Tag Archives: The People’s Bible

Review: Job (People’s Bible, Book 12)

Rating: ★★★★

Author: Joseph Parker was a famed Congregationalist preacher of late nineteenth-century London. His People’s Bible is a monumental series of over 1000 sermons from the perspective of biblical (or narrative) theology.

Overview:

Joseph Parker’s preaching style is especially suited to Old Testament wisdom, and had already published a volume on Job (Job’s Comforters: Scientific Sympathy, 1874) more than a decade before his magnum opus, The People’s Bible, was begun.

As usual, almost every sermon in this volume includes generalizations about the book as a whole, relating it to New Testament truth. However, unlike many books written about Job (e.g., Morgan’s The Answers of Jesus to Job), he doesn’t skip over the dialogues of Job’s friends. Parker goes chapter by chapter, following the dialogue in narrative chunks, but usually not verse by verse.

Meat:

Job’s friends are a topic that Parker pays special attention to, as he did in his previous book on Job. In the course of his sermons, he points out two key errors that can be made about Job’s comforters:

  1. We may cite them as Scripture, without differentiating them from Job himself, or paying due notice to the narrative.
  2. We may pay them no notice because of the divine verdict rendered against their words (in Job 42:7).

Parker steers away from both, treating Job’s friends (and Elihu) as serious debaters and theologians, with mostly correct—but incomplete—view of God’s providence.

History is not a succession of accidents, but the outworking of a sublime philosophy, the end of which is the coronation of righteousness, the enthronement of purity and nobleness. Such comforters are sent to us as from the very presence of God.

Paul Anleitner’s Deep Talks podcast on Job treats Job’s friends in much the same way; they are correct in observing that, in general, the righteous prosper and the wicked perish (Prov. 11:10, 29:2, etc.); this, however, is simply not the whole picture.

The general doctrine is founded in truth; its fallacy lies is in its application to Job’s peculiar case.

I should add, Chesterton’s wonderful 1902 article on Robert Louis Stevenson rather turns this topic on its head.

Bones:

The shortcomings of this book are not different from the shortcomings of The People’s Bible as a whole; namely, Parker is a “big picture” preacher and doesn’t often answer detail-oriented questions about the text. This book should not be read at a study desk. Rather, his sermons need to be approached in armchair with a large cup of tea.

Quotes:

“Good behaviour founded upon a philosophy of fear is only vice in a fit of dejection.”

“No man could see himself and live.”

“May we not have argued about providences when we ought to have prayed respecting them?”

“If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is able to lay a wounded hand upon God, and a wounded hand upon man, and to bring God and man together in righteous and eternal reconciliation.”

“How if it should turn out at last that our very punishment has been meted to us in mercy? What if at the end it should be found that adversity was a veiled evangel sent from heaven to bring us home?”

On meaningless suffering:

“We must often suffer, and not know the reason why: we must often rise from our knees to fight a battle, when we intended to enjoy a long repose: things must slip out of our hands unaccountably, and loss must befall our estate after we have well tended all that belongs to it, after we have securely locked every gate, and done the utmost that lies within the range of human sagacity and strength to protect our property. These are the trials that we must accept. If everything were plain and straightforward, everything would be proportionately easy and proportionately worthless.”

On immortality:

“God, who has made so much out of nothing, means to make more out of so much: the very creation means the redemption and salvation and coronation of the thing that was created in the divine image and likeness. Creation does not end in itself: it is a pledge, a token, a sign—yea, a sure symbol, equal in moral value to an oath, that God’s meaning is progress unto the measure of perfection. This is how we discover the grand doctrine of the immortality of the soul, even in the Old Testament—even in the Book of Genesis and in the Book of Job. What was it that lay so heavily upon Adam and upon Job? It was the limitation of their existence; it was the possible thought that they could see finalities, that they could touch the mean boundary of their heart’s throb and vital palpitation. When men can take up the whole theatre of being and opportunity and destiny, and say, This is the shape of it, and this is the weight, this is the measure, this is the beginning, and this is the end, then do they weary of life, and they come to despise it with bitterness; but when they cannot do these things, but, contrariwise, when they begin to see that there is a Beyond, something farther on, voices other than human, mystic appearances and revelations, then they say, This life as we see it is not all; it is an alphabet which has to be shaped into a literature, and a literature which has to end in music. The conscious immortality of the soul, as that soul was fashioned in the purpose of God, has kept the race from despair.”

Who Is Joseph Parker?

Who is Joseph Parker?

Joseph Parker was a London preacher who attracted thousands before the days of microphones. He was a friend of Charles Spurgeon, and the two even exchanged pulpits, although their style and focus in preaching were quite different. Parker exhausted his work week in preparing to preach. When asked what his hobbies were, he would surprise his questioner by thundering, “Preaching!”

His authored works number at least 45 volumes, most of which are over 400 pages. The chief of them is The People’s Bible series, which was first published from 1885 to 1895 in 25 volumes, and later republished as Preaching through the Bible.

About The People’s Bible

Joseph Parker’s method in preaching was not a cold verse-by-verse analysis. Instead, he would meditate all the week on a Bible book as a whole, trying to crystallize the most important themes and messages in Scripture as a whole. The resulting sermons are dynamic, meditative, rich in both language and conviction.

One who observed his process of preparation wrote the following:

“He is an extempore preacher, but not an extempore thinker…the subject…being considered for days. His topics are ruminated over, looked at on every side, and through and through until they become part of his spiritual self.”

One preaching magazine wrote: “The People’s Bible is not a commentary; it is rather a pastoral exposition, seeking out and applying the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures.”

Praise for Joseph Parker’s People’s Bible: Discourses upon Holy Scripture

“Dr. Parker has begun a stupendous work in this People’s Bible. He condenses wonderfully, and throws a splendor of diction over all that he pours forth. His track is his own, and the jewels which he lets fall in his progress are from his own caskets; this will give a permanent value to his works, when the productions of copyists will be forgotten.”
Rev. C. H. Spurgeon

“The sermons are very wonderful, but when he prays, he lifts you to heaven.”
Leonard Ravenhill, author of Why Revival Tarries

“He is by far the ablest man now standing in the English-speaking pulpit.”
Alexander Whyte, author of Bible Characters

“Dr. Parker occupies a lonely place among the preachers of our day. His position among preachers is the same as that of a poet among ordinary men of letters.”
Ian MacLaren, author of The Mind of the Master

“Dr. Parker is the foremost preacher in Europe.”
Joseph Cook, D.D., author and preacher

“The most outstanding preacher of his time.”
Margaret Bywater

“Sermons rich in life and power, pungent, practical, faithful and fearless.”
The Christian Union, New York

“Most preachers’ texts are nails and their sermons tack-hammers. With Dr. Parker, his text is a bolt and his sermon a sledge-hammer.”
The Literary World, London

The Inventiveness of Reluctance

Joseph Parker, The People’s Bible, vol. II: Exodus. Available for Kindle.

“But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’ ”
Exodus 4:13 (ESV)

Man excusing himself from duty is a familiar picture. It is not a picture indeed; it is a personal experience. How inventive we are in finding excuses for not doing the will of God! How falsely modest we can become! depreciating ourselves, and putting ourselves before God in a light in which we could never consent to be put before society by the criticism of others. Is not this a revelation of the human heart to itself? We only want to walk in paths that are made beautiful with flowers, and to wander by streams that lull us by their own tranquillity. Nerve, and pluck, and force we seem to have lost. In place of the inventiveness of love we have the inventiveness of reluctance or distaste. It should be our supreme delight to find reasons for co-operating with God, and to fortify ourselves by such interpretations of circumstances as will plainly show us that we are in the right battle, fighting on the right side, and wielding the right weapon. The possibility of self-deception is one of the most solemn of all subjects. I cannot question the sincerity of Moses in enumerating and massing all the difficulties of his side of the case. He meant every word that he said. It is not enough to be sincere; we must have intelligence and conscience enlightened and enlarged. Mistakes are made about this matter of sincerity; the thing forgotten being that sincerity is nothing in itself, everything depending upon the motive by which it is actuated and the object towards which it is directed. The Church is today afflicted with the spirit of self-excusing—it cannot give, because of the depression of the times; it cannot go upon its mighty errands, because of its dainty delicateness; it cannot engage in active beneficence, because its charity should begin at home; it cannot enter into ardent controversy, because it prefers the comfort of inaction. Churches should not tell lies to themselves. The first great thing to be done is for a man to be faithful to his own heart, to look himself boldly in the face, and speak the clear truth emphatically to his own consciousness.