Selected Writings of Benjamin Morgan Palmer – A Review by Greg Goswell
As one who a number of years ago greatly enjoyed and benefitted from reading the biography of Benjamin M. Palmer,1 it is a great treat now to be able to read this selection of his popular writings,2 originally written for The Southwestern Presbyterian (1869-70). Palmer’s is the kind of writing that does not quickly date, for it is at once devotional, expository and practical.
A brief eight-page survey of his life and character is provided to introduce the author to those who do not yet know him. Palmer was a pre-eminent preacher and diligent pastor for 46 years in New Orleans. He was loved and respected by people of all creeds and none in that city, because of his wide affection and love for all types of people. As was said about him at the time, ‘he got the heart as well as the ear of New Orleans’.
The opening chapter, ‘Never Too Late’, tells the story of a young man’s death-bed conversion, an account that would give hope to all believing parents of a yet-to-be-converted son or daughter. This story is the first of 13 ‘Leaves from a Pastor’s Portfolio’. Another is about the glorious conversion of a confirmed drunkard. Each chapter is an example of Christ’s ability to change lives and save souls. He tells the touching story of a widow’s loss and the long process of her coming to that point of being able to say ‘Thy will be done.’ Palmer helps another seeker to find assurance of salvation.
In these accounts, Palmer shows himself to be a skilled physician of souls and wise religious advisor. The accounts are full of encouragement to struggling Christians and replete with insights for those who seek to minister to the distressed and despairing. Various pastoral pitfalls and dilemmas are also helpfully explored, drawing on Palmer’s own experience in pastoral ministry. For example, he warns of the danger of too readily dispensing the sacraments to the dying, and he testifies of the ability of the doctrines of grace to break and change hearts.
In five articles, Palmer gives his ‘Thoughts upon Foreign Missions’, insisting on the ultimate triumph of the gospel in this world. He answers (from the Bible) those who would downplay the importance of mission, for the unconverted cannot be saved without the agency of the gospel. As he rightly points out, to deny that truth is to call into question the whole rationale and need for the work of Christ in suffering and dying.
Next, he expounds the Beatitudes, interpreting them as a survey of the course of Christian conversion and sanctification, though he resists the temptation to insist on a wooden and unvarying pattern to every believer’s experience. Then, Palmer deals with ‘Four Christian Paradoxes’, for example, our sorrowful admission of guilt before God goes with the joy of assurance of forgiveness; the believer renounces the world yet often finds more enjoyment in life’s simple pleasures than do other people; the Christian glories in tribulations.
Why are the writings of Benjamin Palmer still so powerful and pertinent? The clue is provided in the ‘Afterword’, written by Richard D. Phillips, who says, ‘Palmer is a shining example of a servant of Christ who conquered through faith over great hardships and crushing disappointments in life.’ Like the great Apostle Paul, he comforted others with the comfort that he himself had received from God.
Articles written for The Southwestern Presbyterian in the years 1869-70
As one who a number of years ago greatly enjoyed and benefitted from reading the biography of Benjamin M. Palmer,1 it is a great treat now to be able to read this selection of his popular writings,2 originally written for […]
Taken with permission from New Life, Australia’s Christian Newspaper, August 15, 2014 edition.