The Works of John Newton

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The Works of John Newton, New Edition. By John Newton. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015. 3032 pages in 4 volumes. Hardcover, $150.00.

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John Newton (1725–1807) was reared by a devout mother who taught him the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the responses to Isaac Watts’ A Short View of the Whole of Scripture History before his sixth birthday. She was overwhelmed by tuberculosis, and Newton joined his father (a ship’s captain) on the sea at the early age of ten. Newton’s life upon the sea culminated in his becoming a captain of his own slave-trading vessel. His experiences as a first mate and as a ship captain on these ships, eventually became his testimony before Parliament in the abolition effort. Early in his sea-faring career, Newton was known to be a vociferous atheist and blasphemer, however his spiritual trajectory had been altered during a storm that threatened his life. Though he did not view this as his moment of conversion, Newton often reflected on his deliverance from death and the marvelous grace of God on the anniversary of the storm. He applied for ordination in the Church of England, but was rejected for six years due to his relationship with George Whitefield and his “enthusiasm.” Eventually, he pastored in Olney for fifteen years where he befriended the tortured William Cowper who became an unofficial assistant helping Newton in his pastoral duties. One of the areas of Newton’s ministry that was most helped by Cowper was in the writing of hymns in order to help illustrate Newton’s sermons and to cement their lessons into the lives of his parishioners. One of those hymns, written by Newton, has become the most recognized and recorded song in history: Amazing Grace. Newton would go on to influence William Wilberforce and assist him in bringing an end to the slave-trade in England. He would pastor in London for thirty years before entering into his eternal reward.

In The Works of John Newton, New Edition, the Banner of Truth Trust has published Newton’s works in a new typeset with an increased size making it easier to read, and also condensing what was six volumes in the previous release into four. In doing so, the publisher has made Newton’s complete works more affordable. Apart from the type, the publisher notes, “A small number of words, which have radically altered their meaning over the years since Newton wrote, have been changed to avoid misunderstanding” (1:ix). Each of these changes were made in such a way as to make Newton’s writings more accessible than ever before.

Whereas in previous editions of Newton’s Works, the author’s autobiography, An Authentic Narrative, was incorporated into Richard Cecil’s introductory life of Newton, it is printed in whole in the new edition. This autobiography was published at the time of his appointment to Olney and drew congregants from as far as London to hear the famed Newton preach. As such, it is fitting that it be included in his works.

Interest in John Newton’s experience of God’s grace and the pastoral insight in his application of that grace to those in his charge has been revived in light of Tony Reinke’s Newton on the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015). In light of this renewed interest, and the great contribution of Newton’s personal testimony, this new edition of his Works provides a complete resource for those interested in studying him further, and will serve them well whether it be for academic, pastoral, or devotional purposes.

John Newton, The Works of John Newton


This review appears in the Southwestern Journal of Theology 59.2 (Spring 2017): 252-53.

Preach Christ, always and evermore. -C. H. Spurgeon

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The grand object of the Christian ministry is the glory of God. Whether souls are converted or not, if Jesus Christ be faithfully preached, the minister has not laboured in vain, for he is a sweet savour unto God as well in them that perish as in them that are saved. Yet as a rule, God has sent us to preach in order that through the gospel of Jesus Christ the sons of men may be reconciled to him. . . .
Preach CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme.

Charles H. Spurgeon in Lectures to my Students, 336, 79.

Newton on the Christian Life

Newton on the Christian Life: To Live is Christ. By Tony Reinke. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 285 pages. Paperback, $19.99.

jnxlIn the Theologians on the Christian Life series (edited by Stephen J. Nichols and Justin Taylor), Crossway challenges readers to look beyond the abundance of modern resources and towards the wisdom of those who have walked before them. The purpose of the series is “to help us in the present listen to the past” (13). This volume, written by Tony Reinke, staff writer and researcher at desiringGod.org, focuses on the eighteenth-century Anglican pastor, hymn-writer, and abolitionist, John Newton.

The book begins with a brief summary of the life of John Newton, yet this volume is not intended to be a biography. Reinke’s goal, instead, is to present the “cohesive theology” and “pastoral counsel” woven throughout Newton’s letters (30). Reinke provides his thesis-in-full in the introduction:

John Newton’s vision for the Christian life centers on the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Awakened to Christ by the new birth, and united to Christ by faith, the Christian passes through various stages of maturity in this life as he/she beholds and delights in Christ’s glory in Scripture. All along the pilgrimage of the Christian life—through the darkest personal trials, and despite indwelling sin and various character flaws—Christ’s glory is beheld and treasured, resulting in tastes of eternal joy, in growing security, and in progressive victory over the self, the world, and the devil—a victory manifested in self-emptying and other-loving obedience, and ultimately in a life aimed to please God alone (30).

According to Reinke, Newton perceived the entirety of the Christian life to center on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He writes, “Christ is the motto of the Christian life because Christ is the substance of the Christian life” (51). Therefore, Christ exists not only as the source, but is himself the “center, goal, and aim—the motto—of the Christian life” (65). In light of the centrality of Christ, “looking to him is the great duty of the Christian life” (69). Reinke explores Newton’s emphasis on looking to Christ in every aspect of the Christian life, from the reading of Scripture, to growing in holiness and walking through suffering.

Newton’s insight specifically toward those walking through trials and suffering is the great gift of this book. Many readers know of Newton as the writer of Amazing Grace or as the slave-boat captain turned abolitionist. Few have taken the initiative to study Newton’s pastoral counsel in-depth and to marvel at the manner in which he walked alongside those struggling with illness and depression while calling them to trust in the sovereign hand of God. Newton assures those walking through trials that “All shall work together for good: everything is needful that he sends; nothing can be needful that he withholds” (194-95).

Reinke’s sole criticism of Newton’s pastoral care is that he “fails to stress the atonement as proof of God’s particular love for each of his children” (262). He lists this as two separate criticisms: a failure to emphasize God’s “delight over his redeemed children” and “Christ’s definite atonement on their behalf,” yet they are connected inseparably (261-62). Reinke’s objection is that in Newton’s failure to emphasize the doctrine of definite atonement, he has failed to assure those under his care that God has not only forgiven them, but has set his love upon them as well.

Reinke acknowledges that, “while he appears to be a five-point Calvinist in creed,” Newton emphasizes the general nature of the atonement (262). Though Reinke can see the evangelistic benefit of this emphasis, he writes, “In his desire to see many sinners come to Christ, and possibly his desire to avoid becoming the centerpiece in theological debate, Newton’s ministry remains vague on definite atonement” (262).

This objection regarding definite atonement is valid in the sense that one will pore over Newton’s works in vain looking for a treatise on this aspect of the atonement. Newton is not, however, vague on the assurance of God’s love. Newton’s counsel to those seeking evidence of God’s love is to “Look unto the Lord Jesus Christ . . . and compare your sins with his blood, your wants with his fullness, your unbelief with his faithfulness, your weakness with his strength, your inconstancy with his everlasting love” (65). For Newton, God’s love is evident in the face of Christ. 

Reinke’s exploration of Newton’s letters is a wonderful introduction to his theology and pastoral wisdom. Newton has a wealth of insight and Reinke’s description and distillation of Newton’s pastoral wisdom is exceptionally written. He succeeds in allowing Newton’s pastoral counsel to shine through the text. Reinke successfully leaves the reader considering that which John Newton has written more than that which he has written of John Newton.

Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life.


This review appears in the Southwestern Journal of Theology 59.2 (Spring 2017): 253-55.

B. H. Carroll to Preachers Who Do Not Study

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You are in great danger. You have been complimented so much for the fire of your offhand, maiden sermons you have quit studying. You have no library and do not read. You have already contracted the habit of relying on preaching over your first dozen revival sermons. Such a habit calls for a wide range of ever-changing pasturage. The first time such a sermon is a juicy roast, next time it is only warmed over, next time it is hash, next time it is soup out of the bones. Soon these sermons that once warmed your heart will no longer taste well, not even in your own mouth, and then you may be sure they do not taste well to the congregation. The spiritual stomach, as well as the physical, calls for freshness, variety, and change in the food served. When this stage of non-appreciation in your hearers arrives, you have to move on to another field; you soon will acquire the reputation of not being able to hold any field long.

B. H. Carroll, “The Mystery of Lawlessness. A Good Minister of Jesus Christ: 1 Timothy 4:1-16,” in An Interpretation of the English Bible, 10:65-66.

The Bible is my body of divinity. -John Newton

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As to the study of theology. How far it may be expedient to adopt some system or body of divinity as a text or ground whereon to proceed, I am not quite determined; and which of these learned summaries is the best, I shall not attempt to decide until I have read them all. . . . Calvin, Turretin, Witsius, and Ridgely, are those with which I have formerly been most acquainted. But indeed, of these, at present, I can remember little more than that I have read them, or the greatest part of them. I recollect just enough to say, that, though I approve and admire them all, I have at the same time my particular objections to them all, as to this use of them. The Bible is my body of divinity; and, were I a tutor myself, I believe I should prefer the Epistles of St. Paul, as a summary, to any human systems I have seen, especially his Epistles to the Romans, Galatians, the Hebrews, and Timothy. . . . I would have my pupils draw their knowledge as immediately from the fountain-head as possible. I care not how extensive and various their reading of good authors may be under their tutor’s eye; the more so the better. He will improve the differences they will find among learned and spiritual men, into an argument to engage them to study the Scripture more closely, and to bring every debated sentiment to be tried, and finally determined, by that unerring standard.

John Newton, A Plan of Academical Preparation in The Complete Works of John Newton, 3:507-08.

Joseph Chance: Baptist Pioneer in Illinois

Joseph Chance was born October 11, 1763 in Delaware. Little is known of his childhood, except that his father died when he was very young, and his mother remarried and moved the family to North Carolina. At some point, he moved “to Kentucky, where he professed religion, was baptized, and commenced public labors as an exhorter” (Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, 28 May 1840). He was ordained as a lay elder by the Lunies Creek Baptist Church in Kentucky in 1776.

He married Jemima Morris around 1790, and together they raised a large family (seven children). They moved to the banks of Silver Creek River in 1794, and it was there that Chance assisted the Rev. David Badgley in organizing the first Baptist church (one of the very first Protestant churches) in Illinois territory in New Design, IL. The church met in the home of James Lemen in 1796.

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The Home of James Lemen

Chance preached alongside Badgley at the new church, and only a few years later helped begin a new church in the American Bottom, just outside of Harrisonville, IL. With Badgley, Chance helped plant more than ten churches. In these efforts, Chance became one of the most trusted voices among Baptists in Illinois, where he (alongside the other Baptist ministers with whom he was associated) was known to be an advocate for religious liberty and an ardent opponent of slavery. In 1807, he signed the Baptist “Principles for Articles of Union on Principles of Faith,” opposing slavery and served as the moderator in Richland Church which banned members from owning slaves in 1808.

He had a “very limited” education, but found success in preaching, which was described as “chiefly exhortative, but useful” (Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, 28 May 1840). He was finally ordained as a Baptist minister in 1806 while on a preaching trip to Indiana. He is described in the History of St. Clair Co., Illinois as having “preached the Baptist faith . . . ‘at every man’s house’ as he was always welcome” (History of St. Clair Co., Illinois, 362).

Chance is remembered as having “spent much time in traveling and preaching at his own expense, and in visiting and conversing with families. Like most other men, he had his failings—but he had also many good traits of character. He loved to attend meetings, and was always punctual in filling his appointments. Though doubtless he loved the Gospel of Christ, and felt and labored for the souls of his fellow-men, he did not enter as warmly and fully into missionary and other benevolent societies as some of his brethren, yet he never took the anti-mission ground of declaring non-fellowship with those who did. Still, he was often a missionary in his labors, by devoting much time and service where no earthly recompense was to be had. . . . [H]e seemed to delight in doing his Master’s will, and doubtless has joyfully finished the work given him to do” (Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer [28 May 1840]). It is fitting, then, for this Baptist exhorter to have died in the manner he did—doing what he knew God had called him to do and traveling to preach another sermon to another congregation.

Chance was ordained as a lay-preacher in the very same year that the nation was founded, and his efforts in Illinois helped shape not only Baptist life, but Christianity itself in the young territory. Yet, as interesting as his story is, I had not heard of Chance until a distant family member pointed out that I am a descendant of Joseph Chance.

My mother is the daughter of Charles Collins. His father was Homer Collins. Homer Collins’ mother was Florence Johnson. Florence Johnson’s mother was Texas Chance (yes, that was her real name. Texas pride runs deep in my family). Texas Chance was the daughter of the Rev. Newton Chance, who was the son of the Rev. David Robinson Chance. David Robinson Chance is the son of the Rev. Joseph Chance.

The Chance family Coat of Arms says it all.

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Deo non fortuna (God, not chance).

Learn your religion from the Bible. -Andrew Fuller

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Learn your religion from the Bible. Let that be your decisive rule. Adopt not a body of sentiments, or even a single sentiment, solely on the authority of any man—however great, however respected. Dare to think for yourself. Human compositions are fallible. But the Scriptures were written by men who wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Human writings on religion resemble preaching—they are useful only so far as they illustrate the Scriptures, and induce us to search them for ourselves.

Andrew Fuller, On an Intimate and Practical Acquaintance with the Word of God in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, I:453.

The Oxford Inklings: Lewis, Tokien, and their Circle

The Oxford Inklings: Lewis, Tolkien and their Circle. By Colin Duriez. Oxford, UK: Lion Books, 2015. 288 pages. Paperback, $16.95.

oxfordinklingsIn Colin Duriez’s latest book, he explores the inner-workings of the Inklings, especially “their lives, their writings, their ideas, and most crucially the influence they had on each other” (11). The mid-twentieth century Oxford writer’s group is not new terrain for Duriez, whose works include The C. S. Lewis Encyclopedia (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), The Inklings Handbook (Saint Louis: Chalice, 2001), J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship (Mahwah, NJ: Hiddenspring, 2003), Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings (Mahwah, NJ: Hiddenspring, 2001), and A Field Guide to Narnia (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004).

The Inklings were an informal gathering who, according to their founder, C. S. Lewis, had two things in common: “a tendency to write, and Christianity”; yet there was no established agenda, mission, or membership (25). Duriez writes, “it equally mistaken to see the literary club simply as a group of friends, or as a doctrinaire group driven by a highly defined common purpose” (217). Lewis stood at the center of this gathering, alongside J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield; however, the number of members would wax and wane over the course of the years. This open and informal group “existed in times of great change in Oxford, through the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and petered out only with Lewis’s death in 1963” (12). They would gather in residences and pubs across Oxford, where they would spur one another on to write by having someone read “from a work in progress,” after which he “received extemporary criticism from the group” (225). When one considers the literary output of those who were in attendance, one can only consider the critique that would have been offered in high esteem.

Duriez provides an overview of the Inklings’ history, but is interested primarily in exploring “how this eclectic group of friends, without formal membership, agenda, or minutes, came to have a purpose that shaped the ideas and publications of the leading participants” (11). The main task taken up by the author is to describe the group’s influence upon the works of the individual Inklings. In some ways, this influence is obvious in that the authors were constantly encouraging one another to take up a particular effort, and discouraging other efforts. They critiqued one another’s works, made suggestions and edits, and at times, called for entire rewrites. However, for Duriez, this influence extends far deeper than merely offering friendly criticism.

Duriez posits that a special bond between the Inklings had the greatest effect on the individual authors’ works. He writes, “For Lewis and his friends, friendship itself was a rich and complex relationship, with roots in an older world, and with the power to enable what is best in our humanity” (229). This older world was that of the pre-Christian and Christian past, which for Lewis, stood in opposition to the post-Christian modern age governed by science (20). These values, then, were encouraged among the Inklings, and they provided the basis upon which the Inklings were established. Thus, according to the author, the Inklings greatest affect upon their own works was by way of a shared passion for faith, an appreciation for good literature, and a common worldview that drove them to charge each other to “point to a different kind of contemporary world, rooted in old virtues and values” (16). This conclusion that the shared worldview of the group influenced their works most profoundly provides a deeply-considered answer to one of the most common questions asked by readers of Lewis, Tolkien, and the other Oxford Inklings.

The author’s forty years of studying the Inklings is evident in each page. Those beginning to take interest in the Inklings will find this to be a friendly introduction to the Oxford writers group and long-time readers of the Inklings will take advantage of the insight, research, and documentation of the author.

Colin Duriez, The Oxford Inklings


This review appears in the Southwestern Journal of Theology 59.2 (Spring 2017): 257-58.

Can We Still Trust New Testament Professors?

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David Wilkin has an interesting article that is prescient for anyone considering theological education or considering attending a private Christian college.

In his article, he writes,

If your son or daughter wants to go to Bible college or seminary, you would be wise to check out the schools, and particularly the New Testament departments, very carefully. Most schools do not believe in inerrancy.

If you think that there are no errors in the Bible based on the highest standard of what an error is, then you can’t trust New Testament Professors today.

The Southern Baptist Convention turned the tide when those denying inerrancy were seeking to take it over. They even rid their flagship seminary, Southern Seminary in Louisville, of all the Professors who did not believe in inerrancy. [Note from David: this took place at every SBC seminary, not just Southern Seminary.]

Some of the faculty at Biola and Talbot Theological Seminary left to teach at The Master’s College and The Master’s Seminary. While I do not agree with the Lordship Salvation stance of the President of those schools, I am pleased by their high regard for the inerrancy of Scripture. Drs. Robert Thomas and F. David Farnell, both New Testament Professors there for many years, are among those highly criticized by Blomberg as being overly conservative [and] judgmental.

If it could happen for the SBC and some seminaries, it can happen elsewhere. But until it does, I will not be sending students or any financial donations to any school which fails to teach a high view of inerrancy. If enough of us withdraw our support, the schools will make changes. As Blomberg says, if the schools determine that their faculty no longer agree with their doctrinal statement, then many professors will freely move on to other less conservative schools and some will be fired (p. 120).

Read the entire article here.

While I would not align myself with the Grace Evangelical Society (in the article, he mentions the differences he holds with those at The Master’s Seminary – I would align much closer with them), he is on point in this emphasis on inerrancy.

While his title will garner more than a few clicks and concerns, it is ultimately misleading. “Can we still trust New Testament Professors?” is not really the question at hand.

The real question is,

Can we really trust New Testament professors who do not trust the Scripture to be (as the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 states) “totally true and trustworthy” and “truth, without any mixture of error?”

The answer to that question is simply “No.”

And for those who might object that inerrancy is a fuzzy, politically-loaded term, I would direct you to its locked-down, crystal-clear definition: the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.”

Summer 2015 Bookstack

  

The semester is over. My first year of doctoral study is in the books (and by “in the books,” I mean both that it is complete and that I spent the entirety of it with my nose firmly placed in a book). I have always been a reader, but I have never read that much in such a small span of time.

And yet, the nature of doctoral work is that it never ends. One is always reading. Always researching. Always studying. And I’m told that this does not expire with a graduation date.

So, these are the books that are on my to-read list this summer.