All Loves Excelling: The Saints Knowledge of Christs Love, by John Bunyan.
Banner of Truth Trust 1998, paperback, ix +129pp; £2.25. Available at £1.95 from
the Free Presbyterian Bookroom, 133 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, G3 6LE.
ORIGINATING as a series of sermons on Ephesians 3: 18, 19, the material in this book was prepared for publication by Bunyan, although not published till 1692 as The Saints Knowledge of Christs Love; or, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ. It is found in its original form in the George Offor edition of Bunyans Works republished by the Banner of Truth Trust in 1991. This new edition benefits from being in convenient paperback form and from having the material divided into chapters and smaller sections with helpful headings, while “the text remains largely unaltered”. There is no index but an appendix contains a useful analysis of the work.
Bunyan sees the words of his text as intended to support the Ephesians and enable them to live above their afflictions, and no doubt he is revealing the source of his own perseverance through persecution and other temporal and spiritual trials.
After an illuminating description of what is suggested by the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ he discusses what is involved in the desire to be able to comprehend that love. He considers the love of Christ as manifested in His actual dying for His people, in His preparations for dying, and in His achievements through dying. He expounds and rejoices in the fact that the love of Christ cannot be known in all its fulness.
He then goes on to illustrate how in this world the love of Christ may be known in its nature and in many of its degrees and he gives directions to help believers in their endeavour to know this love. But he maintains that the highest attainment is to know that it passes knowledge, and shows how advantageous that conviction is to the Lords people.
He concludes with uses and counsels arising from the text, and this section not only helps us to profit from the text under discussion but illustrates how we may benefit in experience and practice from meditation upon other texts and doctrines of Scripture.
This work is doctrinal in its basis, experimental in its treatment and practical in its aim. One or two knotty points of doctrine may detain the more theologically perceptive, such as the discussion of the state of Christs soul between death and resurrection, but the book comes from the heart of a pastor accomplished by grace in feeding the flock of God. As Bunyans editor, George Offor, has commented: “This treatise is admirably adapted to warn the thoughtless – break the stony heart convince the wavering cherish the young enquirer strengthen the saint in his pilgrimage, and arm him for the good fight of faith and comfort the dejected, doubting, despairing Christian. It abounds with ardent sympathy for the brokenhearted, a cordial suited to every wounded conscience; while, at the same time, it thunders in awful judgment upon the impenitent and the hypocritical professor: wonders of grace to God belong, for all these blessings form but a small part of the unsearchable riches”. Those who appreciate Pilgrims Progress, The Holy War and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners will not need persuading to read this volume, and those who have not read Bunyan can be encouraged to begin here.
Rev. H. M. Cartwright