Hughes Oliphant Old
Reviewed by: Danny E. Olinger
Date posted: 09/21/2008
The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church: vol. 6, The Modern Age, by Hughes Oliphant Old. Published by Eerdmans, 2007. Paperback, 997 pages, list price $50.00. Reviewed by New Horizons editor Danny E. Olinger.
Preaching often brings self-reflection for the preacher. H. Oliphant Old’s great series, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, allows the preacher to consider his own preaching in light of the sermons of the great preachers of the past. Each of the first five volumes of the series is to be recommended, but the latest volume, The Modern Age, is a gem. Focusing on representative preachers, Old examines how the church has carried out her preaching ministry in the last two centuries, from Continental European and German Reformed preaching to Old and New School Presbyterians and Southern Baptists to the beginning of African-American preaching to the rise of neo-orthodox preaching.
Charles Hodge once said that he knew of no better preacher than James W. Alexander, and the section on Alexander shows why. He believed that the purpose of preaching is to present Jesus Christ as the Savior. In one sermon, Alexander cried, “Look upwards and see heaven opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Forget thyself, forsake thyself, with all thy merits, all thy strivings, all thy tears, all thy repenting; yea, even more and harder, forget thy short-comings, thy iniquities, thy hardness of heart, thy unbelief; flee away from it all, and leave all far behind thee while thou dost fix thine eyes upon the Advocate with the Father. Look unto him and be saved! This is the blessed Son, in whom the Father is well pleased” (p. 252).
The section on Adolphe Mound, a nineteenth century preacher in the Reformed Church of France, was a revelation. Battling Enlightenment thinking, Mound stood by the Scriptures and the reality of the age to come. According to Old, Mound understood that nothing annoys secular thought more than the belief that there is a reality above and beyond the visible world, as the Bible teaches. Mound proclaimed that the King of the invisible world had penetrated the world of the visible, and that as a result the darkness is passing away. This is a matter of the changing of the heart, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. “Whoever receives the Holy Spirit bears within himself this invisible world, because he hears within himself the invisible Christ who dwells in the invisible world and reveals its reality. The Apostle Paul speaks of Christ as the hope of glory (Col. 1:27)” (p. 30).
The main shortcoming of the book is its paperback binding, which is insufficient for such a large book. In many ways, though, this book is like four 250 page books on preachers and their sermons from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is easier to swallow the $50 list price ($31.50 at Amazon.com) when you know that you will have a tremendous resource on your shelf.