four mini reviews

These are the first few reviews of books in my LibraryThing catalogue, which you can view here.

Educating Eve by Geoffrey Sampson (1999)

Educating Eve’ is a devastating critique of Steven Pinker’s ‘Language Instinct,’ exposing the intellectual flaws in the hypothesis that there is such a thing as Universal Grammar, and that it’s innate.

It’s written in a style that’s just as accessible as The Language Instinct – so if you’ve read The Language Instinct, this is for you! See also Sampson’s slightly more technical book, Empirical Linguistics.

John Knox: Democrat by Roderick Graham (2001)

I gather that this biography of Knox aims to rehabilitate him in Scottish life, in the garb of a social reformer with ideals ahead of his time. It does seem to miss the central motivation in Knox’s life, though, failing to do justice to the depth of his religious and spiritual ideals. Worth the read as a first pass, although I’d prefer to recommend the older biography by Thomas McCrie, which I think gives you a better idea of the man.

The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie (1997 reprint; first published 1658)

I’ve never found the title to be particularly transparent, but that shouldn’t detract from the value of this little book.

Recommended by John Owen and Thomas Chalmers and having stood the test of time (first published in 1658), it deserves to be widely read.

It describes in plain terms what it means to have experienced the saving grace of God – how to recognise the process of effectual calling in your own life, and how to differentiate between genuine heart religion versus experiences which fall short of a saving acquaintance with Christ.

And although it’s so short, it still manages to squeeze in a very helpful section on the unpardonable sin (and what it’s not!)

Commentary on First Peter by Robert Leighton (1972 reprint; first published 1600s)

A *readable* commentary. Leighton was the best of the episcopal ministers in Scotland around the time of the Covenanters, and this is his best known work.

He works through each of the chapters in 1 Peter, verse by verse, and although the level of detail can be quite challenging at times, the insights which he presents are always intended to inspire the reader to greater love and devotion to the Saviour.

One of his main themes is the perspective which a Christian should have towards their day to day lives here on earth – he continually emphasises the need to look at “time” through the filter of “eternity,” remembering that those who know God have infinitely beautiful and worthwhile things to occupy their thoughts with, rather than fretting about what goes on here on the earth. ‘Unto you therefore who believe, he is precious …’


2 thoughts on “four mini reviews

  1. Did you know that, at his death, Leighton left instructions that all his papers and manuscripts were to be destroyed? Fortunately, cooler and wiser heads prevailed, and his sister (with whom Leighton lived for the last ten years of his life) was prevailed upon to keep his papers intact – which is why we have this marvelous commentary today! And some other things, too, of course.


  2. Yes – i still remember how it was you that put me on to him in the first place! still grateful, as you can see!

    Thomas McCrie mentions him in The Story of the Scottish Church – i’d actually never heard of him before you mentioned him, but once i realised he was one of the episcopalians (in the 17thC) it made sense that he wouldn’t be a household name in quite the same way as, eg, David Dickson or someone. But, seemingly almost alone out of the episcopalians, he was respected and trusted by the presbyterians of the time, and valued as a genuine child of God in spite of the differences of opinion about church government. You can see why, from his commentary! (The other bishops, for example, seem to have been somewhat underhand in their behaviour at times, according to McCrie.) He also talks a lot in that commentary about the need for christian unity, and how believers share the privilege of being able to joy in the Lord in spite of the controversies and conflicts which go on in the visible church here in time.


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