Book Reviews > Theology > Grace: The Truth, Growth, and Different Degrees
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
This is a collection of 15 sermons originally published in the 17th century by Christopher Love, a Puritan pastor in London. Love is little known today but Don Kistler seems to be on a mission to change that, republishing not only this book but another one by Love as well as The Works of Christopher Love and a biography written by Kistler. The rediscovery of Love is worthwhile.
This book is a collection of sermons from two texts. The first five sermons derive from 1 Kings 14:13, and the last ten from 2 Timothy 2:1. The burden of the sermons is discerning evidences of true grace (i.e. conversion) in one's heart and then recognizing growth in the midst of struggles with sin and doubt. Love demonstrates the heart of a pastor dealing gently with the fearful conscience. From God's recognition of "some good thing" in the son of Jereboam (1 Kings 14:13) Love notes God's generous recognition of the slightest good in his people. Love summarizes the burden of these sermons in this way:
… I come to the main doctrine I intend to handle: God not only exactly takes notice of, but also tenderly cherishes and graciously rewards, the smallest beginnings and weakest measures of grace which He works in the hearts of His own people (14).
Love provides a stark contrast to the mean-spirited caricature often given of Puritan preachers.
From 2 Timothy 2:1 Love goes on to discuss specific evidences of the beginnings of grace, evidences of maturity in grace and how these can at various times coincide with great temptations and failings. This is not an 'easy-believism' but a carefully nuanced encouragement to the doubting while also warning any who would turn grace into license.
This is a useful book containing much wisdom on various matters. The style is that of the 17th century so those who are unaccustomed to it will have to take some time with it, though the spelling, formatting and some grammar have been updated by Kistler. Also, Love is not a model for doing hermeneutics. He typically writes truth whether or not those truths are actually found in the passage under consideration. Still, this is a useful book as Love is a model of sound theology applied forthrightly yet with the compassionate heart of the shepherd of souls.
Ray Van Neste
This review previously appeared in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology