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Reading Stephen Charnock

Category Articles
Date October 5, 2010

Recently a friend shared a top 10 book list and one of the recommendations was ‘On the Goodness of God’ in volume 2 of The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock.1 It had been a long while since I read any of Charnock, and, oh my, was it a feast for my soul each morning. My wife gets up at 5 am each morning, so I get up with her, making us coffee. We have a local coffee seller who imports coffee from around the world and roasts it fresh each month. One of our favorites is Indian Monsoon Malabar. It tastes very robust but also very smooth. I admit, I need a little coffee to get going that early.

So each morning, I’ve been reading Charnock and he has helped me on a few thoughts that I have puzzled over for many years, namely how to love God with mind, heart, and strength. Charnock says that the love of mind is the love of attraction to the beauty of God; the love of heart is the love of affection or devotion to God, and the love of will is the love of submission and obedience. He makes the keen observation that we see beauty in God because of his infinite goodness, but we taste goodness in God because of his benevolent goodness.

Charnock has also helped me make a connection that I’ve pondered for a long time as well. He applies Romans 3:19 that the law was given to ‘stop our mouths and shut us up under the justice of God’ to Job. He says that after God reduced Job to the ash heap materially and physically, that Job’s wife and moralistic friends provoke him to live upon his own finite goodness until God finally comes in chapters 38 and 39 and ploughs his finite goodness under with infinite wisdom, majestic holiness, and sovereign justice. It is what causes Job to say, ‘behold I’m vile, and I lay my hand upon my mouth.’ The word ‘vile’ doesn’t have a moral connotation; it means empty, undone, worthless. It seems to be a picture of Philippians 3:4-9. Until we apply the law rightly, we place ourselves upon the pinnacle of the world and God upon the ash-heap or dung-hill, but afterwards, the very reverse is true. When the law ploughs us under, we are finally weaned from our finite goodness, from determining right and wrong in our own eyes, and displacing God as sovereign.

I’ve also profited from reading, Thomas Brooks ‘An Ark for All God’s Noahs.’2 He has helped me to see more clearly what it means to live upon God as my very best portion.

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      Recently a friend shared a top 10 book list and one of the recommendations was ‘On the Goodness of God’ in volume 2 of The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock.1 It had been a long while since I read any of Charnock, and, oh my, was it a feast for my soul […]

  1. See The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 2, pp 1-136.

Murray Brett is a Baptist pastor in Georgia. [Notes added]

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