Eight Christian Authors Worth Reading by Joe Harper
Updated: Jan 30
16 Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. (Jer. 6:16)
This article is dedicated to recommending sound Christian literature. Ecclesiastes says that of the making of books there is no end (Eccl. 12:12). In order to discover the truth of this statement one only has to look at the countless Christian books that are written in our day and age for the supposed edification of Christians. We live in a time where scores of books are written in the Christian world. While some books may be helpful, many others are of little benefit, or are outright harmful. God’s children often find themselves confused about what literature is good and what is bad. Sound Christian books can be wonderful tools for the Christian’s instruction, encouragement, and spiritual growth. While of course God’s children should always feed primarily from the pure milk of the word (1 Pet. 2:2), no one will deny that sound books written by godly saints from the past can be great resources for the better understanding of God’s word.
Despite the great confusion over what books are best, there are some Christian books and authors that have stood the test of time and have proven to be faithful helps for the Church. In the midst of the many bad books, there are many good ones that were written by faithful men. The reason why certain authors have produced literature that was faithful to God’s word was because they walked in the old paths of the faithful men that came before them. Throughout history, the writings of certain men have been blessed of God and have uplifted generations of faithful Christians. This article hopes to point today’s readers back to the old paths by recommending the works of the faithful men who came before. The list of authors listed below is intended to provide a road map, as it were, of faithful men whose writings can be read, studied, and trusted by Christians hoping to grow in grace. Not all of these authors are popular today. In fact many of them are unpopular, precisely because of their faithfulness which has led them to be rejected by the professing Christian world which hates the Scriptural truths that they preached and proclaimed. The order in which they are listed is not intended to be seen as a ranking of them in any way. The hope is not that we would exalt these men above their proper place but that by studying the works that they left behind we would better serve the God that they served.
1. Thomas Watson (1620-1686)
Thomas Watson was Puritan minister, preacher, and author. Watson was one of the divines who served as part of the Westminster Assembly that produced the Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Larger Catechism, and Westminster Shorter Catechism. Watson’s writings are easily approachable which makes him an excellent introduction into the writings of the Puritans. Reading Watson demonstrates the Scriptural depth, reverence for God, and spiritual wisdom which characterized the Puritans. When one reads his works such as A Body of Divinity, The Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer, they find the theology of the Westminster Divines extrapolated and explained. This is because these works are taken from sermons that he preached on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Watson’s theology as found in his works embodies both the strengths and the weaknesses of the Puritans. The Puritans were a godly generation which by the grace of God attained great understanding of the Scriptures. The few areas where their theological views fell short such as infant baptism, the law as a rule of life, and offers of divine grace, only demonstrates the truth that even good men are still merely men. Thomas Watson’s writings are a readable, enriching, and edifying window into that blessed generation that we know as the Puritans.
2. John Owen (1616-1683)
John Owen has been called the Prince of the Puritans because he was heads and shoulders above his contemporaries in regards to his biblical knowledge and wisdom. Owen was regarded as a premier theologian in his own day, and the generations that have lived after him have also recognized his great learning by reading the many writings he left behind. Owen’s works are written the seventeenth century scholastic style that was typical of academics living in those times. Although some readers have found Owen difficult to read, diligent study of him pays back great dividends. Owen’s works such as A Display of Arminianism, Communion with God, Treatise on the Holy Spirit, The Mortification of Sin, and The Death of Death in the Death of Christ are all cherished works that no theologian should neglect. Owen’s greatest work may perhaps be his massive seven volume commentary on Hebrews. Owen mines out the depths of the riches that are found in the Book of Hebrews and how it speaks to the relationship between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. Owen is a writer who challenges and grows anyone who commits themselves to reading his works. A study of this blessed divine will without doubt lead to great blessing.
3. John Gill (1697-1771)
John Gill was a Particular Baptist minister, scholar, and writer who served in England in the Eighteenth century. Gill was a brilliant divine who left behind a massive number of works. During Gill’s life he was known by the nickname “Dr. Voluminous” due to the large number of theological treatises that he wrote. In modern times, Gill has been dismissed as a Hyper-Calvinist by many contemporary Evangelicals, due to some of Gill’s theological views, (such as justification from eternity), but this ridicule says more of his critics than it says of Gill himself. It is impossible to read Gill without recognizing the vast knowledge of the Bible that the man possessed. Gill operated from the view that the Scriptures being written by the Holy Spirit presented one consistent testimony without contradiction. Therefore, Gill interpreted the Scriptures according to the Analogy of Faith, believing that less clear texts would not contradict the clear teachings of more easily understandable texts. This principle allowed Gill by God’s grace to achieve greater consistency than even many of his fellow Calvinistic divines in interpreting God’s Word. Gill’s most famous work is his verse-by-verse Commentary of the Whole Bible. His commentary covers every verse from Genesis to Revelation (an unmatched achievement). Gill’s commentary on the Old Testament books shows his love of the Hebrew language and the Jewish Rabbinical writings which he often alluded to in his works. Some have correctly pointed out that Gill at times overly made mention of the Rabbinical works but at times these insights are very helpful. In addition to his commentary, Gill’s Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, and his sermons and tracts are extremely useful works to read. In these writings one sees the theology of Gill laid out more openly than if you only deduced it from his commentaries. Gill is one of the great theologians of Church history and careful study of his works will certainly prove fruitful.
4. William Huntington (1745-1813)
No list of theological authors would truly be complete without including the “Coal Heaver.” William Huntington was a man who lived an extraordinary life. Huntington lived in the latter part of the eighteenth century. He was born under difficult social conditions and was saved by God from many sins. The Lord took Huntington, a man of little education, and molded him into a Christian minister greatly used for the good of the Church. Huntington was a man who was beloved by his friends and bitterly slandered by his enemies. Many of Huntington’s critics have denounced him as an antinomian due to his theological view that the gospel and not the law is the rule of life for Christian believers. Huntington was no antinomian but instead was able to understand that the law of Moses could only condemn to death and could not provide spiritual life. He saw that the law of the spirit of life had made the believer free from the law of sin and death. Huntington knew that the refreshment of the gospel and not the law was what nourished God’s children on their journeys to the Celestial City. The writings of Huntington are spiritual, powerful, and informing. When one reads his works, it is quickly seen that he was bold, witty, and wise. Reading the Coal Heaver’s Confession by Huntington serves as a good introduction into his theology. His Contemplations on the God of Israel is perhaps his greatest work. Huntington’s works will not only instruct but will also encourage and refresh all who take the time to read them.
5. Joseph Charles Philpot. (1802-1869)
Joseph Charles Philpot was a Strict and Particular Baptist minister that lived in the nineteenth century. Before joining the Particular Baptists, Philpot had been an Anglican minister in the Church of England. While serving in the Church of England, God opened Philpot’s eyes to see that the doctrines and practices of Anglicanism were not the teachings of Scripture. As a result, Philpot seceded the Church of England and joined the Particular Baptists. Philpot’s secession letter from the Church of England is well worth reading. The story of Philpot and his friend William Tiptaft is recorded in the book The Seceders written by Philpot’s son J.H. Philpot. As a Particular Baptist minister, Philpot became the editor of the Gospel Standard Magazine. During Philpot’s time as a Baptist minister, he would find himself mixed up in another theological controversy. Some of the Churches in the circles Philpot was in fellowship with began to deny the doctrine of the eternal sonship of Christ. This led to a split amongst the Churches who affirmed the doctrine and those who denied it. Philpot took up his pen in defense of Christ’s eternal sonship and made it no secret that he believed that this crucial doctrine was well worth separating over. Philpot’s book, The Eternal Sonship of Christ may be his greatest work. Philpot was an experimental preacher and writer which makes what he wrote greatly devotional. In modern times, excerpts of Philpot’s sermons have been taken and edited into wonderful devotionals such as Philpot’s Daily Portions and Through Baca’s Vale. Philpot’s writings are a balm for the soul and raise the affections of our too often cold hearts. Reading Philpot will provide spiritual refreshment to those hungry for solid Christ honoring literature.
6. John Charles Ryle (1816-1900)
J.C. Ryle as he is commonly known was an Anglican minister until becoming the Bishop of Liverpool. In his later years, Ryle became one of the key leaders in the Evangelical faction of the Church of England. This was the time of the Rome ward Tractarian movement and the rise of Theological Liberalism both of which Ryle fought against with great vigor. Ryle was a great lover of the English Reformers, Puritans, and the leaders of the Great Awakening. Ryle by reading these faithful men was taught by God and was blessed in his own walk with the Lord. Ryle’s Anglican views on Ecclesiology at times seem at variance with his love for the Puritans but we will not fault him for this as even the best men have their blind spots. Ryle’s books are cherished because they are easy to read, straight forward, and convicting. Ryle’s works are not dry academic fluff but are spiritual in their content and filled with much wisdom. His book Holiness has been a blessing to countless believers. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels are also highly recommended. As a theologian, Ryle was sound but not perfect. For example’s Ryle’s views on an Universal Atonement seem to put him in the Amyraldian camp. Although there are some places where we cannot join with Ryle, we may also truly say that he is faithful guide who will not lead you astray. If you want books that will lead you to examine your own heart then read Ryle.
7. Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
The next addition to the list is the Prince of Preachers. Spurgeon was a Baptist Pastor in London who preached to thousands of souls during his ministry. Spurgeon began preaching at the young age of fourteen years old and went on to preach for the rest of his life. Spurgeon would be called to pastor the same Church that had been pastored by famous Baptists such as Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and John Rippon. The Lord used his preaching for the saving of many sinners. Although Spurgeon wrote many books many of which are wonderful to read, it is his actual sermons that are most widely read today. Spurgeon’s many volumes of sermons would take years to read. If we could recommend one to surely read, we would say a Defense of Calvinism would be at the top of the list. In this sermon, Spurgeon speaks of the truths of predestination in a way that is simple, straight forward, and clear. When one reads, Spurgeon you discover a colorful and lively form of writing that reflects Spurgeon’s wonderful ability to illustrate his points. Spurgeon had a way of painting a picture with words which comes through in his writings. It is easy to see the preacher come through in Spurgeon’s writing style. Spurgeon’s theology stands in the stream of the Puritans whom he loved. Spurgeon was not a high Calvinist which means you find differences in his views from men such as his predecessor John Gill. Spurgeon’s writings are not only colorful but are biblical. His works are theologically deep and often reveal the zeal of the man who wrote them. If one is looking for reading that is the opposite of dry and stuffy then Spurgeon will not disappoint.
8. Arthur W. Pink (1886 – 1952)
Arthur Pink was an English Pastor, theologian, and writer who lived and worked in Churches in England, the United States, and Australia. In Pink’s early years, he was Dispensational in his theology but as Pink grew in understanding he cast off his Dispensationalism and became more solidly ‘reformed’ in his theological views. Pink lived in a time of theological downgrade where there were not many faithful Churches in the world. After many doors for ministry became closed to him Pink committed himself to a writing ministry that would produce many fine works of writing still read today. Pink’s most famous book is The Sovereignty of God. In this book, Pink lays out the truth of God’s sovereignty boldly, straightforwardly, and unashamedly. Pink’s writings are both reverent and convicting. Pink felt that the Christendom in his time had largely lost a correct view of the awe inspiring true and living God and he labored to point his readers back to this view of the Lord. Pink’s work The Attributes of God is another blessed work that continues to enrich all who read it. Pink was not perfect but was fallible as all men were. It has been questioned whether Pink’s isolation in later years was in part as much to do with his disposition as a man, as it was to his doctrinal faithfulness. Some of this criticism is not unfounded but it must also be recognized that the much of what he wrote about separating of from false brethren is true to the teaching of Scripture. It should also be recognized that Pink was a godly man very knowledgeable in the things of Scripture. Pink’s writings are a tremendous help to their readers and will continue to instruct, convict, and exhort the many generations that continue to read them.