I know, I’m late to the Spiritual Depression party. I’ve heard it quoted often. Many people have shared personal testimonies about how much it’s helped them. And on the strength of the quotes (often extended), the personal recommendation of friends, and my general love and trust for Lloyd-Jones, I’ve recommended the book a number of times myself. But until now, I’ve actually never read it. I’m excited to be correcting that omission over the next couple days. And along the way, I’m equally excited to hear the good Doctor’s original sermons that became this classic treatise on the Christian life.
So, over the next few days, Lord willing, I hope to post some reflections and thoughts as I read through the book. Today, I want to offer a brief summary of Thomas’ biographical foreword and Lloyd-Jones’ brief preface.
Thomas, a faithful Welsh minister himself, gives us a helpful introduction to Lloyd-Jones and his counseling philosophy in eight summary statements. As much as a biographical introduction to Lloyd-Jones, Thomas’ summary gives us insight into Lloyd-Jones’ dependence upon the word of God as the means of change and growth. Below are the eight major headers and a couple sentences from those sections used by Thomas to introduce us to Lloyd-Jones:
1. He was such a well-rounded, intelligent, and tender personality. Although a mighty intellect with a formidable presence he was accessible and not at all intimidating. There was not a trace of snobbery in him whatsoever; he loathed that sin.If I might, I want to commend Lloyd-Jones’ Great Doctrines of the Bible (Crossway) to anyone interested in (a) studying their Bible’s more systematically, (b) interested in getting to know the Doctor, or (c) interested in learning to preach doctrine with light and passion. Through these volumes, Lloyd-Jones became my first teacher in systematics. I will forever sing God’s praises for leading me to purchase these volumes as the first books I read as a new Christian.
2. He was also utterly committed to the faith of the Scriptures. Confessionally he stood in the tradition of the 1823 Confession of the Calvinistic Methodist Church of Wales. In 1952 he began a series of sermons on Friday nights which was to last for three years on the Great Doctrines of the Bible. They have been published in an 800 page book and they show his grasp of the subtlety of biblical theology, his total trust in the teaching of the Bible and his desire that all his thinking should be controlled by it.
3. He was a man who maintained the disciplines of private devotion. He had from the early days of his ministry adopted Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s daily Bible passage as his own…. (pdf | app)
4. He was a man to whom people went for spiritual help. Thomas includes this instruction on counseling from Lloyd-Jones to a gathering of medical doctors:
“What is needed is great patience and sympathy, and the power to put oneself in those people’s situation. The adviser must not hold to his own rigid position otherwise the man will simply become a tangent to a closed circle. The adviser may end by feeling that he has taken the ‘Christian stand’ and said all that was right. He may feel happy; but he may, by this very fact, have left the person in extreme misery. This is obviously bad counseling. The point is that we must be very careful not to foist our opinions on others. The counsellor is not a dictator, he is simply there to give help. While he may give his views and, with care, put them quite strongly if asked, yet all that is put to the patient must be in a spirit of real sympathy, love and understanding. As counsellors we must never be in the position of dictating to another person’s conscience. We have no right to imagine ourselves as ‘the conscience’ of another! We are there to share with those who consult us experience, knowledge, wisdom and suggestions concerning the way of cure. There are, unfortunately, Christians who feel it their duty to impose their own legalistic views of others. Our business, however, is to persuade, never to force. We must always be careful to avoid condemnation–especially in the case of a sick or agitated person. If the plain truth of the situation comes home to the patient that is one thing; but it is not our place to condemn.”
5. He believed in the sufficiency of Scripture. This meant he had confidence that the weekly preaching of the Bible would encourage Christians to understand and appreciate the person and work of Christ, that they would come thus under the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and would be so energized by him as to give obedience to the ethical demands of the Word of God. Preaching the Word in the power of the Spirit, he believed, would itself lift up the downcast–transforming, elevating, ennobling and enriching their lives beyond measure.I love that second sentence as a partial statement on what should be happening, with God’s blessing, in our preaching. We should fill the people with the word of the Lord so that the people know they are being addressed by the Lord of the word. Thomas is exactly correct to see that such preaching puts cares in perspective and magnifies the majesty of God. As Lloyd-Jones himself said, “I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me a sense that, though he is inadequate in himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Savior, and the magnificence of the Gospel.”
6. He was a man who was prepared to help people in every way he could. He would stay at Westminster Chapel until the last person had been counseled. He would write letters to people all over the world. … He also journeyed extensively all over the United Kingdom to support ministers and evangelical causes.
7. He was a man with a lucidity in explaining the human condition, engaging men’s minds in such an interesting and increasingly gripping manner that the troubles and fears that they had brought with them soon became forgotten distractions. The were being filled with the word of the Lord as they felt themselves addressed by the Lord of the word. So their cares were put into perspective as God was magnified before them.
8. He was a man persuaded that the person who had come to seek his counsels had more knowledge of all the circumstances involved than he himself had. So he would interrogate the inquirer, who might have wanted a straight directive word to his problem, asking him, “Now what do you think?”Lloyd-Jones writes a short, direct preface to the original volume. In his foreword, Lloyd-Jones states the reason for preaching these sermons and compiling this volume. ”Believing as I do that the greatest need of the hour is a revived and joyful Church the subject dealt with in these sermons is to me of greatest possible importance. Unhappy Christians are, to say the least, a poor recommendation of the Christian Faith; and there can be little doubt but that the exuberant joy of the early Christians was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity.” Lloyd-Jones preached these sermons, he says, “‘for the common people’ and those who are in need of help’.” It’s my pastoral experience that “the common people,” everyday Christians, which is to say all of us, need from time to time biblical help to acquire spiritual joy. That spiritual joy goes hand-in-hand with flowering revival.