PARABLES OF OUR LORD, by William Arnot; Kregel Publications, 1981; 532 pages, $10.95. (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)

‘This book is part of Kregel’s efforts to reprint valuable works from the past. It is a book written by a Free Church of Scotland minister who lived in the Nineteenth Century. It is an interesting and valuable addition to one’s library and can be read either to come to a clearer understanding of the parables or for good and (on the whole) sound devotional reading. 

The author does not present the purpose of parables correctly and is not always as Reformed and Calvinistic as one would like. Nor does he always clearly see the difference between what is essential in a parable and what is only part of the story without any particular spiritual significance. But he does shed some new light on the parables and gives perspectives to these beautiful teachings of the Lord which make the book interesting and worthwhile. There is no doubt about it that there is far more content for the most part to “old” books than to what is written in our day. One does well to build up one’s library with old books.

GOSPEL OF JOHN, Expository and Homiletical, by W. H. Van Doren; Kregel Publications, 1981; 1436 pages, $24.95. (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)

W. H. Van Doren was a Nineteenth Century preacher whose major work on John has been reprinted by Kregel. 

This is a commentary of a different sort. Instead of the usual exposition of a passage, this commentary takes a phrase, a clause, or a word or two and gives a number of rather unrelated and disconnected thoughts and reflections upon it. Sometimes other commentators are quoted. Sometimes the thoughts are homiletical; then again expository; then reflective and meditative. It all adds up to a very different, but in many respects very nice commentary. It is an interesting and valuable addition to one’s library for this reason. It will not serve the purpose of an only commentary on John, but it will be valuable to use alongside of another commentary to give a slightly different slant on the text and to lead one’s thoughts in many different directions as he ponders the text.

The commentary is not very Reformed at crucial passages and has to be read with discretion and discernment. But it has the advantage of including the more technical material at the end of each section so that it can be used by ministers and laity alike. 

We quote a section to give the flavor of the commentary. The quotation is on John 10:26.

NOT OF MY SHEEP. See on verse 2. —The phrase synonymous with not my believing disciples. —Ye do not recognize ME in MY word and work, and not knowing ME ye do not subordinate yourselves to ME and trust in MY guidance. On the contrary ye desire a Messiah, that he may be the tool of your passions. Lange. —They longed for a king with a splendid victorious army to redeem them from Rome. —They did not know that this same Good Shepherd now calling them, was also a KING, Whom the armies of heaven rejoice to obey.

HEB :1.6.

—That His throne, unlike the tottering, tumbling one of Caesar, was an everlasting throne. —These Jews did not want a Savior dying to atone for their sin. —Like modern “Liberals,” they did not believe their sins needed any atonement. . . . —They are not His sheep: —1. Who hear not the voice of the Good Shepherd. 2. Who know it not when they hear it. 3. Who are not known by Him. 4. Who follow strangers. . . .

CHRISTIAN POETRY, compiled by Pat Alexander, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, Mich., 1981; 125 pp. $10.95. (Reviewed by Gertrude Hoeksema)

In the first paragraph of the introduction to her book, Pat Alexander tells us: “This book is a ‘taster’, an appetizer. It is designed as an introduction to the rich heritage of Christian poetry in the English language over a period of 1300 years.” 

Included in this compilation are poems by Caedmon from the late seventh century to works by contemporary Christian poets. Some poets are represented by only one poem and others by several selections. The format of the book is lovely. The poems, most of them short, are attractively placed and accompanied by tasteful and appropriate illustrations. 

Many classic works of well-known poets are included, such as John Donne’s “On Death,” George Herbert’s “Redemption,” John Milton’s “On His Blindness,” as well as several selections by Gerard Manley Hopkins and T.S. Eliot. The book also gives us samples of lesser known and even obscure or anonymous poets. 

Arranged chronologically according to the dates of the poets’ lives, the poems are introduced by brief paragraphs about the poets’ backgrounds and lives. I liked that feature, for it helped me better understand the poetry. What standards did the compiler use for choosing the poems? She says in her introduction:

It is the content of the poems themselves, not the Christian standing or theology of the poets, which has determined the selection. Since many of the poets are long-dead, this seems the only practical basis of choice. Poets are in any case by nature individualists, expressing their own unique insights. Sometimes the depth of faith expressed in the poems is surprising in the light of what we know of the poet otherwise.

Most of the poetry is devout, Biblically sound, and inspiring. Some poems are generally “Christian,” that is, in the Christian tradition. However, other poems fall outside the sphere of the Christian faith, as, for example, in William Cullen Bryant’s “To a Waterfowl,” where we read: 

“There is a Power whose care 

Teaches thy way along that pathless coast. . . .” 

By the Power he meant God, but his God was the god of the Unitarian, not ours. The discerning reader will judge which poems fall into the periphery of Christian writing and which echo a sound Biblical note. 

I would highly recommend the book as an excellent addition to one’s library or as a gift for anyone of any age.