Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of the Faith

by George Swinnock (1627-1673)
Reformation Heritage Books
170 pages

I bought this book along with two other RHB books. I hadn't read much of the Puritans before, so I didn't know much what to expect. This is the second of the three that I have read, and I have been pleasantly surprised by both.

First, a little bit about George Swinnock. He was a graduate of Cambridge and Oxford. He pastored three churches through the course of his ministry. Other than that, we do not know very much about him. He died at the young age of 46.

In this little book, Swinnock seeks to exposit Psalm 73:26 - "My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." The book is divided into two main sections, as is the verse. First, Swinnock delves into what does the phrase 'my flesh and my heart faileth' really means. Naturally, he takes the verse literally and explains man's fallen condition and immanent death. Death is part of every life. Every man must face it. Swinnock gives some compelling reasons to prepare for death.

  1. Death is near
  2. Death may come suddenly
  3. Death is final
  4. Death is a trial
  5. Death is a misery
  6. You must prepare for death
In the second part of the book, Swinnock seeks to explain what it means for the person who can say, 'God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.' Truly this person is the person who has trusted whole-heartedly in the Lord. This is the person that acknowledges that the flesh is failing. This is the person who is seeking to die well. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

I enjoyed reading this book and I appreciate the clarity that Swinnock brings to an often misquoted verse of Scripture. I close with this quote from the book: 

"Even at that great day [God's judgment], the fire that will consume the world will not so much as singe your portion. You may stand upon its ruins and sing, "I have lost nothing. I have my portion, my inheritance, my happiness, my God!" (pg. 157)

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