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Reading Classics Together

October 02, 2010

Last week I told you about the next classic work of the Christian faith that I’d like to read along with you. You can see that post here. Today I simply want to remind you about this, to see who else would like to participate (Thanks to the 100+ who already siad they’re interested!) and to remind all of you to go out and buy the book.

The format of this program is simple: every week we read a chapter or a section of a classic of the Christian faith and then on Thursday we check in at my blog to discuss it. It’s that easy: one chapter per week.

The Holiness of GodThe next book I want to read with you is R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God. I am convinced that this is destined to be a classic in its own right—one that will be read 50 and 100 years from now. James Montgomery Boice agreed saying, “It may be a bit early to call R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God one of the classic theological works of our time. But if it does not have that status yet, it is well on the way to achieving it.”

Now celebrating 25 years of publication, this classic can help you better understand the biblical picture of God’s awesome holiness and why it is so foundational to God-centered, God-honoring theology and Christian living. In The Holiness of God , R.C. Sproul demonstrates that encountering God’s holy presence is a terrifying experience. Dr. Sproul argues that this struggle is nonetheless necessary because it is the only way to cure our propensity to trust in ourselves and our own righteousness for salvation.

This is the kind of book that every Christian should read and the kind that is ideally suited for reading more than once. So if you have read it before, don’t think that means you can’t read it with us again.

Let’s start reading together on October 14. That gives you just about two more weeks to find a copy of the book, something that will not prove difficult since it is very widely available. For October 14 please get ahold of a copy of the book and read the first chapter. And then simply return to the blog on that day and we can compare notes.

Now, you need to get a copy. Westminster Books has it at $9.09. Amazon has it at $10.07 or $9.57 for the Kindle. And if you’d like to go straight to the source, to Ligonier Ministries, you can find it there for $8.40 or in the exclusive pocket-size edition for just $4.00 (It is also avaiable in Spanish, if you prefer).

So go ahead and get yourself a copy. And then let me know if you intend to read along with us. Just leave a comment…

September 23, 2010

Several years ago I introduced a program called Reading Classics Together. The impetus for this project was the simple realization that, though many Christians want to read through the classics of the faith, few of us have the motivation to actually make it happen. I know this was long the case for me. This program allows us to read such classic works together, providing both a level of accountability and the added interest of comparing notes as we read in community. Those who have participated in each of the programs will now have read Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross by A.W. Pink, The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Real Christianity by William Wilberforce, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray, The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes and, most recently, in trying something a little bit different, Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore. That is quite a solid collection of classics! I have benefited immensely from reading these books and know that others have, too.

The format is simple: every week we read a chapter or a section of a classic of the Christian faith and then on Thursday we check in at my blog to discuss it. It’s that easy: one chapter per week.

The Holiness of GodIt has been a few weeks now since we finished reading the last classic together and that makes it time to announce the next book we’ll be reading. Ignoring the brief break we took to read a biography, the last classic we read together was from the Puritan era. I thought it would make sense to zoom forward in history to almost the present day. The next book I want to read with you is R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God. I am convinced that this is destined to be a classic in its own right—one that will be read 50 and 100 years from now. James Montgomery Boice agreed saying, “It may be a bit early to call R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God one of the classic theological works of our time. But if it does not have that status yet, it is well on the way to achieving it.”

Now celebrating 25 years of publication, this classic can help you better understand the biblical picture of God’s awesome holiness and why it is so foundational to God-centered, God-honoring theology and Christian living. In The Holiness of God , R.C. Sproul demonstrates that encountering God’s holy presence is a terrifying experience. Dr. Sproul argues that this struggle is nonetheless necessary because it is the only way to cure our propensity to trust in ourselves and our own righteousness for salvation.

This is the kind of book that every Christian should read and the kind that is ideally suited for reading more than once. So if you have read it before, don’t think that means you can’t read it with us again.

Let’s start reading together on October 14. That gives you three weeks to find a copy of the book, something that will not prove difficult since it is very widely available. For October 14 please get ahold of a copy of the book and read the first chapter. And then simply return to the blog on that day and we can compare notes.

Now, you need to get a copy. Westminster Books has it at $13.99. Amazon has it at $10.07 or $9.57 for the Kindle. And if you’d like to go straight to the source, to Ligonier Ministries, you can find it there for $8.40 or in the exclusive pocket-size edition for just $4.00 (It is also avaiable in Spanish, if you prefer).

So go ahead and get yourself a copy. And then let me know if you intend to read along with us. Just leave a comment…

September 02, 2010

Today we come to our final reading on the life of Spurgeon. This book has been a quick read, but an enjoyable one, I think.

This week’s chapters focused on the final days of Spurgeon’s life. Much of the content consisted in tributes to the man penned after his death. This is a good way of learning about his impact on those who were closest to him and those he served the most. Perhaps the best of these tributes comes from Archibald Brown, a pastor who led the graveside service during which Spurgeon was laid to rest. Here is how he memorialized his friend. It is worth reading not just to learn about Spurgeon but to see the hope of all Christians.

Beloved President, faithful Pastor, Prince of Preachers, brother beloved, dear Spurgeon—we bid thee not “Farewell,” but only for a little while “Goodnight.” Thou shalt rise soon at the first dawn of the Resurrection day of the redeemed. Yet is the goodnight not ours to bid, but thine; it is we who linger in the darkness; thou art in God’s holy light. Our night shall soon be passed, and with it all our weeping. Then, with thine, our songs shall greet the morning of a day that knows no cloud nor close; for there is no night there.

Hard worker in the field, thy toil is ended. Straight has been the furrow thou hast ploughed. No looking back has marred thy course. Harvests have followed thy patient sowing, and heaven is already rich with thine ingathered sheaves, and shall still be enriched through the years yet lying in eternity.

Champion of God, thy battle, long and nobly fought, is over; thy sword, which clave to thy hand, has dropped at last: a palm branch takes it place. No longer does the helmet press thy brow, oft weary with its surging thoughts of battle; a victor’s wreath from the great Commander’s hand has already proved thy full reward.

Here, for a little while, shall rest thy precious dust. Then shall thy Well-beloved come; and at His voice thou shalt spring from thy couch of earth, fashioned like unto His body, into glory. Then spirit, soul, and body shall magnify the Lord’s redemption. Until then, beloved, sleep. We praise God for thee, and by the blood of the everlasting covenant, hope and expect to praise God with thee. Amen.

I love the Victorian era! They were able to express things so well and with such interesting language. And there i think Brown gives us a good final word on Charles Spurgeon. He was a champion of God who rested at last from the long battle. “We praise God for thee, and by the blood of the everlasting covenant, hope and expect to praise God with thee.”

As we come to the end of Spurgeon’s life, I’d love to hear your reflections on him. And I’d love to hear whether you’d like to read another biography together, or if you’d prefer to go back to reading classic works of the faith.

Your Turn

The purpose of this program is to read biographies together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

August 26, 2010

Today we come to our second-to-last reading in Arnold Dallimore’s life of Charles Spurgeon. I’m grateful that some of you continue to read along with me even at this plodding pace of a couple of chapters per week.

This week’s chapters focused on just two aspects of Spurgeon’s life—his writing and the so-called Down-Grade Controversy.

Spurgeon was a prolific author. I’ve long been under the impression that the majority of the books published under his name were simply sermons that had been repurposed, but according to Dallimore he did write a very large number of original works. Of course his books of sermons were his most popular writings, being distributed in the hundreds of millions and being translated into all kinds of different languages from around the world. Among the most popular of his books were The Treasury of David, Commenting and Commentaries and John Plowman’s Talk. And, of course, we can’t forget the devotional works Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening, classics that are read and treasured today.

Besides the 140 books and thousands of sermons he preached, Spurgeon also wrote monthly for The Sword and the Trowel and maintained voluminous correspondence, typically writing some 500 letters each week (and, as Dallimore points out, he had to do this with a pen that had to be dipped in ink every few seconds…and he often had to do this while suffering from terrible arthritis). Biographers who wish to reconstruct the life of the man have a vast and almost insurmountable amount of writing to turn to.

August 19, 2010

I’m a little bit bleary-eyed this morning. Let me explain. Yesterday I got up early and hit the road before 6 AM. I made my way to Hudson, Ohio, about 5 hours away, where I met up with Bob Bevington and Kevin Meath who, along with me, are co-founders of Cruciform Press. I then spent several hours recording the audio version of Sexual Detox, had dinner and then drove 5 hours back home. It was a really long day!

As I suppose you know, I released Sexual Detox as a free e-book about a year ago. However, since then it has been improved and expanded and edited and will be the first title we release through Cruciform Press. Stay tuned in September for that! We’ve got one book releasing each month after that (some written by authors you know, some by authors you don’t know) and they are looking really, really good.

But I digress. I am going to just jot down a very few thoughts about this week’s reading in Dallimore’s Spurgeon: A New Biography. I think that’s about all my tired brain will be able to handle. I’ll leave those who have read along to fill in the gaps (there are a few of you left, right?).

This week’s chapters looked to the daily life of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, focused on ten especially important years of Spurgeon’s ministry and then sought to introduce the man in a slightly more intimate way by looking to some of his personal characteristics.

One thing I enjoyed reading was the interaction between Spurgeon and Moody. Here was one of history’s greatest evangelists expressing his love and admiration for one of history’s greatest preachers (and vice versa). The two men had great respect for one another and did not feel the least bit of jealousy or competition. Their ministries seemed to complement one another very well.

August 12, 2010

Today we continue our readings through Arnold Dallimore’s biography of Charles Spurgeon. I trust that some of you continue to read along as we make our way through it, a few chapters a week. I know it can be difficult to read at this sort of a pace—many of you have probably already finished it and have long since forgotten about it. But for the sake of reading together we’ll continue to at the current pace of 2 to 3 chapters per week.

This week we read about the almhouses and orphanages begun as a ministry of the church, we read about some of the illnesses that plagued Spurgeon and his wife and we read about Susannah Spurgeon and the work she did to encourage pastors and to support their families. Though she spent much of her life as a semi-invalid, she was active in ministry even from her bed.

The first chapter is one that would have gone well with last weeks’ reading as we looked at the vast number of ministries begun by Spurgeon and maintained through his church. Almhouses and orphanages were just two more of these, two more ministries that served the city (though in this case the almhouses were already in existence before Spurgeon arrived in London—they just grew under his watch). I wonder how many people in London today understand the influence of Spurgeon on their city, directly and indirectly, through his preaching ministry, through the tens of thousands who were saved, and through all of these ministries.

August 05, 2010

I’m a wee bit under the weather today and am calling this a sick day. Everyone in the family has had some sort of flu and/or some sort of strep in the past couple of weeks and to this point I’ve managed to avoid it. It may now have caught up with me. The timing is terribly inconvenient with that book deadline looming. Nevertheless, I trust this won’t last long. Because of all of that, there is no A La Carte today and this Reading Classics Together post is going to be somewhat abbreviated. You understand, I’m sure.

This week we read three chapters of Arnold Dallimore’s life of Charles Spurgeon, each of dealt with a single aspect of Spurgeon’s ministry. In the first chapter Dallimore discussed the building of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. This represented a huge building project and one that came at considerable cost (and a cost that grew substantially over time, which always seems to be the way of it). Spurgeon was opposed to borrowing money for the Lord’s work so insisted that the project be carried out debt-free. He did more than his fair share of the work in fundraising and the church opened in March of 1861. Dallimore points out that there was some significance in the building as it established Spurgeon as a permanent presence in London. The building told the whole world that Spurgeon was here to stay.

The second chapter dealt with Spurgeon’s Pastors’ College. Not surprisingly, Spurgeon found himself much in demand as a teacher and mentor and he decided to formalize his role in the lives of young men by establishing this Pastors’ College. Though it added a significant measure of work to his life, it is clear that he loved the college and loved the opportunity it afforded him to train up a whole new generation of pastors. One of the outgrowths of the college was his Lectures To My Students, a book that is still treasured today.

July 29, 2010

When reading about Charles Spurgeon you will be drawn to the unavoidable conclusion that he was a unique individual. He was uniquely gifted by God and then raised up to a unique ministry. There can never be another Charles Spurgeon.

I spent some time this morning pondering what is unique in Spurgeon’s background that would keep another Spurgeon from arising in our day. And I started to think about our media-saturated world. And i started to think about the character qualities exemplified by the Prince of Preachers. And I started to think about a lot of other things. And then I started writing and rambling.

From his earliest days Spurgeon was drawn to great writing by great authors. Even when he was just barely old enough to read, he was reading some of the greatest theological tomes ever written. Even in the youngest days of his ministry, when most pastors today are finishing up high school, he was able to quote widely and quote deeply from these great writers of days gone by, relying on a photographic memory (or a near-photographic memory) to recall what they had said. But he did not rely on mere recall; he had not just read these authors, but he had applied their words to his own life. From the day of his conversion he was exceptionally godly and almost unbelievably mature.

By the time Spurgeon was in his mid-teens he was already successfully pastoring a church. Already he was becoming known as the boy preacher and his fame was beginning to spread. Yet God had gifted him with an extraordinary humility and a profound sense of his utter dependence upon God. He would pray earnestly before he preached, throwing himself on God’s mercy and begging for God to be present with him and to give power to his words—power to change the hearts of his hearers. Though he was the Prince of Preachers, easily one of the greatest preachers the world has ever known, still he relied entirely upon God rather than upon his own skill. More rightly, his utter reliance was the root and the cause of the power in his words.

July 22, 2010

Today we continue reading Arnold Dallimore’s Spurgeon: A New Biography. Two weeks ago we read the first couple of chapters and, after a one-week vacation, we’re back today to look at chapters 3-6.

The four chapters we read for today covered a lot of ground (which is both a benefit and a drawback of a relatively short biography). We began in the days immediately following Spurgeon’s conversion, progressed to the days where he began his very first efforts to share the gospel with others and ended with marriage. Along the way he felt God’s call to preach, he became the Boy Preacher who accepted his first pastorate at just seventeen years of age, he was called to New Park Street Baptist Church and he fell in love with and soon married Susannah Thompson.

Let me mention just a few of the things that stood out to me.

July 08, 2010

You are familiar, I think, with the Reading Classics Together program. Over the past few years, I and many of the readers of this site have read a series of classics of the Christian faith. We’ve read them concurrently, a chapter or two at a time, and then have met up here at the blog once a week to discuss what we’ve read. After we finished the most recent version of this program (which saw us read The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes) I thought it would be fun to try something new. And thus I proposed that we read a biography together. Today we begin.

The biography we are reading together is Arnold Dallimore’s Spurgeon: A New Biography. Of course it’s not that new anymore, having been first printed in 1985. Nevertheless, it is a good biography and one that is thorough enough without being too long or too dense. Dallimore was a Canadian pastor and biographer who ministered not too far from where I live. He is best-known for his work on George Whitefield, a massive two-volume set that is still regarded as the definitive biography of the great evangelist. Tomorrow I’ll share a guest article written by Dallimore’s granddaughter and will allow her to introduce you to her her grandfather.

As we turn from classics of the faith to biographies, I am not entirely sure what I ought to maintain as a format as I try to share just a few thoughts on the week’s reading. So I may mix things up a little bit week-by-week as I attempt to find a workable format.

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