2017 was the year of Reformation with the 500th anniversary. There were no shortage of books about that. It’s common at this time of year to look back at the best books of the year. They can be useful lists and reviews. Here are the best books published during the year that mined the riches of the Second Reformation. Naturally, we could highlight more than one or two Reformation Scotland resources but we will look at what others have produced instead.
1. Conversations with a Dying Man
Sadly, we all have to deal with situations of terminal illness. In Conversations with a Dying Man we listen over the shoulder of Samuel Rutherford while he counsels a young nobleman on his deathbed. It is thought-provoking and soul-stirring extended account of one man whose conscience had been hardened but later became inflamed with guilt. Aged only 35, John Gordon must now come to terms not only with terminal illness but also a burden of guilt.
In these conversations, Samuel Rutherford lovingly and faithfully administers the conviction and comfort the young nobleman needs. True peace and assurance are carefully distinguished from false hope. It is valuable for all of us but especially those nearing eternity and those who seek to give them spiritual help.
Rutherford must have many conversations with him in order to bring him to true repentance. Sometimes he must rebuke him as well as administer comfort. His faithful pastoral care brings the conscience of John Gordon from despair to joy unspeakable. He died “sweetly and holily, and his end was peace”.
2. God’s Ambassadors
The Westminster Assembly didn’t just produce documents it actively reformed the ministry in England. This is the story of how they went about this practically. How did they seek to improve and reform preaching? This book also shows how they approached preaching and biblical interpretation in their own practice. These may well be the most valuable parts of the book. There are chapters on training and ordination. Christ-centred preaching and exegesis is also ably demonstrated.
This is an important and far-reaching study of the reforms achieved by the Westminster Assembly with much to teach ministers today. It is written by the man who knows most about the Westminster Assembly and its work.
3. Daily Thoughts from Samuel Rutherford
“Every day we may see some new thing in Christ” (Samuel Rutherford).
It has been frequently observed that there are 365 Letters by Samuel Rutherford. That makes it possible to read one each day of the year. This book provides brief thoughts for each day of the year, selected from the “most remarkable series of devotional letters that the literature of the Reformed Church can show” (Principal John Macleod).
Here is spiritual counsel and insight to give you renewed strength for each day. Each day presents a distinct opportunity to glorify God since “as many suns as God maketh to rise upon you, ye have as many new lives” (Samuel Rutherford).
This new book is highly recommended and you can purchase it here.
4. Ruling Elders and Deacons
It would be hard to find a more thorough or gracious treatment of this vital subject. It is dangerous to any Church to have ministers who are not called and qualified for their office. We must be equally concerned to have worthy men as elders and deacons. Zeal for the Lord’s honour and the gospel, love to souls and fear of the Lord’s judgment will make this a priority.
James Guthrie is concerned that many elders and deacons are neither aware of their duty nor conscientious in doing it. This book provides a straightforward explanation of the purpose and duties of these offices. There are various encouragements as well as crisp clarity and searching requirements. You can purchase it here.
5. Collected Sermons of James Durham
Which preacher from the Second Reformation would Spurgeon most like to have listened to? James Durham; a careful expositor with searching application and a winsome manner. You cannot go back to those times any more than Spurgeon, but if you want the next best thing you should obtain these volumes.
One volume contains 72 sermons on Isaiah 53 drawing out very fully the gospel of Christ crucified. The other volume collects a wide range of sermons, some which have not been published and others which have not been reprinted for centuries. This volume contains “The Blessedness of the Death of Those That Die in the Lord,” “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ” (Communion sermons), “Heaven upon Earth” (on conscience), “The Great Gain of Contenting Godliness,” and “The Great Corruption of Subtle Self,” as well as miscellaneous other sermons.