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Reformation History Reading: D’Aubigne’s Classic, Volume 1

June 19, 2017 Leave a comment

For the 2017 Challies Reading Challenge, and especially appropriate for this the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, I have read the first volume (out of five) of J.H. Merle D’Aubigne’s “History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century.”  Available free in the public domain, Librivox recording has recently completed a full audio recording of the first volume; the complete work is also available in PDF format, 1137 pages plus footnotes.

The reading is straightforward and clear, and a good selection for audio listening.  Though of great length and detail, the material is interesting as it tells the story of the early years of the 16th century, especially with reference to Martin Luther and his life, but also including the major players in Luther’s life.  Chapters introduce and provide details concerning Melancthon and Erasmus, as well as lesser known figures such as Reuchlin, Spalatin, and Staupitz.  (Here the PDF version is helpful, for spelling so many German names.)  D’Aubigne’s narrative combines his own commentary on the important events, along with many personal letters of Luther and his friends, and interesting anecdotes, to provide a detailed picture of what was going on in early 16th century Germany.  The focus is mainly on Luther, but we also see the many influences on his life, the friends placed in his life at various points, and the rising support from the leaders, students and the common people of Germany.  The section on Tetzel, the itinerant indulgences merchant, provides rich details and humorous accounts, such as “the trick of a nobleman,” who obtained an indulgence for a future crime to be committed:

A Saxon nobleman, who had heard Tetzel at Leipsic, was much displeased by his falsehoods. Approaching the monk, he asked him if he had the power of pardoning sins that men have an intention of committing. “Most assuredly,” replied Tetzel, “I have received full powers from his holiness for that purpose.” — “Well, then,” answered the knight, “I am desirous of taking a slight revenge on one of my enemies, without endangering his life. I will give you ten crowns if you will give me a letter of indulgence that shall fully justify me.” Tetzel made some objections; they came however to an arrangement by the aid of thirty crowns. The monk quitted Leipsic shortly after. The nobleman and his attendants lay in wait for him in a wood between Juterbock and Treblin; they fell upon him, gave him a slight beating, and took away the well-stored indulgence-chest the inquisitor was carrying with him. Tetzel made a violent outcry, and carried his complaint before the courts. But the nobleman showed the letter which Tetzel had signed himself, and which exempted him beforehand from every penalty. Duke George, whom this action had at first exceedingly exasperated, no sooner read the document than he ordered the accused to be acquitted.

Volume 1 book 4 deals with the events shortly after October 31, 1517, through the friendly session at Heidelberg in the spring of 1518 and the beginning persecution in Augsburg that fall.  This section shows Luther’s desire to remain loyal to Roman Catholicism and the Pope –even writing a respectful letter to the Pope, thinking that the Pope would agree with him—yet, in the face of unexpected opposition, his courage and boldness.  The Roman Catholic leaders expected a simple case of a humble Augustine friar who would quickly recant, and soon became impatient, seeing an unexpected quality in Luther.

A sample from Luther’s letters, shortly after the theses were nailed to the church door in Wittenberg:

They require moderation in me, and they trample it under foot in the judgment they pass on me!……We can always see the mote in our brother’s eye, and we overlook the beam in our own……Truth will not gain more by my moderation, than it will lose by my rashness. I desire to know what errors you and your theologians have found in my theses? Who does not know that a man rarely puts forth any new idea without having some appearance of pride, and without being accused of exciting quarrels? If humility herself should undertake something new, her opponents would accuse her of pride! Why were Christ and all the martyrs put to death? Because they seemed to be proud contemners of the wisdom of the time, and because they advanced novelties, without having first humbly taken counsel of the oracles of the ancient opinions.” –late 1517. From Volume 1 Book 3 Chapter 6.

Volume 1 is a great beginning to this History of the Reformation.  Since Librivox has now completed volume 1, I hope that they will soon add volume 2 and beyond.  Either way, I plan to read Volume 2 by next year, possibly in next year’s reading challenge.

2017 Challies Reading Challenge: Mid-Year Update

June 9, 2017 Leave a comment

In this previous post, I listed a set of 13 books to read, for the “Light Reader,” for this calendar year.  Since then, I have found that I can read many more books, and have gradually expanded the list, to a current list of 26.  As I near the end of these, I’ll update accordingly; again, as with the original list, the categories I’m using are not the actual set of 26 books for the Avid Reader, but include some books from other categories (beyond the “Avid Reader” list).  As noted before, the book list includes books I already own or have easy access to: free audio books as well as Kindle free and low-cost (sale) Kindle books.  Providentially, this year has also brought me many more paperback titles, thanks to a “used book sale” at church one Sunday this spring, as well as the large donation of free theology books from another church member cleaning out and sharing his large book collection.  From Challies’ daily-updated “Kindle deals” page I have also purchased a few more on-sale Kindle books.

The multi-format approach has worked well, with additions to the free audio book collection (past free offers including books from Kevin DeYoung and Steve Lawson), and, for Kindle books, the use of a simple Kindle book-stand on the counter while doing chores, and so I have completed most of the original 13 books – plus a few more in an expanded list.  For the 26 books goal, the following are now on the list:

From this expanded list, I have already completed three books: Walter Chantry’s Call the Sabbath A Delight and Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?, and Sketches of the Covenanters, by J.C. McFeeters. Two others are in progress, nearing completion:  Sam Waldron’s The Lord’s Day and Sinclair Ferguson’s The Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World.

From the recent reading, I have especially appreciated Sketches of the Covenanters; published in 1913, available as a free recording from Still Waters Revival Books, the recording is older, from cassette tape, and it took a little while to get into it – but the overall history and events, along with many stories of individual martyrs, is quite interesting, a part of church history I had not been aware of.  Another good one (nearing the end) is Sam Waldron’s The Lord’s Day: Its Presuppositions, Proofs, Precedents, and Practice.  The book is not lengthy in pages, but good writing (sometimes complex thought, along with basic diagrams describing the concepts) and very detailed in its consideration of various issues, including many quotes from the early church and John Calvin, with a balanced presentation and responses to anti-sabbatarian ideas as well as a few ideas advocated by some sabbatarians.

Challies’ 2017 Reading Challenge

December 20, 2016 2 comments

I became aware of the 2016 Challies “Reading Challenge” this summer, an interesting idea of planning a certain number of books to read in the next year, all from different categories or types of books.  Now, Challies has introduced the 2017 version, slightly modified but the same basic idea of reading a certain number of books.  Goodreads also has an active group with discussion and a place to keep your own reading list for the yearly challenge.

I probably read close to 13 books (or equivalent in sermon audio series) per year, but have always just picked out a book or two at a time, then later decide on another one to read.  So this approach is different for me, to plan out the reading for the coming year.  I’ve decided to follow the “Light Reader” plan of 13 books, though slightly modified – removing three of the “light reader” type of books, instead  substituting three from the second category (The Avid Reader).  For all of these I am including books I already have: either on my Kindle from previous purchases of free or near-free books, or ones that are available as free electronic books or free audio recordings (such as from SermonAudio.com or Librivox.org).  My busy schedule (including a very busy full time job) means my reading time is limited, and thus a good mix with several books in audio recording format is necessary–the audio books for commute and exercise time, plus the reading time as available, weekday evenings and weekends.

Here is my reading list for 2017:

The Light Reader

_ 1. A biography:  The Biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, by Andrew Bonar
_ 2. A classic novel:  Charlese Dickens, Hard Times (Librivox recording)
_ 3. A book about history: Edward the First, by T.F. Tout (Librivox recording)
_ 4. A book written by a Puritan (from the Avid reader list):  Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices– Thomas Brooks  (Sermon Audio available)
_ 5. A book about theology:  Divine Covenants, by A.W. Pink
_ 6. A book with at least 400 pages:  My ongoing reading of Charles Spurgeon Sermon Volumes
_ 7. A commentary on a book of the Bible (Avid reader list): Andrew Bonar’s Commentary on Leviticus
_ 8. A book about Christian living:  From the Grace Gems website, J.R. Miller’s “A Life of Character”
_ 9. A book more than 100 years old:  Many books would qualify for this one, but I added Charles Spurgeon’s All of Grace here
_ 10. A book about the Reformation (Avid reader list):  Merle D’Aubigne, History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, volume 1  (most of the first volume is also now recorded and available at Librivox).
_ 11. A book for children or teens:  The Hobbit (a great classic for re-read; I’ll reread the audio recording)
_ 12. A book of your choice:  Be Worshipful:  Glorifying God for Who He Is:  OT Commentary Psalms 1-89, by Warren Wiersbe.  This is currently on Kindle sale for 99 cents, one of several books in this series, the sale recently noted at Challies’ blog
_ 13. A book about a current issue:  Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue, by R.C. Sproul  (A past free electronic book offer, not yet read and still on my Kindle)