Sunday, June 30, 2019

Books read and reviewed in July 2019

1. Second Opinion by Theodore Dalrymple  (Author)

Here is the Victor Meldrew of medicine - but Dalrymple is far more erudite, insightful and witty and never left of centre despite his saying he often read The Guardian. These are short articles original published in the Spectator, experiences from an inner city hospital and as a prison doctor. I have a consultant doctor friend who once told me that evangelical Christians were innocents who experienced little of the worst things around them. Dalrymple has here collected and chronicled them. Only his wit lightens the dark clouds of life in his England. Like many social critics he is much better at diagnosis than physic. As he concludes on the final page, 'What have we become? Alas, it is my generation that is responsible for it, and I have done little or nothing to stop it.

2.SASRA Operation Salvation by David Murray (Author), Janet Baker (Editor)

The author was a boy from a pious, loving, upright Roman Catholic family in the Gorbals. He grew up with minimal education but an ability to use his fists. After several unhappy dead end jobs he joined the army and was deployed to Northern Ireland at the height of the Trouble. Very dangerous work and not one would expect to be easy especially for a Roman catholic. He thrived in the army but arrived a wife who did not want to follow him on a posting to Germany. He left the army but joneid the Paras in their reserves where he thrived. But he was a drunk, a liar and an adulterer. He fell for another woman and both left their spouses, divorced and married. She though had a Salvation Army background. She returnee to the Sally Army and her husband having rejected her Christian company at first was remarkably converted. He straight away was a witnessing Christian and soon believed God was calling him to witness in the army. Chaplaincy was not an option for a man who was not ordained but he found an open door in SASRA where he has laboured in gospel witness with great blessing. A great testimony of his God can change a life.

3. Revolutionary Sex by William Taylor (Author)

A biblically based call for Christians to be counter cultural and say that God's way is the only safe sex. Chastity before marriage and fidelity within. Simple for any Christian to follow but realistic about how we all fail in this area. Good on homosexuality and on singleness. Written before the latest folly, transgenderism so that is not mentioned. Based on sermons at St Helen's the final chapter is a helpful summary of some of the answers given to questions raised by the original recipients of this teaching. 

4. The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig: Burning Secret, A Chess Story, Fear, Confusion, Journey into the Past by Stefan Zweig  (Author)

Burning secret is a fine tale of a man trying to seduce a woman whose son intervenes not really knowing what is going on. A chess story concerns a savant grandmaster and a man who learned his game while incarcerated by the Gestapo. Fear is a brilliantly told story f the consequences of adultery, shame, illicit and true love and forgiveness. It has a beautiful twist to given unhappy end to a terrible story. Confusion is about a student perplexed by the strange behaviour of his favourite professor. Journey into past is about a poor boy making good and falling in love but frustrated by a nine year absence form his beloved.

5. IF SYMPTOMS STILL PERSIST by Theodore Dalrymple (Author), Nick Newman (Illustrator)

Sixty Spectator brief articles lamenting the state of irresponsible UK as seen through the eyes of a hospital and prison doctor. Light relief via the cartoons.

6.The Hutchinson Encyclopedia 1998 edition by Jane Anson (Author)

These days internet searches have largely replaced encyclopedias for reference. But this one is still valuable  as a one volume home reference work though it is now 21 years old.

7. The Rise of the Meritocracy by Michael Young (Author)

This is an odd book. I can understand the basic thesis but fail to see what is serious and what is satire.  I am not surprised the author could not find a publisher until a friend helped. I also found references to the last century confusing. As the book was written in the 20th but pretends to be in the 21st this is confusing.

8. Zachary Macaulay by Faith Cook  (Author)

This is a brilliantly informative biography of a little known but very influential and remarkable man. The son of a rather impecunious Scottish manse, he went to Jamaica and employed on a plantation there saw the horrors of slavery. On his turn to England he found his favourite sister married to a wealthy Englishman, Thomas Babbinton, who became a lifelong friend and helped him to a vital Christian faith. He was also introduced to men of what was to become the Clapham Sect and those involved in the movement against slavery. Macaulay was sent by them to a new endeavour, Sierra Leone where freed and former slaves were sent from England and Canada. Government responsibility there was not simple. Macaulay became governor but suffered from a French invasion destroying much of the settlement. I had not realised before this story as to how much the abolition movement was hindered by the French Revolution and the threat from Napoleon. But the biography becomes a story of frustrated romance and eventually marriage and a happy family with many children, one of them whose name would eclipse that of his father. Our story moves on through business success and then financial disaster. It culminates with the act that freed the slaves and paid the owners compensation. A great brief biography from which I learned a lot.

9. Rowland Hill - The second Whitefield by Tim Shenton (Author)

In his day, Hill was seen as the natural successor to Whitefield yet he is largely forgotten by Evangelicals today. This book is a necessary reminder of a remarkable man. The son of a baronet, educated at Eton, he became a fervent Christian when at school. He was expected to go to university and be appointed to one of the livings in the gift of his father. But Rowland had come quibbles with the ways of the established church and his evangelism while an undergraduate led to trouble with the university and his family. His Christian ministry was to last over sixty years. He travelled much on horseback preaching all over Britain as well as becoming pastor of Surrey Chapel in London. He was eventually ordained deacon in the Church of England but never went on in the ranks of Anglicanism. He was looked upon as an enthusiast as happy to preach in the established churches, free ones and fields. His preaching was frequent and greatly blessed by God to the salvation of many. He was an extempore preacher whose style abounded with down to earth stories and frequent humour. This book is no hagiography. We learn both the strengths and weaknesses of Hill's character. He was blessed with a wife who for nearly sixty years seems to have been an ideal helper in his ministry. They had no children of their own but many spiritual ones. Hill was a friend of Jenner and an avid practitioner of smallpox vaccination. Some things I wanted to know are not given. Did Hill receive an inheritance from his father that enabled him to be of independent means? What was his churchmanship? He spoke against Baptists but was he a Congregationalist? Did Surrey Chapel have elders? Also the book lacks an index. We learn that Hill got into hot water supporting the rebels in America but hear nothing of his reactions to the French Revolution of the anti-slavery movement of his day.

10. Samuel Rutherford: A New Biography of the Man and His Ministry by Kingsley Rendell

The best one volume I have read on Rutherford looking at him as student, professor, pastor, prisoner, reorder, apologist and protester. The final chapter on the man of extremes is helpful but I think there  is more to be said abut his spirituality particularly as revealed in the letters. Rendell thinks Rutherford's early aberration which caused trouble was sexual relations before marriage but the evidence seems inconclusive. The book is well indexed but what is missing is any indication of how the letters were collected and dated though he does correct some of Bonar's dates. 

11. McCheyne's Dundee by Bruce McLennan (Author)

A moving, sympathetic and well written account of the true revival that come to Dundee under William Chalmers Burns while the minister, McCheyne was visiting Palestine. This was evidently a sovereign work of God in answer to a pastor's prayers. The revival is set in the context of a rapidly expanding industrial city and port, overcrowded and unhealthy and in the context of the Disruption of the Church of Scotland over patronage. A story of two remarkable young prayerful ministers singularly blessed by God.

12. Not Even a Hint by Joshua Harris  (Author)

An excellent practical treatise on lust and how to overcome it. Primarily for the unmarried but of benefit to all. Very good on the differences in this between men ad women and the best I have ever read on masturbation. After I wrote this I read that the author has now left the faith. There are sins more serious than lust.

13. The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God's Mercy by Timothy Keller  (Author)

Keller is always superb in exegesis and application. He is outstanding here on the Nineveh context of Jonah.. on social responsibility and grace. The one weakness of the book seems to me to be his treatment of politics. He seems to think there are only the options of opting out of the political process or being compromised by assenting to all of your party's policies. He seems to have no practical insight into Cristian political involvement and certainly no Christian critique of the political process. More pietistic than reformed here.

14. Samuel Rutherford: A Study Biographical and Somewhat Critical, in the History of the Scottish Covenant. by R Gilmour (Author)

An older but valuable study. No hagiography but a balanced treatment. Especially good on Lex Rex and the Protestor Resolutioner controversy. He kept to the Covenant and received the Crown.

15. Letters of John Calvin by John Calvin (Author)

History is written after the event and does not convey the emotions of the times. Calvin's letters give us a picture of the man, warts and all, his personal life, private and public concerns. Letters go to royalty, and nobility in different lands as well as to fellow Reformers and pastors, those suffering for their faith and those bereaved. We see some who were faithful to death. Some did not keep the faith and returned to Rome. An insight into the man and the uncertain times in which he lived when the outcome was certain only to the eye of faith.

16. Reformed Confessions Harmonized by Joel R. Beeke  (Editor), Sinclair B. Ferguson (Editor)

This starts with a helpful introduction to the historic reformed confessions of the 16th and 17th centuries. The the body of the work compares in six columns per double page the teaching expressed by The Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg, the second Helvetic, the Canons of Dordt, The Westminster Confession and its two catechism. Christian doctrine expressed from 1561 to 1648. I am in a denomination where presbytery allows assent to the system of doctrine either in the Westminster Confession of the Three Forms of Unity, so encompassing both the continental Reformed and the British Presbyterian expressions of this common faith so this is a most useful reference work.

17. Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics & Culture of Decline by Theodore Dalrymple  (Author)

Written in 2009 one enjoys the critiques of Blair and Brown but winder what he makes of our two subsequent premiers. A superb collection of essays on social and literary themes.  His Opiates  Lies critiquing maintaining addicts on Methadone rang many bells with me having dispensed Methadone as a pharmacist and not sen it as a therapy but a legally and freely obtained soporific. An atheist he makes a very telling critique of the new atheists. He understands the world much better than the likes of Dawkins. A true conservative. A brilliant diagnostician but short on cures.

18. Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History) by John Coffey  (Author)

This is from a doctoral thesis on Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford is seen as beloved of evangelicals for his letters and of the so called Christian Right for his Lex Rex which puts rulers under law from God. His divine right of presbytery and opposition to religious freedom for non-Presbyterians is neglected says Coffey who seeks to give an all round picture of the man.

This is a most informative work, heart warming on Rutherford as pastor but harder going elsewhere. It is my second time of reading it. One certainly agrees that the man who wrote so forcefully against liberty of conscience and any kind go pluralism should have a foundation championing religious liberty bearing his name is ironic in the extreme. A covenanted nation rehires a covenanted church which holds to divine right of presbytery. In this the Scots failed as did the English revolutionaries.

19.Advanced Banter by John Lloyd (Author), John Mitchinson (Author)

A modern collection, indexed by author. It is to the index one must turn to find the dates and descriptions of the various authors.

20. Sermons by Robert Murray M'Cheyne  (Author)

I noticed with Whitefield sermons that ones greatly blessed by God did not seem to have a lot of depth or substance. I found the same here but a contributory factor may have been that I was reading them while seriously ill in hospital. A great preacher and pastor whose early death was an unfathomable adverse providence. God's ways are not ours.

21. A Treasury of Bible Pictures by A.R. Millard (Author), Caroline Masom (Editor), Pat Alexander (Editor), 2 more

A beautiful enhancement to Bible study giving many maps, photos of the land and archaeological treasures. From Patriarchs to New Testament times.

22. The Door of Salvation Paperbackby Mrs. Francis A Schaeffer (Author)

Is this the earliest of Edith's published works?  Published by Children for Christ Inc. St. Louis, undated.  Five poster like pages give wrong things people say abut the door to heaven. Then we have the true door. Very short and simple.

23. Art of the Western World by Denise Hooker (Editor), Michael Wood (Foreword)

A veritable historical encyclopedia of Western art from Greek to post-modern. One might have preferred more large plates and more from the Dutch masters.

24. Rembrandt The man and His paintingsby Simon Monneret and L. Wildt

My favourite artist. After the essays o the man and his work the 34 plates. Such a variety even of races portrayed. No-one does light like him. The Adoration of the Shepherds is so powerful. In line with the second commandment I do not really approve of representations of Christ, but for this genius, my theological objections are suspended.

25. A Book of Beliefs:Religions,New Faiths,Paranormal by John; Butterworth, John; Langley, Myrtle Allan (Author)

An eclectic mixture for a fairly orthodox Christian perspective. First the major, recognised world faiths, eleven of them. Then fourteen new faiths. Three were unknown to me.A couple are already defunct. I am not sure Baha'i is one of five qualifying as new faiths. Freemasonry to is a rather old heresy. Then we get into the frankly nutty stuff. The paranormal, disappearances, astrology, curses, occult, spiritism, UFOs. Under healing I would include homeopathy, crystals and other such nonsenses beloved of the credulous. Quite a comprehensive rag bag collection .

26. Book Of Common Order Of The Church Of Scotland

Mine is the OUP edition of 1940 by the authority of the General Assembly. Very helpful for Reformed liturgy. Public worship morning and evening and for children. Sacraments another services one might need. I found the burial helpful for a non-christian funeral. Season prayers, benedictions, lectionary. very helpful indeed. 

27. Subject, Textual and Lineal Indexes to the Methodist Hymn Book. Compiled by J. H. Martin with the collaboration of W. Dell by W. Dell (Author), James Henry Martin (Author)

Mine is a 1948 reprint of this 1934 book and a most useful resource. It is linked to the Methodist Hymnbook of my youth in the 1950 and was given to my father by his parents in law. If you can rememeber an odd line of a hymn, you will find it here. Or if you want hymns for a given text. A great index resource for the traditional hymns.

28. PRAISE! by NO AUTHOR (Author)

We have used this for the 19 years since it came out. A favourite for combining Psalms, traditional and modern. Sometimes the removal of thees and thous jars especially as I tend to sing from memory, eyes closed to concentrate, so may be a dissident worship voice.

30. Psalter: Scottish Psalter, 1929

Metrical Psalms and Scripture paraphrases with tunes and pages split so you can move to a different tune suited to your psalm's metre.

31. Psalm Praise by Bishop Michael Baughen (Editor)

The third and final boo in this Praise series. A much needed new way to sing Psalms when it came out in the early Seventies. Now replaced sadly by modern songs often lacking the Biblical content here.

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