The Gospel: Its Heart, Heights & Hopes Three Books in One. By Arthur T. Pierson. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1978, 1996. 702 pages. Cloth, $29.99.
This volume, originally three separate books, is over 100 years old. Originally published in 1892, 1893, and 1896, they are derived from sermons Pierson preached at Charles Spurgeon’s church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Pierson began preaching there in 1889 when Spurgeon was in ill health, and after Spurgeon’s death in 1892 became his successor.
Pierson was an American involved in Britain’s Keswick deeper-life movement. He had a heart for missions, which is evident in this book, and was a good friend of D. L. Moody.
There is much to like about this book. It is filled with wonderful illustrations which are almost as powerful today as they were a century ago. Pierson repeatedly conveys a love for God, for His Word, and for serving Him. While reading his words you are transported to an earlier time and a different place. You can almost hear him preaching these sermons and see the great throng of people in the Metropolitan Tabernacle listening with you.
There are a number of places where Pierson is quite clear in his presentation of the gospel. For example, in a sermon entitled, “The Lesson of Pentecost,” using Peter’s sermon to Cornelius as his text, he calls the readers to believe in Christ and be saved. He homed in on Acts 10:43 and the parallel verse in Acts 11:15 saying,
“‘To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’…Peter never finished that sermon. He got far enough to declare the conditions of salvation, and the Holy Ghost—may I say it with reverence!—was so divinely impatient to save those hearers that He would wait no longer. He crowded Peter aside, as though He would say to him, ‘You have said enough: the gospel is given to these people,’ and immediately ‘the Holy Ghost fell on them that heard the word. Now the same gospel is preached in your ears. How simple it is to receive it!” (Book One, pp. 18-19).
Similarly, in a sermon entitled, “The Heart of the Gospel,” he says,
“You need do no work; not even so much as to get up and turn around. You need not go and ask your fellow-man across the church aisle, there, whether he has believed, and received, and been saved. All that you need to do is with all your heart to say, ‘Dear Lord, I do take this salvation that Thou hast bought for me, and brought to me.’ Simple, is it not? Yes, very simple: yet such receiving is the soul of faith” (Book One, pp. 35-36).
Pierson was not speaking and writing during a time such as today when a gospel debate is raging. We might prefer Pierson not to speak of “conditions [plural] of salvation,” (evidently he was thinking of believing and receiving), since believing in Christ is the only condition, as his own sermon makes clear. We might also cringe a bit when he speaks of saying a sinner’s prayer “with all your heart.” That introduces a subjective fog that is inconsistent with the rest of his sermon. However, I suspect that were Pierson on earth preaching today, he would be a solid Free Grace advocate and would eliminate such unguarded phrases, perhaps because of the influence of men like Chafer and Hodges.
One minor complaint. The pagination of these three books does not run sequentially. After the first 236 pages, the numbering starts over again in Book Two and again in Book Three. Thus there are three pages called 20, three pages called 125, etc.
I recommend this book.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society