If you find the writings of J.N. Darby and William Kelly hard-going, take heart: so do I. However, if after trying hard you have all but given up on some of the 19th-century writers, I urge you to think again. Don’t make the mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater and abandoning them altogether. The 1800’s were a period marked by a prolific output of outstanding material from incredibly spiritual and sound Biblical expositors. Your library will be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of material written by John Ritchie, Sir. Robert Anderson, W. W. Fereday, Thomas Newberry, Henry W. Soltau and J.G. Bellett to name but a few.
The Most Enjoyable
The Pentateuch (C.H. Mackintosh)
One particular book from that period has always stood out as uniquely and delightfully edifying: C. H. Mackintosh’s (CHM) indispensable 912-page Notes on the Pentateuch. (Also available in five volumes or online for free at www.stempublishing.com/authors/mackintosh). My mother, with no evangelical background, has read it right through twice: so there’s no excuse for anyone! Settle down in a quiet place and set aside time to read and meditate on this beautiful volume. The richness of CHM’s insight into the depths of Scripture will be immediately apparent to any regenerate reader. My eyes were opened to the value of this book when looking at the offerings a good many years ago. On the neglected book of Leviticus CHM offers clear and concise exposition combined with eloquent and heart-warming devotional comment. For an example of the former, consider the following on the sin offering, in connection with which, on the Day of Atonement, the fat is burned on the altar while the body is burned outside the camp: “Thus we have unfolded to us the profound mystery of God’s face hidden from that which Christ became, and God’s heart refreshed by what Christ was. This imparts a peculiar charm to the sin-offering. The bright beams of Christ’s personal glory shining out from amid the awful gloom of Calvary” (p. 323). For an example of the latter, listen to CHM on the meal offering: “No exercise can be more truly edifying and refreshing than to dwell upon the unleavened perfectness of Christ’s humanity … a real, perfect, unblemished Man, conceived and anointed by the Holy Ghost, possessing an unleavened nature, and living an unleavened life down here, emitting ever Godward the fragrance of His own personal excellency and maintaining amongst men a deportment characterized by ‘grace seasoned with salt‘” (p. 300).
As you read CHM you cannot fail but be impressed with the fact that his writings reveal the gracious and tender soul of one who lived and breathed an atmosphere of deep devotion and separation unto the Lord. The touches of ‘heaven upon earth’ that are sprinkled freely throughout this volume make it peculiarly beneficial in preparation for times of corporate worship. The book is laid out chapter by chapter rather than verse by verse, but the value of the rich truths set forth with a relatively broad brush will spur the reader on to more detailed study and will impart a real and abiding love and appreciation for the first five books of the Bible.
The Most Helpful
Explore the Book (J. Sidlow-Baxter)
My father used to say: “Every Christian should be able to give an outline of every book of the Bible.” I never tested him on Ezekiel and Jeremiah, but I was aware that he really did hold in his head an easily recalled outline of most of the books of the Bible. That proved a great advantage to him whether opening up a public Bible study or answering the questions of a young believer one-on-one. There is not much point being an expert on a string of isolated proof texts if one does not have a grasp of the Bible as a whole. It is a danger when one cannot see the forest for the trees.
A 1,760 page hardback book entitled Explore the Book with the word ‘Study’ in its subtitle may not seem like an appetizing investment: that is, until one opens it and discovers just what J. Sidlow Baxter produced for the reader after a lifetime’s work. Explore the Book works its way systematically from Genesis to Revelation. In this wonderful volume, each of the 66 books of the Bible is outlined, analyzed and summarized in an eminently readable and accessible way. Snappy, memorable headings (often alliterated) grace the book from beginning to end. Books, chapters, and many individual paragraphs are beautifully and simply broken down into bite-sized bits for ease of digestion. Small wonder then that Warren Wiersbe said, “If I had to get rid of every book in my library and keep just one, that one would be Explore the Book.” If it costs you as much as $100, it will be well worth it. [Although I cannot recommend everything this book expounds, particularly regarding future events, its general statements as to overviews of each Bible book are invaluable].
The Most Useful
Kregel Dictionary of the Bible and Theology (Henry W. Holloman)
If you are in the habit of taking a Bible class, a Sunday school class, or teaching the Word of God in any setting, you will bless the day you ever laid your hands on Kregel’s Dictionary of the Bible and Theology. It contains Scriptural definitions of over 500 key theological words and concepts arranged from A to Z.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of preaching: textual/expository and topical. In expository preaching, the text is right there before you, but in topical preaching, one needs to draw together many dozens of verses, arrange them under useful headings and put them over to one’s audience in a clear and effective format. That can be a daunting task at the best of times. Are you due to speak on baptism, worship, priesthood, the Holy Spirit, judgment, humility, or guilt? Henry Holloman is sure to have included a succinct and well-organized summary of the subject in this very useful volume. Dip into it, draw from it, adapt it, and use it frequently for your particular needs! Published in 2005, this book is highly recommended as perhaps the most useful book in one’s library.
If you can find ebook versions of these and carry them around on your table, so much the better. Please, I urge you, make the investment in money and time. You will be repaid hundreds of times over.
by Michael J. Penfold