes to Avoid

I think there are several mistakes to avoid in trying to process and comment upon this situation.

1. Assuming that we have all the information.

We only have the information that Wheaton has chosen to make public and that Professor Hawkins has chosen to make public. Anyone involved in leading an organization or school likely knows that there is more going on behind the scenes than can be made public, and therefore it is difficult to take limited information and try to form a full and fair judgment.

2. Assuming that this is about one issue.

Many people assume this is merely about one thing, whereas it seems likely that it’s a constellation of complicated and competing factors. Mark Galli of Christianity Today did a nice job of identifying at least some of them:

  • The theological integrity of a Christian institution
  • Loving our Muslim neighbors
  • Academic freedom
  • Maintaining boundaries
  • Diversity on Christian campuses
  • Tenure
  • Confidentiality
  • The right to know

So What about the Statement on Muslims and Christians Worshipping the Same God?

I think this remains one of the best opening questions for the discussion:

There is a sense in which the answer to this question could be answered in the affirmative and a sense in which it should (in my view) be answered in the negative. (Professor Hawkins has said as much herself.) The problem is that it’s a terribly ambiguous statement, such that two people can affirm it and mean very different things by it.

Catholic philosopher Francis Beckwith provides a list of philosophers and theologians who answer the question in the affirmative:

And a list of those who answer it in the negative:

As well as those who offer more of a complicated yes-and-no answer:

One defeater offered to the denial that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is that Jews do not hold to a Trinitarian view of God either, and therefore this position seems to entail a denial that Jews worship the one true God or that Christians worship the God of Abraham and Israel. Yale theologian Miroslav Volf has advanced this argument forcefully, arguing that Christians who fall prey to this line of reasoning are being heretical.

The best piece I know of in response to this line of argument is the new piece at TGC today by Lydia McGrew, a homeschooling mother and an analytical philosopher. She writes:

In one sense Christians and modern religious Jews worship the same God; in another sense they don’t.

Old Testament Jews, of course, didn’t reject the Trinity and the incarnation, since those doctrines hadn’t been revealed. If one emphatically rejects these truths about God, however, and explicitly worships God as non-triune and non-incarnate, then this makes a pretty good case that, in one sense, such a person does not worship the same God whom Christians worship.

In another sense, however, Christians can say to modern religious Jews:

The true God who called your forefathers out of the land of Egypt, who gave the law at Sinai, who chose you as his beloved, chosen people, really is the one who sent Yeshua the Messiah to die for our sins. We worship the God who really did found Judaism thousands of years ago, who really did give the Torah. And we are here to tell you more about him.

In this historical sense we can say the God we worship is the God of the Jews, though those who haven’t accepted Jesus don’t (of course) agree. But notice: Nothing like this is true of Islam. God didn’t really reveal himself to Mohammad. Mohammad was not a prophet of God. It isn’t enough that Muslims think the Being who revealed himself to Abraham also spoke to Mohammad. Truth matters, and since that isn’t true, there is no real historical connection—in the acts of God himself—between the Allah of Islam and the one true God. But there is a real historical connection in the acts of God between Judaism and Christianity.

I encourage you to read her whole piece, where she addresses a number of other objections as well.

A Modest Proposal for Both Sides: Can We Agree on This?

Much of this discussion has been in the language of philosophy rather than of exegetical theology.

Here is my proposal: Can we agree that the answer to whether or not Christians and Muslims “worship the same God” has a yes-and-no answer, depending on the meaning, but that Jesus taught that the following is true of all people, whether professing Jews, Christians, or Muslims?

1. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not honor God the Son, then they do not honor God the Father.

“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23)

2. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not receive God the Son, then they do not have the love of God the Father within them.

“I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.” (John 5:42-43)

3. If Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not know God the Son, then they do not know God the Father.

“You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19; cf. John 7:28; 14:7)

4. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims deny God the Son, then they deny the God the Father.

“No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23)

5. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not come to God the Son, then they have not heard and learned from God the Father.

“Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45)

6. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims reject God the Son, then they reject God the Father.

“The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

The virtue of this line of reasoning, it seems to me, is it forces us to reckon with the biblical text where Jesus addressed what we must believe and what we cannot reject.

So if you want to say “Muslims worship the same God as Christians” and you can affirm that “Muslims do not know and honor but rather deny and reject the one true God of Christianity”—then I think we are on the same page (though I also think the former statement will be very confusing to many people).

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The End of a Remarkable Writing and Speaking Ministry: An Update on J. I. Packer’s Health

Jan 14, 2016 | Justin Taylor


We at Crossway learned this week that J. I. Packer (who will, Lord willing, turn 90 years old in July 2016) has developed macular degeneration in his right eye. His left eye has had macular degeneration for over a decade. He consented to let this information be shared publicly.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for those over the age of 65. The macula is a small spot near the center of the retina that helps to focus on objects straight ahead. Degeneration of the macula does not in itself lead to total blindness, but it can make it nearly impossible to read, write, or even recognize faces.

The disease struck Dr. Packer’s right eye over Christmas, which means (at time of writing) he has only been living with this for the past few weeks. He is unable to read, and therefore he will be unable to travel and speak. Because so much of his writing involves initial working with a ballpoint pen and blank paper, he is also unable to write.

You can read Ivan Mesa’s TGC interview with Dr. Packer today on his perspective on these developments.

Two of his final books have had resonance with the challenges he is currently facing: Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength (Crossway, 2013) and Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging (Crossway, 2014).

In the latter volume, he explained the difference between a worldly and a biblical view of aging:

How should we view the onset of old age? The common assumption is that it is mainly a process of loss, whereby strength is drained from both mind and body and the capacity to look forward and move forward in life’s various departments is reduced to nothing. . . .

But here the Bible breaks in, highlighting the further thought that spiritual ripeness is worth far more than material wealth in any form, and that spiritual ripeness should continue to increase as one gets older.

The Bible’s view is that aging, under God and by grace, will bring wisdom, that is, an enlarged capacity for discerning, choosing, and encouraging. In Proverbs 1-7 an evidently elderly father teaches realistic moral and spiritual wisdom to his adult but immature son. In Psalm 71 an elderly preacher who has given the best years of his life to teaching the truth about God in the face of much opposition prays as follows:

You, O LORD, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. . . .

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent. . . .

But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Ps. 71:5, 9, 14-18)

And Psalm 92:12 and 14 declare:

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. . . .
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green.

This biblical expectation and, indeed, promise of ripeness growing and service of others continuing as we age with God is the substance of the last-lap image of our closing years, in which we finish our course. Runners in a distance race, like jockeys in a horse race, always try to keep something in reserve for a final sprint. And my contention is going to be that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.

I thank God tonight that James Innell Packer’s course is not yet finished and that he is still running the race. In accordance with this counsel, I pray it will be a spiritual sprint through the finish line.

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J. I. Packer on Three Types of Evangelicals Today—And What the Puritans Can Teach Each Group

Jan 14, 2016 | Justin Taylor

9781433515811The following piece of brilliant analysis is from J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 1990), 31-34:

Our numbers, it seems, have increased in recent years, and a new interest in the old paths of evangelical theology has grown. For this we should thank God.

But not all evangelical zeal is according to knowledge, nor do the virtues and values of the biblical Christian life always come together as they should, and three groups in particular in today’s evangelical world seem very obviously to need help of a kind that Puritans, as we meet them in their writings, are uniquely qualified to give. These I call restless experientialists, entrenched intellectualists, and disaffected deviationists. They are not, of course, organised bodies of opinion, but individual persons with characteristic mentalities that one meets over and over again.

Take them, now, in order.

[What the Puritans Can Teach Restless Experiential Evangelicals]

Those whom I call restless experientialsts are a familiar breed, so much so that observers are sometimes tempted to define evangelicalism in terms of them.

Their outlook is one of casual haphazardness and fretful impatience, of grasping after novelties, entertainments, and ‘highs’, and of valuing strong feelings above deep thoughts.

They have little taste for solid study, humble self-examination, disciplined meditation, and unspectacular hard work in their callings and their prayers.

They conceive the Christian life as one of exciting extraordinary experiences rather than of resolute rational righteousness.

They dwell continually on the themes of joy, peace, happiness, satisfaction and rest of souls with no balancing reference to the divine discontent of Romans 7, the fight of faith of Psalm 73, or the ‘lows’ of Psalms 42, 88, and 102.

Through their influence the spontaneous jollity of the simple extrovert comes to be equated with healthy Christian living, while saints of less sanguine and more complex temperament get driven almost to distraction because they cannot bubble over in the prescribed manner. In her restlessness these exuberant ones become uncritically credulous, reasoning that the more odd and striking an experience the more divine, supernatural, and spiritual it must be, and they scarcely give the scriptural virtue of steadiness a thought.

It is no counter to these defects to appeal to the specialised counselling techniques that extrovert evangelicals have developed for pastoral purposes in recent years; for spiritual life is fostered, and spiritual maturity engendered, not by techniques but by truth, and if our techniques have been formed in terms of a defective notion of the truth to be conveyed and the goal to be aimed at they cannot make us better pastors or better believers than we were before. The reason why the restless experientialists are lopsided is that they have fallen victim to a form of worldliness, a man-centered, anti-rational individualism, which turns Christian life into a thrill-seeking ego-trip. Such saints need the sort of maturing ministry in which the Puritan tradition has specialised.

What Puritan emphases can establish and settle restless experientialists? These, to start with.

First, the stress on God-centeredness as a divine requirement that is central to the discipline of self-denial.

Second, the insistence on the primacy of the mind, and on the impossibility of obeying biblical truth that one has not yet understood.

Third, the demand for humility, patience, and steadiness at all times, and for an acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit’s main ministry is not to give thrills but to create in us Christlike character.

Fourth, the recognition that feelings go up and down, and that God frequently tries us by leading us through wastes of emotional flatness.

Fifth, the singling out of worship as life’s primary activity.

Sixth, the stress on our need of regular self-examination by Scripture, in terms set by Psalm 139:23-24.

Seventh, the realisation that sanctified suffering bulks large in God’s plan for his children’s growth in grace. No Christian tradition of teaching administers this purging and strengthening medicine with more masterful authority than does that of the Puritans, whose own dispensing of it nurtured a marvellously strong and resilient type of Christian for a century and more, as we have seen.

[What the Puritans Can Teach Entrenched Intellectualist Evangelicals]

Think now of entrenched intellectualists in the evangelical world: a second familiar breed, though not so common as the previous type.

Some of them seem to be victims of an insecure temperament and inferiority feelings, others to be reacting out of pride or pain against the zaniness of experientialism as they have perceived it, but whatever the source of their syndrome the behaviour-pattern in which they express it is distinctive and characteristic.

Constantly they present themselves as rigid, argumentative, critical Christians, champions of God’s truth for whom orthodoxy is all.

Upholding and defending their own view of that truth, whether Calvinist or Arminian, dispensational or Pentecostal, national church reformist or Free Church separatist, or whatever it might be, is their leading interest, and they invest themselves unstintingly in this task.

There is little warmth about them; relationally they are remote; experiences do not mean much to them; winning the battle for mental correctness is their one great purpose.

They see, truly enough, that in our anti-rational, feeling-oriented, instant-gratification culture conceptual knowledge of divine things is undervalued, and they seek with passion to right the balance at this point.

They understand the priority of the intellect well; the trouble is that intellectualism, expressing itself in endless campaigns for their own brand of right thinking, is almost if not quite all that they can offer, for it is almost if not quite all that they have.

They too, so I urge, need exposure to the Puritan heritage for their maturing.

That last statement might sound paradoxical, since it will not have escaped the reader that the above profile corresponds to what many still suppose the typical Puritan to have been. But when we ask what emphases Puritan tradition contains to counter arid intellectualism, a whole series of points springs to view.

First, true religion claims the affections as well as the intellect; it is essentially, in Richard Baxter’s phrase, ‘heart-work’.

Second, theological truth is for practice. William Perkins defined theology as the science of living blessedly for ever; William Ames called it the science of living to God.

Third, conceptual knowledge kills if one does not move on from knowing notions to knowing the realities to which they refer—in this case, from knowing about God to a relational acquaintance with God himself.

Fourth, faith and repentance, issuing in a life of love and holiness, that is, of gratitude expressed in goodwill and good works, are explicitly called for in the gospel.

Fifth, the Spirit is given to lead us into close companionship with others in Christ.

Sixth, the discipline of discursive meditation is meant to keep us ardent and adoring in our love affair with God.

Seventh, it is ungodly and scandalous to become a firebrand and cause division in the church, and it is ordinarily nothing more reputable than spiritual pride in its intellectual form that leads men to create parties and splits.

The great Puritans were as humble-minded and warm-hearted they were clear-headed, as fully oriented to people as they were to Scripture, and as passionate for peace as they were for truth. They would certainly have diagnosed today’s fixated Christian intellectualists as spiritually stunted, not in their zeal for the form of sound words but in their lack of zeal for anything else; and the thrust of Puritan teaching about God’s truth in man’s life is still potent to ripen such souls into whole and mature human beings.

[What the Puritans Can Teach Disaffected Deviationists Evangelicals]

I turn finally to those whom I call disaffected deviationists, the casualties and dropouts of the modern evangelical movement, many of whom have now turned against it to denounce it as a neurotic perversion of Christianity. Here, too, is a breed that we know all too well. It is distressing to think of these folk, both because their experience to date discredits our evangelicalism so deeply and also because there are so many of them. Who are they?

They are people who once saw themselves as evangelicals, either from being evangelically nurtured or from coming to profess conversion with the evangelical sphere of influence, but who have become disillusioned about the evangelical point of view and have turned their back on it, feeling that it let them down.

Some leave it for intellectual reasons, judging that what was taught them was so simplistic as to stifle their minds and so unrealistic and out of touch with facts as to be really if unintentionally dishonest.

Others leave because they were led to expect that as Christians they would enjoy health, wealth, trouble-free circumstances, immunity from relational hurts, betrayals, and failures, and from making mistakes and bad decisions; in short, a flowery bed of ease on which they would be carried happily to heaven—and these great expectations were in due course refuted by events.

Hurt and angry, feeling themselves victims of a confidence trick, they now accuse the evangelicalism they knew of having failed and fooled them, and resentfully give it up; it is a mercy if they do not therewith similarly accuse and abandon God himself.

Modern evangelicalism has much to answer for in the number of casualties of this sort that it has caused in recent years by its naivety of mind and unrealism of expectation.

But here again the soberer, profounder, wiser evangelicalism of the Puritan giants can fulfill a corrective and therapeutic function in our midst, if only we will listen to its message.

What have the Puritans to say to us that might serve to heal the disaffected casualties of modern evangelical goofiness? Anyone who reads the writings of the Puritan authors will find in them much that helps in this way.

Puritan authors regularly tell us, first, of the mystery of God: that our God is too small, that the real God cannot be put without remainder into a man-made conceptual box so as to be fully understood; and that he was, is, and always will be bewilderingly inscrutable in his dealing with those who trust and love him, so that ‘losses and crosses’, that is, bafflement and disappointment in relation to particular hopes one has entertained, must be accepted as a recurring element in one’s life of fellowship with him.

Then they tell us, second, of the love of God: that it is a love that redeems, converts, sanctifies, and ultimately glorifies sinners, and that Calvary was the one place in human history where it was fully and unambiguously revealed, and that in relation to our own situation we may know for certain that nothing can separate us from that love (Rom. 8:38f), although no situation in this world will ever be free from flies in the ointment and thorns in the bed.

Developing the theme of divine love the Puritans tell us, third, of the salvation of God: that the Christ who put away our sins and brought us God’s pardon is leading us through this world to a glory for which we are even now being prepared by the instilling of desire for it and capacity to enjoy it, and that holiness here, in the form of consecrated service and loving obedience through thick and thin, is the high road to happiness hereafter.

Following this they tell us, fourth, about spiritual conflict, the many ways in which the world, the flesh and the devil seek to lay us low;

fifth, about the protection of God, whereby he overrules and sanctifies the conflict, often allowing one evil to touch our lives in order thereby to shield us from greater evils;

and, sixth, about the glory of God, which it becomes our privilege to further by our celebrating of his grace, by our proving of his power under perplexity and pressure, by totally resigning ourselves to his good pleasure, and by making him our joy and delight at all times.

By ministering to us these precious biblical truths the Puritans give us the resources we need to cope with ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, and offer the casualties an insight into what has happened to them that can raise them above self-pitying resentment and reaction and restore their spiritual health completely. Puritan sermons show that problems about providence are in now way new; the seventeenth century had its own share of spiritual casualties, saints who had thought simplistically and hoped unrealistically and were now disappointed, disaffected, despondent and despairing, and the Puritans’ ministry to us at this point is simply the spin-off of what they were constantly saying to raise up and encourage wounded spirits among their own people.


I think the answer to the question, why do we need the Puritans, is now pretty clear, and I conclude my argument at this point. I, who owe more to the Puritans than to any other theologians I have ever read, and who know that I need them still, have been trying to persuade you that perhaps you need them too. To succeed in this would, I confess, make me overjoyed, and that chiefly for your sake, and the Lord’s. But there, too, is something that I must leave in God’s hands. Meantime, let us continue to explore the Puritan heritage together. There is more gold to be mined here than I have mentioned yet.

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“This Is One of the Most Important and Definitive Books I Have Read in over Four Decades”

Jan 13, 2016 | Justin Taylor


That’s a quote from Derek Thomas. Here is his full statement about Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters:

It is no exaggeration to insist that the issue dealt with in this book is more important than any other that one might suggest.

For, as Ferguson makes all too clear, the issue is the very definition of the gospel itself. The errors of antinomianism and legalism lie ready to allure unwary hucksters content with mere slogans and rhetoric. I can think of no one I trust more to explore and examine this vital subject than Sinclair Ferguson.

For my part, this is one of the most important and definitive books I have read in over four decades.

Tim Keller, who wrote the foreword to the book (and was the one who suggested Sinclair write the book in the first place), writes that Sinclair

wants to help us understand the character of this perpetual problem—one that bedevils the church today. He does so in the most illuminating and compelling way I’ve seen in recent evangelical literature.

Here are some other folks talking about the importance of this book:

“This book could not come at a better time or from a better source. . .  . It is the highest-quality pastoral wisdom and doctrinal reflection on the most central issue in any age.”
Michael Horton

“This may be Sinclair’s best and most important book. Take up and read!”
Alistair Begg

“Without hesitation, this will be the first book I recommend to those who want to understand the history and theology of this most precious doctrine [sanctification].”
Burk Parsons

“It’s hard to imagine a more important book written by a more dependable guide.”
Jeff Purswell

You can read this post for a little bit a background on why Sinclair Ferguson wrote this book.

In fact, you can read Keller’s foreword, the table of contents, the introduction, and the first chapter online for free here.

WTS has the book in stock now—for 45% off the retail price of this hardcover book. If you buy it with the older Marrow book (recently retypeset with helps), you’ll automatically receive 55% off both titles at checkout.

You could also pre-order it from Amazon if you prefer.

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J. I. Packer’s Rare Puritan Library Now Digitized to Be Read Online for Free

Jan 12, 2016 | Justin Taylor

Puritan scholar J. I. Packer strolling the stacks at the John Allen Library in Vancouver.

Puritan scholar J. I. Packer strolling the stacks at the Allison Library in Vancouver.

The John Richard Allison Library in Vancouver—which hosts the joint collections of Regent College and Carey Theological College—has now made available their entire rare Puritan collection to be read online for free. What a gift of modern technology to help us recover these gifts from the church of the past.

There are currently 80 Puritan authors in their collection, many of whose works were digitized from J. I. Packer’s private library.

I’ve listed the entries below.

Abernathy, John. Sermons on various subjects : with a large preface containing the life of the author, Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 / Catalogue record

Ainsworth, Henry. Annotations vpon the five bookes of Moses, the booke of the Psalmes, and the Song of Songs, or Canticles: vvherein the Hebrevv vvords and sentences, are compared with, and explained by the ancient . . . 1639. Read online / Catalogue record

Ainsworth, Henry. The commvnion of saincts : a treatise of the fellowship, that the faithfull haue with God, and his angels, and one with an other, . . .1628. Read online / Catalogue record

Alleine, Joseph. The grounds and principles of Christian religion, contained in a short catechism: with the proofs thereof out of the Scriptures. 1687. Read online /Catalogue record

Alleine, Joseph. A sure guide to Heaven, or, An earnest invitation to sinners to turn to God, in order to their eternal . . . 1691. Read online / Catalogue record

Alleine, Richard. The godly man’s portion and sanctuary: being a second part of Vindiciæ pietatis. 166? Read online / Catalogue record

Ambrose, Isaac. The compleat works of that eminent minister of God’s Word Mr. Isaac Ambrose: consisting of these following treaties, viz. prima, . . . 1674. Read online / Catalogue record

Ambrose, Isaac. The doctrine and directions, but more especially, the practice and behaviour of a man in the act of the new birth, . . . 1673. Read online /Catalogue record

Ambrose, Isaac. Looking unto Jesus : a view of the everlasting Gospel, or,The souls eying of Jesus, as carrying on the great work of mans salvation from first to last. 1658. Read Online / Catalogue Record

Ambrose, Isaac. Looking unto Jesus, a view of the everlasting Gospel, or, The souls eying of Jesus. 1674. Read online / Catalogue record

Ambrose, Isaac. Ministration of and communion with angels. 1673. Read online /Catalogue record

Ambrose, Isaac. Redeeming the time, a sermon preached at Preston in Lancashire, January 4th 1657, at the funeral of the honourable lady, the Lady Margaret Houghton . . . 1674. Read online / Catalogue record

Ambrose, Isaac. Ultima, the last things, in reference to the first & middle things, or, certain meditations on life, death, judgement, Hell, right purgatory, and Heaven . . . 1674. Read online / Catalogue record

Ambrose, Isaac. War with devils. n.d. Read online / Catalogue record

Andrewes, Lancelot. The pattern of catechistical doctrine at large: or, A learned and pious exposition of the Ten Commandments, with . . . 1675. 3rd ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Andrewes, Lancelot. XCVI sermons. 1635. 3rd ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Annesley, Samuel (compiled by). The morning-exercise at Cripplegate : or, Several cases of conscience practically resolved by sundry ministers, September, 1661. 1664. Read online / Catalogue record

Arrowsmith, John. Armilla catechetica: = A chain of principles; or, An orderly concatenation of theological aphorismes and . . . 1659. Read online / Catalogue record

Babington, Gervase. A verie fruitfull exposition of the Commandements by way of questions and answers for greater plainnesse: together with . . . 1615. Read online / Catalogue record

Ball, John. A treatise of faith, divided into two parts : the first shewing the nature, The second, the life of faith: Both tending to . . . 1637. 3rd ed. Read online /Catalogue record

Barrow, Isaac. A treatise of the pope’s supremacy : to which is added a discourse concerning the unity of the church. 1852. Read online / Catalogue record

Bates, William. A funeral-sermon for the reverend, holy and excellent divine, Mr. Richard Baxter, . . . 1692. 2nd ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Bates, William. The harmony of the divine attributes in the contrivance and accomplishment of man’s redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ: or, Discourses, wherein is . . . 1675. 2nd ed. Read onlineCatalogue record

Bates, William. Sermons upon death and eternal judgment …. 1683. Read online/ Catalogue record

Bates, William. Spiritual perfection, unfolded and enforced, from 2 Cor. VII. 1. 1699. Read online / Catalogue record

Bayly, Lewis. The practice of pietie : directing a Christian how to walke that he may please God. 1632. 30th. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Baynes, Paul. An entire commentary vpon the vvhole epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians: wherein the text is learnedly and . . . 1643. Read online /Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Against the revolt to a foreign jurisdiction, which would be to England its perjury, church-ruine, and slavery: in two parts. . . . 1691. Read online/ Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. A Christian directory: or, A summ of practical theologie, and cases of conscience . . . in four parts . . . 1673. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Church-history of the government of bishops and their councils abbreviated : including the chief . . . 1680. Read online / Catalogue Record

Baxter, Richard. The crucifying of the world by the cross of Christ: with . . . 1658.Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. The cure of church-divisions: or, Directions for weak Christians, to keep them from being dividers, or troublers of the church. With some directions to the pastors, how to deal with such Christians. 1670. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. The English nonconformity: as under King Charles II. and King James II / truly stated and argued. 1689. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Five disputations of church-government and worship. 1659. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. The life of faith: in three parts . . . 1670. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Naked popery, or, The naked falshood of a book called The Catholick naked truth, or, . . . 1677 Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. The nonconformists plea for peace, or, An account of their judgment in certain things in which they are misunderstood: written to . . . 1679.Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Of justification: four disputations clearing and amicably defending the truth, against the unnecessary oppositions of divers learned and reverend brethren. 1658. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. A paraphrase on the New Testament: with notes, doctrinal and practical, to which is added . . . 1701. 3rd. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. The poor man’s family book: I. teaching him how to become a true Christian, 2. how to live as a Christian, towards God, himself and . . . 1675. 2nd ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Reliquiæ Baxterianæ: or, Mr. Richard Baxter’s narrative of the most memorable passages of his life and times. 1696. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Richard Baxter’s Catholick theologie, plain, pure, peaceable, for pacification of the dogmatical word-warriours who, 1. By . . . 1675. Read online /Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. The right method for a setled peace of conscience, and spiritual comfort in 32 directions / written for the use of a troubled friend, . . . 1657. 3rd. ed.Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Roman tradition examined : as it is urged as infallible against all mens senses, reason, the Holy Scripture, the tradition and . . . 1676. Read online/ Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. A saint or a brute: the certain necessity and excellency of holiness, &c. So plainly proved, and . . . 1662. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. The saint’s everlasting rest: or, A treatise on the blessed state of the saints, in their enjoyment of God in heaven. Also, . . . 1765. . Read online /Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. The saints’ everlasting rest. 1830. Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. Select practical writings of Richard Baxter: with a life of the author. Vol 1. 1835. Volume 1 Volume 2 / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. A sermon preached at the funeral of that holy, painful . . . 1678.Read online / Catalogue record

Baxter, Richard. A treatise of episcopacy: confuting by Scripture, reason, and the churches testimony that sort of diocesan churches, prelacy and government, which casteth out the primitive church-species, episcopacy, ministry and . . . 1681.  Read online / Catalogue record

Blake, Thomas. Vindiciae foederis: or, A treatise of the covenant of God entered with man-kinde, in the several kindes and degrees of it in which . . . 1653. Read online / Catalogue record

Bolton, Robert. A three-fold treatise containing the saints, sure and peretuall guide, selfe-enriching examination, soule-fatting fasting: or, Meditations, concerning the Word, the sacrament of the Lords Supper, and . . . 1634. Read online / Catalogue record

Bolton, Robert. The workes of the reverend, truly pious, and iudiciously learned Robert Bolton . . . 1641. Read online / Catalogue record

Boston, Thomas. Human nature in its fourfold state: of primitive integrity, entire depravation, begun recovery, and consummate happiness or misery. Subsisting in  . . . 1769. 18th ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Boston, Thomas. Memoirs of the life, time, and writings, of the reverend and learned Thomas Boston. 1805. Read online / Catalogue record

Boston, Thomas. A view of the covenant of grace from the sacred records wherein the parties in that covenant, the making of it, its parts . . .  1755. Read online / Catalogue record

Brightman, Thomas. The Revelation of St. Iohn : illustrated with an analysis & scholions wherein the sense is opened by the Scripture . . .1644. 4th ed. /Read online / Catalogue record

Brown, John. The life of justification opened, or, A treatise grounded upon Gal. 2, II [i.e. 3.11] : wherein . . . 1695. Read online / Catalogue record

Bunyan, John. Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, or, A brief and faithful relation of the exceeding mercy of God in Christ to . . . 1692. Read online /Catalogue record

Burgess, Anthony. Spiritual refining: or, A treatise of grace and assurance wherein are handled the doctrine of assurance, the use of signs in self-examination, how . . . 1652. Read online / Catalogue record

Burgess, Anthony. Spiritual refining, part II : or, A treatise of sinne with its causes, differences, mitigations and aggravations . . . 1654. Read online / Catalogue record

Burroughs, Jeremiah. The eighth book of Mr Jeremiah Burroughs : being a treatise of the evil of evils, or the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Wherein is . . .  1654.Read online / Catalogue record

Burroughs, Jeremiah. The excellency of a gracious spirit : delivered in a treatise upon the 14 of Numbers, vers. 24 : together with Moses, his self-deniall. 1640.Read online / Catalogue record

Burroughs, Jeremiah. Gospel conversation: wherein is shewed I. How the conversation of beleevers must be above . . . 1653. Read online / Catalogue record

Burroughs, Jeremiah.  Gospel remission: or, A treatise shewing that true blessedness consists in pardon of sin, being several . . . 1674. 2nd ed. Read online / Catalogue record 

Burroughs, Jeremiah. Gospel-revelation in three treatises: viz. 1. The nature of God. 2. The excellence of . . . 1660. Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations upon the three first chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1669. Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations continued upon the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1671 Read online /Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations continued upon the eighth, ninth and tenth chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1669.  Read online /Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practicall observations continued upon the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteen chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1670.Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations continued upon the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1671.  Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practicall observations continued upon the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-one chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1658. Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations continued upon the twenty-second, twenty-third, and twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1659. Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations continued upon the twenty-seventh, the twenty-eighth, and twenty-ninth chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1670. Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practicall observations continued upon the thirtieth and thirty first chapters of the booke of Job: . . . 1659. Read online /Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations continued upon the thirty second, the thirty third, and the thirty fourth chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1669.Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations continued upon the thirty-fifth, thirty-sixth, and thirty-seventh chapters of the book of Job: . . . 1664. Read online / Catalogue record

Caryl, Joseph. An exposition with practical observations continued upon the thirty-eighth, thirty-ninth, fortieth, forty-first, and forty-second (being the five last) chapters of the Book of Job: . . . 1666. Read online / Catalogue record

Clarke, Samuel. Medulla theologiæ; or, The marrovv of divinity : contained in sundry questions and cases of conscience, both speculative, and . . . 1659. Read online / Catalogue record

Cleaver, Robert. A plaine and familiar exposition of the first and second chapters of the Prouerbes of Salomon. 1614. Read online / Catalogue record

Davenant, John. Animadversions upon a treatise intitled, Gods love to mankind 1641. Read online / Catalogue record

Dod, John. A plain and familiar exposition of the ten commandments: with a methodical short catechisme containing briefly the principall grounds of Christian religion. n.d.  Read online / Catalogue record

Downame, John. The Christian warfare: wherein is first generally shewed the malice, power and politike stratagems . . . Vol. 1. 1608. 2nd. ed. Read online /Catalogue record

Downame, John. Foure treatises, tending to disswade all Christians from foure no lesse hainous than common sinnes, namely. . . 1613. Read online / Catalogue record

Downame, John. A godly and learned treatise of prayer : which both conteineth in it the doctrine of . . . 1640. Read online / Catalogue record

Downame, John. The second part of the Christian warfare : or, The contempt of the world, tending to arme and confirme the weake Christian … (Vol 2). 1611.Read online / Catalogue record

Downame, John. The summe of sacred diuinitie first briefly & methodically propounded : and then more largly & cleerely handled and explaned. 1630. Read online / catalogue record

Durham, James. Heaven upon earth : in the serene tranquillity and calm composure, in the sweet peace and solid joy of a good conscience . . . 1732. Read online / Catalogue Record

Dyke, Daniel. The mystery of selfe-deceiving, or, A discovuse and discovery of the deceitfulnesse of mans heart. 1642. Read online / Catalogue record

Featly, Daniel. Threnoikos: the house of mourning, furnished with directions for preparations to meditations of consolations at the hour of death: delivered in . . . 1672. Read online / Catalogue record

Fenner, William. The souls looking-glasse, lively representing its estate before God : with a treatise . . . 1651. Read online / Catalogue record

Fenner, William. A treatise of the affections : or, The soules pulse, wherby a Christian may know whether he be living or dying, . . . 1642. Read online /Catalogue record

Fenner, William. Wilfull impenitency the grossest self-murder: all they who are guilty of it, apprehended, tried, and condemned in these . . .  1658.  5th. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Fenner, William. The works of the learned and faithful minister of Gods word … : in four treatises. To which is annexed . . . 1651. Read online / Catalogue record

Fleming, Robert. The confirming work of religion. 1743. Read online / Catalogue record

Fonseca, Christobel de. Devout contemplations : expressed in two and fortie sermons upon all ye quadragesimall gospells. 1629. Read online / Catalogue record

Fraser, James. A treatise concerning justifying or saving faith: wherein the nature of faith is largely handled; particularly, what respects the act of faith; the manner of . . . 1722. Read online / Catalogue record

Goodwin, Thomas. The tryall of a Christians growth : in mortification, vivification, or purging out corruption. Bringing forth . . . 1650. Read online / Catalogue record

Goodwin, Thomas. The vanity of thovghts discovered: with their danger and cvre. 1637. Read online / Catalogue record

Goodwin, Thomas. The works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D., sometime president of Magdalene Colledge in Oxford. Various dates. Volume 1 Volume 2 / Catalogue record

Greenham, Richard. The workes of the reverend and faithfull servant of Jesus Christ, M. Richard Greenham, minister and preacher of the word of God. 1601. 3rd ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Grey, Zachary. An impartial examination of the second volume of Mr. Daniel Neal’s History of the Puritans: in which the reflections of that author, upon King James I. and King Charles I. are proved to be . . . 1736. Read online / Catalogue record

Grosse, Alexander. The happines of enjoying and making a trve and speedy use of Christ: setting forth, first,. . .. 1647. Read online / Catalogue record

Grosse, Alexander. Sweet and soule-perswading inducements leading unto Christ … 1632. Read online / Catalogue record

Hale, Matthew.The judgment of the late Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale, . . . (1684). Read online / Catalogue record

Haywood, Oliver. Closet-prayer a Christian duty, or, A treatise upon Mat. VI, 6. tending to prove that worship of God in secret is the indispensible duty of all Christians . . .. 1687. Read online / Catalogue record

Haywood, Oliver. Heart-treasure: or, An essay tending to fil [sic] and furnish the head and heart of every Christian . . ., being the substance of some sermons preached at Coley in Yorkshire on Mat. 12. 35 . . .. 1667. Read online / Catalogue record

Hieron, Samuel. The sermons of Master Samuel Hieron: formerly collected together by himselfe, and published in one volume in his life time. 1624. Read online / Catalogue record

Hoadly, Benjamin. The reasonableness of conformity to the Church of England represented to the dissenting ministers. . .1703. 2nd. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Hooker, Thomas. The sovles effectvall calling to Christ 1637. Read online /Catalogue record

Horne, Robert. Of the rich man and Lazarvs : certaine sermons. 1619. Read online / Catalogue record

Jackson, Arthur. A help for the understanding of the Holy Scripture : intended . . .. 1643.  Read online / Catalogue record

Keach, Benjamin.The display of glorious grace: or, The covenant of peace, opened in fourteen sermons lately preached, in which the errors of . . . 1698. Read online / Catalogue record

Keach, Benjamin. Tropologia, a key to open scripture metaphors in four books: to which are prefixed, arguments to prove the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures…together with types of the Old Testament; . . . 1779. Read online /Catalogue record

Maddox, Isaac. A vindication of the government, doctrine, and worship, of the Church of England: established in the reign of Queen Elizabeth : against the injurious reflections of Mr. Neal, in his late History of the Puritans  . . . 1740. Read online / Catalogue record

Manton, Thomas. A practical commentary, or, An exposition with notes on the Epistle of James: delivered in sundry weekly lectures at Stoke-Newington in Middlesex, neer London. 1651. Read online / Catalogue record

Manton, Thomas. A second volume of sermons preached by the late reverend and learned Thomas Manton, D.D. In two parts. The first containing . . .  1684.Read online / Catalogue record

Marshall, Walter.The gospel-mystery of sanctification opened : in sundry practical directions, suited especially to the case of those who labor under the guilt and power of . . . 1788. Read online / Catalogue record

Mather, Samuel. The figures or types of the Old Testament: by which Christ and the heavenly things of the Gospel were preached and shadowed to . . . 1705. 2nd. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Neal, Daniel. The history of the Puritans: or Protestant non-conformists, from the reformation under King Henry VIII, to the Act of Toleration under . . . Vol 1. 1754. 2nd. ed. Volume 1 Volume 2 / Catalogue record

Owen, John. Christologia: or, A declaration of the glorious mystery of the person of Christ, God and man, with the infinite wisdom, love and power . . . 1679. Read online / Catalogue record

Owen, John. Christologia: or, A declaration of the glorious mystery of the person of Christ, God and man, with the infinite . . . 1819. Read online / Catalogue record

Owen, John. A discourse concerning the Holy Spirit: wherein an account is given of His name, nature, personality, dispensation . . . 1816. Read online / Catalogue record

Owen, John. The doctrine of justification by faith through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, explained, confirmed, & vindicated. 1677. Read online /Catalogue record

Owen, John. The doctrine of the saints perseverance, explained and confirmed: … and vindicated in a full answer to the discourse of . . . 1654. Read online /Catalogue record

Owen, John. An enquiry into the original, nature, institution, power, order and communion of evangelical churches: the first part, with . . . 1681. Read online /Catalogue record

Owen, John. Exercitations on the Epistle to the Hebrevvs : Also concerning the Messiah. Wherein the promises concerning him to be . . . 1668. Read online /Catalogue record

Owen, John. The forgiveness of sin: illustrated in a practical exposition of Psalm 130. 18xx. Read online / Catalogue record

Owen, John. The grace and duty of being spiritually minded, declared and practically improved. 1844. Read online / Catalogue record

Owen, John. Meditations and discourses on the glory of Christ. In two parts. I. In His person, office, and . . . 1815. Read online / Catalogue record

Owen, John. A practical exposition on the 130th Psalm : wherein the nature of the forgiveness of sin is declared, . . . 1669. Read online / Catalogue record

Owen, John. Two discourses concerning the Holy Spirit and his work: the one of the Spirit as a comforter; the other, as he is the author of spiritual gifts . . . 1816.Read online / Catalogue record

Owen, John. The works of the late Reverend and learned John Owen: containing several scarce and valuable discourses; with A display of Arminianism. 1721.Read online / Catalogue record

Perkins, William. A case of conscience the greatest that ever was and how . . . 1957. Read online  / Catalogue record

Perkins, William. A commentarie or exposition vpon the fiue first chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians. 1604. Read online / Catalogue Record

Perkins, William. A declaration of the trve manner of knovving Christ crucified. 1597. Read online / Catalogue record

Perkins, William. A direction for the government of the tongve, according to Gods word. 1597. Read online / Catalogue record

Perkins, William. An exposition of the Lord’s Prayer: in the way of . . . 1597. Read online / Catalogue record

Perkins, William. The fovndation of Christian religion: gathered into sixe principles. And it is to be learned of ignorant. 1597. Read online / Catalogue record

Perkins, William. A golden chaine, or, The description of theologie: containing the order of the causes of saluation. 1597. Read online / Catalogue record

Perkins, William. A salve for a sicke man: or, a Treatise containing the nature, differences, and kindes of death: as also the right manner . . . 1597. Read online /Catalogue record

Perkins, William. Tvvo treatises: I. Of the nature and practise of repentance. II. Of the combat of the flesh and spirit. 1597. 2nd ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Perkins, William. The workes of that famous and worthy minister of Christ in the universitie of Cambridge, Mr. William Perkins. 1613. Volume 2 Volume 3 /Catalogue record

Perkins, William. The vvorkes of that famous and vvorthy minister of Christ in the Vniuersitie of Cambridge, Mr. William Perkins. The first volume: newly corrected . . . 1626. Vol. 1. Read online / Catalogue record

Pierson, Thomas. Excellent encouragements against afflictions, or, Expositions of four select Psalmes . . . 1647. Read online / Catalogue record

Polhill, Edward. Precious faith considered in its nature, working, and growth. 1675. Read onlinee / Catalogue record

Preston, John. Fovre godly and learned treatises, intituled, 1. A remedie against Covetousnesse. 2. An elegant and lively description of spirituall death and . . . 1633. 3rd. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Preston, John. The golden scepter held forth to the humble: With the Chvrches dignitie by her marriage. And the Chvrches dvtie  . . . 1638. Read online /Catalogue record

Preston, John. Life eternall, or, A treatise of the knowledge of the divine essence and attributes .. . 1634. 4th. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Preston, John. A liveles life, or, Mans spirituall death in sinne: wherein is both learnedly and profitably handled these foure doctrines, the spirituall death in . . . 1635. Read online / Catalogue record

Preston, John. The new covenant, or, The saints portion: a treatise vnfolding the all-sufficiencie of God, man’s uprightness, and the covenant of grace: delivered . . . 1634. 8th. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Preston, John. The saints qvalification : or, A treatise I. Of humiliation, in tenne sermons. II. Of sanctification, in nine. . . 1637. 3rd. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Preston, John. Sins overthrow, or, A godly and learned treatise of mortification: wherein is excellently handled first, the generall doctrine of mortification, and . . . 1633. Read online / Catalogue record

Preston, John. Three sermons vpon the sacrament of the Lords Supper. 1631.Read online / Catalogue record

Quarles, Francis. Divine poems: containing the history of [brace] Jonah, Ester, Job, Sampson: together with Sions [brace] sonnets, elegies. 1669. Read online /Catalogue record

Reynolds, Edward. Israel’s prayer in time of trouble with God’s gracious answer : an explication of 14 chapters of Hosea in seven sermons. 1831. Read online /Catalogue record

Reynolds, Edward. Three treatises of The vanity of the creature, The sinfullnesse of sinne, The life of Christ : being the substance of several sermons preached at Lincolns Inne. 1632. 4th. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Rous, Francis. The arte of happines: consisting of three parts, whereof: The first, searcheth out the happinesse of man. The second, particularly discouers and approues it. The third, . . . 1619. Read online / Catalogue record

Sclater, William. An exposition with notes vpon the first and second Epistles to the Thessalonians. 1627. Read online / Catalogue record

Scougal, Henry. The works of the Reverend Mr. Henry Scougal, Professor of Divinity in the King’s College, Aberdeen: containing The Life of God in . . . 1759.Read online / Catalogue record

Serle, Ambrose. Horæ solitariæ : or, essays upon some remarkable names and titles of Jesus Christ, occurring in the Old Testament, and declarative of his essential . . . 1776. Read online / Catalogue record

Sheffeild, John. A good conscience the strongest hold : a treatise of conscience, handling the nature, acts, offices, use of conscience: the description . . . 1650.Read online / Catalogue record

Sibbes, Richard. Bowels opened: or, A discovery of the neare and deare love, union and communion betwixt Christ and the Church, and . . . 1641. Read online /Catalogue record

Sibbes, Richard. Light from heaven: discovering the Fountaine opened. Angels acclamations. Churches riches. Rich povertie : in foure treatises. 1638. Read online / Catalogue record

Sylvester, Matthew. Elisha’s cry after Elijah’s God consider’d and apply’d: with reference to the decease of the late Reverend Mr. Richard Baxter, who left . . . 1696. Read online / Catalogue record

Taylor, Thomas. Christ revealed, or, The Old Testament explained : a treatise of the types and shadowes of our Saviovr contained throughout . . . 1635. Read online / Catalogue record

Taylor, Thomas. A commentarie upon the Epistle of Saint Paul written to Titvs / preached in Cambridge by Thomas Taylor, and now published for . . . 1619. Read online / Catalogue record.

Tillotson, John. The works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, late Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: containing . . . 1712. Volume 1 Volume 2 / Catalogue record

Trapp, John. A commentary or exposition upon the four evangelists, and the Acts of the Apostles : wherein the text is explained, some . . . 1647. Read online/Catalogue record

Venning, Ralph. A warning to back-sliders, or, A discovery for the recovery of fallen ones : delivered in a sermon at Pauls, before . . . 1654. Read online /Catalogue record

Vincent, Thomas. The death of ministers improved, or, An exhortation to the inhabitants of Horsley in Glocestershire, and others, . . . 1678. Read online /Catalogue record.

Vines, Richard.  The purifying of unclean hearts and hands: opened in a sermon . . . . 1646. Read Online / Catalogue Record

Watts, Isaac. Sermons and practical works of the late Isaac Watts, Vol. 1. 1805.Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 / Catalogue record

Watts, Isaac. The works of the Rev. Isaac Watts. Vol 1. 1812. Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6 Volume 7 Volume 8 Volume9 /Catalogue record

Webster, John. The judgement set, and the bookes opened : and all religion brought to triall: whether it be of God or man. The Lord himself . . . 1654. Read online / Catalogue record

Williams, John. The divine institution, order and government, of a visible church of Christ, according to the direction . . . 178?. Read online / Catalogue record.

Wilson, Thomas. A commentary on the most divine epistle of St. Paul to the Romans : containing for matter, . .. 1653. 3rd. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Wright, Paul. The new and complete life of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ : that great example, as well as . . .  1788. Read online / Catalogue record

HT: Mark Tubbs

Quick Refresher: Who Were the Puritans?

The Puritan period can be identified in different ways based upon different historical definitions, but a commonly identified timeframe for Puritanism would be 1560-1659, flourishing in the mid-seventeenth century (1640s-1650s).

The Elizabethan English church of the mid-sixteenth century held to a combination of

  • Calvinistic theology,
  • Erastian ecclesiology, and
  • medieval liturgy.

The so-called “Puritans” (originally a term of derision) of England and New England sought to return the church to its Reformational roots and to further reform it to its pure and biblical foundations. They modeled their church reforms after that which had occurred in Switzerland (especially Geneva and Zurich). The result was a renewal and revival movement that stressed

  • fellowship and communion with the triune God;
  • a generally Augustinian understanding of fallen human nature and the necessity of sovereign grace;
  • dependence on the Holy Spirit for all of life;
  • the necessity of Scripture as being the authoritative and sufficient guide for faith and practice;
  • the elevation of preaching the Bible as the central means of grace;
  • a sober-minded and detailed assessment of one’s spiritual condition to arrive at genuine assurance;
  • a disdain for the sacramental practices and remnants of Roman Catholic spirituality, including kneeling at the elements or wearing special gowns for preaching;
  • a high stress on the Sabbath as the most significant moral command and strict rules prohibiting even recreation on the Lord’s day; and
  • a priority on determining the exact ecclesiastic blueprint of Scripture, devoid of unbiblical traditions and commands that could distort or distract from the reform of true God-honoring worship.

For some guides into the literature and theology of Puritanism, I would recommend:

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A Free Bible Study on How to Change the Way You Think, Act, and Experience Life

Jan 11, 2016 | Justin Taylor

Several years ago David Powlison, executive director of CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) wrote an assignment for the CCEF course, Dynamics of Biblical Change. (For more information on this course, visit It’s called “Paul and the Philippians: A Bible Study in the Dynamics of Biblical Change.” An adapted version of it is posted below with permission, in the hopes that it might be useful to your own personal life and interaction with others, as you see from God’s Word how he works for genuine change.

Read through Acts 16 and the book of Philippians closely.

This study will not proceed verse by verse. Instead it asks questions of all five chapters at once. For example: “Notice Paul’s situation: what are all the varied pressures Paul faces?” and “What do you see and hear about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?”

As you gain familiarity with the flow of Acts 16 and Philippians, you can skim more quickly through to assemble your answer to each question. For example, these chapters describe more than a dozen different hardships that Paul faced. Your job is to put yourself in his shoes and notice them.

You will see that each question is put several ways. Don’t necessarily answer every sub-question. Various ways of putting the same basic question help you to look intently at what the Bible is saying.

The study will work through materials familiar to you from the Dynamics of Biblical Change course: the “three trees,” the “eight questions.” The goal is to help you notice things, organize things, sort out things that differ, think clearly and carefully. This study is meant to change the way you think, act, and experience life. It is then meant to change the way you help others.

How can you involve others both in your Scripture study and the self-counseling project? Discussion, accountability, and prayer can greatly contribute to converting ideas into life wisdom.

These same questions can be easily adapted to other books of the Bible, for they are simply a tool to get you to notice what the Bible says to people in real-life situations before God. For example, you could look at 1 Peter, refocusing Question 1 into “Notice particulars of the readers’ situation.” For example, you could study Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, refocusing Questions 3 and 8 into “What consequences—vicious or gracious circle—do you observe in the stories of people’s lives?”

1. Notice Paul’s situation, all that is swirling around him, both “negative” and “positive.”

What are the varied pressures Paul faces?

Put yourself in Paul’s shoes.

What are Paul’s hardships?

What burdens, temptations, stresses, problems, failures, impotencies, threats and pains—actual and potential—does Paul face?

How are his circumstances difficult?

How are people sinning against Paul?

What are the “positive” parts of Paul’s situation?

What successes, triumphs, vindications, and blessings does Paul experience?

What positive impact is he having on events and people?

How are people responding favorably to him and his efforts?

What is God doing around him and through him?

2. Think about the typical reactions to such circumstances.

Brainstorm: how do you—or people in general—tend to react to the kinds of pressures Paul was under?

What is life like when these things weigh on you?

How do you typically react: thoughts? words? attitudes? emotions? actions?

What temptations would you face in such circumstance? In other words, what does Paul command the Philippians not to do?

How do you—or people in general—tend to react when good things happen?

What temptations come when life abound with good things, when everything’s going your way?

How do you typically react: Thought? Words? Attitudes? Emotions? Actions?

What problem attitudes and actions can arise when you receive success and blessings?

3. Dig for the craving and beliefs that tend to rule the human heart, producing ungodly reactions.

What do Acts 16 and Philippians say, demonstrate, or imply about why people tend to react in ways quite different from Paul?

What beliefs and desires control reactions?

What controls the interpretation of experience?

What motivates the reaction? For example, Philippians 1:17f, 1:28, 2:3f, 2:21, 3:3-7, 3:19, 4:6, and 4:12 and Acts 16:16, 16:19, and 16:27 directly describe some of the false masters that create bad fruit in our lives. Other times more subtle connections are drawn. For example, Philippians 2:12, 13, 15 have implications regarding the causes that underlie “grumbling and disputing” in 2:14.

How do particular sins flow directly from these motives? For example, how might grumbling or anger or worry or compulsive eating or manipulating others flow from the “god” and “mindset” Philippians 3:19 describes? Draw specific links, and explain the logic of the link.

Why don’t positive experiences, behavioral reformation, and positive thinking really change us?

What happens when people experience blessings without dealing with their heart’s motives?

What happens when people try to change their feelings directly, without addressing reigning desires and beliefs?

What happens when  people try to act righteously and lovingly, without dealing with the motives that underlie behavior?

What happens when people try to discipline their minds by positive thinking, without changing what rules them?

4. What are the consequences of instinctive sinful reactions?

What “vicious circles” do you see threatening the Philippians?

What negative consequences might arise from sin?

How would bad reactions compound hardships or create new problems or spoil blessings?

What do you reap when you respond to circumstances by instinct?

What possible consequences can you envision if Paul had reacted out of the flesh

  • to the rigors of itinerant life,
  • to the honor of apostleship,
  • to being jailed,
  • to the jailer’s conversion,
  • to Epaphroditus’s illness,
  • to the sins of Euodia & Syntyche,
  • to poverty and riches,
  • etc.?

5. Notice what changes lives, inside and out.

What specifically does God reveal of himself in Philippians?

Who is he?

What is he like?

What does he promise?

How does he work?

What has he done?

What do you see him doing?

What will he do?

What truth do you see and hear about the God who is your true environment?

What is the power at work within you?

Philippians does not reveal everything about God, but several well-chosen things. What particular needs are addressed by what God chooses to promise and to reveal of himself?

What resources are tailored to the struggle between sin and godliness?

What resources are brought to bear on the particular hardships of the situation?

How does God work through other people?

You don’t understand God in a vacuum. You don’t grow to change in isolation. How do Acts 16 and Philippians portray godly people influencing and helping one another grow in faith and obedience?

How do you see Paul acting?

What impact do the lives of Timothy and Epaphroditus have?

6. What rules the heart in godly responders?

What rules Paul?

How is Paul’s life determined by faith?

What do Acts 16 and Philippians tell or imply about why Paul responds in such an unusual, “unnatural” way to the things he experiences in life?

What ruled Paul?

What controlled both his interpretation of circumstances and his response?

What is his secret of contentment, the source of his peace, thankfulness and joy?

What did Paul believe, trust, fear, hope in, love, seek, obey?

How does faith make the whole world look different?

How does faith as a ruling motive reinterpret our circumstances for us, even when we are in the midst of suffering or success?

How does genuine faith change people in practical ways?

How does faith change Paul’s desires and directly produce Paul’s outward responses? For example, how do thankfulness, peacemaking and contentment flow directly from believing, trusting and fearing God in Paul’s exact circumstances? Draw the links specifically.

How is turning, repentance, change portrayed? How does faith in God’s message enable us to cross the line? How do we move from our natural reactions to a response of faith like Paul’s? How do we move

  • from compulsive self-interest (1:17f, 2:3f & 2:21),
  • from confidence in ourselves (3:3-7),
  • from making our desires into our gods (3:19),
  • from living for what is before our eyes and all around us (3:19),
  • from preoccupation with our anxieties of comforts or riches (4:6 & 4:12, and Acts 16:19),
  • from fear of what people will do to us (1:28 and Acts 16:27),
  • from willing and doing my own good pleasure (2:13-15), and
  • to faith in the living, loving and powerful Savior, Jesus Christ,
  • to willing and doing God’s good pleasure?

In other words, what happened to Lydia the Philippian jailer, Paul, Silas, Timothy, and the other Philippian Christians Paul writes to?

How is turning to God a once-for-all-act?

How is turning to God a daily, ongoing process, a way of life?

What happens once for all at conversion is a picture of what happens daily in Christian growth. How do Philippians 1:6, 1:9, 1:14, 1:25, 2:12, 2:15, 3:12-16, 4:2, and 4:12 describe this ongoing process of becoming different? True Christians are “disciple” of Jesus, who are in process (Luke 9:23).

What do Euodia and Syntyche need?

7. Look for the specific good fruit.

How does Paul respond?

What does he command readers to do?

How does Paul respond to positive and to negative circumstances?

How does he interpret his world?

How does he act?

What does he say, do and feel in the midst of both trails and victories?

How does he tell you to respond?

What are concrete ways you are told to obey God?

8. What good effects result from the way Paul handled his situation?

What “gracious circles” does he create?

How do Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Epaphroditus affect and influence people and events?

What positive consequences do you see or can you envision happening because of how Paul handles things?

What do you imagine was the impact of obedient Philippians on other people in Philippi?

How do faith and obedience affect others and the world around you?

Personal reflection: What have you learned?

Stop and think. Go back and read what you have written in this study of Paul and the Philippians. Think about your walk with God, your self-counseling project, and your ministry to others. What would it be like if/as the message of Philippians became written on your heart, became the way you instinctively processed life?

Write a paragraph to a page about what made the biggest impression on you personally as you did this study, and what might have the most significant impact as you make it your own.

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How to Read Calvin’s Institutes and Why You Should Seriously Consider It

Jan 09, 2016 | Justin Taylor


If you haven’t yet read C. S. Lewis’s introduction to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, I’d highly recommend it.

He wants to refute the “strange idea” “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.”

Lewis finds the impulse humble and understandable: the layman looks at the class author and “feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him.”

“But,” Lewis explains, “if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.”

Lewis therefore made it a goal to convince students that “firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.”

I suspect this holds true with respect to evangelical Calvinists and one of the great theological classics: Calvin’s Institutes. Are we in danger of being a generation of secondhanders?

Let me forestall the “I don’t have time” objection. If you have 15 minutes a day and a bit of self-discipline, you can get through the whole of the Institutes faster than you think. Listen to John Piper:

Most of us don’t aspire very high in our reading because we don’t feel like there is any hope. But listen to this. Suppose you read about 250 words a minute and that you resolve to devote just 15 minutes a day to serious theological reading to deepen your grasp of biblical truth. In one year (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute and you get 1,368,750 words per year. Now most books have between 300 and 400 words per page. So if we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year.

The McNeill-Battles two-volume edition (for now the generally accepted authoritative standard) runs about 1800 pages total—so you could technically read it twice in one year at just 15 minutes a day!

Three reasons why this book in particular should be a particular object of serious study:

1. The Institutes may be easier to read than you think.

J. I. Packer writes, “The readability of the Institutio, considering its size, is remarkable.”

Level of difficulty should not determine a book’s importance; some simple books are profound; some difficult books are simply muddled. What we want are books that make us think and worship, even if that requires some hard work. As Piper wrote in Future Grace, “When my sons complain that a good book is hard to read, I say, ‘Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.'”

2. The Institutes is one of the wonders of the world.

Karl Barth, the most influential theologian of the 20th century, once wrote: “I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.”

Packer explains that Calvin’s magnum opus is one of the great wonders of the world:

Calvin’s Institutes (5th edition, 1559) is one of the wonders of the literary world—the world, that is, of writers and writing, of digesting and arranging heaps of diverse materials, of skillful proportioning and gripping presentation; the world . . . of the Idea, the Word, and the Power. . . .

The Institutio is also one of the wonders of the spiritual world—the world of doxology and devotion, of discipleship and discipline, of Word-through-Spirit illumination and transformation of individuals, of the Christ-centered mind and the Christ-honoring heart. . . .

Calvin’s Institutio is one of the wonders of the theological world, too—that is, the world of truth, faithfulness, and coherence in the mind regarding God; of combat, regrettable but inescapable, with intellectual insufficiency and error in believers and unbelievers alike; and of vision, valuation, and vindication of God as he presents himself through his Word to our fallen and disordered minds. . . .

3. The Institutes has relevance for your life and ministry.

It can be read as simply an exercise in historical theology, but it should also be read to further your understanding of God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s ways. Packer writes:

The 1559 Institutio is great theology, and it is uncanny how often, as we read and re-read it, we come across passages that seem to speak directly across the centuries to our own hearts and our own present-day theological debates. You never seem to get to the book’s bottom; it keeps opening up as a veritable treasure trove of biblical wisdom on all the main themes of the Christian faith.

Do you, I wonder, know what I am talking about? Dig into the Institutio, and you soon will.

Some Recommended Helps

If you are persuaded, here are a few resources you might want to consider:

As mentioned above, the McNeill-Battles two-volume edition is the most referenced standard edition. The one-volume Beveridge translation is much cheaper, and can also be found online. If you want the cheapest print option and want to get a good feel for the Institutes without reading the whole thing, consider this abridged version by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne.

But I would recommend the full McNeill-Battles version, along with Tony Lane’s reader’s guide to the Institutes. In the introduction he explains the various options for using it:

The Institutes is divided into thirty-two portions, in addition to Calvin’s introductory material. From each of these an average of some eighteen pages has been selected to be read. These selections are designed to cover the whole range of the Institutes, to cover all of Calvin’s positive theology, while missing most of his polemics against his opponents and most of the historical material. My notes concentrate on the sections chosen for reading but also contain brief summaries of the other material.

Readers have four options:

  1. Read only the selected material and my brief summaries of the rest.
  2. Read only the selected material and use Battles’s Analysis of the Institutes as a summary of the rest.
  3. Concentrate on the selected material but skim through the rest.
  4. Read the whole of the Institutes.

The notes guide the reader through the text and also draw attention to the most significant footnotes in the Battles edition. At the beginning of each portion is an introduction and a question or questions to focus the mind of the reader.

For those who want to explore certain sections of the Institutes in greater depth, a fine collection of essays can be found in A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes: Essays and Analysis, edited by David Hall and Peter Lillaback.

For those who want a little more context on Calvin’s life and wider teaching on the Christian life, I think Robert Godfrey’s John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor and Michael Horton’s Calvin on the Christian Life are very helpful orientations.

Finally, here is a schedule of reading through Calvin’s Institutes in a year.

Tolle lege!

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They Were No Fools: 60 Years Ago Today—The Martyrdom of Jim Elliot and Four Other Missionaries

Jan 08, 2016 | Justin Taylor

Missionary Martyrs Collage.2
Sixty years ago today—January 8, 1956—28-year-old American missionary Jim Elliot was martyred, along with four missionary partners and friends. He was survived by his wife, Elisabeth, and their 10-month-old daughter Valerie.

Phillip James (“Jim”) Elliot was born in Portland, Oregon, on October 8, 1927. He enrolled at Wheaton College in the fall of 1945 and graduated four years later as a Bible major with highest honors.

The fall of 1949 was a heady season for neo-evangelicalism, seeking to differentiate itself from the fundamentalism of the past, revive the church, win the lost, and gain respect from the culture. 30-year-old Billy Graham—who had graduated from Wheaton six years before Jim Elliot—held his very first crusade, as over 6,000 people came to hear him preach at the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan (September 13-21). After that he was off to Los Angeles for a two-month campaign that would catapult him to national fame. That December, the first gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society convened, as sixty Bible and theology professors met in Cincinnati to hear an address by Carl Henry, who had published The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism just two years earlier.

It was during this time—October 28, 1949, to be exact—that Jim Elliot penned a journal entry:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

Centuries earlier the 17th century English nonconformist preacher Phillip Henry had said, ”He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.”

In the archives at Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center you can view Elliot’s journals (published here.) Below is a picture of the page from his journal. (As the Archives note, the underline and asterisk was likely added later after he died.)



A few months later, in 1950, a former missionary to Ecuador told Elliot about the Huaorani (or “Auca”) Indians, a small and fierce unreached people in the jungle. Elliot sensed a call from the Lord to reach this people for Christ.

If you want to hear from Elliot himself around this time, here is a sermon from 1951 delivered in Illinois (or read the transcript):

In 1952, Jim and his friend Pete Fleming set sail for Guayaquil as missionaries, arriving in February. For six months they stayed in Quito (the capital of Ecuador) in order to learn Spanish, before moving deep into jungle, where they lived at Shandia, a mission station.

On January 29, 1953, Jim Elliot proposed to Elisabeth Howard on her 21st birthday, and they were married on October 8 in a civil ceremony in Quito on Jim’s 26th birthday. Their daughter Valerie was born on February 27, 1955.

In the fall of 1955, the missionaries made initial contact with the Huaorani. Nate Saint was able to maneuver his plane in tight circles while lowering a bucket from a rope containing gifts like buttons and rock salt, with more gifts delivered over the next several weeks. Later the missionaries used a loudspeaker to shout simple Huaorani phrases they had learned from a young Huaorani girl who had left the society and befriended Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel. The Huaorani began to reciprocate with gifts of their own.

Nate Saint identified a sandbar on the Curary River, four and a half miles from the main Huaorani location and determined it could be used as a landing strip and camp, calling it “Palm Beach.” The missionaries arrived there on January 3, 1957, flying over the Huaorani settlement to telling them by loudspeaker to meet them there.

The Wikipedia entry for Operation Auca summaries what happened next:

On January 6, after the Americans had spent several days of waiting and shouting basic Huaorani phrases into the jungle, the first Huaorani visitors arrived. A young man and two women emerged on the opposite river bank around 11:15 a.m., and soon joined the missionaries at their encampment. The younger of the two women had come against the wishes of her family, and the man, named Nankiwi, who was romantically interested in her, followed. The older woman (about thirty years old) acted as a self-appointed chaperone. he men gave them several gifts, including a model plane, and the visitors soon relaxed and began conversing freely, apparently not realizing that the men’s language skills were weak. Nankiwi, whom the missionaries nicknamed “George”, showed interest in their aircraft, so Saint took off with him aboard. They first completed a circuit around the camp, but Nankiwi appeared eager for a second trip, so they flew toward Terminal City. Upon reaching a familiar clearing, Nankiwi recognized his neighbors, and leaning out of the plane, wildly waved and shouted to them. Later that afternoon, the younger woman became restless, and though the missionaries offered their visitors sleeping quarters, Nankiwi and the young woman left the beach with little explanation. The older woman apparently had more interest in conversing with the missionaries, and remained there most of the night.

After seeing Nankiwi in the plane, a small group of Huaorani decided to make the trip to Palm Beach, and left the following morning, January 7. On the way, they encountered Nankiwi and the girl, returning unescorted. The girl’s brother, Nampa, was furious at this, and to defuse the situation and divert attention from himself, Nankiwi claimed that the foreigners had attacked them on the beach, and in their haste to flee, they had been separated from their chaperone. Gikita, a senior member of the group whose experience with outsiders had taught him that they could not be trusted, recommended that they kill the foreigners. The return of the older woman and her account of the friendliness of the missionaries was not enough to dissuade them, and they soon continued toward the beach.

On January 8 the missionaries waited, expecting a larger group of Huaorani to arrive sometime that afternoon, if only to get plane rides. Saint made several trips over Huaorani settlements, and on the following morning he noted a group of Huaorani men traveling toward Palm Beach. He excitedly relayed this information to his wife over the radio at 12:30 p.m., promising to make contact again at 4:30 p.m.

The Huaorani arrived at Palm Beach around 3:00 p.m., and in order to divide the foreigners before attacking them, they sent three women to the other side of the river. One, Dawa, remained hidden in the jungle, but the other two showed themselves. Two of the missionaries waded into the water to greet them, but were attacked from behind by Nampa. Apparently attempting to scare him, Elliot, the first missionary to be speared, drew his pistol and began firing. One of these shots mildly injured Dawa, still hidden, and another grazed the missionary’s attacker after he was grabbed from behind by one of the women.  . . .

The other missionary in the river, Fleming, before being speared, desperately reiterated friendly overtures and asked the Huaorani why they were killing them. Meanwhile, the other Huaorani warriors, led by Gikita, attacked the three missionaries still on the beach, spearing Saint first, then McCully as he rushed to stop them. Youderian ran to the airplane to get to the radio, but he was speared as he picked up the microphone to report the attack. The Huaorani then threw the men’s bodies and their belongings in the river, and ripped the fabric from their aircraft. They then returned to their village and, anticipating retribution, burned it to the ground and fled into the jungle.

By January 13, four of the bodies had been identified, and one had washed away.

You can watch the story here of what happened afterward in the providence of God:

For excellent theological reflections on all of this, see this new piece by John Piper: “Slain in the Shadow of the Almighty.”

“They were killed with the sword.

They [were men] of whom the world was not worthy.”

—Hebrews 11:37-38

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The 8-Point Social-Media Apostasy of Alan Jacobs

Jan 04, 2016 | Justin Taylor

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 8.46.51 AM

Alan Jacobs—Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University and a writer on culture and technology (among many other things)—recently detailed his plans to scale back his use of technology (unfollowing everyone on Twitter, dropping Tumblr and Instagram, writing by hand, listening to music on CDs rather than iTunes, and using a dumb phone instead of a smart phone).

After receiving some pushback on these changes, he wrote a follow-up post that I strongly resonate with, even if I myself am still too slow to implement all of these ideals. In particular, he suggested eight points that cut against the grain of so much thinking today on social media:

  • I don’t have to say something just because everyone around me is.
  • I don’t have to speak about things I know little or nothing about.
  • I don’t have to speak about issues that will be totally forgotten in a few weeks or months by the people who at this moment are most strenuously demanding a response.
  • I don’t have to spend my time in environments that press me to speak without knowledge.
  • If I can bring to an issue heat, but no light, it is probably best that I remain silent.
  • Private communication can be more valuable than public.
  • Delayed communication, made when people have had time to think and to calm their emotions, is almost always more valuable than immediate reaction.
  • Some conversations are be more meaningful and effective in living rooms, or at dinner tables, than in the middle of Main Street.

He continues:

In short, peer pressure is always terrible, and social media are a megaphone for peer pressure. And when you use that megaphone all the time you tend to forget that it’s possible to speak at a normal volume. . . .

I spent about seven years reading replies to my tweets, and more than a decade reading comments on my blog posts. I have considered the costs and benefits, and I have firmly decided that I’m not going to be held hostage to that stuff any more. The chief reason is not that people are ill-tempered or dim-witted — though Lord knows one of those descriptors is accurate for a distressingly large number of social-media communications — but that so many of them are blown about by every wind of social-media doctrine, their attention swamped by the tsunamis of the moment, their wills captive to the felt need to respond now to what everyone else is responding to now.

You can read the whole thing here.

I don’t think this requires everyone—or anyone!—to make the exact same choice that Jacobs has made (though perhaps more of us should consider it). But when we do post (or tweet, or update, or what have you), the following questions from Kevin DeYoung are worth keeping in mind:

  1. Is this idea, question, or rant only half baked?
  2. Have I considered that anyone anywhere at anytime could see this?
  3. Do I really know what I’m talking about?
  4. What if I run into this person later today?
  5. Will I feel good about this post later?
  6. Have I sought the counsel of others?
  7. Do I have this person’s phone number?
  8. What is my motivation?
  9. Have I tried to love my neighbor as I love myself?
  10. Have I lost all sense of proportion?

You can read Kevin’s explanation of each point here.

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Christ-Centered Lyrics for Auld Lang Syne

Dec 31, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive

To you who boast tomorrow’s gain
Tell me what is your life
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing,
All glory be to Christ!

His will be done
His kingdom come
On earth as is above
Who is Himself our daily bread
Praise Him the Lord of love

Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing,
All glory be to Christ!

When on the day the great I Am
The faithful and the true
The Lamb who was for sinners slain
Is making all things new.

Behold our God shall live with us
And be our steadfast light
And we shall ere his people be
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing,
All glory be to Christ!

From the new EP “LIVE IN SEASON” available for free at

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A Recording of Charles Spurgeon’s Son Reading from His Final Sermon

Dec 31, 2015 | Justin Taylor


Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) and his wife Susannah were married on January 8, 1856. He was 21, she was 23. Susannah became pregnant right away with fraternal twins. Charles Jr. and Thomas Spurgeon (1856-1917) were born later that year in September, just a month prior to the tragedy at the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall while Charles was preaching.

After Charles Spurgeon died in 1892, his son Thomas returned to England from New Zealand and served for 15 years as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

The comparisons between father and son were inevitable, as W.Y. Fullerton recorded in his 1909 biography:

Seen from the midst of the congregation he is not very dissimilar in appearance from his father. There is the frock coat, the little black tie, the quiet self-possessed demeanour, the clear, studied articulation; a voice, not quite that of Charles Spurgeon, not quite so strong and not quite so musical, so marvellously expressive and flexible, as his father’s, but clear and pleasant and melodious, and with many of the late pastor’s modulations and inflexions.

175px-Thomasspurgeonbi00fullrich_0010When presently, after the manner of the great preacher, he breaks off from the chapter he is reading and begins to comment upon it, it immediately becomes apparent that he has the same ready fluency of speech, the same easy, familiar style of address, and when he announces his text and plunges into his sermon, he soon shows himself not altogether lacking in the racy way of putting things, the terse and vigorous English, and the strong sense of humour that were so characteristic of the Tabernacle pulpit for many a long year.

Many of the gifts of his father—though no doubt in smaller measure—he certainly possesses, and every here and there one might have shut one’s eyes and fancied that it was the old pastor back again.

During Thomas Spurgeon’s pastorate—August 2, 1905, to be precise—he spoke into a Edison-Bell phonograph, recording the closing paragraph of his father’s final printed sermon. Since no audio exists of the Prince of Preachers himself, the following is the closest we have. (Many thanks to Barry Jordan, who took the original recording and cleaned it up for us.)

Click here to hear the audio recording.



C. H. Spurgeon’s last words, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, June 7, 1891, recited by his son and successor, Thomas Spurgeon, Edison-Bell Records.

It is cause for real regret that none of my late, dear father’s words were preserved by means of the phonograph. Perhaps the next best thing is for me, his son and successor, to repeat what proved to be his passing message. It should not be less forceful now, fourteen years after its delivery, for the truth of God is unchanging.

If you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls.

He is the most magnanimous of captains.

There never was his like the choicest of princes.

He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle.

When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill.

The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders.

If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also.

If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him.

His service is life, peace, and joy.

Oh, that you would enter on it at once!

God help you to enlist under the banner of JESUS CHRIST!

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Reading the Whole Bible in 2016: An FAQ

Dec 28, 2015 | Justin Taylor


How long does it take to read through the entire Bible in a year?

Less than 10 minutes a day.

(There are about 775,000 words in the Bible. Divided by 365, that’s 2,123 words a day. The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute. So 2,123 words/day divided by 225 words/minute equals 9.4 minutes a day.]

If you want to listen to a narrator read the Bible (which you can do so for free at, they are usually about 75 hours long total, which means at 12 minutes a day you can listen to the whole Bible in a year.

(For those who like details, here’s a webpage devoted to how long it takes to read each book of the Bible. And if you want a simple but beautiful handout, where every Bible chapter has a box, go here.)

Does the Bible ever command us to read the whole Bible in a year?

No. What is commends is knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and meditating or storing or ruminating upon God’s self-disclosure to us in written form (Deut. 6:7; 32:46; Ps. 119:11, 15, 23, 93, 99; 143:5). It is compared to bread and water—not nice things to have when there is time but that which is essential for survival.

The point is not to check off a list or punch in your time but rather to meditate on the Word in such a way that your mind, heart, and actions are transformed in a godly, gospel-drawn way.

As Joel Beeke writes:

As oil lubricates an engine, so meditation facilitates the diligent use of means of grace (reading of Scripture, hearing sermons, prayer, and all other ordinances of Christ), deepens the marks of grace (repentance, faith, humility), and strengthens one’s relationships to others (love to God, to fellow Christians, to one’s neighbors at large).

Thomas Watson put it like this:

A Christian without meditation is like a solider without arms, or a workman without tools. Without meditation the truths of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory is slippery, and without meditation all is lost.

So reading the Bible cover to cover is a great way to facilitate meditation upon the whole counsel of God.

Despite our good intentions, why don’t more Christians read the Bible in a year?

Simple resolutions are often well-intentioned but insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan. As John Piper has written, “Nothing but the simplest impulses gets accomplished without some forethought which we call a plan.”

What are some helps for reading the Bible in a year?

esvdrb A Specially Designed Bible

Some Bibles are designed to facilitate daily Bible reading. There are several options to choose from.

For example, Crossway offers the ESV Daily Reading BibleThe readings are laid out for each day of the year—January 1 through December 31—using the popular M’Cheyne reading plan, such that you read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice. You can download an excerpt or watch a quick video below to get a feel for how this works:

For multiple bindings of the ESV Daily Reading Bible, go here.]

9781581347081There is also the One-Year Bible in the ESV. Again, the whole Bible is divided up for you into 365 daily readings. In this Bible, you would read from the Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm, and a Proverb each day.

The nice thing about Bibles like this is that you don’t need to have a plan alongside you, and you don’t need to flip around to your next reading—all the work is done for you.

On the other hand, this is not the sort of Bible that you could bring to a Bible study or to church, because it’d be difficult to locate a passage quickly.

Also be aware that because there is a reading for every single day, it can be easy to fall behind. In other words, unlike some of the plans below, there is no “grace period” built in for catch-up days.

Bible Reading Plans that Can Be Used with Any Bible

1. Let’s start with the most doable of the plans: Stephen Witmer’s two-year-Bible reading plan. Stephen writes: ”In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.” His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs. At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

2. Already mentioned above, the Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading plan, developed by the 19th century Scottish pastor, has been widely used for Bible reading. The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a daily meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day. (For a print version of Carson’s books, see volume 1 and volume 2.)

3. Jason DeRouchie offers his KINGDOM Bible Reading Plan, which has the following distinctives:

  • Proportionate weight is given to the Old and New Testaments in view of their relative length, the Old receiving three readings per day and the New getting one reading per day.
  • The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44—Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day.
  • In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once; the second reading of Psalms (highlighted in gray) supplements the readings through the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy).
  • Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions.
  • The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).

4. Trent Hunter’s The Bible-Eater Plan is an innovative approach that has you reading whole chapters, along with quarterly attention to specific books. The plan especially highlights OT chapters that are crucial to the storyline of Scripture and redemptive fulfillment in Christ.

5. For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider Andy Perry’s Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers. It takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)

6. There is the Legacy Reading Plan. Here is a description:

The overarching objective of the Legacy Reading Plan is to read through the Bible once a year, every year for the rest of your life. The reading calendar is naturally segmented into seasons and the seasons into months. At the beginning of each year you know that during the winter your focus will be on the Pentateuch and Poetry (249 chapters); in spring, the Historical books (249 chapters); in summer the Prophets (250 chapters); and during the fall, the New Testament (260 chapter). Each season is further broken down into months. Thus every January your goal is to read through Genesis and Exodus and every December the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. There are times when you will naturally read ten chapters at a time and others when you will read one or two. More importantly you will read the Bible just as you read other literature.

If you use this plan, it may be helpful also to have something like this on hand.

7. Finally, here is a 5-day-a-week Bible reading plan recommended by Melissa Kruger. She likes that it allows for flexibility (despite our best intentions, it’s easy to fall behind with a 365-day plan). She also likes it better than traditional chronological-reading plans:

The one downside of the chronological plan was that I didn’t get to the New Testament until October. I prefer a plan that allows me to read them side-by-side throughout the year. In this 5-day plan, the Old Testament is arranged chronologically, and there is a New Testament reading every day. I appreciated the way they grouped the New Testament readings. The gospels are not in chronological order, but spaced throughout the year, one for each season. And, they are done in such a way that you begin with Mark (the first gospel), and then read some of the early epistles of Paul. Then around March, you’ll be in Luke and read it alongside Acts (same author). I read John last month, along with his three letters and Revelation. Basically, I love how it’s all laid out. It gives you the benefit of the chronological ordering for the OT alongside an engaging plan for the New Testament. Truly, I haven’t read a plan that I like better.

What are some online Bible reading plans?

There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:

  • web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
  • RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
  • podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
  • iCal (download an iCalendar file)
  • mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
  • print (download a PDF of the whole plan)

Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible)
RSS | iCal | Mobile | Print | Email

Daily Office Lectionary
Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels
RSS | iCal | Mobile | Print | Email

Daily Reading Bible
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms
RSS | iCal | Mobile | Print | Email

ESV Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS | iCal | Mobile | Print | Email

Literary Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS | iCal | Mobile | Print | Email

M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels
RSS | iCal | Mobile | Print | Email

Try this to access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:

  • Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
  • Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  • Start iTunes.
  • Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
  • Paste the URL into the box.
  • Click OK.

What are the best options for listening to the Bible?

If you go to the ESV Bible site, there’s an audio button at the top (“Listen”) that allows you to listen to the whole Bible free of charge.

You can also purchase various audio Bibles, but I would recommend the dramatized NKJV Word of Promise Audio Bible. (If you’re an Audible subscriber, it’s much less expensive here than getting the CDs.) With various actors voicing the part, and with appropriate music and some sound effects, I think it’s a great experience in bringing various parts of the Word alive in a fresh way.

What are some resources to help me understand the storyline of Scripture and how to read Scripture well?

Here are some good, short books books on the big picture of the Bible:

Here are some on reading the Bible responsibly:

For a focus on the Old Testament, see (in increasing order of level):

For a focus on the New Testament, see:

For a whole-Bible theology books, see:

For special attention to seeing Christ in the Old Testament, note in particular:

Any books to help children catch the biblical storyline?

For helping children trace the storyline of Scripture, see:

Note that with the Helm book, Crossway has now released a whole set of corresponding materials in the series: including an innovative Scripture memory/catechism of redemptive history, a free audio book, and a family devotional.

Without having to go buy a book, can you give me a quick flyby course on putting together the biblical storyline?

As you read through the Bible, here’s a chart you may want to to print out and have on hand. It’s from Goldsworthy’s book According to Plan. It simplified, of course, but it can be helpful in locating where you’re at in the biblical storyline and seeing the history of Israel “at a glance.”

Goldsworthy’s outline is below. You can also download this as a PDF (posted with permission).

Screen shot 2009-12-23 at 10.34.55 PM

Taken from According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy. Copyright(c) Graeme Goldsworthy 1991. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515 ( and Inter-Varsity Press, Norton Street, Nottingham NG7 3HR England (

Creation by Word Genesis 1 and 2
The Fall Genesis 3
First Revelation of Redemption Genesis 4-11
Abraham Our Father Genesis 12-50
Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption Exodus 1-15
New Life: Gift and Task Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
The Temptation in the Wilderness Numbers; Deuteronomy
Into the Good Land Joshua; Judges; Ruth
God’s Rule in God’s Land 1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
The Fading Shadow 1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
There Is a New Creation Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The Second Exodus Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
The New Creation for Us Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The New Creation in Us Initiated Acts
The New Creation in Us Now New Testament Epistles
The New Creation Consummated The New Testament

Below are Goldsworthy’s summaries of each section.

Creation by Word
Genesis 1 and 2
In the beginning God created everything that exists. He made Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. God spoke to them and gave them certain tasks in the world. For food he allowed them the fruit of all the trees in the garden except one. He warned them that they would die if they ate of that one tree.

The Fall
Genesis 3
The snake persuaded Eve to disobey God and to eat the forbidden fruit. She gave some to Adam and he ate also. Then God spoke to them in judgment, and sent them out of the garden into a world that came under the same judgment.

First Revelation of Redemption
Genesis 4-11
Outside Eden, Cain and Abel were born to Adam and eve. Cain murdered Abel and Eve bore another son, Seth. Eventually the human race became so wicked that God determined to destroy every living thing with a flood. Noah and his family were saved by building a great boat at God’s command. The human race began again with Noah and his three sons with their families. Sometime after the flood a still unified human race attempted a godless act to assert its power in the building of a high tower. God thwarted these plans by scattering the people and confusing their language.

Abraham Our Father
Genesis 12-50
Sometime in the early second millennium BC God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia to Canaan. He promised to give this land to Abraham’s descendants and to bless them as his people. Abraham went, and many years later he had a son, Isaac. Isaac in rum had two sons, Esau and Jacob. The promises of God were established with Jacob and his descendants. He had twelve sons, and in time they all went to live in Egypt because of famine in Canaan.

Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption
Exodus 1-15
In time the descendants of Jacob living in Egypt multiplied to become a very large number of people. The Egyptians no longer regarded them with friendliness and made them slaves. God appointed Moses to be the one who would lead Israel out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. When the moment came for Moses to demand the freedom of his people, the Pharaoh refused to let them go. Though Moses worked ten miracle-plagues which brought hardship, destruction, and death to the Egyptians. Finally, Pharaoh let Israel go, but then pursued them and trapped them at the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds). The God opened a way in the sea for Israel to cross on dry land, but closed the water over the Egyptian army, destroying it.

New Life: Gift and Task
Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
After their release from Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai. There God gave them his law which they were commanded to keep. At one point Moses held a covenant renewal ceremony in which the covenant arrangement was sealed in blood. However, while Moses was away on the mountain, the people persuaded Aaron to fashion a golden calf. Thus they showed their inclination to forsake the covenant and to engage in idolatry. God also commanded the building of the tabernacle and gave all the rules of sacrificial worship by which Israel might approach him.

The Temptation in the Wilderness
Numbers; Deuteronomy
After giving the law to the Israelites at Sinai, God directed them to go in and take possession of the promised land. Fearing the inhabitants of Canaan, they refused to do so, thus showing lack of confidence in the promises of God. The whole adult generation that had come out of Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, was condemned to wander and die in the desert. Israel was forbidden to dispossess its kinsfolk, the nation of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, but was given victory over other nations that opposed it. Finally, forty years after leaving Egypt, Israel arrived in the Moabite territory on the east side of the Jordan. Here Moses prepared the people for their possession of Canaan, and commissioned Joshua as their new leader.

Into the Good Land
Joshua; Judges; Ruth
Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites crossed the Jordan and began the task of driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. After the conquest the land was divided between the tribes, each being allotted its own region. Only the tribe of Levi was without an inheritance of land because of its special priestly relationship to God. There remained pockets of Canaanites in the land and, from time to time, these threatened Israel’s hold on their new possession. From the one-man leaderships of Moses and Joshua, the nation moved into a period of relative instability during which judges exercised some measure of control over the affairs of the people.

God’s Rule in God’s Land
1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
Samuel became judge and prophet in all Israel at a time when the Philistines threatened the freedom of the nation. An earlier movement for kingship was received and the demand put to a reluctant Samuel. The first king, Saul, had a promising start to his reign but eventually showed himself unsuitable as the ruler of the covenant people. While Saul still reigned, David was anointed to succeed him. Because of Saul’s jealousy David became an outcast, but when Saul died in battle David returned and became king (about 1000 BC). Due to his success Israel became a powerful and stable nation. He established a central sanctuary at Jerusalem, and created a professional bureaucracy and permanent army. David’s son Solomon succeeded him (about 961 BC) and the prosperity of Israel continued. The building of the temple at Jerusalem was one of Solomon’s most notable achievements.

The Fading Shadow
1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
Solomon allowed political considerations and personal ambitions to sour his relationship with God, and this in turn had a bad effect on the life of Israel. Solomon’s son began an oppressive rule which led to the rebellion of the northern tribes and the division of the kingdom. Although there were some political and religious high points, both kingdoms went into decline, A new breed of prophets warned against the direction of national life, but matters went from bad to worse. In 722 BC the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the power of the Assyrian empire. Then, in 586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah was devastated by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and a large part of the population was deported to Babylon.

There Is a New Creation
Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The prophets of Israel warned of the doom that would befall the nation. When the first exiles were taken to Babylon in 597 BC, Ezekiel was among them. Both prophets ministered to the exiles. Life for the Jews (the people of Judah) in Babylon was not all bad, and in time many prospered. The books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel indicate a certain normality to the experience, while Daniel and Esther highlight some of the difficulties and suffering experienced in an alien and oppressive culture.

The Second Exodus
Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
In 539 BC Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire. The following year, Cyrus the king allowed the Jews to return home and to set up a Jewish state within the Persian empire. Great difficulty was experienced in re-establishing the nation. There was local opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Many of the Jews did not return but stayed on in the land of their exile. In the latter part of the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire. The Jews entered a long and difficult period in which Greek culture and religion challenged their trust in God’s covenant promises. In 63 BC Pompey conquered Palestine and the Jews found themselves a province of the Roman empire.

The New Creation for Us
Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The province of Judea, the homeland of the Jews, came under Roman rule in 63 BC. During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Jesus was born at Bethlehem, probably about the year 4 BC. John, known as the Baptist, prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. This ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing began with Jesus’ baptism and lasted about three years. Growing conflict with the Jews and their religious leaders led eventually to Jesus being sentenced to death by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He was executed by the Romans just outside Jerusalem, but rose from death two days afterward and appealed to his followers on a number of occasions. After a period with them, Jesus was taken up to heaven.

The New Creation in Us Initiated
After Jesus had ascended, his disciples waited in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began the task of proclaiming Jesus. As the missionary implications of the gospel became clearer to the first Christians, the local proclamation was extended to world evangelization. The apostle Paul took the gospel to Asia Minor and Greece, establishing many churches as he went. Eventually a church flourished at the heart of the empire of Rome.

The New Creation in Us Now
New Testament Epistles
As the gospel made inroads into pagan societies it encountered many philosophies and non-Christian ideas which challenged the apostolic message. The New Testament epistles shows that the kind of pressures to adopt pagan ideas that had existed for the people of God in Old Testament times were also a constant threat to the churches. The real danger to Christian teaching was not so much in direct attacks upon it, but rather in the subtle distortion of Christian ideas. Among the troublemakers were the Judaizers who added Jewish law-keeping to the gospel. The Gnostics also undermined the gospel with elements of Greek philosophy and religion.

The New Creation Consummated
The New Testament
God is Lord over history and therefore, when he so desires, he can cause the events of the future to be recorded. All section of the New Testament contain references to things which have not yet happened, the most significant being the return of Christ and the consummation of the kingdom of God. No clues to the actual chronology are given, but it is certain that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. The old creation will be undone and the new creation will take its place.

Another helpful guide comes from David Talley’s The Story of the Old Testament.

He points out that the majority of the OT story or narrative is found in the following 11 books:

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Numbers
  4. Joshua
  5. Judges
  6. 1 Samuel
  7. 2 Samuel
  8. 1 Kings
  9. 2 Kings
  10. Ezra
  11. Nehemiah

He writes:

If you were to read these eleven books, beginning with Genesis and reading them in succession to Nehemiah, you would read through almost the entire story of the Old Testament. The reason it must be stated that it is “almost the entire story” is because there are some additional stories isolated in parts of other books.

This is a really helpful pedagogical move, as it allows readers to distinguish between the main ongoing narrative and then to examine the way the other 28 books of the OT interpret, reinforce, and supplement this storyline.

Below is his summary of the story through these 11 books.


Genesis begins THE STORY by providing the narrative of the beginning of the world in the first eleven chapters. In these chapters, the story progresses through 20+ generations of people. The goal is to get the story to Abram (Abraham).  So these chapters cover a very long time period . . .  and, as a result, can obviously focus on very few details.   The remaining chapters of the book provide the narrative for the early beginnings of the nation of Israel through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and concluding with the family of Jacob in Egypt. Then THE STORY slows down, focusing on only four generations of people. The purpose is to provide a “skeleton” of information about the background of everything that leads up to Israel being in Egypt, awaiting the redemption of the Lord.


Exodus picks up THE STORY from Genesis as evidenced by an overlapping connection with Joseph going to down to Egypt, being used by God to preserve Jacob’s family. After Joseph dies, Exodus continues the narrative by 1) recounting the nation’s hardships in Egypt, 2) demonstrating God’s miraculous work of judgment against Egypt and redemption of Israel in the exodus from Egypt to Mt Sinai, 3) providing the establishment of his covenant with Israel, and 4) explaining the building of the Tabernacle so that God can dwell in their midst. Whereas Genesis covers 24-plus generations, Exodus concerns only the life of Moses (his life actually continues to the end of Deuteronomy, the remainder of the Pentateuch). The family of Jacob grows into a nation with whom God makes a covenant. All of this is preparation for taking the nation to the Promised Land.


Numbers continues THE STORY for us, narrating the developments taking place as Israel prepares to take the land. All of the contents occur in Moses’ generation. After the completion of the Tabernacle, this book conveys the story of the organization of the nation, their departure from Mt. Sinai, and the subsequent disobedience of this first generation when they refuse to take the land. The resulting judgment is 40 years of wilderness wanderings, which is also found in this book though not in much detail. We do not have a lot of information about this 40-year time period because the focus of the book is to get us to the border of the Promised Land. The book closes with the preparation of the second generation (after the exodus) in taking the land of Canaan.


The book of Joshua connects to the previous books by beginning with a reference to Moses’ death. (Recall, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his sin when he struck the rock rather than spoke to it.) The leadership of the people for the task of entering the Promised Land is transferred and entrusted to Joshua. The narrative in this book continues THE STORY by providing the events of Israel entering the land by focusing on the conquest, division, and initial settling of the land of Canaan during the life of Joshua.


Judges continues THE STORY by overlapping with the end of the book of Joshua with its focus on the details of Joshua’s death. Since the land has already been settled, this book provides a glimpse of the early years in the land when Israel was led by judges. This period marked by the rule of the judges is summarized by utilizing a similar cycle evidenced by each generation. The cycle is simple, yet disturbing. Each generation is characterized by eventual rebellion, followed by God’s judgment, their crying out to the Lord, the Lord raising up of a deliverer, the actual deliverance, and a subsequent return to obedience for a period of time until the cycle repeats itself. Consequently, many generations are covered as the author seeks to make it clear what this time period was like for Israel. When they are disobedient, there are consequences, but, when they walk in faithfulness, the Lord in his mercy restores them to a place of blessing.

1-2 Samuel

The era of the judges continues into the books of Samuel. Samuel is a judge, but he moves THE STORY from the period of the judges into the period of the kingdom. These two books include the transition from the leadership of the last judge (Samuel) to the beginning of (under King Saul’s leadership) and establishment of (under King David’s leadership) the kingdom. It is also the necessary foundation to the books that follow.

1-2 Kings

The books of Kings naturally flow out of the books that introduce the kingdom, especially with the overlap of the end of King David’s life. Connecting to the end of the books of Samuel, the books of Kings begin with the latter years of King David’s life, culminating in the transfer of leadership to Solomon as the new king and the story of King David’s death. King Solomon is the focus immediately after King David’s death, and, after his unfaithfulness and the subsequent division of the kingdom, the remaining pages summarize the lives of the kings of the divided (northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah) and the solitary kingdom (southern kingdom of Judah alone). THE STORY points to the “glory” of the kingdom (under King Solomon’s leadership) and the division of the kingdom into the northern kingdom, until this kingdom goes into exile, and southern kingdom, until this kingdom goes into exile, which is the seeming end of the nation as a whole.


At this point we have the exile. The nation is taken out of the land. There are many events that happen during this time, which are part of the growth and formation of the nation. The land is the focus in the Old Testament, so in many ways, and for our purposes, THE STORY takes a 70-year hiatus. But God is not done. His story continues.

Ezra and Nehemiah

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah continue THE STORY by reversing the removal of the people from the land. They now return. After the 70 years of exile are over, these books record the three returns to the land under the leadership of Zerrubabel (to rebuild the Temple), Ezra, and Nehemiah (to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem). The purpose of these returns is ultimately concerned with preparing for the coming Messiah and the restoration of the kingdom. However, each return also includes the many reforms that the people must make along the way. God is continuing his work.

So note very clearly that THE STORY of the Old Testament ends with the book of Nehemiah. Yes, Nehemiah. It is not that God is done with his people. It is just that God will resume his story with the coming of the Messiah, which occurs in the gospels in the New Testament. The end of the Old Testament is one of anticipation, the anticipation of the good news of the gospel in the coming Messiah.

The prophets add to this anticipation as these books begin to fill in certain details about what God is up to, what he is going to do, and when it is going to happen.

The Old Testament is actually the “first testament” or the prelude to the New Testament. Both testaments contain God’s story.

If you want to hear two 10-minute talks overviewing first the message of the Old Testament and then the message of the New Testament, you can watch Jason DeRouchie and Andy Naselli—professors at Bethlehem College and Seminary—below:

Finally, The Bible Project is producing some great, free resources: sophisticated animation that provides an overview of each book of the Bible.

They’ve set up a new Bible reading plan, and if you sign up with them you can get a short animated video about the book’s design and message as you come to it in your plan.

Here are the videos they have produced so far:

The First Five Books

The most recent additions are on the books of Ruth, Job, and the Psalms:


Biblical Themes through the Entire Narrative of the Bible

They have done several of these so far:


Book Overviews (Literary Structure and Flow of Thought for Each Bible Book)
They have covered several books so far:

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