The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by Steven J. Lawson. A Long Line of Godly Men Profile. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2016. Pp. xvii + 188. Cloth. [Reviewed by Rev. Joshua Engelsma]
Under the editorial eye of Steven Lawson, Reformation Trust has pumped out a number of profiles of significant figures in church history—men such as John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Knox, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, George Whitefield, John Owen, and William Tyndale. To that list is now added the name of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
My first introduction to Lloyd-Jones came toward the beginning of my time in seminary. One of the books we were required to read was Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers. I recall absolutely devouring it. Here was a book that set forth clearly and thoroughly what preaching ought to be. Here was a man who understood preaching.
It was the remembrance of that delightful read that interested me in this little book on Lloyd-Jones. Although I profited from his book on preaching, I knew nothing about the man who wrote it.
The opening chapter of Lawson’s book gives some biographical information on Lloyd-Jones. He was born in Wales in 1899, but his family later moved to London because of financial struggles. In London he became an accomplished medical doctor with a seemingly bright future in that field. But when he was twenty-six, he left his practice because he felt called to the gospel ministry. Without any seminary training, he was ordained into the ministry as a Calvinistic Methodist and served his first pastorate in Wales. He later became the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, a position he held for more than twenty-five years. It was during his time there that he became a well-known figure in evangelical circles both in Britain and in the United States. He laid down his active labors in 1968 and died in 1981.
Although the book does provide some biographical details, it is not intended to be a biography. If you’re looking for a full recounting of the life and influence of Lloyd-Jones, you will have to look elsewhere.
The focus of the remaining eight chapters is on Lloyd-Jones’ method and style of preaching. The author examines such topics as his view of the call to the ministry, his underlying view of Scripture, his method of exposition, his doctrinal basis, and his dependence upon the Spirit for power and passion in preaching.
A couple of things struck me as I read the book.
In the first place, Lawson makes the point several times that Lloyd-Jones’ preaching was a combination of truth and passion—“logic on fire.” I disagree with the author’s assertion that, while one must follow the Reformers for the truth, he must look to the Methodist revivals and Great Awakenings of such men as John Wesley for the passion (27, 136). Nevertheless, the point is well made that preaching must be passionate and lively. Preaching is not simply the imparting of information, but it is “making the Bible come alive” (65). There must be the “union of truth and fire”—“the light of truth and the heat of passion” (79). Preaching must not be “dry and lifeless.” According to Lloyd-Jones, the church members “sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately.” When there is a Spirit-wrought passion in the preaching, God’s people “are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled” (169).
In the second place, I was struck by the fact that Lawson’s book is in many ways a summary of Lloyd- Jones’ book on preaching. This is not a knock on Lawson. A book that summarizes a much longer book in half the number of pages has its place. I was certainly encouraged and motivated by the book, and I trust both young and old will profit from it as well.
So, read and be convicted by Lawson’s book.
But then read and be moved by Lloyd-Jones’ book.