Book Reviews

Book Review: Morning Exercises by William Jay

The publishing of doctrinal and experiential Calvinism has exploded in the last forty years. Truly, “the LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Psalm 126:3). Fifty years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find a handful of publishers producing these fine Bible commentaries and other Puritan works. Now hundreds of publishers continually inundate the market with the classic Reformed books in hardback, paperback, and digital formats.

Why has this happened? The renewed interest in the older Protestant writings is due to several factors. First, it is no doubt an answer to the prayers of some of God’s people. Second, the fast pace of modern life has motivated earnest Christians to find deeper and more substantial spiritual nourishment. Finally, it “is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).

C. H. Spurgeon earnestly believed that such a day would come. In his little autobiographical book, Memories of Stambourne, he said, “Out of the present contempt into which Puritanism has fallen, many brave hearts and true will fetch it, by the help of God, ere many years have passed. They will see heaven’s light beaming again on the old truth” (p. 100).

His own Commenting and Commentaries is a treasure trove of advice about the best books. He was indeed “the heir of the Puritans.” On nearly every book of Holy Scripture, his highest recommendations are the Puritan commentators.

For daily devotions Spurgeon advised reading Morning Exercises. Every Christian needs some daily exercise for the body. How much more spiritual exercise and nourishment are essential for the heart! Morning Exercises was written by Rev. William Jay. His life spanned that awesome period of British church history from George Whitefield to Spurgeon. Jay was the friend of John Newton, Thomas Chalmers, Rowland Hill, and William Wilberforce. Spurgeon exclaimed, “O for more Jays. We would give some two or three dozen of the general run of doctors of divinity for one such Master in Israel as William Jay of Bath.”

Jay’s classic devotional book, Morning Exercises, provides a heart workout to begin the day through rich exposition of Scripture and powerful application. Here is a little sample from the January 23rd entry:

“Knock, and it shall be opened unto you” Luke 11:9. It is needless to prove that by this action our Saviour intends prayer. But see the simplicity and familiarity of his comparisons, and wonder not that the common people heard him gladly. Volumes have been written upon the subject of prayer; but he who spake as never man spake, compares every thing in one word—knock. The allusion is to a person who wishes to excite attention, in order to obtain relief—he knocks.

Where are we to knock? “I am,” says the Saviour, “the door.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

When are we to knock? “Evening and morning and at noon,” says David, “will I pray and cry aloud.” “Pray without ceasing,” says Paul. And says our Lord, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”

For what are we to knock? We may in every thing by prayer and supplication make known our requests unto God. But we are supremely to implore all spiritual blessings, because these are blessings for the soul and eternity. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

How are we to knock? Importunately; we cannot knock too loud. Prayer is nothing unless it be sincere and earnest. God will not regard the address we ourselves do not feel. Jacob said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me”; and he prevailed. How? Perseveringly. The Lord does not always immediately appear to our joy. “I waited patiently for the Lord,” says David; “and,” at last, “he inclined his ear unto me, and heard my cry.” And “blessed,” it is said, “are all they that wait for him.”

A regular reading of the old authors is essential for many reasons. Today there are serious aberrations from historic Protestantism. A familiarity with the primary sources reveals the contorted spins put on Puritan writings by certain modern interpreters. J. C. Ryle exhorted those of his day to pray for spiritual discernment because of “the infection of the times.” Job 12:12 declares, “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.” Many have been brought into the happy embrace of the Lord Jesus Christ by reading the Puritans. Thus enjoying full assurance of faith, they lift robust praise to the Lord who “gave the word: great was the company of those that published it” (Psalm 68:11).

Jay’s Morning Exercises is currently published by Sprinkle and by Calvary Press. It is also available from Reformation Heritage, CVBBS, Amazon, and ABE.

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