Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review: The Works of Stephen Charnock

Title:  The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock
Author:  Edited & Originally published by Richard Adams and Edward Veal
Publisher:  The Banner of Truth Trust
First Copyright Date:  1864
Type of Book:  Hardcover, paper-jacketed, Five (5) Volumes
General Subject Matter:  Theology, Christian Life
Special Features:  None
Price:  $129.00
ISBN:  978-1-84871-100-6

Since the author never published his works, save one sermon entitled “On the Sinfulness and the Cure of Evil Thoughts,” it is impossible to detail the purpose of Charnock for the writing or publishing of this monumental work. However, from the comments to the reader by the editors Adams and Veal, we can deduce that they believed that the material of these some sixty-four (64) sermons or discourses are of such great spiritual weight that the church would only immensely benefit by their publication.

“So that thou hast here, reader, a specimen of the strain and spirit of this holy man, this being his familiar and ordinary way of preaching, and the sermons coming out first…that a blessing from heaven may be upon this work, and upon thee in reading and studying the nature, and beauty…” (Adams and Veal)

In the words of J.I. Packer, "Charnock has no desire to speculate, but only to declare the works and ways, the nature and character, of the God of the Bible."

Charnock developed these messages or discourses from intense study, prayer, and meditation. He then would preach these discourses from memory or with very little notes. Charnock’s design was to inform, inspire, and integrate his flock’s heart and soul with the divinely inspired word of God. His intended audience was his flock and any all believers who bend their heart and soul to the Spirit of God.

The style of Charnock was very didactic. He seems to put as much weight and meaning into each and every word as He could. His style is formal and of the time and period of the early to mid-17th century.

In evaluating Charnock’s style it is easy to see how clear, concise, and very forceful. When I say forceful however, I mean backed by the power of the Holy Spirit and by their belonging to God. The table of contents gives almost no clue as to how the volumes are organized other than by the tiles of the sermons. This is not a regular book where main ideas and sub-points are developed. There is no determining or detecting topical or chronological points.

These volumes affected me very deeply. I used Mortimer J. Adler’s second level of reading, called Inspectional Reading, from his book How to Read a Book. I used his format of systematic skimming or pre-reading to familiarize myself with these five (5) volumes. These sermons are very deep and need to be read many times to get the full benefit. They certainly improved my spiritual life by reading them. This collection of Charnock’s volumes enhanced my own personal spiritual understanding and course. I would recommend this set without a single reservation to any Christian of any level who will honestly take the time to prayerfully and meditatively read this discourses.

It is impossible to discover a theme and thesis for this collection. Again, it is unlike other books written with specific themes or thesis, it is a collection of sermons or discourses on varying topics and scriptures. The reader must discover the theme and thesis of each sermon or discourse as one reads them.

This collection is of utmost interest. Charnock accurately exegetes the Scriptures for the benefit of his readers. The importance of this work cannot be overstated in this lifetime. The spiritual value contained in this collection is second only to the Bible itself.

Very little is known about Stephen Charnock, much to his own design and desire. A smidgen of information about Charnock was gleaned from the sermon preached at his death and from a brief pre-fix entitled “To the Reader” by the publishers Adam and Veal. He even disappeared from the grid for about fifteen (15) years. As a godly man and theologically educated he is immensely qualified to preach as he did.

Charnock was born in London in 1628 and studied for the ministry at Emmanuel College in Cambridge. He preached in Southwark, England. Charnock then took more education at Oxford. He served in Ireland as a chaplain to Henry Cromwell. He returned to London in 1660. Here he studied and ministered privately until 1675. He then shared the pastorate with Thomas Watson in Bishopsgate. Charnock died in July of 1680 at the age of fifty-two (52.)

There is a subject and scripture index at the end of volume five (5). There are a few notes at the bottom of the pages of each sermon for explanation or definition. There is no foot-note or end-note page as these are sermons. There is no bibliography.

In summary, I am still being blessed by the depth of study and information contained in these five (5) volumes. The content is essential to the spiritual well development of God’s people.

Volume One – contains an introduction to Charnock’s life, the first eight (8) sermons on The Existence and Attributes of God.

Volume Two – contains the conclusion to the sermons on The Existence and Attributes of God.

Volume Three – contains his sermons on regeneration. This is a must read! This tells how spiritually dead sinners are made alive with new life in Christ.

Volume Four – contains fifteen (15) more sermons pertinent to the Christian life. The first six (6) sermons are from the Gospel of John and relate to enjoying happiness in the saving knowledge of God through Jesus Christ.

Volume Five – contains nineteen (19) sermons from the New Testament and five (5) sermons from the Old Testament on various topics pertinent to believers.


Persis said...

Thanks for the review, Gregg. Yet another book added to the TBR list.


A great review Gregg and so interesting as usual. Thanks for the read.


Max Weismann said...

We are a not-for-profit educational organization, founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery--three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos--lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading, on one DVD. A must for libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are--we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

Please go here to see a clip and learn more:


ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

Thank you,

Max Weismann