Hall of fame

On the plane to Glasgow yesterday I enjoyed finishing off Robert Hall Sr.'s Help to Zion's Travellers, edited by Nathan Finn (Borderstone Press, from Amazons US and UK). It is a volume developed from a sermon preached by Hall in 1779. In that sermon, Hall - as a man himself wrestling through the issues associated with a full-orbed embrace of thoroughly evangelical Calvinism - set out to identify, describe and remove the various stumbling blocks that Christians like himself might encounter on their way to the heavenly Jerusalem.

It is truly pastoral preaching. Hall's starting point is Isaiah 57.14, from which he develops his theme before addressing difficulties that arise from doctrine, difficulties arising from personal experience, and difficulties that arise from practice (often the erroneous practice of professing Christians). These are not expository sermons, in the sense that they are not simply unpacking the truth of a particular portion of Scripture, but they never stray from the substance of Scripture and never lose sight of the intention of Scripture. Though from time to time Hall shows himself a work in progress, and though some of the language of his distinctions has been superseded by different phrasing, it is rich spiritual food for the hungry or hurting soul. Even today, there are many who might profit from Hall's persistent and thorough handling of various objections and concerns. If we do not struggle with all these ourselves, those of us who preach would do well to ask ourselves whether or not we have the same pastoral sensitivity and insight, genuinely helping sinners into the way and along the way to the city above.

In one typically delightful section, dealing with the doctrine of election, Hall casts a portion of a chapter into the form of a Q&A:
Q. What hath he done?
A. "Who hath blessed us."
Q. With what hath he blessed us?
A. "With all spiritual blessings."
Q. Where are those blessings deposited?
A. "In Christ."
Q. Where may seeking souls expect to find and enjoy them?
A. "In heavenly places" (or things).
Q. According to what does he proceed in the bestowment of such special privileges: is it owing to our choice of him?
A. No; but "according as he hath chosen us in him."
Q. When?
A. "Before the foundation of the world."
Q. But did he choose us because we were holy, or because he foresaw we should be so?
A. No; but "that we should be holy."
Q. Did he then intend that all such should be made completely holy?
A. Yes, and "without blame before him in love."
Q. And is everything aforesaid completely secured?
A. Yes, "having predestinated us."
Q. Predestinated to what?
A. "Unto the adoption of children."
Q. By, and to whom?
A. "By Jesus Christ himself."
Q. What is the source of such favours, or from whence do they flow?
A. "The good pleasure of his will."
Q. In what does the whole terminate, or to what does it lead?
A. "To the praise of the glory of his grace."
I am not saying that everyone can or should preach like Hall, but perusing a volume like this challenges us as to whether or not we are doing more than imparting knowledge to men: are we equipping and guiding them, feeding and helping them, genuinely shepherding them by means of the Word preached so that they might travel safely and healthily along the pilgrim path?