The Banner of Truth Magazine, Issues 1-16.
We have received and read The Banner of Truth Magazine since it began in 1955 and possessing an earlier edition of this collection of the first 16 issues, we are pleased to see this volume in print again in the handsome format typical of the Trust’s productions (Issues 1-16, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, hardback, 540 pages, Ã‚Â£16.00). The early magazines and the literature which they commended were no doubt influential in helping many to a clear and Calvinistic view of truth and to some realisation of the need for something other than the superficiality and Arminianism prevalent in the Church of the day. The book-publishing work which developed from the Magazine has been beneficial to the Church in many parts of the world.
Repudiating the idea that truth and error are matters of small consequence, and claiming that “Arminianism strikes at the very foundation of the gospel”, the first editorial states: “Never was there a day when plain, certain, decided statements of Scriptural truth were more needed to guide the Lord’s children. We are aware that there is much apparently Evangelical literature in circulation, yet the majority of it is so mixed with error as to denote the absence of the work of the Spirit of truth; the root of God’s controversy is not laid bare; true causes and true remedies are for the most part passed over, and statements are made in such a mild and moderate fashion that we are led to doubt how much such writers are aware of the mind of God towards the present age. More serious still is the false confidence that is spreading amongst professing Evangelicals. This has arisen out of certain recent events and evangelistic campaigns” (p 4).
In the words of Rev Iain Murray’s introduction to the 1961 edition of this volume, “our problem lies not in empty churches nor in indifferent multitudes but in our own disobedience to the Word of God. We have diluted the gospel by turning it into a man-centred message and we have ceased to make the Scriptures the rule of all our practice”. The Magazine set out “to create an awareness of need, to help Christians to discern error, to bring the light of Scripture and church history to bear upon the religious superficiality of our times”. The understanding was that “little can be done in the positive reconstruction of the visible Church until there is first created a body of Christians who are alive to the needs” (p xx).
These 16 issues contain a wide variety of interesting and profitable articles – Biblical, theological, historical, biographical – with the object “not so much to set out every truth in its Scriptural proportion as to declare those truths particularly relevant to our own times. That which is being most attacked needs to be the most defended” (p 78). Two issues concentrate on specific subjects – one on “the right instruction of children in the gospel” and the other on the Christian ministry. Another issue is largely taken up with John Kennedy’s Hyper-Evangelism and extracts from Thomas Shepard’s The False Convert Detected. Generally, however, each issue is more varied in content.
In his 1961 Introduction Mr Murray noted that what he saw as “the present theological awakening to the doctrines of grace” was “as yet largely confined to students and ministers” and wondered if this might be “the starting point of revival and reformation” or be for the strengthening of a remnant who will have to stand fast “through a flood of apostasy, sin and judgement” (pp xx, xxi). He concludes his Introduction to the 2005 edition: “An abundance of good literature now exists, and yet this in itself is not enough. Revival and reformation are even more sorely needed today than they were 50 years ago, and our desire is that these reprinted pages may serve further to that end” (p xv). Our concurrence with this estimate and desire makes us conclude that the emphases of these early issues need to be prominent still and that it must be our prayerful concern that the doctrines of grace would be wrought into the souls of the Lord’s people today, promoting gracious experience and godly living and church practice conformed to the Word of God.
Printed with permission from the Free Presbyterian Magazine, May 2006.
The Banner of Truth Magazines:Issues1-16 (ISBN 085151 9199) retails for $29.00 (US), Ã‚Â£16.00 (UK and ROW) and can be purchased from the Banner of Truth book catalogue
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