Sermon on the Mount Expounded. By Robert Govett. Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co., 2001. 386 pp. (Cloth), $22.95.
Robert Govett lived from 1813 until 1901; however, this book was originally published three decades after his death, in 1934. We are indebted to Schoettle Publishing Company for specializing in reprinting Free Grace works that have long been out of print.
While the English of this book is a bit stiff for our modern tastes, the vitality of the author comes through. Thus this book is an easy read. And it is a challenging one. Govett uses force of argument and illustrations to drive home the application of the text.
He covers the Sermon verse by verse and so there is a fair amount of helpful material here. A pastor or Bible teacher will find much here to benefit preaching and teaching.
It is refreshing to read a book in which the author is not challenging the readers to see if they are “true believers.” In doing so, Govett makes it clear that perseverance is not a condition of eternal life.
I found his application of Matt 6:19-21 a bit too restrictive. He indicates that it is wrong for a husband to take out life insurance for his wife and children (p. 199). It is hard to see how this text forbids that when it is a well-established principle from the wisdom literature that a wise man leaves an inheritance for his children and his children’s children. Of course, that inheritance could be left by saving sufficient money for them and not by purchasing insurance. However, that doesn’t seem to be what Govett means. He seems to be saying that all storing up of money for later in this life is improper.
He also says that no Christian should be a lawyer or judge (e.g., pp. 15, 238). This too is hard to sustain from the texts he cites.
Still, these are minor concerns. My only major reservation is that Govett explains many texts dealing with the kingdom by suggesting that unfaithful believers will miss the Millennium (e.g., see pp. vii-ix, 7, 11, 16). For example, I was bothered to read that “Faith in Jesus as Lord, and confession of Him as such, are enough for salvation; as we have seen Rom. X…That which is enough to introduce eternal life, is not enough for the kingdom. The entrance into that is ‘according to works.’ Here therefore works are required” (pp. 339-40). In the first place confessing Christ is not a condition of eternal life.
In the second place, all of the texts Govett cites are more readily explained in other ways (see, for example, the explanations by Dillow in The Reign of the Servant Kings, Hodges in The Gospel Under Siege, Grace in Eclipse, and Absolutely Free!, and my book, Confident in Christ). Govett seems to have missed the point of 1 Thess 5:10, “Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” Even believers who are morally asleep will be raptured and will be with the Lord in the Millennium.
I recommend this book for the well-grounded believer. However, I must caution that the repeated emphasis on missing the Millennium is likely to disturb some believers.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society