A Look at Books

GREAT PULPIT MASTERS. CHARLES H. SPURGEON, introduction by Andrew W. Blackwood. Baker, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1949, reprinted 1972. 256 pp., paper. DWIGHT L. MOODY, introduction by Charles R. Erdman. Baker, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1949, reprinted 1972. 256 pp., paper. R. A. TORREY, introduction by William Culbertson. Baker, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1950, reprinted 1972. 256 pp., paper. JOHN H. JOWETT, introduction by Elmer C. Homrighausen. Baker, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1950, reprinted 1972. 255 pp., paper. $2.95 each. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa.

To anyone who knows something about the history of the Christian church the names of these four men of the pulpit mean something. All but Spurgeon had at least some of their ministry in the United States. For 38 years Spurgeon preached the Gospel to large crowds in South London. Jowett, though an Englishman, spent a few years as pastor of the largc and famous Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church of New York. Previous to that he served at Carr’s Lane Church, Birmingham, England, as the successor of R. W. Dale. In 1918, he returned to London to become pastor of the justly famous Westminster Chapel, a place of worship famous through the later ministries of G. Campbell Morgan and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Torrey is famous as a Bible teacher-evangelist who became superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. And Moody was the colorful evangelist who took England and America by storm in the late 1800’s. All of these have a claim to fame when it comes to the pulpit.

Why have these four volumes been reproduced? This reviewer does not know the reason of the publisher. However, most likely it is not because the Christian reading public is demanding sermons for reading. That practice is falling into disrepute. Whatever may be the reason, the ministers and students of homiletics (preaching)—and all ministers should be this—will profit from these little volumes. It is always helpful to study the methods of the pulpit masters of the past. I recall a very helpful course in my seminary days when we studied great pulpiteers and their methods. Such a study can continue with volumes such as these. How did they approach their text? Did they stick with it? How did they apply it? What forms of introduction and conclusion were employed? Today, we hear a lot of bad preaching, so-called, and a lot of “sloppy” approaches to the Word of God. The pulpit masters of the past can teach us something.

Of course, in a collection such as this we find sermons of unequal value. Also, we find that a Reformed mind is deeply troubled by the Arminian emphasis here and there. We do not intend, however, to criticize the work of these giants who no longer walk this earth. All we intend to do is point out that Moody and Torrey represent in general one form of pulpit presentation while Spurgeon and Jowett, another. Moody and Torrey represent a topical form of preaching. Their messages are full to the brim with illustrations and examples (for instance, Moody‘s “Their Rock Is Not As Our Rock” or Torrey’s “Who, Then, Is Jesus?”). However, an understanding of the text chosen to head the sermon does not come through. Perhaps we can learn what not to do in our pulpits on Sunday.

Jowett was a preacher who stuck more closely tn his text. His sermons reflect wide reading and a particular literary beauty. As delightful as he is to read, however, his messages do not generally serve us with a meaty meal. Spurgeon was much more of a textual and exegetical preacher. He was a teacher. The introduction to his sermons is particularly helpful (as is the one in the volume of Jowett’s sermons). These sermons arc, for the most part, not published in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. Most of them are communion messages. Blackwood writes, “Never did he bring people closer to their Lord than at His Table.” The reading of only one of these messages proves what Blackwood writes.

In a day when preaching is a growing lost art, we ministers would do well to study the masters. And the people in the pew might gain some food for their souls by reading Jowett and Spurgeon, but especially Spurgeon.


NEW TESTAMENT FOUNDATIONS. A Guide for Christian Students. Volume I, the 4 Gospels. By Ralph P. Martin, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. $8.95. Reviewed by Rev. Simon Viss, retired CRC Minister, Ripon, California.

Ralph P. Martin is Professor of New Testament, at Fuller Theological Seminary, at Pasadena, California. This book is intended especially for seminary students, but any serious Bible student could profit from it. There are five main divisions. 1. Introducing the Gospels. 2. Backgrounds to the Gospels. 3. How the Gospels came to be written. 4. The four Gospels. 5. The sum of the matter.

Every Bible student should know the times in which the various writers lived. We are learning more about the period during which Jesus walked up and down the Holy Land. Martin’s book incorporates certain archeological discoveries which help us understand the Gospels. The Dead Sea Scrolls have been helpful in this area. Therefore it is important that new books be written to give us the best possible background of the Gospels. This is what the author has done.

The book gives valuable information about the intertestamentary period. Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Maccabees, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc., were all used by God to form the times that prevailed when the eternal Son of God became man. Soon after Jesus returned to heaven, heresies arose. Docetism, which was a denial of the full humanity of Jesus, is an example of one of these heresies. These are some of the many subjects treated in this book. This information is readily available by use nf the index. So the book would be a good addition to one’s library.

This reviewer must say, however, that he got a bit uneasy after reading about the various hypotheses in connection with the origin of thc Gospels. More emphasis could have been given on divine inspiration. I wondered too, about the date of Matthew’s Gospel, I read on page 243, “A date of publication in the ninth or final decades of the first century is therefore suitable, as we learn something of Judaism‘s vigorous reaction to the growing Gentile church at that time; and the place of origin in Syria is a likely possibility in view of the links with the DIDACHE and the tensions which were found in an area where Jews and Gentiles met and mingled.” On page ninety-seven of William Hendriksen’s commentary on Matthew, we read that this Gospel was written not later than A.D. 63–66. This would put the writing of Matthew’s Gospel within the very lifetime of the man whose name it bears. It would seem more reasonable to hold to the position that Matthew’s Gospel was extant during his very lifetime.

The title of this book presupposes at least one other volume dealing exclusively with the contents of the New Testament. This must be kept in mind when appraising this book. I say this in deference to the author. Let me add, however, that what is written about the origin, language and socalled problems which scholars have advanced may not impinge upon the faith of the reader in the reliability of Scripture. And certainly, today, it is important that our future ministers have a deep, unequivocal conviction that the Bible is indeed God’s infallible Word.