New Boreham Reprints

After numerous delays, several Boreham titles are returning to print this month (May 2022), and they will all be for sale for $15 (shipping included) on eBay soon. These include:

Also, there are a number of other titles forthcoming:

  • The Home of the Echoes
  • Rubble and Roseleaves
  • The Crystal Pointers
  • The Nest of Spears
  • The Fiery Crags
  • A Temple of Topaz
  • The Ivory Spires
  • The Passing of John Broadbanks
  • A Faggot of Torches

The proofreading is complete for all of these books, but the delays have to do with issues with Amazon’s publishing platform. I am in the process of shifting my main store from Amazon to eBay. Amazon is taking a larger cut, so you will see prices rising on Amazon, but most or all will be available on eBay for only $15 (shipping included).

Unfortunately, Amazon’s Content Review has become very unpredictable, so that I won’t be adding any new Kindle editions, and the new Borehams going up will be distributed by, not Amazon. It is too much of a liability to create a wonderful ebook without knowing if Amazon will reject it.

Review: Genesis 1–11 (ACCS)

The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture is a cross-denominational effort to compile the best passages from the first millennium of Christianity, organized canonically (verse by verse). The series was painstakingly created using digital databases of the Greek and Latin Fathers, as well as some sources in Syriac and other languages. The result is a very readable, accessible compendium of quotations from a variety of Church Fathers.

The first volume is necessarily weighted towards the creation and Paradise (Adam and Eve) narratives. In fact, half of the volume covers Genesis 1–3; the second half covers Genesis 4–11.

The Value of ACCS

I found this book extremely useful. Here is why:

Last year, I decided to read every commentary I could find on Genesis. It was easy to get around 100 in English, from after 1700. Luther was difficult to find in English; Melanchthon is out of print and only in Latin. But I could find almost nothing in English from Church Fathers before 1500. It is beyond doubt many times more difficult.

I knew (and know) very little about Church Fathers. I could not afford a seminary education. It has been very difficult to get started from scratch, as a Pentecostal—sometimes Pentecostals act like the church started at Azusa Street. The only Church Father I hear about with any frequency is Augustine.

Eventually, I found four relevant works by Augustine, three of them in Latin. I was so excited that I made it through quite a bit of his commentary. And I saw references online to Ambrose’ On Paradise, Chrysostom’s Homilies on Genesis, Basil the Great’s Hexaemeron, Gregory of Nyssa’ works on creation, Ephrem the Syrian’s commentary on Genesis, and others.

Any one of these was not available online in a citable form or a reputable translation. Altogether, I was looking at hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to collect these important works (only 10 or 12 of them!), whereas I had spent almost nothing collecting 100+ English commentaries. Ironically, the original works would be in the public domain; but translated volumes from Church Fathers are both expensive and copyrighted.

After much difficulty, I noticed the Glossia Ordinaria, from the 12th century, but it does not name its primary sources, and I did not find Nicholas of Lyra very enlightening (and the Latin was a little cumbersome!). I wanted to read what Lyra had read!

The ACCS volume on Genesis 1–11 has opened up a wealth to me. After reading the whole volume, I have a very clear direction about which Church Fathers are the most important, readable, and interesting to me.

Patristic Interpretations of Genesis 1–11

Some of the interpretations are pretty boilerplate. In quite a few places, they preserve wisdom from Jewish interpretations of Genesis. Others are fresh, Christological readings of the Old Testament that I have never heard before despite reading quite a bit on Genesis.

For instance, the story of Noah’s ark was consistently regarded as a type of Christ’s salvation, down to the smallest details of the narrative.

Other interpretations were mere speculation or tradition, but even these were still interesting as they preserve for us the Fathers’ ways of thinking. Perhaps they should be regarded as cultural imbalances more than hermeneutical failures; our own cultures have their own ideological imbalance.

I am very much looking forward to reading other volumes from the ACCS and slowly piecing together a library of favorite patristic readings of the Bible, from the best works I discover through ACCS.

The Lost Parables of F. W. Boreham

As I have been editing the F. W. Boreham Signature Edition series, I have learned almost everything anyone could want to know about which books, articles, and magazines Boreham used in the formation of his esssays. I have meticulously searched up his original sources, whenever available, using the best digital archives online: Google Books, the Internet Archive, Early English Books Online, and other more specialised sites, like Project Canterbury.

This has been no small undertaking. Take for instance, Boreham’s essay on John Woolman in A Faggot of Torches, the latest Boreham volume slated for re-release. Boreham quotes repeatedly from John Woolman’s journal: from John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1871 introduction; from Alexander Smellie’s 1898 introduction; and from Amelia Mott Gummere’s notes included with a 1922 edition of John Woolman’s journal. Several of the quotations are paraphrased or updated to make them more readable; nonetheless, it appears that he quoted from two or three different editions of the same book.

The side-effect of all this sleuth-work has been a trail of un-footnoted material—the narratives where Boreham is not quoting or paraphrasing from anyone. Frequently, Boreham based entire essays on classic or contemporary novels. But sometimes he tells stories that simply have no references. He artfully presents these stories such that we accept them as history. But I know Boreham and his library well enough, that I believe these are his hidden contributions to the world of fiction. They are the lost parables of F. W. Boreham.

Boreham’s Historical Fiction

The Love of Brother Pacificus (The Ivory Spires, I, IV)

“The Love of Brother Pacificus” is a tragic tale of unrequited love between Brother Pacificus, a monk, and Mary Selwyn. We can surmise that the story takes place around a medieval double monastery, but beyond this the narrative is not historically grounded. Pacificus leaves the Monastery of St. Bede’s, ashamed of his love for Mary; at the same time, Mary, impressed by Pacificus’ piety, joins the Convent of St. Cecilia.

Neither the Monastery of St. Bede’s nor the Convent of St. Celicia refers to a real location. Probably Boreham’s intention is that the monastery was founded by Bede, and so this dates the story to the eighth century or the centuries that follow.

Again, “Selwyn” is the name of one of Boreham’s heroes, George Augustus Selwyn, whose biography Boreham wrote; and it is likely that he included this as Mary’s last name as a way of alluding to one of his heroes.

Enoch Stapleton (A Faggot of Torches, XII)

“Enoch Stapleton’s Text” tells the story of Enoch and Hannah Stapleton, who left Sussex to settle in Virginia in the eighteenth century. It is a chapter in A Faggot of Torches, which is slated to be reprinted this year. This book is in the Texts That Made History series, in which each essay recounts the impact of a single Scripture passage in someone’s life. Most of these are historical figures; only a few are characters from novels, such as Uncle Tom, Sim Paris, Hepsy Gipsy, and Robinson Crusoe—and in each of those, Boreham expressly tells us what novel he is drawing from. Enoch and Hannah Stapleton, then, are presented as historical figures.

In the story, the Stapletons travel on the Queen o’ the West and settle in a place called Newhampstead, on the Ohio River. A search will show that there were people by these names in colonial Virginia, but no record gives the level of detail that Boreham does. It appears that Boreham simply wrote this story himself.

Boreham couches the story of the Stapletons in true narratives found in colonial letters and in Bancroft’s History of the United States—but the main thrust of the story, as far as I know, is an original historical fiction.

Issachar and Ruth (In “Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Text,” A Faggot of Torches, XXII)

Woven into the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe—another installment from the Texts That Made History—is the story of Issachar and Ruth, first-century believers, a father and daughter. Boreham ties in a quotation from F. B. Meyer. But I have found no other record of these names used of first-century Christians in Rome.

Like the stories of the Stapletons (eighteenth-century Virginia) and Pacificus (medieval England), the story of Issachar and Ruth is framed around a specific time and place (first-century Rome), but is a creation of the author’s fertile imagination.

Boreham’s Modern Fiction

Blackadder Lane (The Blue Flame, II, IV)

For years, my favorite Boreham book has been The Blue Flame (1930). It has many stellar essays that draw heavily from literature:

  • “A Lovers’ Quarrel,” from Florence Barclay’s novel Mistress of Shenstone, 1910;
  • “The Raven,” from the famous poem by Edgar Allen Poe, 1845;
  • “The Treasure in Coward’s Castle,” drawing on A. E. W. Mason’s The Four Feathers, 1902;
  • “Leap Year,” drawing on Charles Lamb’s essay “Rejoicings upon the New Year’s Coming of Age” in The Last Essays of Elia, 1833.

Another essay, “Add! Add! Add!”, has an illustration about Handley Page’s plane being threatened by electrical failure. But in the true story, found in the Aerial Age Weekly for January 6, 1919, there is no mention of electrical failure. I am not sure if Boreham dramatised the story, or misread it, or it is just as likely that Boreham plucked the story from one of the many preaching magazines that he read. In any case, in the church, it has never been considered immoral to tell such parables with the intent of illustrating a spiritual truth.

But the story of “Blackadder Lane” is on another level—a full essay, grounded in late Victorian Lancashire, with first and last names, dialogue, and picturesque details. Boreham begins with an elaborate dramatic frame for how he heard the story of Blackadder Lane from a stranger on a railway journey in the late 1890s.

Blackadder Lane, she explained, was the darkest, dirtiest, and vilest quarter of the town. Decent people could only imagine what it was like, for decent people never went there.

F. W. Boreham, The Blue Flame

Blackadder Lane, of course, was transformed by a little girl named Dora Manning, who was a student at a boarding school at Preston (a city in Lancashire) and who was stirred by a revival at the Primitive Methodist Church. Knowing that “Blackadder Lane is a short cut from High Street to George Street,” she began to walk it nonchalantly with her friend, eventually resulting in a reversal of attitudes toward the decrepit neighbourhood.

The only problem is, there is no “Blackadder Lane” in Preston. English place names are remarkably well documented, and many of these records are digital; but a search for “Blackadder Lane” returns zero hits. It’s possible that Boreham dramatised a narrative he knew well; but I believe that it is simply a parable of his own creation. “High Street” and “George Street” are probably the most common street names in all of England—analogous to “Main Street” and “Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive” in the United States—and so including them also gives us nothing.

Let’s go to some fictional stories that relate to Boreham’s life and ministry down under.

Old Eternity (The Home of the Echoes, I, III)

One of my favorite essays in The Home of the Echoes (1921) is “Old Eternity.” The essay begins:

Old Eternity was a mystery—a fascinating but inscrutable mystery. What was his real name? Where did he come from? How did he live?

F. W. Boreham, The Home of the Echoes

Boreham recounts quite specifically meeting a hermit while on a hunting trip in Piripiki Gorge.

I extended my hand to take farewell of him.
‘But you haven’t told me your name!’ I said.
‘No,’ he replied, ‘I have no name; at least, I have no need of a name up here!’
‘Well,’ I replied, ‘if you don’t tell me a name, I shall have to give you one. I must have a name of some kind in my mind to associate with you!’
‘And what would you call me?’ he inquired.
‘I think,’ I said, remembering the observation which formed the climax of his philosophy, ‘I think I should call you Old Eternity!’
‘Capital!’ he replied, his eyes sparkling. ‘Call me Old Eternity! For eternity won’t seem long, you know; eternity won’t seem long!’

F. W. Boreham, The Home of the Echoes

The essay concludes with a hint as to the identity of the old hermit. Boreham says that John Broadbanks told him that Old Eternity had died. He states that some years later he found the following advertisement in a paper:

ANY PERSON possessing information as to the whereabout of Professor COURTNEY PENNINGTON, who lost his wife and children, and was himself badly injured in the great railway disaster at Taddington Junction, on March 3, 1871 …

There is a clue, here, though. March 3, 1871 is Boreham’s exact birthday; and Boreham himself was injured in a railway accident at the age of 15. He walked with difficulty for the rest of his life, but never wrote of the incident in his essays. Could it be that Old Eternity is a fantastic bundle of personal allusions? Could Boreham have done this in his other essays?

Crusty (The Crystal Pointers, I, IV)

Similar to Old Eternity, Crusty is a hermit of the extremely remote outback. Boreham goes far out of his way to describe how far he was from civilization when he met Crusty.

Crusty’s distinguishing characteristic is that he has refused all dealings with women due to an unrequited love, Mary Chambers. Mary had left Crusty high and dry and married another man, many years since. Crusty had only learned of her wedding a month later and a few towns over, when he read ut in a newspaper.

Like in “Old Eternity,” the story hinges on archival research! Boreham writes that the remains of Crusty’s love, Mary, had been discovered in a quarry; she had apparently died in a tragic accident, and all Crusty’s bitterness had been for nought. The “Mary Chambers” who married around that time had been an unrelated person. As Crusty learns the news, his heart slowly warms.

The story teaches us to avoid holding grudges, to think the best of people whenever possible, and that even the hardest heart can be healed. “Crusty” was such a beloved story, that it was even printed as a little board book.

A pattern is emerging here: lonely hermits, remote reaches down under, the tragedy of unrequited love, and unlikely reunions, reversals, and restorations. I can neither verify or deny the story of Crusty, but it smacks more of legend and parable than of a true story.


I have said nothing here about the many essays in which Boreham absolutely lets loose—talking paper, visits to distant planets, time travel, and paintings come to life. Those that come to mind are “The Congress of the Universe” (The Nest of Spears, II, VII) and “The Uttermost Star” (The Uttermost Star, I, I).

I have also had no time here to speak of the level-headed John Broadbanks, F. W. Boreham’s apparently-fictional best friend, who appears in perhaps dozens of essays. He is apparently a placeholder for fictional dialogues and adventures. If John Broadbanks is fictional, there is almost no telling which other characters are real and which are imaginary.

For my own part, I believe that Boreham was simply filling in parables as he thought necessary for good preaching and teaching. Boreham did not live in the Information Age. Jesus himself does not clarify whether the Parable of the Prodigal Son is a historical narrative or not; and truthfully, it matters nothing.

Other stories told by Boreham include far-fetched coincidences. This would be poor grounds for disbelieving them, unless they follow a pattern, like “Crusty” does. Take, for instance, “His Worship the Mayor” (The Uttermost Star, III, III), which hinges on a mayor being reunited with a long-lost son after decades. I can verify nothing about that story; but neither can I claim it is definitely false. To Boreham’s contemporaries, it may have clearly rang of fiction. I do not know. But it is almost immaterial for the genre in which Boreham dealt—if a parable teaches something true and real, it does not matter so much whether it is a fact-driven narrative couched in an airtight bibliography. I think Boreham’s generation understood that better than ours, and for that, I thank God.

Free Commentaries on Job – Quick Links (Ultimate List of Free Bible Commentaries)

This is a shortened version of my ultimate list of free Job commentaries, created for quicker reference. All of these commentaries cover the entire book of Job. Many of these include single-book translations of Job, both in verse and prose.

American Bible Union | Beza | Carey | Caryl | Coleman | Conant | Cowles | Cox | Davidson [“Cambridge Bible”] | Delitzsch | Driver & Gray vol 1 | Driver & Gray vol 2 | Durell | Elzas | Fredericton | Fry | Genung | Gibson | Good | Gregory the Great | Halsted | Hirsch | Kelly | Kenrick | C. Lee | S. Lee | Money-Coutts | Moulton | Noyes | Peake [“New Century Bible”] | Schmidt | Umbreit | Zuck

Whole Bible commentaries (fix these links)

Barnes | Benson | Bullinger |Calvin |Constable |Dodd | Gaebelein |Gill |M. Henry / alt. ver. / abridged ver. | Hewlett | Jamieson | Kitto | Kretzmann |Lange | Meyer[4] | Meyer[5] | Patrick | Poole | T. Scott | Sutcliffe | Trapp | T. Williams |

Sermons & lectures

Allen | Maclaren [“Expositions of Holy Scripture”] | J. Parker [“People’s Bible”] | D. Thomas

Review: Evil and the Justice of God

N. T. Wright is a New Testament scholar and theologian, as well as bishop of Durham. His writings on the resurrection of Christ and Pauline theology are considered among the most influential theological writings in recent decades.

Evil and the Justice of God (2007) is a series of five lectures on the “problem of evil” that were expanded into book form. Wright is very skeptical, though, about the entire task of theodicy—that is, Christian attempts to explain the existence of evil in its relation to God’s perfection. Pitfalls abound: we either accuse ourselves, or we absolve ourselves. Teachings that over-explain suffering can lead us to the embarrassing implication that there is no such thing as evil, or that God is unconcerned. It would be better to acknowledge the reality of evil, as well as the reality of God’s thorough involvement in this world’s redemption. In Wright’s words, we must continue to acknowledge that ‘evil’ is a four-letter word.

What the Gospels offer is not a philosophical explanation of evil, what it is or why it’s there, nor a set of suggestions for how we might adjust our lifestyles so that evil will mysteriously disappear from the world, but the story of an event in which the living God deals with it.

N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, p. 93

In the first lecture, Wright re-frames numerous aspects of the discussion. At various points, he delineates what we should require from a theodicy (p. 34–39):

  • A theodicy should include a practical, Christian response—that is, it should not be an abstract or theoretical discussion.
  • A theodicy should not be blind to the political realities of injustice.
  • A theodicy should acknowledge the reality of sin and the demonic.
  • A theodicy should not trivialize sin by labeling some people “good” and other people “bad”.

In the second and third lectures, he seeks to show how God responds to evil in concrete ways, in the Old and New Testaments, respectively.

The overarching picture is of the sovereign Creator God who will continue to work within his world until blessing replaces curse, homecoming replaces exile, olive branches appear after the flood and a new family is created in which the scattered languages can be reunited. That is the narrative which forms the outer frame for the canonical Old Testament.

N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, p. 53

The third lecture includes many ideas that are core to Wright’s theology, as it relates the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus to the theological problem of evil. In Wright’s view, part of the problem with theological discussions of evil is that they treat atonement and theodicy in separate boxes; for him, they belong in the same discussion. This is much more obvious when you take a Christus Victor approach to the atonement, which Wright has a wonderful way of articulating.

The Gospels tell the story of Jesus’ death as the story of how the downward spiral of evil finally hit bottom with the violent and bloody execution of this man, this prophet who had announced God’s kingdom.

N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, p. 83

The profound fusion of these two ideas, atonement and theodicy, in the dramatic view of the atonement, brings some needed correction to impractical, abstract, and theoretical explanations of the atonement of Christ.

[Jesus’ death] wasn’t a theory, we note, but an action (a warning to all atonement theorists ever since, and perhaps an indication of why the church has never incorporated a specific defining clause about the atonement in its great creeds). Perhaps, after all, atonement is at its deepest level something that happens, so that to reduce it to a proposition to which one can give mental assent is a mistake at a deep level (for all that such propositions may be accurate signposts to the reality), something of the same kind of mistake that happens when people imagine they can solve the problem of evil. Perhaps, in fact, it is the same mistake in a different guise.

N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, p. 91–92

The fourth lecture, “Imagine There’s No Evil,” deals with how Christians can deal with evil here and now. Wright begins by linking our definitions of “evil” and our mental image of “the new heavens and new earth” to our ongoing efforts to confront evil (or our lack thereof). When we imagine God’s new creation, we must not depict ourselves as disembodied (as in a Gnostic framework, wherein evil is material). We must work toward an understanding of the “principalities and powers” that allows us to picture a new creation in which Christ is all in all.

With that in mind, he gives a few ways that we can confront evil through prayer, holiness, and action. I suspect his political musings here sound quite approriate to British believers and quite inappropriate to Americans.

The final lecture in Evil and the Justice of God deals with forgiveness as the final victoral over evil.

This book, while brief, was very helpful in reorienting the conversation around the problem of evil.

Free Commentaries on Exodus – Quick Links (Ultimate List of Free Bible Commentaries)

This is a shortened version of my ultimate list of free Exodus commentaries, created for quicker reference. Commentaries covering the entire book are in boldface.

I especially enjoy Parker’s expository sermons on Exodus.

Exodus Commentaries

Babington | Bacon | Barnes | Bennett [“New Century Bible”] | Bush vol 1 (1–20) / Bush vol 2 (21–40) | Cook [“Speaker’s”] | Chadwick [“Expositor’s Bible”]| Driver | Edersheim | Exell [“Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary”] | Hughes (1–23) | Kennedy | Latch | Lightfoot | Mackintosh | McNeile | Murphy | Nevin | “Ramban” (Rabbi Moses ben Nahman) |Rawlinson [“Ellicott’s”] | Terry & Newhall [“Whedon’s”] / alt. ver. | Willet

Pentateuch Commentaries

Ainsworth | Blunt | “Chizkuni” (Rabbi Hezekiah ben Manoah) | A. Jackson |Kalisch | Kenrick | Kidder | Morison | “Ramban” (Rabbi Moses ben Nahman) | “Sforno” (Ovadiah ben Ya’akov Seforno) | A. Wright

Whole Bible Commentaries & Study Bibles

Barnes | Benson | Bullinger | Calvin | Constable | Dodd | Gaebelein | Gill | M. Henry / alt. ver. / abridged ver. | Hewlett | Jamieson | Kitto | Kretzmann | Lange | Meyer[4] | Meyer[5] | Patrick | Poole | T. Scott | Sutcliffe | Trapp | T. Williams

Sermons & Lectures

MacLaren [“Expositions of Holy Scripture”] | J. Parker [“People’s Bible” vol. 2] | Thornton | Tuttle

Two resources in German: Baentsch | Holzinger

There are many more works, especially in Latin, that are available online. If you know of a work I’ve left out that’s freely available online, written in English, and in the public domain, please leave a suggestion in the comments.

Free Books by Robert S. Candlish

Robert S. Candlish was an evangelical minister in Edinburgh. He was a key figure in the 1843 Disruption in the Church of Scotland that led to the founding of the Free Church of Scotland. He was a Calvinist who published many works of preaching, systematic theology (esp. on the atonement), and biblical exposition (Genesis, Ephesians, & 1 John). His biblical expositions are highly recommended.

[GB = Google Books; IA = Internet Archive]

  1. Contributions towards the exposition of the book of Genesis. 3 vols. 1852. [I’ve only found vol. 2: GB; but see the 1865 edition.]
  2. The book of Genesis expounded in a series of discourses. 2 vols. Edinburgh: A. and C. Black, 1865. [vol. 1 (rev. ed., 1868): IA; vol. 2: IA] [= item #1, repackaged]
  3. An inquiry into the completeness and extent of the atonement : with especial reference to the universal offer of the gospel, and the universal obligation to believe. Edinburgh: J. Johnstone, 1845. [IA]
  4. The atonement: its reality, completeness, and extent. London: T. Nelson & sons, 1861. [IA] [= item #2]
  5. Scripture characters and miscellanies. Edinburgh: Johnstone & Hunter, 1850. [IA]
  6. Examination of Mr. [F. D.] Maurice’s theological essays. London: J. Nisbet, 1854. [IA]
  7. Scripture characters. [Sermons edited & reordered from Scripture characters and miscellanies (1850).] London: T. Nelson & sons, 1857. [IA]
  8. Life in a risen Savior. [Discourses on 1 Corinthians 15.] Philadelphia : Lindsay and Blakiston, 1858. [IA]
  9. Reason and revelation. London: T. Nelson & sons, [1859] 1864. [IA]
  10. The two great commandments: Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself: illustrated in a series of discourses on the 12th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. London: T. Nelson, 1860. [IA]
  11. The fatherhood of God: Being the first course of the Cunningham Lectures, delivered before the New College, Edinburgh, March, 1864. Edinburgh : Adam and Charles Black, [1865] 1867. [GB]
  12. Bethany: or, comfort in sorrow and hope in death. Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1870. [GB]
  13. The Relative Duties of Home Life. [Seven discourses on Ephesians 5 and 6.]. Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1871.
  14. Discourses on the sonship and brotherhood of believers, and other kindred subjects. Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1872. [Not available]
  15. Sermons of the late Robert S. Candlish, minister of Free St. George’s, and principal of the New College, Edinburgh. With a biographical preface. New York, R. Carter & bros., 1874. [IA]
  16. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians: expounded in a series of discourses. Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1875. [Not available]
  17. The first Epistle of John: expounded in a series of lectures. Edinburgh : Adam and Charles Black, 1877. [IA]
  18. The gospel of forgiveness: a series of discourses. Edinburgh : Adam and Charles Black, 1878. [IA]

Short works:

  1. Reason insufficient without revelation: a sermon preached in St. George’s Church, Edinburgh, on Sabbath 14th September, 1834. Edinburgh: Waugh and Innes, 1834. [IA]
  2. The Lord’s short work on the earth: a sermon preached in Free St, George’s, Edinburgh, January 4, 1852. Edinburgh: Johnstone & Hunter, 1852. [IA]
  3. With George Philip. Funeral sermons in connection with the death of the Rev. Thomas Guthrie, D.D., preached in Free St. John’s, Edinburgh, on Sabbath, 2d March, 1873. Edinburgh: MacLaren & MacNiven, 1873. [GB]
  4. Sermons preached in Free St. Georges, Edinburgh, on Sabbath, November 2, 1873. Edinburgh: T. Nelson and Sons, 1873. [IA]
  5. “The Sabbath.” In Christianity and recent speculations. Six lectures by ministers of the Free Church [of Scotland]. Edinburgh: John MacLaren, 1866. [IA]

Many more short works are on Ecclegen website.


  1. Memorials of Robert Smith Candlish, D.D.: minister of St. George’s Free Church, and principal of the New College, Edinburgh. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1880. [GB] [IA]

This list focuses on longer works and those freely available. A much fuller bibliography on Candlish is available here.

Review: The Fatherhood of God

Robert S. Candlish was a key leader in the founding the Free Church of Scotland after separating from the Church of Scotland in May 1843. In 1862, he became the principal of the New College, Edinburgh. He is famed for his excellent work on Genesis, and his theological study on the atonement.

The Fatherhood of God (1865; 3rd ed., 1867) is a series of six lectures (the Cunningham Lectures) given in Edinburgh in 1864. Candlish argues that:

  • Believers become God’s children by identification with Christ in his sonship and “participation in the sonship of the uncreated” p.255.
  • The fatherhood of God is a free benefit for believers, and is distinctive from being created in the image of God (which applies to all humanity).
  • Our “adoption” in New Testament theology does not fully take place at regeneration or justification; rather, it is “a distinct and separate benefit” (p. 247).

Believers Are God’s Children

Though Jesus readily uses the word “Father” and even teaches his disciples to pray to “our Father,” Candlish argues that Jesus does not use the word to describe all humans’ relationship to God (p. 162–166). “I find no trace whatever, in all our Lord’s teaching, of anything like a universal fatherhood.” (p. 196)

Sonship is in Christ, who calls his disciples his brothers; he becomes “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29) not by the fact of creation, but by the act of the Father’s adoption of believers. “Brothers” is an in-group appellation across the early church, and not without reason.

In my own opinion, the only verse that plausibly suggests that all men are children of God is found in Paul’s speech at Mars Hill:

Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone . . .

Acts 17:27b–29

Candlish points out that Paul is quoting a Greek poet, Aratus, not an inspired source. He is using a local writer as a rhetorical device. (I would add here that the use of γένος ‘offspring’, in the aggregate singular, is less personal than the usual word, υίοι ‘children’.) If Paul meant that all people were God’s children, he would be contradicting the words of John (1 John 3:10) and Jesus (Matt. 13:38; John 8:44), as well as his own words to Elymas the sorcerer, whom Paul himself called “son of the devil” (Acts 13:10)!

Adam is called a “son of God” in Luke 3:38, but this is used to speak of his immediate creation by God. It should not be equated with the New Testament doctrine of adoption/sonship. Candlish even points out (p. 56) that “the old and sound British divines” sometimes speak of a general fatherhood of God; but Candlish believes that these usages (along with Acts 17:27) should be taken as figurative usages referring to our status as God’s creatures and subjects.

Candlish extends this argument in the 129-page preliminary essay which was added to the third edition.

What Is Adoption in the New Testament?

“Adoption” (υἱοθεσία) is only mentioned by name in five New Testament verses, all of them in Paul’s epistles: Romans 8:15, 8:23, 9:4, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5. For this reason, it seldom receives specific attention in Christian theology, from the Fathers forward.

That makes sonship not merely a relation of adoption, but in a real and important sense a natural relation also. . . . The regeneration is a real communication to us on his part of ‘his seed,’ of what makes our moral and spiritual nature the same in character as his; perfectly so at last, and imperfectly yet as far as it prevails, truly so, even now.

Robert S. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God, 3rd ed., p. 233

John 1:12–13 and 1 John 2:29–3:1 link adoption to regeneration (p. 229–233; 2 Peter 1:4). Adoption is intimately connected with regeneration (being “born again”) whereby “God’s seed abides” in us (1 John 3:9). At the same time, adoption should not be confounded with justification (p. 237). “Neither our regeneration nor our justification constitutes our sonship.” (p. 228)

For Candlish, sonship has two distinctive characteristics: liberty (p. 261) and permanence of position (p. 262–265; see John 8:35–36). Thus, Paul frequently opposes sonship to slavery.

A New Testament Revelation

In the third lecture, Candlish points out that God’s fatherhood and the sonship of believers are part of the New Covenant. The fatherhood of God in the Old Testament is exhibited as his relation toward Israel (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 14:1; Hos. 11:1; cf. Rom. 9:4), Israel’s king (2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chron. 17:13, 28:6; Ps. 2:7, 89:26–27), and toward the Messiah (Dan. 3:25), but not toward all mankind or even all believers. At best, a fatherhood of God toward all believers only appears in the Old Testament as an analogy.

For the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Prov. 3:12, ESV

Are Angels ‘God’s Children’?

One interpretation that I disagreed with was Candlish’s literal understanding of “sons of God” in reference to angels in the Hebrew Bible. This is found in Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7; Candlish takes the other three instances as referring to the righteous. For Candlish, angels are sons of God, and this has some bearing on our own sonship, and that of Christ; in my opinion, this is just a Hebrew idiom, mostly irrelevant to the discussion of the proper sonship of believers.

Is It ‘Adoption,’ a Process—or ‘Sonship,’ a Status?

While I greatly enjoyed the book, I felt that Candlish’s definition of sonship could have been clearer. First, it entails liberty and permanence of position. But there is more that may be stated from the text.

First, as Candlish implies in a few places, ‘adoption’ is both a status and the process of receiving that status in Paul’s epistles. It is a status in:

  • Romans 8:15: “… you have received the Spirit of adoption …”
  • Romans 9:4: “… to them belong the adoption …”

It is a process in:

  • Romans 8:23: “… we … groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
  • Galatians 4:5: “… to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption …”
  • Ephesians 1:5: “… he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ …”

In English, the word ‘adoption’ only denotes a process, and is therefore an inadequate translation. George MacDonald—who was influenced by F. D. Maurice, one of Candlish’s theological opponents—has argued in his Unspoken Sermons, that the Greek word Paul uses for “adoption” would be better translated “sonship”, which is equivalent to how Luther translated it. But this may fall into the opposite error, by meaning a state but not a process.

Second, Candlish does not adequately connect New Testament adoption to inheritance. Paul speaks frequently in the same breath of “sonship” and inheritance. He speaks of us coming into our full status and inheritance as God’s children (Eph. 1:11) and of us becoming heirs because we are sons (Gal. 4:7). Sonship, then, does not mean mere childhood. It is also an adult status of eligibility for inheritance; this much is obvious from New Testament usage, but is rarely elucidated.

Lastly, I felt that Candlish overemphasized the legal aspects of atonement and sonship. One cannot read passages like 1 John 3 without noticing that there is clear affectionate language! This brings me to another point, which bears on how we represent adoption in our preaching and teaching.

Western Child Adoption Falls Short

As an aside, I merely point out here the difficulties of comparing biblical adoption to modern, American adoption of children. If God’s seed (roughly, his DNA!) abides in us, this is a point of difference—one of several—between biblical adoption and Western child adoption. Western child adoption also does not convey any freedom as a counterpoint with slavery, but Paul frequently places the two side by side. Western child adoption may imply permanence, but it does not in any way imply inheritance. (On this see my own definition of adoption further down in this review.) In all these ways, New Testament adoption is pretty distant from an American adopting a child; it retains primarily the affectionate and caring aspects, but lacks other specific aspects.

Responses Contemporary with Candlish

As you might imagine, the statement that only believers are God’s children creates some contention. The first edition of this book occasioned a lengthy response from Thomas J. Crawford, who wrote his own book The Fatherhood of God: Considered in Its General and Special Aspectswith a Review of Recent Speculations (1866). Crawford defends the idea that all people are God’s children in one (general) sense, but believers are God’s children in another (special) sense. For Crawford, the sonship of believers is also distinct from Christ’s sonship. Sin is also essentially filial and personal for Crawford.

In the third edition of his book, Candlish included a 129-page rebuttal of Crawford’s arguments. Many readers will skip this; if you are interested in whether God’s fatherhood is universal or not, it will likely interest you.

Candlish writes that the watering down of the fatherhood of God has made it, for some preachers, into practically his only attribute—at the expense of any legal mode of speaking of God. This is never more true than today. God’s fatherhood and our placement as his children are precious theological truth, worthy of disentangling from American assumptions about adoption.

It is pleaded that God must be held to act in this or that particular way towards men, because he is their Father; or otherwise, that he cannot be imagined to adopt such or such a course, inasmuch as it would be inconsistent with his Fatherhood.

Robert S. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God, p. 9

In a chapter of The Mind of the Master (1896), which does not name Candlish, John Watson (pen name Ian Maclaren) wrote the following:

People with dogmatic ends to serve have striven to believe that Jesus reserved Father for His disciples; but an ingenuous person could hardly make the discovery in the Gospels. One searches in vain to find that Jesus bad an esoteric word for His intimates, and an exoteric for the people, saying Father to Jobn and Judge to the publicans. It had been amazing if Jesus were able to employ alternatively two views of God according to His audience, speaking now as an Old Testament Prophet, now as the Son of God. It is recorded in the Gospels, “Then spake Jesus to the multitude and His disciples, saying, . one is your Father, which is in heaven” (St. Matt. xxiii. 1, 9). This attempt to restrict the intention of Jesus is not of yesterday; it was the invention of the Pharisees. They detected the universal note in Jesus’ teaching; they resented His unguarded charity.

John Watson

Watson’s language is forceful and persuasive, and his criticisms are well founded. On Jesus’ address in Matthew 23, I would be curious how he relates its “woes” to its Fatherhood. Candlish is far too concerned with the legal mode of speaking of God, as if Scripture sets up legal metaphors as the superior mode of speaking of God. On the other hand, Watson makes familial metaphors the supreme way of speaking of God. Ironically, Watson’s chapter ends with a sort of postmillennial vision of all the earth coexisting under God’s benevolent fatherhood, which clearly shows the eschatological problem of any universal fatherhood. Much of Western culture—or, at least what I call “Hollywood theology”—has spoken of a universal fatherhood of God for many decades, and it has not tended toward Watson’s vision.

Review: Deliverance to the Captives

Karl Barth (1886–1968) was a Swiss Protestant theologian, known for his involvement in the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany, as well as his commentary on Romans and his multi-volume work of systematic theology, Church Dogmatics.

Deliverance to the Captives (1959; Eng. tr., 1978) is a collection of sermons preached at Basel Prison in Barth’s later life. It is one of several small collections of spoken addresses and prayers by a man much better-known for his theological writings. Though Barth mostly wrote, preaching was no small part of his life-work. Those of his spoken addresses that I can find in English are the following:

  • A Unique Time of God: Karl Barth’s WWI Sermons (2016; sermons preached in 1914)
  • The Early Preaching of Karl Barth (2009; preached 1917–1920)
  • Come Holy Spirit (1933; preached 1920–1924)
  • The Word of God and the Word of Man (1928; lectures given c. 1922)
  • The Word in This World (2019; preached in 1934)
  • Prayer and Preaching (1952; seminars given 1947–1949)
  • Deliverance to the Captives (1978; sermons preached 1954–1959)
  • Call for God: New Sermons from Basel Prison (1967; preached 1959–1964)

Of these, two slender volumes contain Barth’s preaching to the prisoners at Basel Prison from 1954 to 1964: Deliverance to the Captives (German, Den Gefangenen Befreiung) and Call for God (German, Rufe Mich An = Call on Me).

Barth preached at Basel Prison 27 times, usually on holidays such as Christmas or Easter. Those who knew him wrote that he relished these opportunities, and that the prisoners listened with gratitude. He was in his seventies when most of these were preached.

The sermons savor less of academia than many that I have heard on a Sunday. They are fresh and encouraging in their outlook, and they display what Barth himself called his “solidarity” with these prisoners. The sermons are evangelical in tenor and frequently include invitations to trust in Christ.

Themes prominent in his theology come out in the sermons from time to time, but he does not have many theological axes to grind.

The sermon “God’s Good Creation” gives us a brief look at Barth’s theology of creation, based on James 1:17.

“Teach Us To Number Our Days” was the most interesting with respect to theology. It outlines his explanation of the work of the atonement as God’s No to sin and death and God’s Yes to life.

What happened in the death of Jesus did not happen against us, but for us. What took place was not an act of God’s wrath against man. Quite the opposite holds true. Because in the one Jesus God so loved us from all eternity—truly all of us—because he has elected himself to be our dear Father and has elected us to become his dear children whom he wants to save and to draw unto him, therefore he has in the one Jesus written off, rejected, nailed to a cross and killed our old man who, as impressively as he may dwell and spook about in us, is not our true self. God so acted for our own sake. In the death of Jesus he has cleared away, swept out and let go up in flames, smoke and ashes the old man in us, that we may live a life of freedom. That he may himself say to us his divine ‘yes’, valid once for all and unconditionally, to this old companion who has no traffic with our true self, to our old ways and byways, and he did say ‘no’, unmistakably, in the death of Jesus as the substitute for us.

Karl Barth, Deliverance to the Captives, p. 122–123

Worship As Transformation (In Spirit and Truth – Part 5)

So far in this series, we’ve gone over what worship is, worship as testimony, worship as teaching, and worship as theology. Today we conclude with worship as transformation.

In John’s first epistle, he writes that we do not yet know what we shall become, but we do know that when Christ appears, we will be like him.

How do we know that we will be like him? Because we will see him as he is.

This transformation into the likeness of Christ is not complete at regeneration; it takes place, instead, at glorification.

John explains our transformation into the likeness of Christ by stating that we shall see him as he is. It is not our own efforts, but the vision of Christ that transforms us.

Seeing Christ requires change. It requires change as a matter of justice, because the unrighteous may not—cannot? would not?—see him; but it also demands change as a matter of course. What we see changes us.

All worship is transformative.

A. W. Tozer called faith “the gaze of the soul.” As we look to Christ in faith, we are transformed by our worship. But it is not only Christian worship that is transformative—all worship is transformative. If we spend our lives worshipping at the altar of money or pleasure, that worship is what inspires all our waking hours.

We become what we worship.

As we focus on earthly things, we lose sight of our eternal purpose, which is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Our hearts become exposed to the same “moth and rust” that will destroy our treasured possessions. But if turn our worship to God in heaven, we remind ourselves that we are eternal beings.

Ultimately, our worship is the gaze that shapes our souls. God does not need to hear us praise and thank him. But when we glorify him with our lips, it helps us in some way to also glorify him with our lives.