When I first received this book (Living By Revealed Truth) one of my initial thoughts was how easy of a review this would be to write. It didn't take long for that thought to change to 'How on earth do I write this review?' That question in no way reflects negatively on this book. Actually, the book is fantastic. It is a work fifteen years in the making and the amount of research and information that it contains is truly staggering. At just under 700 pages of double column text, Nettles has provided the church with a wonderful resource to peer into the life and theology of probably the best known preacher in Church history.
For anyone who may be unfamiliar with Charles Spurgeon (really?!?), Nettles provides one quote that provides a wonderful description of the type of preacher he was. Commenting on Spurgeon (who at the time had only been pastor at New Park Street for two weeks) to a college class on elocution, Sheridan Knowles said, "Go and hear him at once if you want to know how to preach. His name is Charles Spurgeon. He is only a boy, but he is the most wonderful preacher in the world. He is absolutely prefect in his oratory; and, besides that, a master in the art of acting. He has nothing to learn from me, or anyone else. He is simply perfect." Those of us who have read some of Spurgeon's sermons would simply reply, "YEP!" His passion and presence come through in his written words, one can only imagine what type of speaker he was.
This book is MASSIVE and there is no way to touch on everything that is contains, so I want to focus on just a few thoughts. The book contains 18 chapters that walk through Spurgeon's life. One of the first things to notice is how fast his ministry grew. Spurgeon felt that, "The pulpit is too much a repetition of creeds and theologies that are becoming extinct; and in the second place there is a deadweight in the pews which masters the pulpit and deadens its intellectual life." Spurgeon was clear that some of the Calvinistic pastors where very dry in their approach to sermons. They may have had sound doctrine, but it was presented in such a way that did not edify the church. Spurgeon's response, however, was not to water down the doctrine, but rather he engaged his audience with passion and clarity. If the doctrine we believe is true then once we come to understand it, it should change the way we live. Right doctrine should leads to right practice. Spurgeon knew God was sovereign over all things and this confidence in God shows through in his theology and his life.
Nettles is fair in providing the reader with both praise and criticism that was directed at Spurgeon. He takes the reader through the successes of Spurgeon's ministry as well as the hardships and difficulties. This is a very well rounded and informative book. Nettles research and efforts are visibly chapter after chapter.
Tom Nettles is one of the better Baptist historians and the knowledge, effort and care he has given to this work is evident on every page. This would be a wonderful book for every church or serious reader to add to their library. It is not a simple, quick read, but it is loaded with insight into the life of one of the greatest preachers that God has every blessed His Church with. If you have never read about Charles Spurgeon's life, ministry and theology then this is the book you need! I HIGHLY recommend this book.
I received a free copy of this book from Christian Focus Publications in exchange for an honest review.