Selected Writings of Benjamin Morgan Palmer – A Review by Ryan McGraw
Reading Benjamin Morgan Palmer is like finding a rare jewel. His gripping style, theological acuteness, pastoral brilliance, and warm sympathy with sinners combine in a way that makes his kind scarce, even among great authors. He is in the list of my top four ‘mighty men’ in the faith whom we should prioritize reading above others (the others in that list include Calvin, Owen, and Edwards). While I read many authors who are worth reading, in my opinion, they cannot attain to these first four.
This small collection of Palmer’s writings1 has many strengths. It consists of short articles that Palmer wrote for The Southwestern Presbyterian from 1869 to 1870. These include brief sketches of pastoral conversations that he held with people in various spiritual conditions, a five-part passionate plea for foreign missions, a brief exposition of the Beatitudes, four ‘Christian paradoxes’, and three miscellaneous articles on Christian experience. It is impossible to convey the pathos, theological balance, and pastoral wisdom contained in these brief pieces.
My only disappointment with the book is that it is so small. For readers who hunger for more, I recommend reading Palmer’s sermons. The theological depth coupled with simplicity, warmth, and skilful application makes these the best sermons that I have read. However, these Selected Writings uniquely reveal a more intimate side of Palmer’s personality. After reading them, you will simultaneously marvel at and understand why believers and unbelievers alike in New Orleans loved him. You will marvel that they loved him because he was so direct, but you will understand why they loved him because he was so kind and tender.
Palmer is the kind of author that, as a pastor, I need. In contrast to much of the shallow pastoral counsel and evangelistic techniques that prevail today, he gives us something great to which to aspire. Palmer always drives me to pray fervently that I would learn something from his skill in dealing with people and that I would, in some measure, learn to imitate him as he imitated Christ and the apostles. We need authors that push us beyond our conception of normal ministry to prevent us from becoming satisfied with the mediocrity that is all too common today. May the Spirit of God richly bless this little book to stir up our compassion for dying sinners, to enflame our love for Christ, and to show us how to interact frankly yet wisely with people as we seek the good of their souls.
Articles written for The Southwestern Presbyterian in the years 1869-70
Reading Benjamin Morgan Palmer is like finding a rare jewel. His gripping style, theological acuteness, pastoral brilliance, and warm sympathy with sinners combine in a way that makes his kind scarce, even among great authors. He is in the list of my top four ‘mighty men’ in the faith whom we should prioritize reading above […]
This review is reproduced from The Banner of Truth magazine for August-September, 2014. Ryan McGraw is pastor of First Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Sunnyvale, California.
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