Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quick Review of Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland Jr. Edited by Grant Gordon

“I wish my letters may be a bridle to you and yours a spur to me”.

T he above words are ones that John Newton wrote to John Ryland, Jr.  Newton was almost 50 when he wrote those words and Ryland was only around 20 years old. 

Every young pastor needs a bridle.  I know I did.  I had a dear pastor friend that would often “reign in” my youthful vigor with seasoned words of encouragement.  He had already been through the fire on many issues that were just beginning to warm me up.  He had already experienced some of the dangers attending ministry.  He was a bridle to my youthful zeal that was often marked by more ignorance and selfishness than actual grace. 

John Newton served as that “bridle” to John Ryland.  What Grant Gordon gives us in Wise Counsel is four decades of one-sided correspondence between John Newton and John Ryland Jr.  Within the pages of Wise Counsel are 83 letters that Newton wrote to Ryland.  Of these a good portion are previously unpublished. 

Gordon also has helpfully added footnotes explaining certain historical events to help the reader better grasp the context of the letter.  Also, after every letter Gordon adds a helpful historical survey to help the reader get a picture of the unfolding story in the life of both Newton and Ryland. 

If you are a fan of Newton then this book is a gold mine of information.  If you are a pastor (young or old) you will learn a great deal from this book.  Newton’s Wise Counsel extends well beyond his era and his cultural setting.  Because his advice is so often grounded in the unchangeable gospel it will cross borders, cultures, and centuries.  Those wanting to study Baptist history will find a wealth of information as well.  As will those wanting to study Christianity in the 18th century.  There is even helpful information for those wanting to learn about the abolishment of the slave trade.  There is something here for everyone.

I cannot too highly recommend this book.  There is a reason that it is #3 on my list of Top 11 books of 2011.  It quite possibly could be in the top 10 of books that I have read in my lifetime.  It is that rich with information and helpful advice.  You will benefit from buying and reading this book. 

Buy it here for 20 bucks.  (It’s worth every penny). 

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