Sidelights on Bible Characters, by J C Philpot, published by Gospel Standard Trust Publications, paperback, 92 pages, £3.25, obtainable from the F P Bookroom.
This book brings together for the first time the introductions to a number of Philpot’s sermons. In them he comments on various Bible characters. The introduction is a good brief discussion of “the types in Scripture”. Here he also refers to what he calls “representative characters”. For instance, Abraham “is the representative character of a believer, for those who are blessed with faith are said to walk in the steps of faithful Abraham”. On the other hand, Saul is “an awful instance of gifts without grace” and of how “a man may be an instrument in the hands of God to accomplish His purposes, but lives and dies in his sins”.
Readers will find much profitable material in the following chapters. However, a few points call for comment. One is unhappy with the answer to the question: How did the Lord appear to Jacob at Peniel? Philpot says, “In human shape, not indeed by an actual assumption of real flesh and blood, as some have vainly imagined”. But Calvin, more scripturally, speaks of Christ as taking on a temporary body. One is also disturbed by the harshness of Philpot’s reference to Jeremiah, expressed more than once: “He was left to know and manifest more of the rebellion and peevishness of his depraved nature than any of the prophets, if perhaps we except Jonah”.
In conclusion, we may note the opening words of the chapter on David as “the sweet Psalmist of Israel”: “The Psalms are a blessed manual of Christian experience, and well may we call them so; but I think I may confidently say that there is not a single spiritual feeling in the bosom of a child of God which is not expressed, with greater or less distinctness, in that inspired record of the hidden life of the saints of God”. Appropriate words! Accordingly we could wish that Christians everywhere – including Philpot’s successors today – used the Psalms as their book of praise in public worship.
Authentic Christianity: Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 2: Acts 4-5, by D M Lloyd-Jones, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, hardback, 328 pages, £15.95, obtainable from the F P Bookroom.
It appears that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) influenced many towards a high view of the authority and “timelessness” of Scripture, and an appreciation of preaching which sets out to expound the mind of God in the passage which is the basis of the sermon. His intensity as a preacher arose largely from his often-avowed conviction of the divine and infallible truth of the Scripture expounded and its “relevance” to sinners today. During his time at Westminster Chapel he came to be regarded as the mentor and (Welsh) voice of much English Evangelical Nonconformity and assisted many, in pulpit and pew, who sought a more Biblical understanding of truth and life.
We regret that his idea that a form of Church Government cannot be derived from Scripture prevented him from presenting coherent Biblical guidance in this matter to those who looked to him. His position with regard to worship is further evidence of how one who had such a high regard for the Puritans, and did so much to commend them, did not apply their regulative principle in some areas of church life. We cannot follow him in his views of ecclesiology in general or, in particular, baptism and Church-state relations and other important matters. Neither can we agree with all his interpretations, emphases and expressions in preaching. But many of his publications have proved instructive, stimulating and edifying to readers who differ from him in these things, and these points are mentioned here just to alert readers to the fact that in this volume they will find evidence that a preacher’s position on such matters will affect his interpretation and application of truth. We must always follow the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
This is the second in a projected series of volumes of sermons on the Acts of the Apostles under the general title Authentic Christianity. Most of the sermons in this volume on Acts 4:1-5:14 were preached in 1965-66 at evening services in Westminster Chapel. They do not present a detailed, systematic or concise commentary on the text and they range widely in their reiterative method of teaching – hence the number of sermons on one passage. They repeatedly affirm the objective, historical facts of the gospel. They have the unconverted primarily in mind and aim at showing the folly of the arrogant self-confidence of the unregenerate sinner’s mind. They set out to demonstrate that unbelief is not accounted for by reason or by the alleged findings of science but by the depraved will and affections of the sinner.
The earlier sermons concentrate on how Acts 4:1-12 illustrates the essential nature, causes, folly and futility of the unbelief which rejects the gospel in all ages and the necessity of responding to that unbelief with the reiteration of the truth. In this way the preacher supports what one might say is the basic thesis of this volume: that Acts “is a book of history but that it is more than that . . . in this book we are given, in embryo, as it were, practically the whole history of the Christian Church” (p 20). Modern man is essentially the same as man in the first century AD and needs the same gospel. The preacher hopes to help hearers to diagnose what is really wrong with them so that they will see their need of the right treatment. He hopes that in the process those who think that they are Christians, but are not, will discover their true state. In these aims he confesses the absolute dependence of preacher and hearer on the grace of God the Holy Spirit. In the Acts of the Apostles “we are mainly looking at the activity of God the Holy Spirit and this is as essential to the Christian message as the activity of the Father and of the Son” (p 195). “I am simply here to put the truth before you and it is the Spirit of the living God alone who can apply that truth, and He does” (p 328).