Faith and Salvation, Works of Thomas Halyburton, vol 2, published by the James Begg Society, hardback, 427 pages, £12.99, available from the F P Bookroom.
The first volume in this series was recommended in a review in the May 2001 issue of this magazine. This second volume also deserves a warm welcome. Halyburton, who died at the age of only 38, was first of all minister of Ceres in Fife and afterwards a professor of divinity in St Andrews. Rabbi Duncan said of him: “I have great sympathy with his mind. He neither understates not overstates the value of the law to the gospel and the necessity of the gospel to the law. I like his view of a man’s acceptance of the gospel as a cordial approbation of God’s way of recovering man.” In this volume, readers will have ample opportunity of verifying the truth of Rabbi Duncan’s opinion.
First of all, we have Halyburton’s first sermon in Ceres, and an altogether remarkable first sermon it is! His text was: “I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me” (Acts 10:29). The rest of the book is taken up with a series of sermons, originally entitled, The Great Concern of Salvation. Part 1 is: “A Discovery of Man’s Natural State, or, the guilty sinner convicted”, based on the verse: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). As he strives to have his hearers brought under conviction of sin, Halyburton solemnly emphasises: “Idolatry is the transferring that love, esteem, confidence, trust, fear, reverence or obedience, which is due to God, on any creature. Now, who is not guilty of this when he serves sin? Does he not obey either his own will or the devil, in opposition to the command of God, and thereby substitute either himself or Satan into God’s room? Think, O think, upon this part of your charge, and tremble!”
Part 2 is: “Man’s Recovery by Faith in Christ, or, the convicted sinner’s case and cure”, for which the text is the Philippian jailor’s question to Paul and Silas, and their response to him: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:29-31). The preacher is in earnest for souls; towards the end of this section he pleads: “We pray you by the ‘mercies of God’, in the ‘bowels of our Lord Jesus’, believe on Him, accept of Him; for His heart is upon this request. Nothing more acceptable to Him than a compliance with this call; He laid the foundation of this offer we make to you in His own blood; He wept at the folly of sinners that would not comply with it; He has instituted a gospel ministry for this very end and has been, if I may so speak, at a vast expense of gifts and grace for the maintenance of this His own ordnance. He has given the most peremptory orders to call you, to beseech you, to command, to threaten, nay, to compel you to a compliance. Will you refuse our Master that request He has so much at heart?”
The final section, Part 3, deals with “The Christian’s Duty, with Respect to Both Personal and Family Religion”. For these sermons Halyburton took as his text Joshua 24:15: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. Halyburton is at pains to show that “such as engage in the service of God are to do it deliberately, resolutely and willingly”, and lays great emphasis on family religion. “Few there are”, he complains, “who are themselves under a due concern about their own souls, and hence it is that there are so few careful about the souls of their families.” A prayerful reading of this book could do much, with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, to bring about, and to revive, both personal religion and family religion today.
In Search of Souls, The Story of Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd, by J R Broome, published by Gospel Standard Trust Publications, paperback, 105 pages, £3.50, available from the F P Bookroom.
Just a little volume, but a very worthwhile one, for Edwards and Brainerd – these two eighteenth-century giants of the Church of God in America – ought never to be forgotten. The first was her greatest theologian and the second a devoted, earnest missionary to various Indian tribes, who died from tuberculosis at just 29.
Both men were distinguished for their godliness and their diligent search for souls as “fishers of men”. Edwards saw days of revival in his congregation in Northampton, New England. Later, in an amazing turn of events, he was put out of his church and became himself a missionary to the Indians. Brainerd also saw his preaching remarkably blessed before he was taken home to glory. Not long before his death, he was pleading: “O blessed Lord, do come, do come. O do take me away, do let me die and go to Jesus Christ. I am afraid if I live I shall sin again. . . . O how can I live in this world?”
This little book would be particularly useful if it led readers on to a longer Life of Edwards, such as that by Iain Murray, and to some of Edwards’ own writings – and also to Brainerd’s Life and Diary.