SPURGEON, HEIR OF THE PURITANS, by Ernest W. Bacon; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968; 184 pp., $3.95. The author believed, it was time to write a new biography of C.H. Spurgeon in order to show how Spurgeon carried on the Puritan tradition. His purpose is to demonstrate that a return to Puritan theology as exemplified by the “Prince of Preachers” would cure most, if not all, of the ecclesiastical ills afflicting our modem age.
The book is written by an admirer of Spurgeon. This is also its weakness. There was no evil which Spurgeon could do. All is sunshine and light. The “Prince of the Preachers” comes through in the book as a sinless saint. The adoration of Spurgeon becomes almost abject and degenerates into pathos at times.
But the book is valuable in that it shows the connection between Spurgeon and earlier Puritan thinkers. I have found its chief value in the presentation of Spurgeon’s theology. While the author has no criticism of this theology, it becomes apparent that Spurgeon was only mildly Calvinistic and surely not Reformed. In fact, it becomes increasingly apparent that Spurgeon did not hold to the strict Calvinism of the earlier Puritans—although the author denies this.
That he was a tremendously influential preacher cannot be denied. That he adapted his theology to popular demand on occasion is equally evident. The, author repeatedly classifies him as an “evangelical.” This is probably correct in the sense in which that term is used today.
It is a book easy to read. It is interesting. It is a worthwhile addition to home and Church libraries.
ECUMENISM AND THE REFORMED CHURCH, By Herman Harmelink III; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968; 112 pp., $2.45 (paper).
This book is the first volume in a projected series of books dealing with the history of the Reformed Church in America. It is written by the chairman of the General Synod’s Committee of Interchurch Relations. It is intended to treat the history of the ecumenical endeavors of the Reformed Church from the beginning of her history to today. Its purpose is adequately summed up in the foreword:
This history is offered with the hope that as people grow in an awareness of the interplay of events that have shaped their past, they may be more able to understand the interplay of events in which they must make their own decisions.
The author is an unabashed proponent of Church union—apparently on any kind of Church union. He is pleased with the union of the Reformed Church in foreign missions. He rejoices in the membership of the Reformed Church in the National Council of Churches. He bemoans the many times the Reformed Church has stayed away from organic union with other Church bodies in this country. The failure of the Church to enter into organic union with other denominations is, in the author’s opinion, to be explained by the fact that in the 18th Century there was a determination on the part of the Church to preserve her Dutch language and heritage. A century later, when the Church was at last ready to take an active role in American life a new wave of Dutch immigration filled the Church with people who were suspicious of any kind of union because of the experiences of secession in the Netherlands. These people mostly settled in the Mid-west and were strong enough to outvote the more ecumenically minded East. Harmelink finds this Western conservatism appalling. He hopes that the present merger proposals will go through; should they fail, he fears the end of the Reformed Church is near.
Members of the Christian Reformed Church will probably not like his curt and sometimes disdainful treatment of them in the places they are mentioned.
Recommended to those who are interested in the ecumenical movement especially in the Reformed Church.