Thomas Guthrie. The Gospel in Ezekiel Illustrated in a Series of Discourses. Go here to download the book.
Thomas Guthrie was a Scottish preacher in the nineteenth century. The Gospel in Ezekiel contains discourses, each of which uses a verse in Ezekiel as a launchpad for a broader discussion about the Gospel. By “Gospel,” Guthrie essentially means penal substitution, God giving believers a new heart, and God keeping believers in the faith.
Wikipedia says that Guthrie had “a remarkably effective and picturesque style of oratory.” I found that to be true in this book. As far as doctrine goes, I cannot say that the book taught me anything new. But Guthrie had a compelling way of illustrating concepts. He draws from Scriptural examples of parents seeing their children die to depict God’s agony at Christ’s crucifixion, as well as Roman incidents of a ruler reluctantly putting to death his child for the sake of justice in society. He tries to get into the mechanics of the new heart, as he depicts the Spirit influencing and dwelling in the human heart. In talking about God keeping the saints in faith, Guthrie paints a picture of how life is unpredictable and vacillating, which serves as a foil for God’s preservation of the saints.
The book has a lot of Scriptural allusions, from both the Old and New Testaments. Guthrie’s approach in this book is not so much to offer a detailed exegesis of biblical passages but rather to illustrate Gospel concepts, in part by referring to biblical stories and ideas, and also by referring to nature. Often, he does this so quickly that it is difficult to keep up, but this book can keep readers on their toes as they attempt to follow Guthrie’s argument.
The book is not exactly apologetics, but Guthrie occasionally presents arguments, as when he defends the doctrine of original sin, showing it to be reasonable in terms of how we and the world around us are: beautiful, yet flawed.
While the book did not teach me much in terms of doctrine, it did shed light on some of Guthrie’s views. Guthrie did seem to reject baptismal regeneration—-that baptism was necessary for salvation and was where people became regenerated—-as well as any necessity for infant baptism. On baptismal regeneration, Guthrie overlaps with the Westminster Confession. He also speaks in favor of treating people of different races with dignity.
Like a lot of Reformed books, this one vacillates between confrontation and comfort. By “confrontation,” I do not mean that Guthrie comes across as mean, for he has a folksy, conversational manner of communication. What I mean is that he comes across as somewhat of a perfectionist: your heart needs to be in your prayer for God to listen, a little sin spoils everything, and a true Christian will have a sweet rather than a bitter nature. (I read that last one when I was in a bad mood. My reaction was, “Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice!”) Yet, Guthrie also tries to comfort those who feel that their Christian walks are substandard, presenting God as one who is loving and who wants people to come to him.