Preaching Christ, The Heart of Gospel Ministry, by Charles P McIlvaine, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, paperback, 96 pages, £4.50.
Charles McIlvaine (1799-1873), who almost entered the Presbyterian ministry as a young man, spent his last 40 years as Bishop of Ohio in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA. Of a different school politically and ecclesiastically from contemporaries such as Thornwell and Dabney, with whom we are more familiar, he did endeavour (with only limited and temporary success) to preserve his denomination theologically and liturgically from the Romanising, High Church influence on the one hand and from the theology and revivalism of Charles Finney on the other.
This booklet is sub-titled An Address to those entering the Christian Ministry. Beginning with the fact that, for the Apostles, preaching the gospel meant preaching Christ crucified, it proceeds to show how it is possible for a minister to say nothing untrue, and to deliver much important truth, without preaching the gospel. Then there are chapters explaining what it means to preach Christ and demonstrating how all the truths of the Bible are harnessed in this glorious work. The concluding chapter deals with the state of mind and spirit which qualifies a minister to be a faithful preacher of Christ.
The work is short compared to many other volumes on preaching and the style is simple. It not only tells how Christ ought to be preached but preaches Christ winsomely in the process of doing so. It is a useful guide to those setting out on the work of the ministry. It also assists those who have been engaged for some time in this work in their constant review of the content and spirit of their ministries and encourages them to persevere in endeavouring to follow the Saviour as “He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). It will, however, be found beneficial by gospel hearers as well as preachers. It is an exposition of the truth as it is in Jesus and so should do good to the soul who “would see Jesus” (Eph 4:21; John 12:21). It should help hearers to discern what they hear and to appreciate the privilege of having Christ crucified preached to them. It should motivate the Lord’s people to pray for their ministers in the weighty work of proclaiming all the counsel of God while following the apostle in his determination to know nothing among his hearers “save Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (Acts 20:27, 1 Cor 2:2).
The publishers have appended a twenty-page sermon by C H Spurgeon on Acts 5:42.
(Rev) Hugh M Cartwright
Beauty for Ashes, The Lives of Two Godly Women Remembered, by A E Alexander, published by Inverbooks, booklet, 48 pages, £3.00.
This booklet was first published in 1945 as a memorial to the Misses Barbara and Isabella Morton, Glasgow, whose roots were in the congregation of Rev J R Anderson, which nearly 40 years after his death joined the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. While there may be incidental aspects of particular interest to Free Presbyterians and to those connected with the Glasgow Congregation, this booklet provides an attractive illustration of the godly character and conduct produced by the application of gospel truth in the experience of sinners by the Holy Spirit which will be of interest and benefit to all who share the author’s view that “the grace of God as shown forth in the work of redemption and sanctification in the souls of believers is a rare and precious work, ever worthy of our attention”.
The brief accounts given of the lives of these two sisters, who died within months of each other in 1943, demonstrate that they were humble, spiritually-minded women whose hope was centred upon Christ and who attributed their salvation to the sovereign, electing grace of God. They knew the joys and sorrows of Christian experience, and their concern for personal holiness and for the wellbeing of sinners and saints around them showed that theirs was “pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father”.
The booklet contains extracts from letters of an aunt who was also an exercised Christian and these letters, highly valued by the nieces for their spiritual content, reflect the character of their religion. It concludes with an article by Rev J R Anderson, entitled Vital Godliness, which scripturally and concisely describes the foundation of godliness in the Person and work of Christ, the creation of it in the hearts of fallen sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit and the manifestations of it in the desire and endeavour to follow after holiness. The article is representative of Mr Anderson’s ministry, “man in the dust and God on the throne”, and points to the nature of the truth upon which the piety of these women fed.
For six years before Miss Isabella’s death several young men met weekly in the Morton sitting-room for prayer and fellowship. One of them wrote the original introduction to this booklet and now, almost 60 years later he, the Rev Donald MacLean, is spared to revise that introduction for this attractively-produced republication.
(Rev) Hugh M Cartwright
1. Both titles reviewed here are obtainable from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom.