“She finds the ancient scroll and raises it up triumphantly for the others to see. Alas! they cannot understand a word from it, because it’s written in a tongue long forgotten. But wait! They know of a wizened old man who has studied the language of the ancient scroll. They quickly take it to him and the old man reads and interprets the words for them. Providence has shone upon them! They now have knowledge that will help defeat their final foe.“
This is an illustration of what author Dane Ortlund has done in his book “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers“.
Dane Ortlund, having read several books written in the 17th and 18th century, has distilled it in a language today’s readers can understand. It would have been uphill task for most of us to read these 400 year old books and make sense of them, since their writing style is outdated.
Now with Gentle and Lowly, we access the wisdom of these 17th century writers – collectively called as the “Puritans” – like Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, John Bunyan, Richard Sibbes and also famous preachers like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon. Additionally, Bible passages from Isaiah, Jeremiah, John and Paul’s letters are also quoted and expounded on.
I don’t want to take the analogy too far by suggesting that you won’t have to read any of these old writings yourself (or that Dane Ortlund is an old man), because a lot of it is quoted at length in this book (and in this post! as you will see). However, whatever he quotes he explains it in a way we can understand.
Purpose of this Blog Post
Although I titled this post as a book review, I don’t want to simply say that this is a good or bad book, but I want to hopefully encourage you as well (if whatever I just said earlier is any indication, I have an overwhelmingly favorable review for the book).
So the next section is an excerpt from the book which, in my opinion, encapsulates the entire book. It should give you a glimpse into what the book looks like.
In Chapter 6 of the book, Dane Ortlund quotes from John Bunyan’s book called “Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ” (1678). The whole book is based off on only one verse, John 6:37 which, as translated in the KJV, reads “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out“. John Bunyan looks at each word in the verse, and in the words of Dane Ortlund, “completely wrings it dry”.
However, he spends most of his time on the last few words, “I will in no wise cast out”, and ends with a hypothetical conversation between an individual sinner and Jesus:
“But I am a great sinner, say you. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I am an old sinner, say you. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I am a hard-hearted sinner, say you. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I am a backsliding sinner, say you. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I have served Satan all my days, say you. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I have sinned against light, say you. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I have sinned against mercy, say you. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I have no good thing to bring with me, say you. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.“
According to Dane Ortlund, John Bunyan is trying to convey the “persevering nature of Christ’s heart” because sinners like us “are limitless in their capacity to perceive reasons for Jesus to cast them out. We are factories of fresh resistance to Christ’s love.“
Dane Ortlund goes on to say, “We cannot present a reason to finally close off his heart to his own sheep. No such reason exists“.
So even if we raise our objections, nothing can “threaten these invincible words: “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.“”
The Book for Normal Christians
In the introduction, Dane Ortlund says that this book is written for “the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty. Those running on fumes.” In other words, for “the normal Christians“, the “sinners and sufferers“.
It’s a book worth reading in full. Let the words in the book open your eyes to see Jesus’ heart for sinners and suffers. His heart for you.
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