“…we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing… For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age…”
Bavinck, Herman – Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols. Buy 3,024 pp.
A major contribution to systematic theology from the Dutch church. Bavinck is careful, balanced and historical in his treatment of Biblical doctrines. You won’t go wrong with him. Put down your modern systematic theologies and read a real theologian.
Heppe, Heinrich – Reformed Dogmatics Buy 729 pp.
This is an invaluable anthology of reformed writings from the 1500′s and 1600′s, organized by subject in systematic-theological fashion. Most of these primary documents are unavailable to the English reader in any other form. Here is a helpful blog review of the book with the table of contents to the first three chapters.
vol. 1 – Theology, 625 pp.
vol. 2 – Anthropology, vol. 2, 695 pp.
vol. 3 – Soteriology and Eschatology, 800 pp.
Index, 120 pp.
The Majority text is also known as the Ecclesiastical, or Byzantine text, as the Christian scribes in Byzantium during the Early Church and Middle Ages transcribed the majority of New Testament texts in Greek that have been traditionally used by the historic Christian Church.
This scholarly, yet readable, essay is the best, most balanced and careful description and argument for the ‘Majority Text’. Here are Dr. Robinson’s extensive credentials. Here is the outline to his essay:
A Problem with Modern Eclecticism
The Byzantine Priority Method
Principles towards Restoration of the Text
Principles of Internal Evidence
Principles of External Evidence
Inaccuracies & Misleading Claims
Commentary on the Gospels & N.T. Background
Edersheim (1825-1889) was raised an orthodox Jew, became converted to Christ partially through the influence of John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan and entered into the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland. Later he would join the Church of England, becoming one of the premier scholars of his time on 1st century studies.
Edershiem spent 7 years in seclusion writing this work; it is by far and away the best orthodox ‘Life and Times of Christ’ that there is. Read it cover to cover!
Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ (n.d.) 360 pp.
Hutchinson, George – The Problem of Original Sin in American Presbyterian Theology Buy (rep. 2014) 142 pp.
Hutchinson masterly surveys the different theories of original sin (both in its corruption and imputation) amongst the American presbyterians of the 1800’s and early 1900’s, including their critiques of each other. If you think you have original sin all figured out, this work will humble you to once again reverence the mysteries of God and to fear sin afresh.
Order & Nature of the Decrees
Bavinck, Herman – ‘Supralapsarianism & Infralapsarianism’ no date or source info
Vos, Geerhardus – ‘On Infra- & Suralapsarianism’ 36 paragraphs
Vos gives a masterly and balanced discussion.
Predestination & the Freedom of the Will
Muller, Richard –
Fentiman, Travis – The Covenant of Redemption: a Covenant Distinct from the Covenant of Grace 2014 18 pp.
Classic Rutherford. One of the best books on Covenant Theology there is.
Gillespie, Patrick – Ark of the Testament Opened… A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace (1661)
Patrick was the brother of George Gillespie. This is a book-long analysis and synthesis of all the writers before him on the topic, on every significant point of the Covenant of Grace. The work was reprinted by Still Waters Revival in a hardbound photocopy form if you can find it.
Bruner, Frederick Dale – A Theology of the Holy Spirit: The Pentecostal Experience and the New Testament Witness Buy 1970 350 pp.
Dr. Bruner was a graduate of Princeton Seminary and the University of Hamburg.
The first half of the book is a description of the Pentecostal movement and experience from their primary sources. The second half of the book (why you need to buy it) is the best exegetical consideration available of the key primary texts throughout Acts that relate to modern Pentecostal issues. Brunner even-handedly argues from the text that the ‘tongues’ of Acts were real languages, argues for cessationism and that Pentecostal theology and practice is not reflective of the experience and teaching of the book of Acts. His treatment of Acts 2 and 1 Cor. 14 is masterly.
Besides a handful of isolated, somewhat liberal statements, the work does full justice to the authenticity, truth and integrity of the Book of Acts.
“Haled by reviewers, this book is one of the best analyses of Pentecostalism written in the twentieth century. Dr. Gordon Clark called it ‘masterly’, ‘exceedingly well researched’, ‘superb’, and a ‘penetrating analysis’. No one, whether sympathetic or unsympathetic to the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, should be without it.” – The Trinity Foundation
The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel
Durham, James – The Unsearchable Riches of Christ Buy See especially ‘Gospel Presentations are the Strongest Invitations’ (pp. 43-79) and ‘The Best Wares at the Lowest Rates’ (pp. 136-160). See here for excerpts.
Book on Durham
Bavinck, Herman – Saved by Grace: the Holy Spirit’s Work in Calling and Regeneration Buy 230 pp.
An important work against today’s popular error of Presumptive Regeneration. Bavinck wrote this in critique of his fellow contemporary Dutch leader, Abraham Kuyper, the father of Neo-Calvinism. For a further analysis and critique of Neo-Calvinism, which has greatly influenced the modern American church (reformed and not reformed), read William Young’s article here.
Trail, Robert – A Vindication of the Protestant Doctrine of Justification Buy 24 pp. being a letter to a friend on the topic
Girardeau, John – Discussions of Theological Questions Buy 534 pp. see the Buy link for the table of contents.
Girardeau’s contribution to the discussion throughout church history regarding the Doctrine of Adoption is worth the price of the book. Girardeau is persuasive in arguing that Adoption is a distinct act from Justification and that Adam was naturally a son of God by creation (as well as unbelievers), following Thomas Crawford in his prominent Scottish debate with Robert Candlish over the Fatherhood of God. For a systematic exposition and Biblical defense of Girardeau’s doctrine of Adoption, see this article by Travis Fentiman.
Fentiman, Travis – John L. Girardeau’s Doctrine of Adoption: a Systematic & Biblical Defense (2014) 20 pp.
This is a systematic exposition and Biblical defense of Girardeau’s doctrine of Adoption. It argues that Adoption is both distinct from Regeneration and Justification, that Adam was by creation naturally a son of God (Luke 3:38), and that unbelievers are as well, as God is the Father of all people by creation (Heb. 12:9, Eph. 3:15).
Cunningham, William – ‘The Arminian Controversy’ from his Historical Theology, vol 2 ch. 25, p. 383-525
Young, William – Historic Calvinism & Neo-Calvinism’ in Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 36, 1973-74, with editorial revisions from the Rev. Sherman Isbell
Growth in Grace & Self-Examination
Burgess, Anthony – Spiritual Refining (1652)
The Christian Life
Here is some of the best practical divinity available in Church history. This 6 volume set of puritan sermons was given over a 30 year period in the late 1600’s on weekday mornings by puritan ministers near London, each minister being asked to delve into the Scriptures in answering a question of the practical, Christian life.
Here is a table of contents to all of the volumes. The set is well worth your $180, being less than the weekly food budget of many people.
Does the Bible teach that a father may forbid the marriage of his daughter for any reason? Must the father’s will always be obeyed if he does not require one to sin, though he is acting in ignorance and sin himself? A rising tide in Christianity believes the Bible’s answer to these two questions is Yes.
This paper demonstrates that the Bible’s answer, and the answer of the large part of historic, reformed Christianity, is No. Daughters and their suitors are justified before God in getting married against the father’s will in certain grievous situations where, there is no “just cause” to prevent the marriage.
Cunningham, William – Discussions on Church Principles: Popish, Erastian & Presbyterian Buy (1863) 565 pp.
Many people are aware of Bannerman’s Church of Christ, which positively expounds the doctrine of the Church from scripture. Cunningham’s work is more polemical, against the errors of alternative views. Both are needed. This is his main work on Church writings, a subject too often neglected in our day.
Rutherford was history’s preeminent spokesman and defender of classic, historic, presbyterianism as it was practiced in his day by his beloved Church of Scotland. This is his fullest exposition and defense of the topic, examining in detail every church question you can possibly think of, along with many more. See how far modern presbyterianism has departed from it pure Scriptural form on many counts in reading this definitive (though not well organized) work.
The Offices of the Church
Isbell, Sherman – ‘Order in the Offices: a Review’ (1993) 13 paragraphs
Isbell, a retired minister in the Free Church of Scotland, in conformity with the Westminster Form of Presbyterian Church Government, demonstrates that the minister holds a distinct office from that of the ruling elder.
The piece is a review of a work (‘Order in the Offices’ edited by Mark Brown) that advocates the American 3-office viewpoint. Isbell critiques this position and argues for the Reformation and puritan viewpoint of those 3 offices.
Fentiman, Travis – ‘Introduction to the Biblical Office of Teacher’ (2015) 76 paragraphs
Fentiman gives an introduction and argument that the Office of Teacher is distinct from the Office of Minister, which was the universal Reformation, Puritan and Westminster position of there being 4 offices in Church government.
Miller, Samuel – The Ruling Elder: respecting the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Office Buy 1840 335 pp.
The best, and last, American book on the subject of the office of ruling elder that preserved the historic reformed view that the Ruling Elder is a distinct office from the Minister and that the Ruling Elder is also a “presbyter” (“elder” in the English) along with the Minister. While George Gillespie from the mid-1600’s has the most detailed argumentation arguing for the reformed office of the ruling elder in his Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the points of Ruling Elders… Buy, Miller’s is easier to read.
Thornwell in the American South would come along later in the 1800’s and claim that the Ruling Elder holds the same office as the Minister. Hodge in the North then rightly distinguished the Ruling Elder as a separate office. However, Hodge then argued with the Anglicans and Episcopalians that “presbyters” in Scripture did not include anyone but ministers, contra the Reformation and puritan view that ruling elders were also Scriptural “presbyters”.
Church Government in History
‘The Views of Calvin on Prelacy, Vindicated’ (1844) 40 pp. being Appendix II, p. 87 ff. of Thomas Smyth’s The Life & Character of Calvin the Reformer Reviewed & Defended
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)
Cunningham, William – ‘The Westminster Confession on the Relation Between Church & State’ (1843) from a pamphlet published in May 1843, immediately before the Disruption of the Church of Scotland, entitled, “Remarks on the Twenty-third Chapter of the Confession of Faith as bearing on existing Controversies”, published later in his Discussions on Church Principles, ch. 8
Many people today charge the original Westminster Confession of 1646 with Erastianism (that the State is over the Church). This is a charge made out of ignorance. The Confession teaches against Erastianism, but does teach the Biblical and historic reformed doctrine of the Establishment Principle. American Presbyterianism, though it denies the Establishment Principle, yet owes its life to it, as the Westminster Assembly was originally called to sit by the Parliament (civil magistrate) of England. Cunningham vindicates the Biblical teaching and the original Confession.
Hyde, Daniel – In Defense of the Descent: A Response to Contemporary Critics – Explorations in Reformed Confessional Theology Buy 88 pp.
This is best on the topic. It is an excellent short and readable, but very detailed Biblical and historical defense of the phrase that Jesus “descended into hell” in the Apostle’s Creed (and mentioned in the Westminster Larger Catechism). Hyde argues for a two-fold meaning, reflecting the scriptures, that Christ experienced the curse of being forsaken by God on the Cross and that His body remained under the power of the grave for three days. This is also a helpful antidote to the all too popular false teaching of our day that Christ actually descended into spiritual hell after His death (see Lk. 23:43).
Winzer, Matthew – Westminster & Worship Examined: a Review of Nick Needham’s Essay on the Westminster Confession of Faith’s Teaching Concerning the Regulative Principle, the Singing of Psalms & the Use of Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God from Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008), p. 253-266
Winzer here historically and conclusively proves that the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) teaches exclusive psalmody and that the divines believed that musical instruments were forbidden in worship. Until someone refutes Winzer it is not historically credible to say that the Confession (1646) allows for uninspired hymn singing or that the divines allowed for accompaniment by musical instruments.
Church Unity & Separation
Note that the work is hosted at a ‘Steelite’ website, following the thought of the 1800’s Reformed Presbyterian sectarian David Steele, which is a form of serious, separatistic error. M’Crie, however, was not of their distinctive principles, but was a Scottish secession minister in the early 1800’s. His work is a definitive classic.
The Roman Catholic Church: Part of the Visible Church
Peru Mission – The Reformed Churches & Roman Catholic Baptism – An Anthology of Principle Texts 106 pp.
The Establishment Principle Church-State Relations
Buchanan, James – Prefatory Discourse: Containing a General Statement of the Case on Behalf of National Religious Establishments (1835) 85 pp. being an introduction to Lectures on the Nature, Lawfulness, Duty, and Advantages of Civil Establishments of Religion (1835) 678 pp.
A more in depth treatment of the Establishment Principle than your average article. While you’re at it read the whole book by various other prominent Scottish ministers. It also defends the Biblical and historic reformed principle of the State endowing the Church, that is providing for it monetarily out of public funds.
The General Equity of the Judicial Law
Samuel Rutherford on the Judicial Laws of Moses: Excerpts Arranged Topically (1644-1649) 32 pp. ed. Travis Fentiman
“As a Scottish commissioner to the Westminster Assembly, Samuel Rutherford (1600-61) sat with the drafting committee which bore primary responsibility for the text of the Westminster Confession… In defending the role of the civil magistrate in suppressing heresy, Rutherford refers often to the question whether there is an enduring obligation in the judicial laws, and in this connection he uses the term equity in the same way as do the Genevans and the English Puritans. Rutherford argues that the practice of magistrates must rest upon a broader justification than the Mosaic judicial laws. Apostolic doctrine and the law of nature hold forth a common moral equity that defines what remains pertinent in the judicial laws. This common equity requires magistrates to punish moral offences, but it will not sustain an appeal to the specific penalties in the judicial laws.” – Sherman Isbell
Winzer, Matthew – ‘The Westminster Assembly & the Judicial Law: A Chronological Compilation & Analysis. Part Two: Analysis’ Buy from The Confessional Prebyterian Journal, #5 (2009), pp. 56-88
This is the best and fullest article to date demonstrating that Theonomy is a departure from the Westminster Confession and the thought of the majority of the puritan era.
Fentiman, Travis – ‘A Defense of the Majority Opinion in the Free Church of Scotland on Covenanting’ 36 points, 135 paragraphs, with a select annotated bibliography
This is an extensive articulation and defense of the majority, historic view on the Solemn League and Covenant (1643), argued from scripture, history and the reformation in Scotland.
Boston, Thomas – ‘The Evil, Nature & Danger of Schism, a Sermon, 1 Cor.1:10’ (1708) 54 paragraphs
In the second half of this sermon Boston argues against those who remained separate from the Church of Scotland in his own day (the early-1700’s) upon the pretence of the Solemn League and Covenant and other impurities in the Church of Scotland post-1689. Scroll about half way down the page to where Boston more particularly addresses the issue of the Solemn League and Covenant under Doctrine II. Searching for “covenant” (by pressing control-f) may help.
The Biblical Teaching
Bushell, Michael – The Songs of Zion Buy
This is the definitive and exhaustive modern case for exclusive psalmody. You have not grappled with all of the issues until you have read this book.
The History of
Fleming, one of the greatest historians of the Scottish Church, demonstrates exhaustively that the Church of Scotland was exclusive psalmody in its public worship and constitution from its reformation in 1560 to the mid-1800’s, contra the claims of Horatius Bonar in his own day and the claims of many in our day.
Webpage: The History of Psalm Singing
Sing the Genevan jigs! There are many histories of this hugely significant psalter online. Here is Wiki.
The Genevan psalter was compiled mainly under the supervision of John Calvin (d. 1564). While the tunes are those from Geneva, the English translation here linked by the Canadian-American Reformed Churches (1984) is not a translation of the French psalms, but its own independent English translation made in order to fit the meters. See also the New Genevan Psalter Buy by George van Popta (2015).
Hodge, Charles – The Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, pt. 1, 2 Buy (1839) 267 & 532 pp.
An important and authoritative documentary history of the beginnings of presbyterianism in America, tracing it through its various splits and unions up to Hodge’s day. Read his strict-subscription interpretation of the Adopting Act 1729, the defining act that binds ministers by their vows to the Confession. Takes the history up to 1789 when the presbyterians formed a national church in America after the War of Independence
The Life of John Knox: containing illustrations of the history of the Reformation in Scotland containing illustrations of the History, of the Reformation in Scotland. With Biographical Notices of the Principal Reformers and Sketches of Progress of Literature in Scotland during the 16th Century, and an Appendix Consisting of Original Papers Buy (1840) 550 pp.
A Vindication of the Scottish Covenanters (1843) 157 pp.
Here Cunningham is at his best, church history and the principles of the Reformation being his life’s work.
A classic, the first historical theology you should go to. Many history books are simply a rehashing of a well-worn narrative, Cunningham instead thought that the most valuable part of Christian history was in the lessons learned as truth, error and God’s revelation are sifted through the ages.
‘The Arminian Controversy’ from his Historical Theology, vol 2, ch. 25, pp. 383-525
Miller, Samuel – An Introductory Essay to: The Articles of the Synod of Dort (1856) 50 pp.
Dabney, Robert – Life & Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. Thomas J. Jackson (Stonewall Jackson) Buy (1866) 742 pp.
A classic biography of a Southern general of the Confederate States of America who was remarkable for his devout godliness, unswerving character and Calvinistic convictions. Stonewall said, “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed.”
A rich history of early presbyterian ministers in 1700′s America and the revivals that occurred in their time. The “Log College” was the predecessor school to what would culminate in the opening of the first presbyterian seminary in America at Princeton in 1812.
Willborn, Nick – “Presbyterians in the South & the Slave: A Study in Benevolence,” in The Confessional Presbyterian, vol. 3, 2007 Buy
An excellent historical article chronicling Girardeau’s efforts to minister to the black slaves. Written by one who did his dissertation on Girardeau and is, Lord willing, coming out with the first full length biography of Girardeau.
Girardeau, John – Our Ecclesiastical Relations to Freedmen (1867) 18 pp.
Girardeau, a southern white pastor of black slaves, argues that blacks may be elders (governors) in church courts. For an exposition of what Girardeau is arguing against, see Robert Dabney’s A Speech against the Ecclesiastical Equality of Negro Preachers in our Church and their Right to Rule over White Christians (1867) 16 pp. Girardeau’s position came to prevail and was enacted in the southern church a few years later.
Lecture Notes of Archibald Alexander on Theology (1818) 284 pp. being a hand-written manuscript by Charles Hodge
Alexander’s lectures on Theology are unavailable in any other form. A treasure.
Isbell, Sherman – ‘Archibald Alexander Travelogue’
Take a vacation to Lexington, Virginia and see these special sites connected to such a godly legacy. Isbell is a retired minister of the Free Church of Scotland (continuing), who lived near the area.