Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Holiness

Holiness - By: J.C. Ryle John Piper has said on occasion that one should not come to the Lord in prayer with a cold heart. He encourages those who struggle with prayer and the warm-hearted prayer to find a writer who warms the heart and read them for 5 or 10 minutes, and when the fire has been kindled, pray. I would say, I have found the writer who warms my heart: J. C. Ryle. I have read other works by Ryle and have always come away amazed at the beauty and truth in his writing. Holiness, I would think the most well-known of his books, is no less beautiful and truthful. Yet there is so much in this one book, that reading it once will not do.

First published in 1877, and reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust in 2016, Holiness reads as if Ryle were living today. For instance, “We have too often been content with zeal for orthodoxy, and have neglected the sober realities of daily practical godliness,” (p. 17). We live in a day where the church is fighting for the right beliefs but not so much for right living. Apparently seeking to be a Christian separate from the Church has been an issue for some time. In his chapter, headed “The Church Which Christ Builds,” the good bishop wrote, “Outside of the church which is ‘built on the rock’ there can be NO SALVATION,” (p. 290).

By far, my most favorite chapter within the book is the one speaking to “Assurance.” In proving his point about how one can be a Christian by faith and yet not have assurance of their salvation, Ryle wrote:

Faith is life. How great the blessing! Who can describe or realize the gulf between life and death? ‘A living dog is better than a dead lion’ (Eccles. 9:4). And yet life may be weak, sickly, unhealthy, painful, trying, anxious, weary, burdensome, joyless, smileless to the very end. Assurance is more than life. It is health, strength, power, vigour, activity, energy, manliness, beauty, (p. 148).

This was the only chapter where he put extensive notes at the end, my guess is that it may be because in its 1877 printing there were only 7 chapters and “Assurance” was the last chapter in the original. I actually enjoyed the notes more than the chapter itself, but the chapter was the highlight of my reading.

This book is just under 450 pages long. If you’re not a “big” book reader, don’t sweat it. Take your time. This is not a book to fly through and especially not to skim. As indicated, this is one of those books that you may read for 5 or 10 minutes before prayer time to warm the heart toward God.

Originally printed with 7 chapters, it now has 21 chapters. Every single chapter is worth the read. I cannot think of another book (outside of the Bible) that is so desperately needed today than Holiness by J. C. Ryle. I give it 5 stars; if I could, I’d give it 6 for good measure. If you’re like me, you’ll want the hardback edition, which you can get from Amazon for $27.73 with Prime shipping. However, if you like Kindle you can get it for $.99! You can also get it from Christian Book Distributors for $26.99 not including shipping. However, you get a copy be sure to get one and read it, slowly and thoughtfully. You may not agree with everything in this, but I promise you, you’ll be all the better for reading it.

Book Review: A Bully Father: Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children

If you are at all familiar with me or this blog, you have figured out that I am a pretty big Theodore Roosevelt fan. Last year, our county library had their annual book sale, and I bought every biography on TR that I could find. I planned to start them in January as there were already some other books I was reading that needed to be finished. My original plan was to read a biography once a month, but unfortunately my Masters of Divinity quickly got in the way of my personal reading, and so, I just finished my first Roosevelt bio for the year.

I was so excited about reading A Bully Father: Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. It was my first pick of the year, which I began on January 1. It was not quite what I expected. Let me point out what I enjoyed, then what I was not quite thrilled about, and then I will end on a high note.

First, if you aren’t familiar with the term “Bully,” it was something that Roosevelt used like we would use “awesome” or “fantastic,” so it doesn’t mean one who pushes others around or beats someone up. That being said. . . The actual biography in this book was not at all bad. Joan Paterson Kerr, who wrote the biographical essay (80 pages), did an excellent job writing the highlights of TR’s life. For anyone who isn’t too familiar with the 26th President, but doesn’t want to wade into the waters of a more well-known bio, like Edmund Morris’s trilogy, this would be the one I would recommend. My favorite story she told of the president was when Roosevelt went up into the attic to play with his children and their friends. One young boy turned out the lights and TR banged his head on a board. He chided the children and went down to clean the blood off his forehead. When he returned, he found the boy (Looker) who turned off the lights, stuffed into a trunk with the others sitting on it. Roosevelt could hear the fear from within the trunk and ordered the children off it. “‘Suddenly the lid opened,’ Looker recalled, “and TR looked down into my face. He was quick with his handkerchief, too, wiping my face, and almost as quick to say, “He’s broken out in a sweat! The moth-balls have got into his eyes, and may them water!” This he said, to explain his wiping away the tears which I thought was fine of him,'” (pp 79-80). I think that was fine of him as well.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of the book is Roosevelt’s letters to his children. In all transparency, I have not read any of Roosevelt’s letters outside this book, however, I have read much that he has written. I was hoping for some sage, fatherly advice about life or decision-making. If that is what you are seeking then you won’t find it in these letters. However, if you are looking for something to humanize the “old lion” legend that is Teddy Roosevelt, this is the book you want.  He talks about various sports, finding or receiving new pets, the death of other pets, horse-back riding, and many, many other subjects. Since I was hoping for something different, I was quite disappointed in what I received. So reader beware; know what it is you want.

However, as I stated, I want to end on a high note, as Kerr did. At the end of the book, in the Epilogue, Ms. Kerr gave a one page bio sketch of each of TR’s children, mainly dealing with their adult life, and what they accomplished or how they died. While one could easily Google this information, I enjoyed Kerr’s quick summary. It closed out the book nicely.

All in all, the book was well-written, and quite interesting. I gave it three stars on good-reads. The book itself is 255 pages, not including the acknowledgements. Published by Random House in 1995, with the Foreward by the David McCullough, the biographical sketch would be recommended to a TR newbie, but the letters themselves may be too mundane for one who is not at least moderately interested in reading his own words. Again, I could find no sage advice; nothing to live by, thus nothing like what one may come to expect from Roosevelt. Thus, I would recommend checking out the book from a library or Overdrive, but reading only the bio sketch of both the President at the beginning and the children at the end.